The moment Rose DeWitt Bukater lifts her heavily beaded evening gown and steps her embroidered satin slipper on the railing of a doomed ocean liner, she starts a movie's action and brings to Technicolor life an emerging fashion trend.
"When she steps on that railing, you see the dress, you see the shoes. It gives you a chance to see in detail the opulence of the period," says Deborah L. Scott, the costume designer for "Titanic." "Even the shoes are dyed and embroidered and beaded. It's one thing on top of the next."
Director James Cameron's $200 million epic is making waves as the most expensive film in history. But it also happens to parallel a growing interest in the romantic styles of the early 1900s.
Star Kate Winslet's wardrobe could have been lifted from the sketchbook of John Galliano. The British designer has earned acclaim for his imaginative raids on fashion's rich history. In turn, his recent collection of early 1900s-era frocks for Christian Dior could have been slipped into the movie's costume department.
Largely because of Galliano's influence, 1998 fashion is now focusing on the opulent accouterments of the belle epoque, the pre-World War I era of economic and artistic prosperity. Galliano's well-received recent collections for Dior and for his own label have prompted a revival of empire-waist dresses and elaborate accessories -- pearl chokers, beaded bags and fringed shawls.
Fashion fans aren't likely to stroll around in period costume, but they might be inspired by the accessories, which are a highlight of the movie. "On a film like that, it's all about accessories -- the hats, the ties, the collars, the pocket watches," says Scott.
She gathered period jewelry from antique stores and dealers; scavenged sleeves, collars or swaths of fabric from antique gowns; and re-embroidered vintage lace for a lavish, period feel. Some items, such as Rose's dressing gown, were pieced together from scraps.
Edwardian looks are back in circulation, but not just because movie marketers promoted the fashion angle. "Titanic" happened to catch a wave of retro enthusiasm.
Some stores already have the look: Ultimo has Dior, and Banana Republic has jet jewelry. Rampage has corset tops and dresses of vintage-looking lace and florals. Jewelry counters in upscale stores are beginning to carry more marcasite and garnet pieces with a period feel.
Pub Date: 2/08/98