The 100th anniversary of the Titanic's legendary sinking is fast approaching, and with it, Titanic mania. There are memorial cruises, commemorative postage stamps and, of course, the re-release of James Cameron's classic movie in 3-D.
And then there is fashion. In her illustrated young-adult novel, "The Time-Traveling Fashionista on Board the Titanic," author Bianca Turetsky imagines the gowns, coats and shoes that might have been worn that freezing April night when the world's largest (at the time) luxury liner sank to the bottom of the Atlantic and killed 1,496 of its 2,208 passengers.
In the book, a young woman tries on a sparkly pink, empire-waist gown inspired by a real turn-of-the-century designer, Lucy Duff-Gordon, who survived the Titanic disaster. It's through this gown that a woman from the present is magically transported to the past, where she was traveling as a first-class passenger with a closet full of amazing clothes.
It was only in researching her book that Turetsky learned about Duff-Gordon. Not only was she a top fashion designer of the era, selling items under her brand, Lucille, but she was one of the few survivors of the Titanic disaster who was lucky enough to find space on a lifeboat.
"She made these emotional gowns that tried to capture the spirit of the woman who was wearing them, which was what I was trying to say about vintage clothing: It carries the spirits of these women with them," Turetsky said.
The real Duff-Gordon and the fictional Louise are both in the book sporting Lucille fashions, which, in the novel's illustrations, were inspired by the "Titanic" movie, a Titanic museum exhibit and the many books Turetsky read on the subject.
Turetsky has long been attracted to the Titanic because "it's dramatic and glamorous and sad," she said. The allure of the era's fashions were their shapes and details.
"It was the beginning of women being less confined," Turetsky said. "There were still corsets, but women had a little more freedom with their dresses."
-- Susan Carpenter
Photos: Illustrations from "The Time-Traveling Fashionista on Board the Titanic" by Bianca Turetsky. Credit: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers