It’s always a treat to see period costumes displayed in the grand rooms of the historic Biltmore Estate, but this exhibit is much more that gorgeous costumes in a gorgeous setting. The connections between The Titanic and the Vanderbilts as well as the real historic figures aboard the ship make this experience special. I decided to take the 90 minute guided tour of the exhibit and it was well worth it! The guide was an expert story teller, weaving the stories of the Titanic’s sinking, the movie’s costume designer, Deborah Lynn Scott, the Biltmore’s own staff of designers, the real life passengers aboard the ship and of course the Vanderbilts themselves. If you are one of the handful of people who have not seen the James Cameron movie, made in 1997 and starring Kate Winslet and Leonardo Dicaprio, don’t worry- you will know it by the end of this tour!
This epic tale takes a “Romeo and Juliet” style tragic romance and transplants it into the world of luxury, privilege and transatlantic travel that the Vanderbilt’s were totally immersed in. Much of George Vanderbilt’s courtship of Edith Dresser occurred on transatlantic crossings. The couple actually had tickets on the Titanic’s maiden voyage, but fatefully decided to travel home a week early on the RMS Olympic. Unfortunately, their valet, who stayed behind to finish packing their belongings, perished in the sinking.
For this exhibit, the historians at the Biltmore had full access to 20th Century Fox’s Titanic collection, in storage for the last 20 years, and they chose more than 50 costumes. The exhibit is a combination of costumes designed specifically for the movie and actual vintage dresses that were used in the filming.
The sinking of the Titanic was on April 15, 1912 during the transition between the Victorian and Edwardian ages and the meticulously researched costumes reflect this transition. In some scenes, Kate Winslet, who plays Rose DeWitt Bukater is shown in a “modern” Edwardian style costume in contrast to her mother in the film, Ruth DeWitt Bukater who is shown in a more elaborate Victorian gown. Many of the well-known fashion designers of the time are represented including Paul Poiret, designer of the “Hobble Skirt” and Lucille Gordon, “money dress” designer who was actually on the Titanic and survived along with her dog. The suit that Kate Winslet wears in the opening scene is closely based on one found in a copy of LeMode magazine from the period right down to the stripes on the buttons! Remarkably, the Biltmore historians discovered that Edith Vanderbilt actually owned that issue of the magazine and it had been preserved in their archives.
Beyond the costumes are the stories of the real life passengers on this ill fated ship, those in “Steerage” as well as those in “First Class”. Many of the passengers were known to the Vanderbilts and included well known historical figures. The guided tour tells these stories as well as recounting many memorable scenes from the movie and how they related to the times in which the Vanderbilts lived.
February 9- May 13, 2018
Admission to the exhibit is included in your ticket to the Biltmore Estate and Antler Hill Village. The special guided tour takes place two times a day at 10:00AM and 3:30PM and there is an additional $45 fee for the tour.
See our Specials page for Biltmore Ticket packages.