{JennylaFleur: Dress Diaries}

Titanic Kimono: an edwardian wrap

black kimono of Rose DeWitt Buckatur from Titanic

draped by me,
based on Butterick 6698

heavy weight rayon, glass beads

My interpretation of Rose's black kimono
wrap from the film Titanic.

Completed 2004.




The Results:


January 2005
At my Twelfth Night party.
More photos from this event can be found here.






December 2004
On my dressform.







The Research:

While Rose's black kimono is one of the most striking costumes in the film and is featured in a pivotal scene, there is little information available on it.

Unlike other Titanic costumes, the kimono has never been on public display. It is on screen for a very short period of time and most of the stills in it was used are close-up portraits, showing very little of the garment. Unlike more recent releases such as Lord of the Rings or Moulin Rouge, interviews, quotes or behind-the-scenes programs about the costumes of Titanic are virtually non-existent. The official book has four paragraphs about the costuming, none of it mentioning the kimono.

All that to say, my research was limited to the film itself, a few production stills and the copies made by J Peterman and the Franklin Mint. I have only my own observations and guesses, so take these pages for what they are worth ...

Kimono Cut & Construction

The Titanic kimono features kimono-cut sleeves but differs from a traditional Japanese kimono in a several ways. The most notable is that the front edges meet at the center front, instead of the traditional way of wrapping over. Another interesting design feature is that the collar or front facing is only attached to the garment as far as the bust. It then falls free, becoming the tie or belt.

The kimono is longer than floor length, puddling on the floor. I assume it also has a slight train, like a traditional Japanese kimono, but there are no pictures of the back to help prove my theory. The Franklin Mint copy features darts at the back waist but the J Peterman apparently does not. I can't tell if the original had darts or not.

The kimono is made out of a sheer black textile, probably silk georgette or silk chiffon.

Big Sleeves are a Beautiful Thing

The kimono features floor length sleeves which are open along the outside edge. Each sleeve is decorated with fifteen large paisley designs.

The paisley designs appear to be a patterned silk that has been appliquéd and embellished with gold beads. The design could be embroidered, but if so, it's a very tight design with no gaps showing the black fabric underneath. The silk would have to be something lightweight and with little body, like a silk twill or China silk. I suspect the silk has a paisley design to it as well; the beads embellishing the designs appear to be in small paisley shapes.

The outer edges of the sleeves are accented with 6-8mm black beads, spaced 3-4 inches apart. The beads are probably round multifaceted crystals, providing lots of sparkle.

Flying Tassels

The belt/ facing is beaded around the neck, the motif ending at the bust. The motif seems to be curly cues, arranged in something of a repeating "V" shape. The design appears to be worked in black seed beads.

The bottom 10-12" of the belt is a variegated gold color (like in the original sketch). I'm not sure how this effect was achieved, perhaps it was custom dyed. The bottom edge of the kimono's front opening may be variegated in color as well; it's hard to tell.

The belt is finished at each end with a beaded tassel. The tassel is constructed of black beads (to make that lovely swishing sound) and is approximately 6-7" in length.


pics courtesy of Back to Titanic


from my private collection - please take freely but post only with proper credit & a link back to this site
some images have been lightened to better show details


The Dress Diary:

November 2004


Today I made the big mistake of watching an A&E program on geisha girls. It was a very interesting documentary but it was rather unhealthy for my sewing sanity. I have been wanting to make a kimono for ages. Not just any kimono of course, but the black one from Titanic. I have all the materials, it's just one of those projects that has continued to be pushed onto the back burner. After watching geishas for a few hours I couldn't take it anymore. I must have my kimono this Christmas!!!

And another sewing adventure begins ... I'm using a pattern (wow I know), Butterick 6698. I will be adjusting it, of course, but overall it looks like a good pattern. I have lengthened the sleeves 17" (to be floor length), lengthened the actual robe 7" (to puddle on the floor like a wedding kimono, lengthened the facing to create built-in ties (like my FM version) and will add some darts (also a copy of the FM doll dress). The fabric is a black silky rayon I've had for ages. It is definitely a synthetic but it drapes like a dream!

I am planning on adding embellishment as well – the gold paisleys, beading on the ties & tassels – but not right away. I'm going to make up the kimono and then embellish it at my leisure. It will be an on-going project to work on when I don't have any other handwork to do (like now). I haven't finalized the paisley designs but they will be a mixture of embroidery and beading. The original is gold but I'm leaning toward bringing in some primary colors – red, blue, green. We'll see. Those paisleys will be appliqués I think, stitched on lightweight interfacing. The tassels and tie beading will be applied directly to the garment. I'll probably start with those, in plain black beads I think.

This project is actually much simpler than it sounds. The garment is super simple, even with my adjustments. It's a good project for the holiday season.

November 19 2004

I managed to squeeze in some sewing time yesterday, so the kimono is cut out and; ready to go.

I ended up using about 7yds (60" wide) on the garment, mostly because I lengthened everything so much. I did have quite a bit of "waste" left over but the patterns were too wide to fit together better on the wide fabric. I've already made a skirt out of this fabric and there is still almost 5yds left so I'm not worrying about it! I'm so used to scrimping on fabric it was actually rather fun to be extravagant with my fabric use for once!

December 3 2004


I worked on my kimono yesterday and today. The garment was initially very simple to construct but it took me a while to put together because I used French seams. Finished seams were a necessity as this rayon ravels like mad and it's the type of garment that will be constantly taken on and off.

The problem with French seaming is that if your garment needs to be adjusted at the seams you have to take out twice the work. I used French seams, therefore I, of course, had fitting issues. When I tried my kimono on for the first time I discovered that the shoulder piece was way too long. Kimono type sleeves are supposed to fall below the shoulder but this one was like halfway down my upper arm. That made the ... oh what is it called… anyway the part of the sleeve where your armpit is… it was way too low. Made me feel rather ridiculous actually.

The best way to fix this would have been to remove the sleeve, shorten the shoulder piece and re-attach the sleeve. Because of the way the kimono was constructed however, that would have meant taking the whole thing apart. Yep, every one of those French seams. Can anyone say "AS IF!"? *takes deep breath*


So I tried to come up with a more creative solution. In the end I decided to take the excess fabric up in the center back and center front. I was already a bit unhappy with the shape of the front. I found when I tried it on that I didn't really want the cross-over front (like an authentic kimono) but something more straight edge to edge, (like the FM version). I had planned on adding darts at the back waist anyway so I just extended those darts all the way up to the neckline.


I took the shoulder up about 3", gathering the excess fabric at the neckline. I then smoothed out the front, creating a more tailored opening. In the back I took two large darts on either side of the center back, beginning at the neck (where the shoulder seam was) and ending a little below the waist. I did all the pinning right side out so, when I was happy with the pinned darts I turned the kimono inside out. I then marked along the pinned seams with chalk, being cartful to mark both sides. Once I had taken the pins out I laid the back out flat, marked the center of each dart and pinned wrong side out.


After I'd sewn the darts I tried it on once more. I'm pretty happy. I kinda like the way the darts give fullness to my rump area while still being tailored through the back. Perhaps my little "snag" was serendipity after all. I re-pinned the front to give a bit more ease. I may re-sew the back darts to give the back more ease, as well. It's very fitted right now, good for a corseted figure but perhaps not terribly practical. We'll see.

I'm also working on finalizing the paisley design. This black blob definitely needs some embellishment! I've decided to go with black beads, gold beads, gold sequins and a few green beads to accent. I know, green and old - how Jenny right? I just happen to have tons of gold and green beads in my stash that I'm tired of looking at. Not that I won't have to buy more beads at some point I'm sure. This is going to be one of those huge bead-sucking projects.

Oy. What have I gotten myself into!!

Oh yes ... sorry about the lack of quality on the pics. My camera doesn't like to take pics of shiny black rayon apparently. Stinker!

December 4 2004

This afternoon, I re-did the back darts a bit, to give a bit more ease to the kimono. I sort of miss the super fitted feel though. Maybe I added too much ease and should fiddle with the darts again ... Ummmm. I also hemmed up the sleeves, so they are all finished. Next up is to cut out and attach the facing/ties and the hem. Then it's on to embellishment.

I have a finalized paisley design, although I still need to trace a "clean" copy to work from. I'll post a pic of it once I have that clean copy finished. I'll have to test it of course; paper beading designs are only theory after all. :> I have check and see if we have any lightweight lack interfacing. I suspect I'll have to buy some. All this will have to wait a few days though. We are off tomorrow morning to Williamsburg for a few days of holiday family fun!

December 7 2004


I hit the jackpot at the Bombay outlet store in Williamsburg yesterday. I found some great beaded tassels - they had exactly the sort of colorful, "Bohemian" beads I wanted for the kimono tassels. They were a great price, much cheaper than buying the beads at a craft store (if I could even find them there). I bought two tassels and took them apart the minute we got home. I'll use the beads for both the tassels and for a bit of texture in the paisley design.

Speaking of the paisleys, I finished the "clean copy" of the basic outline late last night. I'm very happy with it and I can't wait to start testing the design. Although I have ideas of which beads go where, all that will change once I start testing. It always does. For sure, the center "eye" of the design is where I'll place the Bohemian beads though.

December 9 2004

I cut out the kimono belt today, along with some other things.

Very exciting I know.

December 15 2004

I have been super bad about updating this week. Do forgive me. In the holiday madness something eventually must give. It's been a case of either work on projects or update the diary. The calendar's looming deadlines have me slightly freaked out right now so working on the projects seemed the better way to go ...

I started work on the tassels on Sunday. I got one tassel almost complete at my babysitting job that evening. The little girls I was watching were quite fascinated with the process. :> The second tassel took a bit more effort than the first. I really don't know what my problem was. I had to redo three of the strands twice, and one of them three times. I kept dropping them or Nefret wanted to play with them or something. I think I spent almost as much time picking beads up from the floor as I did beading. I was really beginning to wonder if the darned thing was cursed! :>

I did mange to finish both tassels though and I took a series of pics to show how I made them. I'll post those on my site sometime this month. It was really easy; I basically followed the way the original tassels (from the Bombay outlet) had been put together.

Today I finished up the sewing on the kimono and attached the tassels. I ended up taking the back darts in a bit more in the end. I just liked the more fitted feel.

The facing was surprisingly easy to attach. I ironed each edge under, then ironed the belt in half (widthwise).


I then pinned the facing to the neckline of the kimono, so that the neck was in between the two folded edges. I top stitched everything in place. The bottom hem was rather sloppily machined (like anyone will ever notice) and the tassels were sewn on by hand.


So, the kimono is essentially done, except for some hooks and eyes. And the beaded embellishment of course, but that is a long term project.


I'm really happy with it, although the ties are too long to leave just hanging in front. I wish I could have the option of criss-crossing or leaving them hanging but I have to make a choice. For now I'm leaving them as is (I really don't feel like taking the tassels I just put on off again) but I may shorten them eventually.

December 19 2004

I added the tutorial on tassels to the beading section, Beaded Tassels. Enjoy!



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