Frederick Rasmussen, writing for the Baltimore Sun, reviews Grace Evans book on Titanic fashion (Titanic Style: Dress and Fashion on the Voyage) and writes:
It is a detailed and comprehensive look into the vanished world of Edwardian fashion, an era defined by rigid social stratification, which revealed itself in the clothing worn by those with social status and those without. She re-creates a world using both words and illustrations — many in color — when travel was only for the wealthy and the middle class. Those in third class or steerage were the poor, making their way to the New World and, they hoped, a better life. Also, it was a time when dressing for travel was more than climbing into a pair of gray gym sweats and strapping on a backpack.
I have to admit, I have not given any deep thoughts to Edwardian fashions (except what I have read in various Titanic books and histories of the period). It was a totally different era of travel. Men of stature and substance were expected to wear good clothes no matter what they did. Many of their clothes would be tailored while men and women who were professionals of one kind or another wore ready-to-wear clothing. Those of lower classes wore functional clothing but did not appear shabby either if they could avoid it. As a kid I remember that when we flew (which was a major thing back in those days), most people tried to look good. Men wore slacks or at least casual pants and nice shirt. Women wore nice outfits. In short, you tried to look spiffy. Those days are long gone as well like the Edwardians. Then again my parents came from a generation where looking right was stressed even in the worst of times (and they both grew up during the Great Depression).
Some places try to make it upscale by requiring customers to come properly dressed. Many years ago an uncle accompanied us to a fancy place for dinner which required men be attired in business formal (suit, tie, shirt and slacks), women in dresses and children properly attired as well (my mother got a curt reminder that I had to have my coat on when I got up to get something from a buffet table at this place). My uncle had nice slacks and a turtleneck. It was winter so we did not think it would be an issue. It was but fortunately the maitre’d simply handed him a tie to wear around his turtle neck. It looked ridiculous but those strict rules of fashion came from that period. The meal, however, was delicious so it was worth all the hassle of getting dressed up. And back then a gentleman going to evening dinner outside his home was expected to look his best (women too as well). Gone too are the rich meals of the Edwardian era though some of it came back some decades later with restaurants that served high end French food. Few of them are around today (there is one in New York that Tony Bourdain went to his No Reservations show) and have menus with foods unheard of by modern chefs today.
I guess that is part of why Titanic is enduring. It offers much and never quite disappears like other disasters. And I guess fashion is just another facet of Titanic and the era she lived in.
Source: Baltimore Sun, Back Story: Titanic Book Looks At Fashion Of The Era,20 Dec 2012