Titanic dress looks ship-shape with help from welder Graeme

Larne man Graeme McGarel is pictured with dress designer Lizzie Agnew and the stunning Titanic Belfast Dress, modelled by Lucie Mathieson, which he helped to create. INLT 40-602-CON

Larne man Graeme McGarel is pictured with dress designer Lizzie Agnew and the stunning Titanic Belfast Dress, modelled by Lucie Mathieson, which he helped to create. INLT 40-602-CON

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A LARNE welder has spoken of his pride after being called upon to help create a unique dress inspired by one of Belfast’s most stunning buildings.

Titanic Belfast, which will be the world’s largest visitor attraction based on the ill-fated ocean liner, commissioned the dress to celebrate the centenary of ship’s maiden voyage and the opening of the building next spring.

Given that Titanic Belfast is wider at its top than its bottom - the complete reverse of a traditional gown - dress designer Lizzie Agnew sought out the services of local welder, Graeme McGarel.

Graeme, who runs a welder training unit at Allister Moore Welding and Engineering Supplies Ltd in Mallusk, was asked to produce an aluminium frame to form the central section of the dress.

This may not have been the traditional way to create a dress, it was certainly in keeping with the shipbuilding skills that helped make Titanic famous the world over.

Graeme, who lives in Larne and is a former FG Wilson employee, told the Times: “Lizzie came up with the design for the frame and asked me to come up with a prototype. As you might expect, this was not something I had ever been asked to do before, but I saw it as a unique challenge and I jumped at the chance.

“I had the frame completed in a few days, and Lizzie made a few adjustments to the prototype, chopping and changing it until it was exactly the way she wanted it.”

The custom-made outfit was officially unveiled last Thursday in the former Harland and Wolff Drawing Offices where the famous luxury liner was designed over a century ago. Graeme, who was in attendance for the big reveal, said he was “delighted” with the finished product and “proud” to have been involved.

Belfast-based designer Lizzie, who has created gowns for former Miss World, Rosanna Davidson and was commissioned to create the Dome Dress based on Belfast City Hall in 2009, said: “I had the difficult job of creating a stunning dress that complemented the remarkable outline of the building while remaining a fashion item that can be modelled. The dress is unique in many ways, not least in the use of the specially welded aluminium frame which forms the central section of the dress, but down to the finer details of the hand-sewn silk draping and embroidery.

“The structure is layered with metallic grey silk which captures the effect of the distinctive shimmering cladding of the building. The dress includes glass-like panels in the middle section to reflect the extensive use of glass throughout the six-floor building overlooking the slipway where the Titanic was built.

“I’ve also incorporated flowing white and pale green silks to emulate the spray of waves and give the impression that the main body of the dress is sailing on the ocean.

RMS Titanic’s distinctive funnels provided the inspiration for the Titanic Belfast Hat and we’ve used a silk dupion fabric, with tuile on top to imitate the bellowing smoke.”

The Titanic Belfast Dress is due to be modelled for its public debut at the London Lifestyle Awards today (Thursday). The dress is expected to appear at other events promoting Titanic Belfast ahead of the building’s opening.