The first ocean liners were built in the mid-19th century.The busiest route for liners was on the North Atlantic with ships between Europe and North America where  the fastest, largest and most advanced liners travelled. For the High Society the decks, bars and restaurants were the places to be and a permanent competition of fashion and taste.

Diamond and pearl tiara previously owned by Lady Allan, Cartier, 1909. Marian Gérard, Cartier Collection. © Cartier

Chic and practical luggage by Louis Vuitton or Maison Goyard was indispensable to wealthy travellers. Well-seasoned travellers owned a set of luggage, including several trunks ingeniously designed to pack everything from hats to shoes. So that a traveller’s trunks could be recognised easily, each piece was numbered and marked with a coloured stripe and the owner’s initials.

Gepäck von Goyard, das 1853 in Paris gegründet wurde.

The Duke and Duchess of Windsor , each owned a set of personalised luggage from the exclusive Maison Goyard, founded in Paris in 1853. The elegant couple frequently travelled between France and the USA with astonishing quantities of luggage, once boarding the SS United States with 100 pieces.

Liegestühle und Herrenanzüge in der ersten Klasse der Kreuzfahrtschiffe

On land, the liner deckchair spawned many reinterpretations among Modernist architects and designers. They were inspired both by the typical deckchair associated with leisure, and the chaise longue or reclining chair which, since the 19th century, had become central to the treatment of pulmonary tuberculosis – a deadly diasease for which doctors recommended reclining in fresh air and sunlight.

Liegestühle an Deck

Eileen Gray was a successful furniture designer when she created the ‘Fauteuil Transatlantique’ chair for her own Modernist villa. The house, designed between 1925 and 1929, overlooked the Côte d’Azur and was intended to spur the imagination and evoke travel.

Fauteuil transatlantique von Eileen Gray

In the 1920s and ’30s, shipping lines were quick to respond to the trend for outdoor activities, like swimming and sunbathing, and the cult of the healthy body. The Italian Line – which followed a southern, warmer route across the Atlantic – and the Orient Line which sailed through sunnier seas to Australia, both promoted the enjoyment of outdoor decks for games and lounging.

Szene am Pool, nachgestellt in der Ausstellung

As liners became ‘floating palaces’ modelled on country houses or grand hotels like the Ritz, passengers were advised to dress in suitably elegant attire, and pack their best garments. The ‘grande descente‘ was a spectacular staircase which first-class passengers walked down to enter the dining room in the evening. It was a dramatic backdrop for women wearing the latest fashions – a spectacular stage for social display.

Die Ausstellung läuft im Londoner Victoria and Albert Museum bis zum 17. Juni www.vam.ac.uk

Video- Impression eines Ozeandampfers