Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Costumes of Downton Abbey

My sewing area is in a transition period as I move downstairs, so I hope you all don't mind another post on costumes!

This week I want to celebrate the award-winning show "Downton Abbey." It's no secret that many of the viewers spend most of their time drooling over the gorgeous costumes - and for good reason. The clothing on the show is exquisitely done. Rarely do I watch anything where I am so consistently pleased with the visual and historical authenticity of the piece.

The show begins in 1912, the day after the sinking of the Titanic. This places us squarely in Edwardian fashion, which features a straighter silhouette and higher waistline than the late-period Victorian S-silhouette that proceeded it. We do, however, see pure Victorian fashion worn by Dowager Countess Violet.

Last week's episode (2.3) took place in 1918. Wartime has placed a need for austerity on Downton Abbey and costumes are plainer, skirts are shorter, and colors are less vibrant. With the 20's imminent, we see several of the girls wearing the straight, loose, sleeveless dresses that are about to become all the rage.

For more information about the costumes of Downton Abbey, check out the links below. Otherwise proceed on to the picture fest for some indulgent drooling and envy. ;)

Does that dress look familiar? You've probably seen it before!

The Style of Downton Abbey from the PBS Website

How Downton Abbey costumes have influenced modern fashion.

Not always 100% Accurate?

Learn a bit more about designer Susannah Buxton and see some more glorious pictures here! 

Above: Lady Mary poses in one of my favorite pieces. Rich rust red  in a variety of fabrics (chiffon, velvet, brocade or embroidered satin) marries together a melody of textures to produce this stunning gown.

Above: Cora and Edith recline in straw hats and pale white and cream lace. Our culture today has largely forsaken summer whites, but here we see that beautiful sweetness produced by a woman in white on a summer's day.

Above: Edith, Sybil and Mary pose in their dinner dresses. Mary once again wears one of my absolute favorite pieces on the show, a rich, deeply textured blue gown with unusual and lovely ribbon detailing on the sleeves.

Above: Cora is the picture of an elegant matron in this beautiful brown velvet. Notice the precise tailoring on the waist!
Above: Edith is often left the wear the most unflattering of gowns, but on this dress we see a lovely collection of embellishments along the neckline.
Above: Lavender is a favorite color in season 2, and here Cora shows off a lovely gown with a short split overskirt of gorgeous velvet.

Above: Edith's gown is simplistic and evokes the empire styles of the previous century. Of special note are her exquisite net gloves.
Above: Mary reclines in a demure gown of pale jade. Chiffon drapes gracefully over her shoulders to be cinched at the waist by a sturdy lace applique.
Above: Mary again sports a beautiful working of chiffon, this time embellished by elaborate beading on the bodice.
Above: The four ladies of Downton Abbey show off their beautiful gowns. Each one is a unique work of art, and yet they each show similarities in the drape of the bodice, and the fabric choices (chiffon, brocade and satin).
Above: Even in 1913 the upper class dressed by strict rules for each time of day and each activity. Mary is allowed to go on the hunt, but is constrained by a long skirt and sidesaddle. She does, however, look properly elegant in her hat and veil.
Above: Let us not forget the servants! As the highest ranking members of the staff, Carson, Mrs. Huges and O'Brian are allowed more individuality than any of the other servants. In fact, Mrs. Huges wears quite a well made gown with a stylish detailed collar.
Above: The ladies line up for dinner and we get a peek at another favorite of mine, Cousin Isobel's dinner dress.
Above: Cora always looks magnificent in white, and this ensemble is breathtaking with the elaborate hat and gorgeous black embroidery.

Above: Mary's silhouette grows simpler and her dress more detailed, foreshadowing the changing fashions to come in the 20's.
Above: Speaking of forshadowing! Sybil shows off an outfit featuring daring trousers in a bold peacock blue!
Above: Our lovely girls in white enjoy their last day before the war changes everything. Sybil is in a youthful flowered print, Edith in plain white, and Mary in bold contrasting stripes. 
Above: A rare glimpse at the back of a gown. We can see delicate black buttons and a chiffon ruffle left over from the necessary bustle of the Victorian era.

Want more Downton Abbey costume analysis? Take a look at my even longer piece on the costumes of Downton Abbey, Season 3!

UPDATE: Five years after writing this post, I got the chance to see many Downton Abbey costumes in person. Check out the details of my visit to the Downton Experience here!


Magdalen Aithne Arkright said...

That is all so cool! I love the detail and style.

marygrace said...

I LOVE Downton Abbey! Great post, Elena!

AmberHarmony said...

Love it too! Too wonderful!

Anonymous said...

Hello, I am a great admirer of your work, and I adore Downton Abbey. This post reminds me of another woman whose work I'm absolutely in love with. Her name is Theresa Blake and she resides in the UK. Here is her website:http://www.rossetticouture.com/

Elizabeth Amy Hajek said...

Thanks for the recommendation, Anon! I can tell I'm going to spend several hours browsing through and drooling over her site! :)

Anonymous said...

I know, right? She's AMAZING!I actually spent a week going through each description of each dress!

Anonymous said...

I'm glad you liked it! It took me a few days to go through each dress on that site!

Anonymous said...

You might like this article which is on an exhibit which deals with Downton Abbey style clothes: http://www.ultimatehistoryproject.com/getting-dressed.html

Elora Shore said...

Wow! I was looking for Downton Abbey pics, and one of the results led me to this page. I am so excited by what I'm finding here! It's really in-depth, and I really appreciate all the pictures! Thanks!