Sunday evening viewing is full of gorgeous inspiration for anyone who enjoys dressmaking – the costumes for Downton Abbey are sheer joy that brings out the little girl in me who loves to dress up! It is no wonder that the costume designer Susannah Buxton has won many awards, as well as praise from the editor of vogue and the Royals themselves.
The picture above is from the first season, you can see that the Edwardian style has a defined waist, and I simply adore the accessories: the hats have been wonderful, right through to the lace gloves and pretty little white shoes. What I love about this style is that it is all about line – there are echos of Jane’ Austin with the way the fabric skims the body shape – but the accentuation is at the waist in the Edwardian era rather than under the bust line of the Regency period.
Looking in more detail at Mary’s dress it is such a wonderful example of clever use of stripes, the framing of the bodice works so beautifully against the lines of the skirt and the bodice sides. I also love the small detail that the sleeves are curving, but the cuffs are completely straight. The stripe effect is then softened by the lace collar – exquisite.
This dress makes stunning use of both drape and design, the placement of the stars work so beautifully down the body, and I love the way the top and bottom half are in symmetry with the diagonal lines.
Lady Mary’s riding habit brings to mind some of the opulence of the Victorian era: the full skirt and emphasis on the waist. The photograph on the horse allows us to see it is very similar in scale to the crinolines of the late 19th Century. It is a pity that I was unable to find a close shot of the military style braiding that went over the jacket, it gave a beautiful elaborate detail that was so reminiscent of the victorian era.
The later riding outfit is toned down more it is a simpler cut with less dramatic line – the skirt does not appear so full yet the quirkiness of these outfits are revealed in the ‘mannish accents’ the top hat, the cravat and the the depth of the collar. I think this is a little glimpse into Mary’s playfulness, what comes across is that while she appears to be well mannered, her style reflects an understated humour.
Of course what really stole the first series was Sybil’s trouser suit, the colour and the richness of the embroidery were breathtaking, enhancing Sybil’s skin tones. You can see further detail on the daily mail website
I also love the way that the older characters have remained within their own sense of style, the middle white suit is beautiful as is the hat. Her ladyship wears the most exquisite outfits that are more traditional and refined version of the girls and suits her Ladyship very well. While the dowager’s outfit has reminiscence of an earlier style – which reflects her character. You can see how talented the costume designer is – she has created outfits which work with the characters to give us a more rounded opinion – the outfits support the acting rather than working against it. You can see more details of the dresses in the second series on the Downton Abbey Addicts
As we move through the era we see the development of the twenties styling coming through, this is a period of drape.
I love this outfit and the use of the buttons, especially the contrasting ones across the waistline. I think this would work beautifully on a pencil skirt that you could wear today.
The elegance of this outfit shows how beautifully the fabrics are combined, chiffon and velvet. This takes us beyond our notion of twenties ‘flapper style’ with fringing – the costumes are elegant and well beyond the simplistic – it is the details once again that fill my heart with joy.
What epitomised the development were the wedding dresses. Mary’s dress gives very little emphasis, giving an elegance line, where the beauty would have been in the movement, the way the fabric flowed.
I believe that Edith’s dress just has the edge, the beautiful detail on the hip and the elegance of the satin and chiffon allows Edith to shine out for once. I hope we see Edith get a better deal on costumes, I think she deserves a break poor girl.
One plea I would like is that Susannah writes a book so we can pour over these details without hogging the TV. Thank you Susannah you really do bring me joy!
I have written a piece of revamping a hat, Downton style – later in the blog!