Revisiting The World of Downton Abbey

A new Downton Abbey Exhibition has opened in New York and something was clear to me during my visit this week: I have missed this extraordinary show! Revisiting the world of Downton Abbey; the exquisite house with all its rooms – both upper and lower levels – and the beloved characters whom I had come to love, with their engaging story lines, was thrilling to me. I have been drawn to the costumes and costume design of Downton Abbey, and have written about it on TFIO, but it was actually seeing the fashions up close that brought my fascination to life. The hats, the gloves, the dresses, the evening gowns, the tuxedos, the jackets, and the jewelry were all integral to the storytelling. But there were two specific costumes that were everything: the red scalloped dress worn by Lady Mary Crawley, when she and Matthew are together on that snowy evening as he gets down on bended knee and proposes to her, and the harem pants with which Lady Sybil Crawley shocks her family. Seeing these two costumes brought me back to those quintessential Downton Abbey moments.

Downton Abbey’s costume designer, Susannah Buxton, was able to tell the story of the times in these costumes. In creating Lady Mary’s engagement dress, Buxton looked to the period designs of Parisian design house Lanvin. The beading gives definition and pop to the scalloped edges, which otherwise might disappear in front of the camera in the dark snowy scene. For Lady Sybil, who represents change and a shift in the social order for her aristocratic family, she disarms them by showing up to formal dinner wearing harem pants. Buxton chose the Ballet Russes-inspired silk trousers as a way to tell Sybil’s story of rebellion and independence.
The fashions of the times displayed at the Downton Abbey Exhibition are so worth seeing!

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Farewell to Downton Abbey Fashion

DowntonAbbeyHatsThe-final-ever-episode-saw-her-marry-Bertie-Pelham-422594Oh, Downton Abbey! So sad to see you go. The characters, the drama, the fashion! Yes, I will miss the fashion. Especially when things were getting so interesting. The fashion of the 1920’s is so much fun: the cloche hats, the long pearls, the dresses – simple, color-blocked, … all so very Coco Chanel. And the women were getting so interesting, too: strong and independent – the clothes reflecting this change.

Farewell, Downton. My fashion fave!

 

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Oh, to be Well-Dressed on Downton Abbey!

Lady Mary in Season 6

Lady Mary in Season 6 – Photo Getty Images, courtesy of (C) Nick Briggs/Carnival Film & Television Limited 2015 for MASTERPIECE

I’ve really gone to town and found some incredible original pieces that I’m very excited about. Knowing that it’s the final season, I wanted to go out on a high and epitomize that mid-decade point that we’ve reached. The ’20s glamour and decadence, knowing that that way of life is waning.” Anna Mary Scott Robbins, costume designer Downton Abbey

I am in love with costume design and telling stories through clothes. Downton Abbey’s final season has just launched in the U.S., with the 1920s in full swing. The look of the show is extremely important, down to the smallest detail and the clothing is at the heart of the storytelling. In a recent Glamour Magazine interview with costume designer, Anna Mary Scott Robbins, Robbins describes the process of finding vintage pieces and the combination of making things from scratch and adopting originals for the characters, whom she knows so well: “You could troll vintage markets for months and months and months and it might not be exactly like it was in your imagination. That’s another reason you make something: It gives you control over the exact coloring of the silk, the cut, the detailing. I tend to have an open mind when vintage shopping and am constantly looking for things that could be for any of our characters. When I find them, I’ll buy them and stockpile them. I know the characters so well that I can buy things knowing they’ll be good for certain scene moments. Having a rough idea where the characters’ stories are taking them, I try to be prepared.”

Robbins, who joined the show last year for Season 5 has really hit her stride, just in time to see the characters embrace the movement of the 1920s. We all benefit from the perfect character studies and storytelling through fabric.

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