The Costumes of Downton Abbey – Part 2

Posted on May 27, 2014

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Part 1 can be found here.

Part of the exhibit was devoted to looking at the mauve and violet “light mourning” clothes the characters keep having to return to every time someone dies.

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As long-time fans of the show, it was easy for us to spot each character’s costume before looking at whatever pictures clues were provided. The above is so obviously a Cora outfit because the silhouette and the details like the lapels and even the sleeve length are so distinctly hers. Just as that simple embroidered dress with the sash looks so much like Mary as soon as you set eyes on it.

And certain costumes look so much like their wearers that it’s almost funny:

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Who knew Daisy’s apron had this subtle hieroglyphic-like print? Or that she had matching cuffs and collar in a print?

 

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Who knew O’brien’s costume was so textured? And has a green cast to it?

 

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This was another highly popular look, judging by the crowd response.

 

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Tweedstravaganza.

 

 

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We were shocked at how almost shabby Sybil’s rather simple dress looked in comparison to her sisters’. That’s of a piece with her middle class pretensions, we suppose.

 

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Pictures don’t do it justice at all.

 

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Gorgeous. She may never have had the wedding, but she definitely had the best wedding gown in the series. Mary’s wedding gown wasn’t even in the exhibition. You won that one, Edith.

 

 

 

 

[Photo Credit: tomandlorenzo.com, PBS]

    • Sobaika

      LOVE the detail on Edith’s wedding gown. How gorgeous!

    • Jennifer Bober

      The amount of hand work in these costumes is INSANE. When you see the drawn thread work or the quilting it just puts it over the top and makes me kvell. We won’t talk about how badly I’m lusting after some of these fabrics and laces either.

      Excuse me while I go arrange the road trip!!

      • bitchybitchybitchy

        I want that linen suit so much. The detail and care lavished on the costumes is so fantastic. I just need to find someone here to talk into a road trip.

        • Jennifer Bober

          I feel the same way. I can actually do that kind of drawn thread work, so I may just have to make myself that jacket. I have the sources for the pattern and the fabric.

          • bitchybitchybitchy

            I’m impressed that you can do drawn thread work.

            • Jennifer Bober

              it’s actually surprisingly simple. I generally prefer free embroidery forms over counted, but drawn thread I like.

            • bitchybitchybitchy

              I’ve done counted cross stitch off and on for several years.

    • anneshirley

      The draping on Edith’s wedding dress makes me swoon. Take note, Zac Posen.

    • suzanne77

      Are any of the pieces that they were vintage at all? Are they all especially created for the show? Do they go into detail at all about the specific inspirations the designers used to create their looks?

      • SewingSiren

        I know they do use some vintage pieces on the show. They also use some costumes that were created previously for other programs. And some of the costumes are created exclusively for Downton Abby. My guess to the real vintage piece in this group (if there is one at all) is the dress Sybil wore to Edith’s not-quite-wedding.

        • Andrew Schroeder

          I read somewhere else that the top of that dress is original, and they embroidered the skirt to match it.

          • suzanne77

            Cool!

        • MRC210

          There’s a website that traces how costumes are re-used in different shows: http://recycledmoviecostumes.com. Sometimes you need sharp eyes to see them — one of Lady Mary’s pre WW I dresses was spotted on a mannequin in “Mr. Selfridge”. But the one that I’ve noticed turning up more than once is the green ballgown worn by Lady Mary in season 1 and worn by Sylvia (played by Rebecca Hall) in “Parade’s End” a couple of seasons later … and by the actress who played Johnny Depp’s wife in “Neverland” a few years earlier.

          • suzanne77

            You have very sharp eyes!

            • MRC210

              Thank you!

      • Andrew Schroeder

        Most of the costumes come from stock at the costume house Cosprop. Some of their stock is original, some is reproductions. A few of the costumes are made especially for the production.

        • suzanne77

          Thanks so much!

    • NBG

      The embroidering on the wedding dress! I need a cigarette!

    • alyce1213

      The draping and construction of the wedding gown is enough to make me weep. The back is unreal.
      It must’ve been hell before dry cleaners (for the servants I mean).

      • The Versatile Chef

        Those are serious dressmaking skillz.

      • Chocolatepot

        For the most part, things like that just didn’t get cleaned.

        • alyce1213

          Oh, not the wedding gown. I was thinking of the linen suit, some of the dresses,

    • siriuslover

      That wedding gown is simply gorgeous with that detailing. “You won that one, Edith.” hahahaha

    • NMMagpie

      Such simple elegant lines in that wedding dress. Designers need to take note; less can be stunning.

      • bitchybitchybitchy

        elegence teamed with a more covered look for a bride-how refreshing compared to the strapless styles of today.

        • Jackie4g

          If strapless wedding gowns took a long long rest, I, for one, would be delighted.

          • bitchybitchybitchy

            Even if the bride and groom have been cohabiting for years, I as a guest would appreciate it the bride saved her breasts for her groom instead of displaying them for all.

    • shirab

      So wait a second, does the fact that so many costumes are in the exhibit mean that they are wearing different costumes now (which I understand for the upstairs folk, but not for the downstairs staff) or that they are all done filming everything and have no need?

      Also, TLo, did you check out the gift shop? I saw that they were carrying Edwardian jewelry online when I looked a while back (at reasonable prices bc they are fakes) but I wondered if they have any clothing items (hats!) available that are copies or in the style of the costumes.

      • marishka1

        I would suppose that they bring in different clothes as the seasons and fashions change. There were such drastic changes in fashion, even for the servants, between 1913 and the mid-20’s (where the series began and where they are now), the costumers can’t really “get away” with using pieces for more than one season.

    • tallgirl1204

      Oh, I saw the wedding picture and immediately said out loud, “Oh, poor Edith!” Ah, me.

      • FibonacciSequins

        Yes, that wedding was a disaster! Poor Edith indeed.

    • Qitkat

      How lovely to see the back of Edith’s wedding gown with the mirror reflection. The simplicity of the overall gown and the extravagance of the detail combines to create such an elegant look.

    • judybrowni

      I believe mauve came in fashion for mourning only after the introduction of artificial coal tar dyees in the 19th century.
      Mauve may be an original color only created through those artificial, chemical dyes, if memory serves.

      • karonf

        Mauve: How One Man Invented a Color That Changed the World by Simon Garfield is an amazingly fascinating read. Definitely worth a library trip.

    • Kate Andrews

      Who’s the designer? Love the wedding dress and Cora’s ensemble.

      • Jackie4g

        I think Maggie Smith as Violet said something about how “you couldn’t go wring with Lucille”, (Lady Duff Gordon), but that she’d have paid for Patou, or was it Poiret? anyway, one of the French designers, can’t exactly remember which. Lucille seems to have done quite a good job. Poor Edith.

        • Bev Wiesner

          Patou not Poiret for lady Violette- poiret did Pants !!

    • decormaven

      Love the wedding gown; would have loved to have gotten a close look at the headpiece to which the veil is attached. Those are jewels or beading in metalwork or metallic thread fashioned into leaves, yes?

    • http://thejoyfulfox.blogspot.com/ Laura

      Edith’s wedding dress is to DIE for. The beading actually reminds me a bit of the beading on the 1920’s dress that I have saved for my future wedding :)

      • alyce1213

        I found, bought, and put away for safekeeping my antique wedding dress before I met my husband. It all worked out very well.

    • colorjunky

      unbelieveably beautiful clothes.

    • MannahattaMamma

      It’s extraordinary. When I think about the number of people hours that went into creating the originals — sewing machines had been invented, but the idea of going to a shop to buy a “ready-made” dress was still a pretty radical thing at the turn into the 20th century. All those seams & embroidery & buttons. And then of course trying to get all that damn stuff on & off. It’s amazing, frankly, that anyone ever had sex. Did they exhibit the undergarments? (I’m serious: the underwear would be so fascinating: corsets, no corsets, knickers, no knickers, etc etc)

    • FibonacciSequins

      Edith’s wedding dress was pretty spectacular. I remember feeling a little let down by how simple Mary’s wedding dress was when I watched that episode.

      I’m intrigued by that print on Daisy’s apron too – and who knew it had triangular pockets?

    • French_Swede

      Oh, how I covet so many of these dresses! I am so much more comfortable in the heat of Southern California in a dress or skirt than in shorts. I am in love with Edith’s wedding gown and I love that the diamond tiara has been worn several times on different characters. It makes me believe it is a family heirloom.

      I also want the low heeled dress shoes worn by the ladies in the first photograph. So dainty and ladylike!!!

      • FibonacciSequins

        I love ladies’ shoes from the 1920s (and 30s). They look elegant, yet comfortable. My grandmother was in service (as a cook) then, and she kept to the shoe style she wore then for the rest of her life. To this day, ladies’ lace-up brogues with a heel remind me of her.

        • marishka1

          My grandma wore those, too. I don’t know where she found those shoes in the 70’s!

          • FibonacciSequins

            I wondered the same thing!

    • MilaXX

      I had to laugh at O’Brien’s outfit. Everyone else seemed to have hidden beauty. Hers had some texture to it but was as drab as can be. Loved Edith’s wedding gown.

      • kimmeister

        This has nothing to do with the outfit, but as a newbie to DA, I’ve been wondering, why is is O’Brien always referred to by her last name? I get Mrs. Hughes, because she’s the head, but all of the other maids (Jane, Ethel, etc.) are referred to by their first name, whereas O’Brien gets her last name but without a “Mrs” or other title.

        • doodley

          It’s because she’s a lady’s maid. Her status is significantly higher than the other maids, which is why she’s addressed by a surname. The tradition was that a lady’s maid would be addressed by surname only, no title. Women in positions such as cook and housekeeper (Mrs. Padmore and Mrs. Hughes) were given the honorific “Mrs.” even though they were not married.

          • kimmeister

            Thanks! That’s what I figured, but then, I thought Jane was Lady Mary’s maid, so I talked myself out of it.

        • MRC210

          It was how servants’ roles were ranked. They had their own pecking order. The lowest in the ranks — kitchen maids, parlourmaids, footmen, outside help such as grooms or garden workers — were addressed by their first names. Valets and lady’s maids were a step up and were addressed by their last names (Thomas was called Barrows while he was the Earl’s valet in Bates’ absence). So were head gardeners and chauffeurs. The senior female servants — the housekeeper and cook — were given the courtesy title “Mrs” whether they were married or not. But butlers , although they were called “Mr.” by the other servants, were never addressed as “Mr” by their employers — only by their last name.

          Anna’s case was a little different. She was the head housemaid although she also carried out the duties of a lady’s maid to the sisters — helping them dress, doing their hair and so on. I don’t think unmarried daughters were expected to have their own O”Briens. If I recall correctly, Anna finally officially became Lady Mary’s maid but Lady Mary continued to call her Anna because otherwise there would be two servants named Bates.

          • kimmeister

            Ah, so I guess being a lady’s maid had to do with whether or not the lady in question was married or not. Thanks to you too!

    • random_poster

      So many of these appear to have different colors than what is reflected in the photos. Are they the actual costumes, or copies made for this exhibit? I noticed the caption below one set of photos above was an inquiry about a green cast.

      • jenno1013

        These are the actual costumes. The color difference is due to film set lighting.

    • frannyprof

      Tweedgasm.

      • formerlyAnon

        Yeah. If the British landed class did/do anything well, it’s clothes for tramping around outdoors in damp, cold weather.

    • Glammie

      These are really beautiful. Years and years ago I went to Hampton Court and they had some of the costumes of The Six Wives of Henry VIII and Elizabeth R on display. Unlike these, there were all sorts of cheats–stencilled velvet subbing in for brocade, for instance. But these are exquisite. And while you two go to Downton Abbey exhibits, I bought the Unofficial Downton Abbey knitting book. And I still haven’t watched the last season, but the costumes inspire mad lust. (There’s a knitted version of Thomas’ waistcoat and several wide-brimmed hats–here comes the wire.) Thanks for the treat, guys.

    • Karen

      At FIDM here in LA they do an exhibition of TV costumes every summer (and it’s free!!!!), and last year Downton Abbey was one of the TV shows on display (as it was the previous year). They displayed both Mary and Edith’s wedding dress and Mary’s dress was actually STUNNING in person. There was so much delicate embroidery and beading that did not read on camera at all and actually made Edith’s look rather plain in comparison. But it didn’t read on camera which was something that the costume designers should have taken into consideration.

      Also anyone in LA should make an effort to visit the TV costume exhibit at FIDM this summer because they usually have some really great pieces on display. They’ve had Game of Thrones for the last couple of years too and much like with Mary’s wedding dress, GOT costuming is FULL of really fantastic details that just don’t read on camera which is a major flaw for the GOT design team, in my opinion.

      • dash1211

        I’ve always preferred Mary’s dress.

      • cmb92191

        Wow great information . What is Fidm?

        • Karen

          Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising. There are a few locations, but the one that has the television costumes on display is in downtown LA. It’s free which is great, but no photography is allowed and they are SUPER strict about that.

          • cmb92191

            I haven’t been to LA in years but that sounds amazing. I can get tov this Winterhur museum in a half hour. Thanks for giving me the info. Sounds awesome

    • Judy_J

      Exquisitely made…the details are breathtaking! Even the buttonholes are beautiful! Edith’s wedding dress is so beautiful….elegant and classic.

    • kimmeister

      Those shooting boots look like they’d be complicated to put on.

      • decormaven

        Those servants came in handy. Think of all those buttons on the back of gowns!

        • kimmeister

          Oh for sure! I’d have never gotten in or out of my wedding gown were it not for my maid of honor.

    • Call me Bee

      Oh my gosh–fabric orgasm. The silks, tweeds, embroidery….I’m in Nirvana.

    • Jecca2244

      TLo! This is a great post. Thanks!!! i came here today for some post-holiday weekend red eye flight celeb banter and was greatly rewarded with these posts.

    • Man Dala

      I absolutely LIVE for this shit, I’m so jealous. I wonder if they’d bring the exhibit down here to Australia, where the show is so popular and airs in free-to-air TV.

    • cmb92191

      That wedding dress is to die for. Makes me hang my head in shame with my early 1990’s monstrosity . I did have a vintage gown but I couldn’t keep it. Now I wish I could have found a way to make that vintage gown work.

    • newidentity

      Every single Sybil dress makes my incredibly sad. Still not over it.

    • travelingcat

      The men in tweeds… *sigh* And the hats and gloves. For the most part, I do not want to go back in time regarding fashion, with the exception of hats and occasionally gloves.

    • Toby Wollin

      Am I seeing things or was every single piece of wool in this part herringbone?

    • demidaemon

      It’s amazing how much better some of these look on a body as compared to a mannequin.

    • MissMariRose

      As soon as I saw the wedding photo of the sisters, I was hoping to see Edith’s tiara. :(

      Oh, well.

    • ktr33

      Kim K. West should’ve worn Edith’s gown. THAT would’ve been a defining fashion moment!

    • imspinningaround

      I’m so glad Edith’s wedding gown is in this exhibit! It really is a showstopper. SO much prettier than Mary’s (sorry sis).

      • ktr33

        For the record, I also adored Mary’s dress, and that headpiece. Swooner.

    • Shawn EH

      Mary’s the epitome of Be Me, Sybil of course was Do Me so that leaves Edith for …. ahm …. sit over here and Tell Me all about it?

    • Yolanda

      Edith’s wedding gown is stunning! Love the detail on the train. Gorgeous!

    • MKDO

      Thanks to the web hosts for letting us see these magnificent garments up close. I do, however, disagree as to who “won” the wedding gown competition and I imagine their comment implies that it was a quality difference that kept Mary’s choice out of the exhibition. Do they really know this? In my view both dresses are splendid in very different ways.