The Costumes of Downton Abbey – Part 3

Posted on May 27, 2014

And for our final installment, as Lady Sybil would say:

 

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FORMAL WEAR, BITCHEZ.

Feast your eyes on all the gorgeous beading and embroidery, darlings, with minimal comment from us because really, what could we add to these pictures? These items are all absolutely stunning in person (although a few, like Sybil’s harem outfit, showed a little wear and tear).

 

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That fabric is gorgeous. What a striking color combination. It doesn’t read as well on film.

 

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Mary’s “Carson passing out” dress. You need something like a giant butler collapsing to take the focus away from this show-stopper.

 

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The display had the following quote from costume designer Caroline McCall that this dress was “an original period dress believed to be by the House of Babani, Paris,” which had “perished,” leaving nothing but the original embroidery, which they remounted on silk velvet dyed to match the original dress and “remade in the style of a Babani.”

All this info and skill; all this stuff that enriches the story. That’s why we love good costuming.

 

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Beautiful, but very stiff and heavy-looking. We don’t know how anyone could wear that for any length of time. The coat is gorgeous.

 

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That is some seriously crazy beading.

 

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This Cora gown was modeled on a Lanvin dress of the period and uses vintage embroidery for the panel running down the front.

 

 

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And then there was the part of the exhibit that had every lady in attendance gasp when she rounded the turn and saw it:

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Okay, we gasped a little, too. The proposal is on a loop, with falling snow projected all around it, causing quite the bottleneck of gawkers. Mary’s dress (also based on period Lanvin) being even more beautiful up close had a lot to do with it too.

 

 

 

Part 1 can be found here. Part 2 can be found here.

 

[Photo Credit: tomandlorenzo.com, PBS]

    • HomeOfficeGirl

      Thank you for the lovely guided tour today – loved every bit of every post!! I am ashamed at how little I really noticed most of the embroidery, beading and trim…. I bet I won’t miss it next time I watch!

    • Constant Reader

      This was so much fun to read! Thank you for taking the time to share the exhibit with us.

      • R.A.

        I don’t even watch the show and I still thoroughly enjoyed.

        • Judih1

          Me too! Never been a fan of the show, but these costumes are gorgeous. Some of them are ones I could see stars wearing on the red carpet today- they are so timeless!

    • Other Meredith

      I’ve already convinced my roommate we need a day trip to see this. It’s only an hour and a half from our house!

      • Kristi Mitchell

        You lucky bitch. I mean that with the utmost flattery, of course. :)

    • Man Dala

      Thank you so much for these posts, this has absolutely made my day. Next season I will be watching more closely to pick up on these amazing little details.

    • deelup

      After reading your posts, I’m so sad that the costumes don’t display so beautifully during the program itself- not that they don’t look like gorgeous clothes when I watch… but so much is missed! Thanks for sharing such art!

      • Kristi Mitchell

        I had the exact same thought. It’s almost tragic that the exquisite details don’t get picked up in the filming of the show. My heartfelt wish is that they decide to take the exhibit on tour to more US cities.

      • 3boysful

        I actually think that’s kind of interesting. When you look at some of these in a vacuum, while they are incredibly gorgeous; you might be tempted to say that’s a pattern or three too far, eg, Sybil’s formal wear. But when you see the costumes in the show, they are perfection, even if we don’t have the time or close-ups to appreciate the details. Anything less would likely not show up against the fabulous interior sets. Brilliant costuming.

    • tallgirl1204

      I note that the dowager duchess’s last gown is all about her love of her garden. Lovely!

    • vitaminC

      Sybil’s velvet looks a lot like Katharine Hepburn’s 1928 Babani wedding dress, which I just learned about from your website. Educational AND entertaining.

    • kanester

      I visited this exhibit with some friends a few months ago, and all of the costumes were gorgeous! You’re right, I did gasp when I saw Mary’s engagement dress. I was lingering there for at LEAST 15 minutes. My friends, who don’t watch the show, got pretty bored after a few minutes but I stayed inside for as long as I could to take it all in. I want to take another trip, it was all so beautiful!

    • kimmeister

      These posts make me grateful that I still have 2 full seasons I haven’t seen yet. I will be paying better attention to the costuming details for sure!

    • robin-m

      Thank you so much for posting these delightful garments. The thing I am most struck by is the incredible period detail, especially around the necklines. Delicious beading, embroidery, lace, ribbon. My Tuesday “mow the lawn” t-shirt looks extra dowdy by comparison.

    • http://phantomminuet.blogspot.com/ MinAgain

      I would wear that harem outfit to an event tomorrow, if I could.

    • Sarah Thomas

      IF you ever get a chance to see an exhibit of the Game of Thrones costumes, check it out. You wouldn’t be disappointed. (Also, the GoT costumes are crying out for the TLo treatment. How’s that for acronym overload? :) )

      • Golfkat

        Well, we’re going to have to find something else to talk about when the last episode of Mad Men rolls across the screen :( I don’t even want to think about that! Downton Abbey and Game of Thrones are both worthy contenders costume wise. Though nothing is going to fill the Mad Men-shaped hole in my heart.

        • not_Bridget

          A few years ago, my local Natural History museum hosted a show of LOTR “artifacts.” There have been several, touring the world in recent years.

          There were many drawings, props, weapons & suits of armor. And a few fairy-princess gowns for the ladies. It was obvious that everything was made with love–not all the details showed up on the screen.

      • Natalie Walker

        I absolutely love GoT costumes , have no idea why the merchandise they sell does not reflect the beauty of the costumes. I definitely could see Arya’s costume’s technique selling as a vest or part of a jacket., also some of the armor ,. I would love to offer my services to whoever produces the GoT Merchandise.

    • stickee

      Oh thank thank you so much for this. I doubt I’ll be able to go to this exhibit anytime soon, so. I would’ve loved to see Mary’s Christmas Special dress (along with the proposal and the snow) up close!

    • marlie

      Fabulous job, TLo!! Now I’m even more eager to see the exhibit!

    • melanie0866

      Thank you SO MUCH for this. I had read an article about the exhibit but I’m too far away to see it in person. Delightful.

    • Jennifer Bober

      Bless you my fabulous gay uncles for bringing this to us! I am now going to share these posts with every historical costumer I know and listen for the sighs, squeals and gasps.

    • Alloy Jane

      This was wonderful to read! Thank you dearly for your diligence in brining us fabulousness every day, especially with something like this exhibit that not all of us can get to. Cheers Uncles!

    • Glammie

      Sybil’s harem pants outfit looks so different on the mannequin. I guess it was vintage–no wonder they only used it in a short scene. No idea that the pants were two different colors.

    • cmb92191

      That’s it. I need a TLo field trip. Thank you for letting me know about the exhibit. Winterhur is only a half hour away and tax free shopping in Delaware

    • MilaXX

      Gorgeous! Simply gorgeous! I must get down there!.

    • Kathleen Jackson

      Thank you so much for this! I’m swooning!

    • BLauD

      Thank you so much for these posts! I feel a great need to hop in the car and head for DE – not something I’ve ever said before ;)

    • Pennymac

      Sumptuous! Thank you, thank you, Tom and Lorenzo,for this! The detail in these is breathtaking, even up close!

    • YousmelllikeAnnaWintour

      THANK YOU!!! THIS WAS ALL SO WONDERFUL!!! :)

    • mixedupfiles

      Seriously considering giving up shapewear for heavily-beaded shifts.

      • Jacqueline Wessel

        And wearing those heavy heavily-beaded shifts will be like wearing weights, so you’ll get a little work-out. Double win, I say!

    • NMMagpie

      Damn. Just damn.

    • http://gabyrippling.tumblr.com/ Gaby

      LOVE ALL THESE POSTS.
      And now EVERYONE should come with to the Jazz Age Lawn Party on Governor’s Island. Seriously, June 14th and 15th. I’m going on the fourteenth. Just google it and you’ll find it. Bee’s Knees packages (probably best value) are already sold out but you can still get tickets and discounted food/drink vouchers. These posts were excellent inspiration for it.
      Seriously, the bitter kittens should have a jazzy meetup.

      • not_Bridget

        I just caught Lurhman’s Great Gatsby on HBO. Now I’m kicking myself for not seeing it on the Really BIg Screen….

    • GeoDiva

      Wonderful posts! I have come to appreciate costumes so much more especially with your Mad Men Style posts. I love Downton Abbey and the exhibit looked great.

    • KendraMR

      I really appreciated these wonderful posts. Great work as usual, TLo!

    • Jacqueline Wessel

      Thank you for bringing this beautiful exhibit to my little screen. I don’t see how I could fit this into my schedule, so I won’t get to see it in person. This is the next best thing. These garments are stunning!

    • http://tvblogster.blogspot.com Boop

      In the past two days, I’ve been flabbergasted by the gorgeosity of fashion. On Sunday, I saw the Charles James fashion exhibit at the Met in NYC. I gasped and clutched my chest. It was exquisite. Now this…same thing. Just sensational.

    • katiessh

      I swear there will never be a better downton abbey style moment than sybil’s harem pants. Amazing. Plus it teased a form of rebellion in sybil that was all but gone by the time she (spoiler, I guess?) died.

      • not_Bridget

        Paul Poiret invented the Harem Pants. Also the Hobbleskirt. And low necklines for daytime. He was also influenced by the Ballet Russe. I can see a forward-thinking provincial like Sybil requesting the seamstress duplicate the look.
        Tom Stoppard wrote the screenplay for Parade’s End, the BBC/HBO miniseries based on Ford Madox Ford’s great work. Stoppard read up on the “just before the war” period for social & historic background. Sylvia Tietjens wore a Poiret black hobble skirt with a lowcut top (as specified in the screenplay) to the funeral of her mother-in-law, scandalizing all of Yorkshire. And she wore a coat very like one that Shirley Maclaine did…some costumes appear in several productions.

    • Skippymom1

      Thank you so much for this. What a wonderful walk through the museum with you. I will say, and I guess it’s me, but I really love the costumes Dame Maggie wears throughout. . .there are so rich, yet just a bit of a step back to the former generation in reinforcing in her status as the elder states woman. I have no idea if that made any sense….but I love them ALL and your commentary was so wonderful. Thanks again.

      • not_Bridget

        The Dowager has never completely abandoned her Victorian Heyday….

    • MissusBee

      You guys need to come to London and visit the Angels warehouse where they have the costumes for everything ever (although you probably already did). My husband took me there for my birthday a couple of years ago and it was amazing. The tour was far too short for me, but I bet they’d let you spend the whole day.

      What am I saying? Call up BBC4, and let them put the whole thing together as a period costume special.

      And a London book-signing while you’re here, maybe? Maybe?

      P.S. They are reshowing ‘The Pallisers’ here at the moment. Costumes: Victorian Heaven. Camerawork: British public television 1974. Acting roll call: impressive – including Powell & Pressburger legend Roger Livesey, whose voice alone makes me well up.

    • Spicytomato1

      Thank you, TLo, for sharing. Part 3 may have been my favorite. So utterly amazing and lovely, each piece more beautiful than the last. Swoon.

    • Edie Rose

      I find it hilarious that Sybil’s harem outfit was the one to show ‘wear and tear’ seeing as she literally only wore it that ONE time on the show. Way to make a fuss about getting something specifically made for you that you’re never actually going to wear, Sybil.

      Although, Tom did spy on her through the window in that outfit, so I suppose it served a purpose in the end.

      • Emily

        It showed wear and tear because it was made from vintage fabric. A lot of the costumes used pieces of vintage fabric that they built off of and around. If I remember correctly, when she first put this costume on it tore, so they had to patch it up. The information with the piece said where the repair was, but it was so expertly done I still couldn’t see it.

        • jenno1013

          You can see it in the picture above, on her right shoulder. The three whitish lines through the blue, just below the peach color, are where the fabric pulled apart. I think there was also a repair made to the back of the bodice. Must be tricky for the actors when they know they’re wearing vintage pieces (especially the corseted kind), not to sit, bend, sneeze, turn too quickly, etc. until the scene is wrapped and they can take off the museum wear.

          • http://www.pinterest.com/linlin Linlin

            Also: the vintages pieces might smell because nobody wants to ruin them by washing.

    • Call me Bee

      Thank you very much gentlemen, for posting these exquisite photos. So inspiring for a handwork lover such as me. It would have been so hard not to fondle all these velvets, linens and tweeds while seeing the exhibit.

    • decormaven

      Bugle beads! Wow! These posts have been a wonderful treat. Thanks so much for sharing.

    • CPK1

      Thank you so much for these posts. Amazing. I have seen all the shows and always taken the costuming for granted. Which I guess is a testament to how seamlessly it is incorporated into the show and what a good job they do. However, I will now look at it with fresh eyes and spot those amazing details you have pointed out

    • tylka5

      Thank you so much for sharing! I hope this exhibit tours the US – so beautiful!

      • Emily

        Unfortunately it’s not. The exhibit was put together by the curators at Winterthur and it’s only US appearance is there.

    • SewingSiren

      I just love Lady Mary’s engagement dress. The beading at the neckline and every other flounce is so unusual. I wonder just what the Grantham clothing budget was supposed to be anyway? No wonder they’re constantly going broke.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_QFW22QV426LUOEPGASPZJWJMDE MishaFoomin

      I love the lily of the valley embroidery on the second to last dress. It’s my favorite part. Actually the whole skirt part of that is super fabulous.

    • AnneElliot

      OK, totally sold. I’m already making plans to visit my sister in Baltimore for Thanksgiving, just so I can take a side trip and see this exhibit. It’s only 100 miles!

      • Emily

        Totally worth it. Plus, If you’ve never been to Winterthur, take time to do the house tour as well. It’s an amazing mansion.

    • javajunkie

      Thank you so much for these Downton posts – for those of us not able to make it to the exhibit, this was the next-best thing.

    • Paula Pertile

      Thank you for posting these!

    • Funnygrrl

      Thank you for providing a look for those of us who live too far away.
      Stunning details and chock full of inspiration.

    • save_the_hobbit

      Never watched Downtown Abbey but always been interested in 20’s-style clothing. The gowns…the beading…absolutely gorgeous.

    • Gatto Nero

      Breathtaking.
      Thank you so much for sharing this with us.

    • formerlyAnon

      Thank-you, again, SO MUCH for the photos and most especially the close ups of the details. The best part.

    • Pamdela

      So many of these clothes could be worn right now by women of every shape and age. I’m thinking of the “upstairs” clothes, of course. The easy coats and the body-skimming shapes, along with the gorgeous fabrics. And hats! It would be so great if some current designers would see this show…or these posts (thank you so much!)…and get inspired.

    • http://asskickingadviser.com/ Ass Kicking Adviser

      Thanks you guys! Just getting a chance to read through these now but what a wonderful exhibit and so glad you posted. It makes me a little sad that so much of the detail is lost on TV because wow!

    • Coolekat

      Many thanks. How fin about the embroidery differing from apron to apron. I’m betting each maid did her own and they competed informally for most beautiful. Anybody know?

    • Jennifer Peters-Ahnberg

      THANK YOU. What a gift to not only see this, but see it through your eyes. I’m a long-time fan of the show, but you guys have such an eye for the details.

    • Kelly

      So fabulous. Thank you, TLo. I keep waiting / hoping for a full-blown resurgence of Edwardian and 1920s styles, because so many of the silhouettes are flattering and can be very modern. Also, just look how striking and elegant Maggie Smith’s jawbones remain, and she’s 78 or 79 –that’s what good bone structure will do for you.

    • Yolanda

      Thank you Uncles for being our tour guides for this exhibit. I will pay even more attention to the costumes when watching.

    • Aryn

      I’ve had reservations for this for a little over a month, and we’re going on Saturday. Can’t wait!! (I skimmed quickly through some of the pictures so I’m not too spoiled!)

    • lmhess

      Thanks for the wonderful pictures and stories behind the costumes…a friend referred me to your site and it’s excellent. Reading about the costumes just enriches the Downton Abbey experience.

    • http://www.a-soy-bean.blogspot.com/ Abby Bean

      Loved this; thank you!