Downton Abbey Fashions – Part Two

As previously mentioned in Part One of the Fashions of Downton Abbey two part series, the clothing worn by the characters of the television series tell the story and set the mood as much as Highcere Castle and the stage sets at Ealing Studios.  In Part One, I discussed the fashions of the six seasons of Downton Abbey including day and evening dresses as well as the accessories of the aristocratic Crawley family.  In Part Two, I will discuss the wedding dresses worn by the Crawley sisters at both their first and second weddings as highlighted in seasons three and six.  I will also discuss the wedding outfits of several of the servants of Downtown Abbey.

As season one and two unfolds Lady Sybil, the youngest Crawley daughter, and Tom Branson share a growing attraction to one another and the couple plans to secretly run away to Gretna Green to elope but they are found by Lady Mary and Lady Edith before the marriage takes place (season two episode 7).  Lord Grantham threatens to disinherit Lady Sybil, but eventually he gives his blessing and the couple is married and move to Ireland as season two comes to an end.  Unfortunately for viewers, the wedding takes place off camera and denied seeing Lady Sybil in her wedding dress.  (Shown below are Lady Sybil and Tom Branson)

Sybil and Tom Branston 1

In season two episode 5, William had returned from World War I severely injured and he is brought back to Downton.  William asks Daisy to marry him before he dies, this will provide her with hid pension.  Daisy is torn, because she is not truly in love with William but Mr. Mason, William’s father, and Mrs. Patmore, the cook, convince her to do this for William.  The wedding takes place in one of the upstairs bedrooms by the local vicar and the bed is decorated with floral swags and Daisy is wearing her best dress for the ceremony with her hair arranged in a pretty style.  Sadly, William dies a few hours later.  (Shown below is a two photos of the wedding ceremony, the one on the left shows a close-up photo of Daisy’s hairstyle)

Daisy wedding 1  Daisy and William wedding

There is another wedding that involves two of the Downton servants, Mr. Bates and Anna, which takes place during season two in episode 7 Mr. Bates is the personal valet to the Earl of Grantham and Anna is Lady Mary’s maid, the couple falls in love and after several troublesome obstacles they finally get married and the viewers are allowed a quick glimpse of the wedding ceremony but there is no wedding reception.  As Anna herself says, “I’d rather have the right man than the right wedding”.  As was customary for her station in society, for the ceremony at the registry office Anna wears her best outfit which is a starched white blouse, blue skirt, black hat and she carries a bouquet of wildflowers.  (Shown below are two photos of Mr. Bates and Anna on their wedding day)

Mr. Bates and Anna wedding 1a  Mr. Bates and Anna wedding 2

Then, during season three of the Downton Abbey television show there was the weddings of the two remaining Crawley sisters.  The first was the much anticipated wedding of Lady Mary to Matthew Crawley as shown in episode one to start the season.  The wedding ceremony took place at St. Michael and All Angels Church, the local church in the Downton.  Lady Mary’s wedding gown was in fitting with the time period, the third season is set between the years 1920 to 1921, and was custom made under the direction of the Downton Abbey television show’s costume designer, Caroline McCall.  Lady Mary’s gown is an ivory column dress with a dropped waistline, long sheer sleeves and a chapel-length train embellished with lace details, pearl beading and Swarovski crystals.  The Grantham family tiara, a beautiful 45-carat diamond tiara was used to secure a veil and, to complete her bridal ensemble, Lady Mary carried a simple bouquet of white Calla lilies.  (Shown below are several photos of Lady Mary in her wedding dress and with her handsome groom, Matthew)

Mary 1st wedding gown - front view  Mary 1st wedding gown - back view

Mary and Matthew wedding

Grantham tiara

Below are several more photos of the wedding.  The photo on the left shows Cora, the Countess of Grantham and the mother of the bride, flanked by her daughters, Lady Edith and Lady Sybil, all dressed in lovely pastel dresses with hats embellished with artificial flowers and satin ribbons.  The photo on the right shows both of Lady Mary’s grandmothers, the conservative Violet the Dowager Countess and the more flamboyant American-born Martha Levinson wearing her fur and feathers.

Wedding clothing 1  Wedding clothing 2

For episode three of season three, Lady Edith is finally the center of attention as she prepares for her wedding to Anthony Strallan.  Caroline McCall, the Downton Abbey television show’s costume designer, was inspired by a vintage silk train which was embellished with flowers and crystals which would be attached to the shoulders of the dress with embroidered flowers styled to match those on the train.  Based on a similar Lanvin design, the ivory silk dress is softly gathered at the hip with more embroidered flower accents and it is both simple and elegant.  Lady Edith, like her sister, also wore her veil attached with Grantham tiara which was a wonderful tradition commonly done with important pieces of jewelry by members of other aristocratic families.  Sadly, as beautiful she looked on her wedding day, Lady Edith was jilted at the altar by Strallan who did not want to burden her with a life married to an older invalid.  (Shown below are several photos of Lady Edith wearing her lovely wedding gown)

Edith 1st wedding - front view  Edith 1st wedding - front view 2

Edith 1st wedding - back view 1  Edith 1st wedding - train detail 2

Below is a photo of Lady Edith with her sisters, Lady Mary and Lady Sybil, before the ill-fated wedding.  Lady Mary is wearing a lovely pastel blue dress and Lady Sybil in a lavender dress, both are wearing hats.  

season 3 Edith's wedding

The next Downton wedding to take place was in season five episode 8 and it was the happy occasion of Lady Rose to Atticus Aldridge.  In this episode preparations are underway for the wedding and Lady Rose will be wearing two special bridal outfits, one for the registry office ceremony and another for the grand reception later that night.  The dress for the wedding ceremony was a pastel blue dress with embroidered embellishments inspired by a vintage collar that Caroline McCall, the Downton Abbey costume designer, had found in Paris.  The hat was decorated with preserved real roses done by the wardrobe department’s milliner.  The second dress for the reception was also a vintage find at a shop in London and it was a beautiful ivory silk tulle dress with gold beading and worn with matching silk opera-length gloves.  Two of the preserved roses were pinned behind Lady Rose’s ears and more of the roses were used to create a wedding bouquet with little vintage wax flowers, pearls and gilded ferns.  (Shown below are several photos of Lady Rose wearing her two wedding outfits)

Rose wedding outfits - season 5

  Rose wedding gown 1

SPOILER ALERT:  Please be aware that the following reveals season six plot details!

During season six there is a trio of special weddings during the final season of Downton Abbey.  The first takes place in episode 3 and it is the wedding of Mrs. Hughes and Mr. Carson, he is the head butler and she is the housekeeper at Downton Abbey.  While selecting her bridal outfit both Mrs. Patmore, the cook and Lady Mary are unhappy with Mrs. Hughes choice of what they think of as a drab mauve dress for the special occasion.  Lady Mary suggests Lady Grantham’s velvet coat with stunning lace and beaded embellishments and while they are trying it on Lady Grantham walks in on the women and she is very upset that they are in her bedroom trying on her personal clothes but in the end she calms down and kindly gives Mrs. Hughes the beautiful coat to wear on her wedding day.  (Shown below are several photos of Mrs. Hughes wearing her wedding outfit and another photo of the guests gathered for the ceremony)

Mr Carson and Mrs Hughes wedding 1  Mrs Hughes wedding outfit - coat detail

Mr Carson and Mrs Hughes wedding 2

Then, in episode 8 of season six, the fate of Lady Mary is quickly settled when she weds Henry Talbot.  Remember Lady Mary’s first husband Matthew died in a tragic car accident shortly after the birth of their son, and her choice of a bridal dress for her second wedding was almost, dare I say it, matronly!  The ivory dress features a deep V-front with embroidered detailing and long sleeves.  Lady Mary wears a simple pearl necklace and for the church ceremony she wears a hat embellished with artificial flowers and netting.  Instead of a bridal bouquet, Lady Mary wears a floral corsage pinned on the left side of her dress.  (The photos below show Lady Mary wearing her wedding outfit and another photo shows her with her new husband, Henry)

Mary 2nd wedding dress 2  Mary 2nd wedding 5

Finally, in the series finale (the 2015 Christmas special) of Downton Abbey, Lady Edith finds the love and happiness she deserves when she weds Bertie Pelham, the new Marchioness of Hexham.  Lady Edith looked absolutely beautiful in her lace short sleeved wedding dress and, since she was denied a conclusion to her first attempt at marriage, she wore a lace veil with a beaded headband instead of the Grantham tiara.  (Shown below are several photos of Lady Edith in her wedding dress and with her new husband, Bertie)

Edith 2nd wedding with her father 1  Edith 2nd wedding 1

(For more on the Downton Abbey television series, please click on the link.  Also, to see more costumes worn by the women of Downton Abbey throughout the years, please click on the link to Downton Abbey Fashions – Part One)

Downton Abbey Fashions – Part One

The Fashions of Downton Abbey have been truly an important part of the television series telling the story and setting the mood for the drama as much as Highclere Castle located in Hampshire, England and the interior sets located at Ealing Studios in London.  When the first season opens in 1912 the women of Downton Abbey are wearing the buttoned-up lace shirts and long skirts of the post Edwardian-era and as the last season closes in 1925 the fashions have changed to the more revealing beaded dresses of the “Roaring Twenties”.

In Part One of the two part series on the Fashions of Downton Abbey I will discuss the many changes in fashion throughout the six seasons of the television series.  In Part Two I will discuss the wedding dresses worn by the Crawley sisters for their weddings as shown in seasons three and six, also wedding clothes worn by several of the servants of Downtown Abbey.  

Season one of Downton Abbey opens with news of the sinking of the RMS Titanic, the viewers are introduced to the aristocratic Crawley family; Lord and Lady Grantham and their three daughters.  In the post Edwardian-era, a lady would customarily change their clothes several times during the course of a single day.  Their wardrobe started with a set of undergarments consisting of a chemise, drawers, corset, petticoat and cotton stockings.  Corsets were an important part of the undergarments because it was used to create the preferred shape of an ideal Edwardian women’s body; which was a silhouette showing slim hips, a tiny waist and an uplifted bosom.  (Shown below in the photo is Mary, the eldest daughter, being laced into her corset by her maid, Anna, as her sister Edith looks on)      

Undergarments 1

The first outfit of the day that a lady would wear would be the “morning dress” consisting of a tailored blouse and a long skirt.  All items of clothing would be made of sturdy and practical material, such as cotton or linen.  This outfit would be worn for breakfast by the Crawley daughters, unmarried ladies of the house were expected to come downstairs for breakfast while the married ladies would be allowed to eat their breakfast in bed.  Cora, Lady Grantham, would be upstairs in her bedroom wearing her nightgown with a robe as her personal maid would serve her the tray of food prepared and sent up by the kitchen cook. (The photo on the left shows Mary wearing a lovely shirt and shirt ensemble and the photo on the right shows the three Crawley sisters wearing their “morning dresses”.  The third photo shows Cora in bed still wearing her nightgown and robe waiting to be served breakfast in bed)

female - morning outfit 1  female - morning outfit 2

night gown 1

Later, the ladies of the house would change into their “afternoon dresses” which were made of softer fabric, generally in the summer months pastel colors would be worn.  (The photo below shows the three Crawley sisters dressed in lovely “afternoon dresses” outside at Downton Abbey)

female - day clothing 1910s

For afternoon tea, usually served between 4-5 pm, the ladies would change into “tea dresses” which would be trimmed with lace and maybe some embroidery.  Tea would be served in the drawing room of the house, sometimes guests would be there or perhaps the women would be out paying an afternoon call while visiting the home of a relative or friend located nearby.  If tea was being served in the house without any guests, the ladies would often remove their corsets to enjoy an unrestricted meal. (The photo below shows Cora at tea taken outside at Downton Abbey; this was sometimes done when there was good weather in the spring or summer)

female - tea dress 1

After a brief rest, and sometimes a nap, the ladies would then take their time dressing for dinner which was usually served at 8 pm.  A lady would change into a fresh set of lingerie which would now include a pair of silk stockings.  A maid would help them into an “evening dress” which would be made of a luxurious fabric, such as silk or satin, often embellished with beading, embroidery or other trimmings.  A more elaborate hairstyle would also be created by the maid, sometimes a jeweled hair comb or tiara would be worn depending on the occasion and of course a set of the lady’s finest jewelry.  (The photo on the left shows Lady Grantham dressed in an elegant evening gown dress with Lord Grantham dressed in his formal evening clothes consisting of a black cut-away coat with a white waistcoat and matching trousers.  The photo on the right shows the three Crawley sisters dressed for dinner in their evening gowns)

1910s evening clothes  female - evening wear 1910s

One unexpected outfit worn by Sybil, the youngest daughter, was the very stylish harem pants worn with a matching headpiece.  This choice of outfit was directly influenced by Paul Poiret, a designer that created eastern inspired evening clothes made in colorful silk and satin for his socially elite customers.  (Shown in the photo below is Sybil’s scandalous outfit which is quite a contrast to the more traditional evening dresses worn by her mother and sister)

female - harem pants worn by Sybil

At the start of season two World War I has started and the house has been converted into a hospital for the wounded soldiers returning home from the battlefields of Europe.  Sybil has taken on the role of a nurse while her mother and her two sisters are also helping with the wounded soldiers at Downton.  During the war, there were fewer restrictions on society in regards to clothing as many upper class women took on more voluntary work and mixed more often with the working class prompting the slow decline in the social barriers that divided the two classes.

The fashions of wartime England were reflected with military-style braiding, belts with buckles and skirts that were slightly shorter rising to mid-calf by 1915.  One of the most welcomed changes for women was the gradual elimination of the cumbersome stiff crinoline which result in more ease of movement as skirts became slimmer and more fluid.  (The photo on the left shows Lord Grantham with his three daughters, please note that Sybil is dressed in her nurse’s clothing.  The photo on the right shows Lord Grantham and Matthew wearing full dress uniforms for a formal dinner)

World War I fashions 2  World War I - male formal military 1

Season two ends with two wedding, the first is the scandalous wedding of Sybil and Tom Branson, the Downton chauffer (which was not shown as part of the series).  The second was the wedding of two Downton servants, Mr. Bates and Anna.  Season three begins with two more weddings, the much anticipated wedding of Mary to Matthew.  Sadly, the second wedding ended with Edith being jilted at the altar by Patrick Strallan.   (To find out more detailed information regarding the wedding dresses of these Downton brides and the Grantham tiara, which was born by both Crawley sisters on their wedding day, please click on the link to Downton Abbey Fashions – Part Two)

The third season of Downton Abbey is set during 1920 to 1921 with the fashions reflecting the very distinct changes that were happening during that time period.  The older members of the Crawley family, Violet the Dowager Countess of Grantham and Isobel Crawley the mother of Matthew, are very slow to change the conservative fashion style of the post Edwardian-era.  Meanwhile Cora will start to dress in more modern fashions as the season progresses.  (The first photo below shows Violet and Isobel with Rosamund, Violet’s daughter, at a local cricket match.  The second photo shows Cora at the same cricket match) 

season 3 Violet and Isobel and Rosamund  season 3 cora

The Crawley sisters, being of a younger generation, start to wear a very different style of clothing then their older relatives.   Gone are the confining undergarments previously worn with the corset is finally eliminated while being replaced with less restrictive brassiere, panties and slips.  Looser fitting dresses with dropped waistline and hemlines ranging from ankle to mid-calf length have become the current fashion.  (The photo on the left are shows the Crawley ladies dressing for Mary’s wedding and the photo on the right shows the Crawley sisters just before Edith’s disastrous wedding.  The other photo shows the Crawley ladies dressed for the christening of baby Sybbie, the daughter of the late Sybil and Tom Branson)

season 3 Mary's wedding  season 3 Edith's wedding

female -1920s dresses - season 3  Sybbie's christening

Other items of clothing for a modern women included tailored suits with a matching jacket and skirt worn with a pretty blouse.  These tailored suits were often required as women entered the work place after the Great War; the suits were also worn while the women were in the city or traveling.  Sometimes the more fashionable women wore their suits accented with fur collars or cuffs or a matching muff in the colder fall and winter months.  (The photos below show Mary, seen with Matthew, wearing two different styles of tailored suits, the first in tweed and the second in a burgundy wool one)

season 3 Mary tailored tweed suit  season 3 Mary tailored coat 1

As Downton Abbey moves forward into season four, we see Mary in mourning following the death of her husband in a car accident shortly after the birth of their son George.  It has been six months since Matthew’s death and she is still in a state of deep depression and wearing all black.  Midway through the first episode she suddenly arrives at dinner dressed in a lilac dress to the shock of everyone as she decides to move forward in her life for the sake of her son.  The rules for the wearing of proper mourning clothing had a definite set of rules in post-war England although the rules were not as strict those in the Victorian or Edwardian eras.  Widows in the 1920s would have had a period of eighteen months of mourning for a husband and during that time they would wear all black  followed by a few more months of half-mourning when they could wear shades of grey or purple.  (The first photo shows Mary dressed in a chic black dress with brocade detail on the collar and the second photo shows her in the lilac dress with a pleated bodice and embroidered collar)

mourning clothes - Lady Mary 1  mourning clothes - Lady Mary 2

Season four of Downton Abbey is set between 1922 and 1923 with England immersed in beginning of the “Jazz Age” marked by its modern music and provocative dances, such as the Charleston.  Rose, the high-spirited daughter of a Crawley family relative that we met at the end of season three has comes to live at Downton.  Rose frequently make excuses to go to London because she loves the excitement of the nightclubs and country life at Downton is just too boring.  The clothes worn during season four are becoming more daring, especially those worn by Rose when in out on the town in London.  Evening dresses of the 1920s were beaded sheaths worn with long necklaces and sometimes a beaded headband worn across the forehead.  (Shown below in the photos is the innocent Rose when she first arrived at Downton and the dramatic transformation at a London nightclub!)

season 4 Rose - before  season 4 Rose - after

Edith is also spending time in London working with Michael Gregson, the owner of a publishing company, and the couple begin a clandestine romance.  Since women of the 1920s had begun taking on employment  and a work wardrobe was needed in the workplace, tunic tops or hip-length sweaters with a skirt or dresses with dropped waistlines and cloche hats or tied scarves. In the evening women wore rather risqué “flapper” dresses, long necklaces and beaded headbands.  (Shown below in the photos are some of the daytime and evening fashions worn by the women of Downton)

season 4 - Edith work clothes brocade dress  
season 4 - Edith work clothes 1
evening clothing - 1920s  season 3 Edith  season 3 Mary evening dress 1

season 4 - evening wear - cast

During season four Rose makes her formal introduction into London society as a debutante and the highlight of the season is the Court presentation.  For centuries the etiquette and clothing worn to this event followed a very specific set of rules and regulations.  In regards to the court presentation dresses in the 1920s during the reign of King George VI, the dress would be traditionally white, although a pastel color would be acceptable.   A white veil measuring no longer than 45 inches was required and three white ostrich feathers would be attached to the veil; the center feather would be slightly longer than the other two smaller feathers worn to the left and right.  Gloves, fans and bouquets would be optional.  (Shown below is a photo of Rose dressed in her court presentation gown and the other photo shows the other members of the Crawley family dressed for the occasion) 

Rose - court presentation 1 season 4 - Court presentation - cast

In season five of Downton Abbey, which takes place in 1924, there are very few changes in regards to fashion styles.  Edith and Rose tend to wear more daring outfits than Mary who wears more conservative clothes, although Mary is the first one to cut her hair short into a fashionable chin-length bob.  (The photo below shows Mary as she débuts her new hairstyle to the family at Downton)

season 4 - Mary - new bob hairstyle 1

season 5 - London clothing - cast

season 6 - Mary and Edith

For the evening, a woman wore sheath-style dresses, often sleeveless with daring necklines, made of silk and satin.  The evening dresses were beautifully beaded or embellished with sequins.  Costume jewelry had replaced more expensive gemstones and women would often wear long strings of pearls or tasseled beaded necklaces.

season 4- Edith - evening wear 1 front  season 4 - Edith - evening wear 1 back 

season 5 - evening wear

season 6 - Edith

One highlight of the fifth season is the wedding of Rose and Atticus Aldridge, she actually wears two wedding outfits, one for the wedding at the registry office and a second gown for the grand wedding reception.  In season six there are a trio of special weddings taking place during the final season of Downton Abbey.  First there is the wedding of Mrs. Hughes to Mr. Carson; she wears a special coat previously worn by Lady Grantham.  Then, near the end of season six there is the weddings of the Crawley sisters, Mary to Henry Talbot and then Edith and Bertie Pelham, the Marchioness of Hexham.  (To find out more detailed information regarding the wedding dresses of these Downton brides, please click on the link to Downton Abbey Fashions – Part Two)

For more information on the Downton Abbey television series, including list of characters, season synopsis and film locations, please click on the link)