Shows and movies are often seen as fashion inspiration by many. The much loved and celebrated British show ‘Downton Abbey’ is one such example. The show had an impeccable run from 2010 till 2015 establishing major fashion statements through the actor’s costumes and fits. Each new season of Downton Abbey featured the same gorgeous scenery, intrigue upstairs and below, and all of the clever one-liners we’ve grown accustomed to. Apart from its appeal to the audience, clothes were a crucial component in demonstrating status, decorum, and customs.
We can see the twentieth century and the notion of modernity taking shape in the clothing of Downton Abbey, and the faraway past becoming us, right now. The woman behind the massive reach of the looks of the characters is Anna Mary Scott Robbins, the costume designer. Over the course of the period drama, we’ve witnessed Lady Mary, Lady Edith, and the rest of the immaculately dressed Crawleys telegraphing the most dazzling developments in 1920s fashion.
If you are one of the fans of the show and love their fashion game or are just curious about the fashion of the 1920s, then you are at the right place. We’ve created this Downton fashion guide to take you through the drama’s course of fashion. Without further delay, let’s directly dive into the 1920s fashion world.
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A. Early 20th Century
With the return of corsets to the fashion world, we know how trendy these are. The show began in the Spring,1912, early 20th century where clothes still have the long-elegant lines of the 1890s and the skirts are long with little feet movement. These were also some of the last years of the corsets. ‘Healthy corsets’ were introduced which freed the abdomen and emphasis on the bust creating the ideal ‘S’ shape. Corsets have been a part of the ladies’ wardrobe for almost all the dresses in the 19th century making them an important fashion piece.
2. Morning Dresses
Women in those times used to have different dresses for different times of the day. The outfit depended upon the occasion and the time of the day. Morning outfits were often composed of a tailored shirt and a slim, basic skirt. The afternoon costumes, on the other hand, were more formal yet laid-back, with long, precise lines. Their outfits also included wide balloon skirts.
3. Long Formal Dinner Dresses
This was the time of the day where they used to showcase their fancy and elegant pieces. This time of the day was usually for the balls and the dinner parties with affluent people of the town. Many dresses were imported from the new and vastly growing business, Parisian Haute Couture. The dresses used to have long lines and were form-fitting with embroidery and sleeves as a crucial part.
4. Lady Sybil’s bouffant trousers
If you are familiar with the show, then you must be aware of the rebel nature of Lady Sybil. One of the iconic Lady Sybil’s rebellion outfits includes the glorious bouffant trousers. It was a gem-like turquoise color inspired by the sensation, Les Ballets Russes. Lady Sybil was the symbol of the upcoming times of forwarding fashion with simpler silhouettes and fitted clothing for women on the move.
B. World War I Period
1. Simpler clothes, small hats, and loose hems
Season 2 starts when World War I has broken out. During this time, the clothes were meant to add to mobility and not restrict it. Hence the cut became looser, the corset was gone, hems moved up from the ankle and the hats got small and less complicated. Hats played an important role in the reflection of a character’s etiquettes and ways.
C. Early 1920s Haute Couture
1. Easy dresses according to Political changes
These changes are noted in season 3 as the war is over, women are fighting for the vote and beginning to join the workforce in positions beyond service and manual work and the reigning optimism. Clothes changed into unfussy designs of looser garments, shorter hems, less ornate, and moving away from the tubular body shape of the 1910s. We’re seeing flapper, headbands, beading, and art deco influences in the clothes of the main characters, the three daughters.
2. Feminine appropriation of men’s clothes
This started in the Edwardian era and is being carried forward in the show as well. As modeled by Lady Cora, the straight-line chemise, topped with a loose jacket became the favorite look among the ladies of the time.
D. The Jazz Age of 1921-22
1. Bold silhouette
The Jazz age introduces us to the bold new silhouette where the flapper has arrived. The skirts are shorter, at the knee level, flat bust, and a much looser cut. The major change comes with skin showing, one of the biggest examples of this is the independent icon of the show Lady Edith.
2. Work clothes and Coco Chanel
Lady Edith adds the work clothes to her collection. They’re practical and loose, with a preference for rich hues and comfy lines, and they’re combined with new foundation pieces like the slip and the latest silk and rayon stockings trend. Coco Chanel is another important figure in the fashion world who has become well-known. Coco Chanel is on the rise in the couture world, designing for women like Lady Edith and ushering in the new silhouettes. The looks scream Chanel with simple, precise lines, pure uncomplicated form, and delicate yet important jewelry.
E. The Era of Optimism and Natural Shape of 1924-25
1. Modern Attire
The fashion of the Roaring 20s comes bursting with ideas and new art forms. Clothes have taken the form of modern-day clothing as we recognize today with comfort and style hand in hand. The ideal shape is now the natural shape of the body and hems are out of the way. One of the examples is Lady Mary’s pure red/ivory coat duo with geometric details and sunglasses.
2. Excessive jewelry in 1927
Michelle Dockery who played Lady Mary said that Anna brought in a lot of Jewelry for the looks of the last season, sometimes four necklaces per dress. More than 90 years later, stacking necklaces and earrings, especially delicate ones, is still popular.
Each character has their characteristic wardrobes on the show, each with their style. Lady Edith and Lady Mary had contrasting styles. Lady Mary’s style has clean-lined, dropped-waist suits with waist jackets, and then shirts and ties—a type of androgyny that is nevertheless feminine. She’s establishing a trademark appearance, and she’s forward-thinking in her role. While Lady Edith had a more bohemian and London-centric vibe. Her look had a cutting edge look with neckties and bows and cape suits. Downton Abbey’s costumes inspired Ralph Lauren’s fashion shows(2012) and made their way in people’s lives as well making it trendy and evergreen, which can still be worn in the 21st century.