I want to take a few minutes to talk about my favorite costumes currently on television – the stunning Downton Abbey, currently in its second season on PBS here in the States. Entertainment Weekly called it “costume crack” and I couldn’t agree more. The series has been absolutely beautiful to watch.
What’s great about Downton is the variety we get to see. The series started in 1912, and so far has taken us up to the end of World War I in 1919. There are the upstairs residents and the staff, and several generations, as well as civilians and soldiers. It’s been particularly interesting this season, as the characters have dealt with war, to watch the evolution of their costumes. Many of the men, of course, have transitioned to uniforms. Lady Sybil became a nurse, so she wears a uniform more often than her beautiful dinner gowns. I have noticed, too, that many of the ladies are also recycling their dinner gowns more than they used to, which is good, in a way, because it gives us in the audience more chance to admire them!
And they are admirable. I love looking at the intricate beadwork and fancy fabrics, plus all the gorgeous jewelry – the dangling earrings and lovely necklaces that always seem to match the gowns so perfectly. The dress styles have been evolving slightly as well. The hemlines have gotten a bit shorter, and the silhouettes a bit slimmer, since the beginning of season one. I enjoyed the memorable scene from the first season when Lady Sybil ventured out and tried the new style of (gasp!) flowy pants for dinner, and of course faced the ire of her conservative grandmother.
The daytime clothes are pretty remarkable as well. In season two, Lady Mary has been wearing a beautiful red coat and matching hat. As the time period moves closer to the 1920s, we’re seeing a lot more close fitting, cloche style hats. They’re all in beautiful vibrant colors, and look like they’re so much fun to wear. And of course, there are still the more traditional hats, mostly on the Dowager Countess, played expertly by Maggie Smith. Hers are always over the top, with big feathers and flowers and other assorted plumage that she just wouldn’t be the same without.
If you haven’t had the chance to watch Downton Abbey yet, be sure to check it out before it finishes its current run in the next few weeks. It really is a feast for the eyes.
*The costume designer for Downton Abbey’s first and part of its second season was Susannah Buxton, and the remainder of the second season was designed by Rosalind Ebbutt.