The World of Downton Abbey
The World of Downton Abbey: Styles From Formal Dining to the Front
It takes two costume designers, a hair and makeup designer, and two separate locations packed with furiously sewing workers to create the look and style of Downton Abbey's characters. Author Jessica Fellowes reveals the historical, artistic, and practical decisions responsible for the production's accuracy and beauty.
Ladies' Style Costume designer Susanna Buxton prepares no fewer than three evening dresses for each of the ladies, as well as nightgowns, teagowns and other basic wardrobe necessities. She explains, "These three dresses demonstrate the different ways in which we brought the costumes together for the show. Mary's dress was made for her. Edith's was hired — it was previously used in the Merchant-Ivory production of Room With A View — and Sybil's is an original Edwardian summer dress."
Ladies' Style Susanna Buxton describes one of Lady Mary's gowns. "The red dress is made from a turn-of-the-century Spanish evening dress. We sourced beautiful silk chiffon and had it pleated for the front. We built layers for the final effect, with embroidered lace laid over the deep-red satin under-dress"
Ladies' Style Of Sybil's shocking new outfit, Fellowes explains, "no woman of her class, before Poiret's harem look, had ever been seen in trousers." Buxton describes the look's origins: "I found a long strip of original fabric set on gold net, which was so fragile it had started to split, and used that for the top and sleeves. The blue peacock bodice came from Alfie's Antiques market. The beaded belt was found at a vintage fair and the blue silk chiffon used for the trousers came from Shepherd's Bush Market."
Servants Fellowes describes how Edwardian period footmen were a true measure of status, hired for their good looks and height, with the taller footmen earning a higher salary. "The real showpieces of the house were the footmen. Their uniforms would be provided by the house at great expense; when the men were offered the job, they would be told to go to the tailors to be fitted for the livery, trimmed with the family's crested buttons, and the cost would be charged to the family's account."
Servants Maids were not so lucky as footmen. "The maids had to make their own uniforms of two dresses: a print dress with a plain apron for cleaning in the morning, changing into a black dress with a more decorative pinny for the afternoons and evenings. This could be expensive: in 1890 the price of the fabric could eat up six months' of a scullery maid's wages. In many houses, a bolt of cloth was given to the maids at Christmas so they had only the work, but not the cost, of the dress."
War Rosalind Ebbutt, costume designer, describes, "Regiments were invented for the series. Lord Grantham is with the North Riding Volunteers and Matthew is with the Duke of Manchester's Own. For each we had drawings done of their crests by the College of Arms and a specialist then made molds of the artwork for their regimental badges. Lord Grantham's mess kit is copied from the one that was worn by an officer in the Indian Guides in 1912. The fabric came from a firm in Yorkshire that specializes in making uniforms."