Slideshow: Behind the Designs: The Fashions of Downton Abbey Season 5
From Lady Mary's Chanel-influenced chic to Cora's exotic elegance, the costumes of the women of
Downton Abbey say everything about their characters. In an exclusive interview with MASTERPIECE, Downton Abbey's costume designer, Anna Mary Scott Robbins, recently took a break from her exciting work on Downton Abbey Season 6 to talk about the signature styles of the women of Downton and designing their sumptuous, jazz-age costumes.
"Michelle Dockery is an absolute clothes horse. She's so perfectly proportioned that I can dress her in pretty much anything, and she makes it look good. It makes me raise my game because I can really explore the cuts of the 1920s on her."
"With Lady Mary, she's super stylish, very cutting edge, but classic. She's pared down—I didn't use over-the-top florals or very patterned fabrics. I tended to use a lot of color-blocking the way Lanvin or Chanel would."
"I think her colors are bold, very positive and strong. I like to reflect the colors of Downton, greens and reds, in her wardrobe, because she's the embodiment of it. She's the next generation and she's going to take it over, eventually. So I wanted to make sure she looks like she belongs in every room she's in at the time."
"She's one of my favorites, such an interesting character. And she's the only one of them that has an independent job--she's a career woman, which is quite feminist. Even though she's going through such emotional turmoil, and she finds herself as a mother and a working woman, there's a real strength there and I really like that."
"I think that she can be quite edgy and quite alternative, and she wears interesting colors. Laura's got an incredible complexion and I can put peach and orange and greens on her, autumnal colors that look just wonderful. She can wear a soft palette and a strong palette equally as well so her wardrobe's very varied."
"I love looking at certain textures with her, be it devore [a fabric technique often used on velvet, also known as burnout] or embroidery, or other textile manipulation. I'm really looking forward to taking her character on. I think she can become more adventurous, especially if her career in London has more influence on her. I think that could be really exciting."
"With Cora, I think my original inspiration comes from Elizabeth McGovern herself, the way clothes fit and the way she holds herself, which is with a fluidity in the way the clothes are draped. So there tends to be a lightness to her and a kind of elegance."
"She has a calm, quiet beauty about her, she's so elegant and I try to get that across. There are touches of the Orient and the exotic, far-flung places just to very subtly get across the message that she is not from England. She's an exotic being in a Yorkshire estate."
"Her palette is quite important because it complimented the other two girls so they were a kind of triangle where you use the color spectrum across the three of them. So Rose would end up wearing powdery blues and pinks, which Lily wears so well. And that meant that I could buy a lot of original pieces for her, highly embellished floral, very pretty dresses that you wouldn't put on Edith or Mary that fitted Rose's character. So they basically jumped out at me on my vintage trolls."
Violet, Dowager Countess
"I really enjoyed costuming Maggie. I think that she has evolved slightly. Obviously there's the same sensibility, the same sense of style, but I streamlined her a little bit more this year and slightly lowered the high neck pieces so that she didn't feel so stifled. I think that works in well with her relationship with Kuragin and the life that he brought back into her and the fact that you can see the past and the kind of emotions that she probably keeps very well hidden."
"Maggie Smith wears subtle colors very well. She can bring grey to life—she makes it look silvery in a way that a lot of other people can't. And with her it's all about using the light of the silk, really beautiful expensive fabrics that move. Only the best for her, really."
Mabel Lane Fox
"I think what was interesting about her is that she was Mary's equal. Mary wasn't expecting to meet her match in terms of socialite level and style and class. With Mabel Lane Fox, we used strong floral prints, so it was a busier fashion than Lady Mary, equally elegant but a little bit louder. She comes in and she gives as good as she gets. It's a surprise."
"We had a smaller amount of time to tell her story through costume. So as her and Gillingham's relationship evolves and her relationship with Mary, we soften her slightly, introducing softer pinks and blues in versions of initial her self."
"The first time you see her at the fashion show she has a bold print and we worked down from that. And there's an evening scene where she's in a beautiful mint green dress. And the color is so soft, and yet the headdress and everything is very cutting edge and still has personality."
"I wanted to shift the palette of her wardrobe a little bit, and I read her as being very strong woman, very opinionated and she's bold, and I wanted the palette to reflect that. I wanted to move away from the browns and greens and make a more positive impact with color, so I brought her much more into clustering around the primary colors with a lot of navy and red and burgundy."
"She's so petite and lovely but she's got loads of energy and we wanted to make sure that the lines are beautiful and they're making a statement."