Mary's Dress "This is a Series 5 dress on Lady Mary. I tend to revisit just a couple of pieces from previous series, to give a sense of continuity that the wardrobes are still that characters'. It still worked well with Lady Mary's direction, very strong, and the color is still good for her. I love the geometric angles, which we introduced when she had her hair bobbed and exposed her back and her neck, and there was a lovely crisp sort of geometry to it. With Lady Mary, it tends to be more geometric, slightly ordered in its nature, to reflect her personality and the control she tries to have."
Edith's Dress "Whereas with Edith, I always look at surface texture—she can handle a busy pattern, it might be slightly more abstract and stylized. It's not that it's always organic, but with her journey in Series 6, she's blossoming, and organic patterns say that really nicely." The Contrast "I usually look to contrast them, because they're usually at slightly different poles, conflicting with each other, or one tends to be up whilst the other is down, and I can use light and dark and texture to mirror that with them. So while Lady Mary's is plain, beautiful silk with this delicate trim and this transparent chiffon, Lady Edith is entirely beaded—it's a Parisian dress, which tended to be beaded on cotton rather than silk."
A New Direction "It's almost a rose gold, kind of a pinky-hued metallic lamé. With the organic pattern and the fact that it's very feminine and pretty, it was a good tone for her in that scene. We were bringing out Edith's femininity and looking in a new fashion direction for her in the series." Origins & Design "It was an original dress that we found in Paris; the silk had almost perished and the structure had gone. We couldn't restore it, so we painstakingly took apart all the detailing that you see and we appliqued it on to a new base, to stronger lamé. Around the neck is a separate beaded trim that I found at a vintage market in London. The colors matched absolutely perfectly, so we just combined it in and it gave me the detail around the neck."
Edith's Hat & Coat "Both hats are bespoke made by my milliner, Sean Barret, and one of his specialties is felt work. For Edith, we've got this lovely organic blossom set at the side, and that asymmetric turned-up brim, which really suits her. This hat works with various different outfits, and was designed to go with this amazing wool coat which has a surface texture to it. In long shots isn't busy, so it gives you a lovely silhouette and shaping. There's lots of pleating, for a bit of movement, and paneling to break it up a little bit. And it's only when you get in close that you see the detail." Mary's Hat & Coat "Lady Mary's hat has the contrasting light and dark, which allows you to use it at various stages. It was designed to work with this loden, dark green paneled coat. When you're out in the daylight, the pigment really comes through. The hat very closely resembles an illustration from an original fashion plate from the 1920s, which had this fan-like embellishment at the side. And again, it's slightly more angular. Both girls can wear the cloche really well, but especially Michelle; her shingle haircut really allows you to come right in closely to the face and cut in at the back of her neck as well. It's really a typically '20s hat."
Lady Cora's Style "Everything with Cora has this kind of a long, lean line, but is quite draped. She wears fabrics that move really well and might look to Grecian influences or Far Eastern influences or textiles. They have lot of embroidered detailing, but with clean color blocking underneath so it doesn't feel too busy, just really classic and beautiful and elegant." The Coat "This is a really classic example of her coloring: mauves and creams and a blush pink contrasting against the black. It's a beautiful coat, an original that we hired from this really special hire house in Paris. It became a lynchpin within her wardrobe –we configured it a couple of times by pairing it with pale or dark underneath."
"This blue is basically the same color as Elizabeth's eyes and it always works on her. It's an original dress that we had to alter slightly to fit. The trims and everything anchor it into the past. A lighter, contrasting jewelry of murano glass beads lifts it a bit. It's a lovely weight of chiffon that flutters and moves as she walks through the house, but drapes really nicely when she's just standing still."
Double Duty "This is a great piece to design, but complicated, because it doesn't belong to Lady Mary—it's Rosamund's dress. You have to design something that would work for Rosamund, but that will look good on Lady Mary because she turns up, casual as you like, for a date with Henry. So you have to start out designing it for one character, but make sure that it translates to another."
Rosamund & Mary "This would be typically Rosamund; it's quite flamboyant, there's an edge to it, there's some detailing to it, that coppery color would be brilliant on her, and yet it translates really well onto Michelle with her skin tone and her dark hair. I love the linear aspect to it; there are lots of layers, and this beautiful sequin studwork so it was quite edgy, and the color was just wonderful under candlelight." Accessories "We made gold gloves to go with it—you never want to get caught up where you get a dress and the gloves don't go—so we ended up just making many, many pairs. Nic Collins, our hair and makeup designer, did this really different look with her hair, so we wanted a little a hairpiece that just sits within the curve of her hair. We custom made the jet jewelry to go with it, measuring up to where we wanted it to sit and how heavy we wanted it to be so it doesn't swing too much. It mirrors the jet beading within the dress."
The Pale Blaze "It's not a color you can really put your finger on—it's not gold, it's not pewter—it's kind of an antique silver, quite tarnished and warm and very romantic. My idea was that this scene is about Lady Mary and the fact that Henry comes to visit; it's romantic and we're seeing her at her softest, so she's the pale blaze within the room. Everybody else is in darker tones, and she's highlighted by her own attire."
Sequins on Gauze "It was an original gown but it's just a gauze. Where the sequins taper away, it's just sitting on the gauze of the dress. We found this absolutely gorgeous satin silk and we made a slip, so when you see through it, you're seeing the color of the slip. We beaded the bottom of the hem to mirror the scalloped asymmetric hem. It has the most beautiful movement. If it had been a dancing scene, it would have worked amazingly, because it just lifts and furls as she moves."
Working Woman "This is Edith's London look. It was really fun to explore this side of Edith because it's new and she's coming in to herself. She's independent, she's working, she's professional, but she also knows herself and has found herself. I've been able to break open that restrained, muted palette and explore fashion, which wouldn't have been appropriate or right for the character last year—she was too held back emotionally restrained." In Competition "I had fun working with Laura on developing this really cutting edge look, which contrasted with Lady Mary's working wardrobe. Because this is a magazine office in London, there's a bohemian edge and a fashion-forward feeling to the whole thing. Whereas with Lady Mary, there's a classical look rooted in the estate, acting as an agent. Both women are competing with each other, but also with the men that dominate the industries they're in. So Lady Mary mirrors the three-piece suits and shirts and ties and takes that androgyny and masculine look. Michelle makes it feminine, but she makes it feminine and strong. And again, Lady Edith is feminine and strong, with neckties and structure to it all, but with patterns and prints."
Green & Gold "This is one of my favorites. The starting point was finding this length of metallic lace with these beautiful rose motifs on lace cording. There was a decent stretch of it, which means you've got room to play. But because of the storyline—the rain—the challenge of this dress was that we needed to make sure we could make identical copies. They had to be exact. The gold is of a beautiful quality, and a seafoam green silk ended up working brilliantly with the gold and with the setting, the room and the lighting of it all. The color is a departure for her: you notice it, it makes a statement. We exposed her shoulders and her back, and the halter neck is a very strong look. The lamé ribbon with the rose at the side of her head is really '20s, and very cutting edge for her."
"The whole thing was just designed to make a statement. That godet at the back gets it moving. The whole thing is bias cut so you've got all these angle seams, and then I wanted it to be very sleek and to give her that long line, but from the back I wanted to have that movement."
"She's so elegant and beautiful. This is a new dress combining trims from a lace we found. When I was looking at the ensemble of that dining room scene where Chamberlain comes to visit, I picked up this lace and thought it was beautiful, but it was actually the wrong color, and just wasn't for this beautiful indigo blue, so we dyed it and sprayed it, which gave it this beautiful antique-y quality. Penelope looks really great in tabard, a concept we used with her quite a lot, where something hangs loose—a loose layer on top of another loose layer, attached at the hip. It's the idea of the drop waist, without feeling too cutting edge for her generation."
"The dress is very pale, but in that color-blocking way with Michelle, it's very classic—the embellishment doesn't detract from the fact that it's simple shape with a lovely beaded belt. We threw a couple of necklaces together, which ties in to the silver beading at the waist. Because they're so delicate, you can usually string a few times around. And there's a little nod to the pearls we usually see her wearing. It doesn't feel too heavy but it does feel very '20s."
"This is an original jacket beautifully embroidered and in mint condition. The colors were really bright, not something that would fit well in the Abbey—it would be too much. Yet when we take it out and put it against these dark walls, and it plays perfectly. It's obviously very busy, but we pulled it together with a structured necktie that's quite graphic but plain, so it doesn't fight with the jacket. This dark coral linear pattern within the skirt feels like it's clashing, which is fashion forward—even today, that kind of clashing says something about the person wearing it. I love that one."
Standing Out in the Crowd "Michelle is amazing—she used the sunglasses in a way that just made the beginning of that scene. She's so classy and her timing's impeccable. It's a large crowd scene and she needed to stand out, we needed to see her, and I wanted to do that with her being bright and pale at the same time. The color of the red is glorious, so beautiful, and I found a just slightly darker shade that we made piping out of for the neckline and the belt, which has the same V-shaped detailing at the hips." The Ensemble "The coat is this paneled piece where there's this slight shimmer to one of the silks and a matte to the other, and the paneling mirrors the shapes in the dress. There are pleated sections which get darker as you go, so this beautiful monochromatic trim is embedded deeply into the pleats as well. Then, we trimmed the hat so that the outfit felt like an ensemble piece. There's a beautiful feather that gives you a lovely arc for the turn of her head as she's watching the race."
"It's an original from the Portobello Market in London. The fact that it's a dress and coat, and that it's reversible, is amazing. It's quite wacky when you turn the coat the other way because it's entirely polka dots. But it's just divine, with this lovely coral piped trim around the edges of the neck and sleeves. Again, we held it back until we had a scene where we knew we were going to have it on camera long enough to properly appreciate it, and see her in full length."
The Origin "I found this crocheted top that was a little bit rust stained and was in an ecrued natural fiber. So I took it apart and used the crocheted paneling, which we dyed a deep navy and then set it on top of this beautiful nude color that works really well with Michelle." Skirts "You can make a skirt up in a day, so usually you'll design the intricate top or blouse, and need a skirt to go with it. The skirt can be boring if it's just a simple tube or wrap skirts so you're constantly designing new lines, new ways of pleating, so we connect through the pleat, off center, just so it doesn't feel too predictable with the symmetry of the top."
"With Lady Edith, there's always something that's interesting. Everything is quite tactile and the detail gets more, the closer you look. This is a very, very delicately cross-stitched three-piece that was pantaloons—it was a very fashion forward 1920s design which, if I'd had the opportunity, I might have had her wearing in Gregson's apartment. But I didn't have the opportunity, and it was too much anywhere else. So we matched the creamy buttermilk and had a skirt pleated up and paired with it."
"We think this is couture—Molyneux—but it doesn't have provenance. It is exquisite. You want to be able to pour over and look at it. The sequins are about 2mm wide, and beaded with tiny, tiny little microbeads that are like a grain of sand. Absolutely beautiful. And the detail goes on and on and on! I'd had this dress from Series 5 and hadn't found the right moment to put it onto Edith. This is the evening where Bertie asks her for her hand, and it's romantic, and she just looks beautiful. It's soft and feminine and creamy and gorgeous. And she is also directly contrasting to Lady Mary in the black. So they're really pitched against each other in terms of where they are."
"This is an original gown with a chevron sequin; it's really sharp, it's really pointed, and it reflects the barrier she's put up, and her mood. The drama of it, when she storms up the stairs and slams the door of her room, is really glorious. We put a dark teal slip under it to give it a bit of depth so it wasn't entirely black, and her gloves are dark teal."
Buttoned Up "A waistcoat is a gorgeous piece of clothing—I love a waistcoat—and it allows you the femininity of the sleeve and that volume with the lovely cuff. I love this color—it's monochromatic without being black and white. And there's this crossed over piece that buttoned into the neck." Ready to Blow "It's an intricate blouse and took a while in the workroom, but this is a really critical scene. We see her going from the dining room to her office, with her jacket and hat, and then she comes back and has the showdown with Edith. So it has to get a lot of mileage and has to work in different settings as well. She's buttoned up, but she's about to blow. And in contrast, Edith in that scene is in this peachy color, with this shadowy embroidery that's almost kind of ghost-like. because she's vulnerable and massively exposed."
"Sam Bond just pulls off these incredible patterns and shapes and looks. Rosamond is avant-garde, she lives in London. This is an old original piece that was molded, so we used these concentric circles to create drama, and then pinning it up on one side means that her face and her eyes are clear and it gives a great sense of drama."
Bride Revisited "We didn't want her to be in a traditional wedding dress. It's her second wedding, and quick. And yet, it's her wedding—we needed her to look absolutely beautiful, for this new start. This is an original trim, we had a few meters of this amazing, hand-worked silk. It creates little holes and knots and patterns and wheels within it. I found this mix of silk and bamboo with a lovely crisp feeling to it so that you could create a lightweight suit that pleated beautifully. We created it with very long, diagonal chevron lines to draw the eye down to a dropped waist, which meant it was very, very on trend, and a bit classic with a string of pearls. Quintessentially Lady Mary."
Transformation "With her hat, there are real butterflies on the vintage baling, a nod to her transformation and a new chapter of her life and the journey she'd been through to get to this point. She's soft and shimmering."