Downton Abbey, a popular period-drama television series that airs in both the U.K. and the U.S., follows the goings-on in the household of the fictional well-to-do Crawley family. When the series debuted, the year on set was 1912, and the cast was decked out in Edwardian style, leading fans of the show to appreciate the costumes as much as the plot.
Downton Abbey’s Emmy-nominated costuming has captured the imaginations of the approximately nine million British viewers who tuned in to the premier of the show’s third season, and it’s caught the eye of fashion designers as well, sparking several Edwardian-inspired fashion trends. Ralph Lauren is now sponsoring the show in the U.S., and he has even used music from Downton Abbey in a runway show marked by the prevalence of tweed and boyish flat caps. As more and more designers follow suit (pun intended), the result is a modern twist on many Edwardian looks.
In terms of fashion, the Edwardian period was one of changes. Bustles disappeared and, after a flirtation with the unnatural-looking S-Bend corset, silhouettes evolved to become more slender. Corsets were longer and created to slim a woman rather than squeeze her, and waistlines crept up to increase this slenderising effect. Cinched or belted waists became popular as well for the same reason. These looks are updated today on the runways of Giles and Marc Jacobs whose models sport long, slim dresses in modern fabrics and patterns.
The fabrics of the Downton-Abbey era included velvet jacquards and beautiful brocades as well as lace, wool and tweed. These are popular now as well, with brocades that incorporate metallic thread being especially trendy. Tweed, popular in the British countryside during the Edwardian period, has made a big comeback, too. While the women of Downton Abbey for the most part wear period dresses, tweed pants suits inspired by Edwardian men’s fashions are now popular with today’s women. Tweed skirts, jackets and pants are being paired with high-necked blouses, men’s ties and riding caps for a modern twist.
Edwardian accessories give even the most modern clothing a Downton-Abbey vibe. Edwardian hats are notoriously wide-brimmed and adorned with eye-catching decorations like exotic feathers. Gloves were historically suede or silk and might have been covered with embroidery; a modern update is a pair of sleek leather elbow-length gloves. High Edwardian necklines are decorated with floppy bows or ties. Lacy or frilly blouses might have a decorative brooch at the collar; plainer versions look stylish with a cravat fasted with a stick pin. Period jewellery features precious gemstones and motifs like ribbons, urns or flower garlands. Pairing a delicate piece of jewellery covered in pearls and diamonds with one of today’s tweed pants suits strikes the perfect balance between historical and modern.
It’s easy to see how the clothing of Downton Abbey has influenced today’s Edwardian fashion trend. It will be interesting to watch what happens next as the series moves forward into the 1920s and beyond. Will the cat-walks find themselves inspired again?
Rebecca is writing on behalf of samarajames.com, dealing with everything that sparkles for the big day in terms of jewellery and engagement rings. Rebecca is currently studying fashion and design at college and aspires to eventually own her own bridal boutique and has plenty of tips on outfits, hair, jewellery including diamond jewellery information and everything else you will need to make the day extra special.