Saturday, February 21, 2015

Devine Fashion: Downton Abbey Season 5

Last night, my husband and I finally caught up on PBS's Downton Abbey Season 5.  Although this season got off to a slow start, it is finally heating up in the drama department! So many plot and relationship developments, so many emotional scenes (Lady Edith running off with little Marigold! Robert's beloved lab, Isis is suffering (what an unfortunate name, by the way)...Episode 7 was quite the tearjerker.  But let's face it...Beyond the fascinating characters and story lines, Downton's biggest bang is its design eye candy!  It is an authentic model of fashion, interiors, and culture of 1920's aristocratic England.  A design-lover's dream.

(**Spoiler alert - Future Season 5 Photos are provided below**)

Sweet lab, Isis is getting sick this season ; (

Clearly, the producers and designers of the show do their homework, and they do it thoroughly.  Regarding costume design, they research to an endless level of detail, to get everything right.  They scour local vintage sources, flea markets, etc., to collect and re-work dresses, garments, and accessories with the intricate fabrics, trims, beading, and embroidery to provide the authentic fashion of Jazz-age England.  I find myself completely mesmerized with the fashion and interiors on this show, it is CRAZY!!!

On the PBS website, I found an interview with Downton's Costume Designer, Anna Mary Scott Robbins, discussing the ways in which the characters' fashions reflect their unique personalities and plot lines this season...

Lady Mary Crawley

Lady Mary is clearly a strong-minded, confident woman, who knows what she wants in most areas of her (minus romantic) life.  Mary is taking on more leadership roles within her family, contributing to key decisions about the future of the estate.  In these scenes, she is often wearing more neutral palettes, masculine silhouettes, suits, and sensible attire. Meanwhile, she is navigating her romantic life, making bold and daring choices for her time (i.e. secretly jetting off to London for a weekend rendezvous with suitor, Tony Gillingham). She is strong-willed, frank, dry-humored, and witty.  According to Robbins, Mary is "stylish, very cutting edge, but classic...Chanel-or-Lanvin influenced chic."  Robbins dresses her primarily in strong, jewel tones, often reflecting the various interiors of the home, in color-blocking, luxe fabrics, and beaded gowns.

In my earlier blog post about jewel-toned velvets, I referenced this fabulous fur-trimmed coat Mary wears during her trip to London

Mary daringly getting a fresh new bob haircut

And how about the London FASHION SHOW in Episode 4! How exciting to have an actual fashion show on Downton, which is already a fashion show in itself.  Lady Mary wears a chic, color-blocked sapphire blue dress with a burgundy hat.  Robbins wanted to represent the "emerging, strong, cutting edge looks straight out of the lookbooks of 1924." There is a "stark contrast between the new, emerging fashions of the twenties walking up and down the catwalk and the women watching."  As a beautiful beaded gown walks past, Lady Mary gushes "yummy!!"

According to Robbins, "My assistant designer and I travel to an amazing place in Paris called Clingancourt flea market where we pick up the most beautiful trims and little scraps of lace and embroidery that get incorporated into our original pieces. Within London, there are textile and vintage fairs where I pick up either original garments, a coat or a dress or a blouse that might need to be restored or altered, and to find trims and bits that can be worked into new garments."

The "angular, sharp, shingled bob was very prevalent in 1924" (-Robbins)
Robbins declares, "The Egyptian trend was the big one, with the uncovering of Tutankhamun's Tomb and Egyptology going crazy. There were also devore (velvet burnout) and lame and other textiles of that time."

Robbins and her team found a "very delicate, beautifully embellished tea dress, beaded with flowers, about a hundred years old.  We spent weeks restoring it, re-beading, re-backing...It was cutting edge because it was just below the knee."

Just below the knee restored tea dress

Fashion Show Models in their 1924 Designs

Lady Edith Crawley

Lady Edith is such a complex character.  She is the quintessential modern career woman, the only daughter to seek a professional life outside her family estate.  She endures much emotional turmoil this season, from the confusing arrangement of neighboring Drew family raising her secret daughter, to the official death notice of her beloved Michael Gregson.  Yet, she remains strong, despite this grief.  Robbins dresses her in "edgy and alternative" clothing, with graphic patterns, autumn hues, and colors that compliment her beautiful, fair complexion.

Cora Crawley, Countess of Grantham

Robbins discusses Cora's "calm, quiet, beauty."  She is often adorned in elegant, rich, sumptuous silks, "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."  Even her sleeping gowns are chic and exotic...

Lady Rose MacClare

Lady Rose is one of my favorite characters.  She is young, charming, light-hearted, and fun...which is refreshing, particularly in contrast to the more intense personalities of her (cousin) Crawley sisters.  She takes center stage romantically this season, as her relationship with Atticus Aldridge is heating up.  Robbins dresses Lady Rose in soft pastel pinks and blues, feminine florals, and embellished gowns.  Yet, she can equally carry bolder jewel tones as well.

Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess of Grantham

Robbins states, "Maggie Smith wears subtle colors very well.  She can bring grey to life...Violet has slightly evolved this season.  She has the same sensibility and sense of style, but she is more streamlined as we lowered the high neck pieces so that she didn't feel so stifled.  She continues to wear really beautiful, expensive fabrics that move (with her). This works well with her relationship with Kuragin and the life that he brought back into her...and the emotions that she probably keeps very well hidden." 

We certainly see a new, subtly vulnerable side to Violet this season, as she reconnects with old love interest, Russian Prince Kuragin.  Additionally, she is (unusually) emotionally candid about her appreciation for her close friendship with Isobel Crawley.

The HATS of Downton Abbey

The hats of Downton Abbey are so central to the costume design and culture of Downton's 1920's fashion, that we could feature an entire article about the fabulous hats alone.  The various hats range in fabrics/adornment (felt, wool, velvet, straw, feathered, embroidered, beaded), and in style (iconic cloche, touring, wide brim, teardrop) but they all have a unique character and take center stage in the fashions of this era.

Cora in a prior season, but how about this HAT!?

The adorable CHILDREN of Downton Abbey...

Let's not forget about those adorable little ones that we rarely see on the show.  Granted, it was quite typical during those times, that children in such families were primarily raised by their nannies.  Yet, it seems hard to believe that the parents only see their children for brief, fleeting moments throughout the day! Nevertheless, when they do surface, it is always fun to swoon over their kiddie fashions...from the darling little sailor outfits to the velvet dresses and coats.  Downton, we want more of these cuties!!

I had to include this one, as I have been working on this blog post while my husband took my kiddos to lunch....he, he!!

What are you favorite Downton fashion moments?  I cannot wait to see the rest of this season!

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