Downton Abbey Fashion
Be inspired by the country style of Lord Grantham and Lady Mary
The film adaptation of Downton Abbey hits the big screen in September and – high excitement – a trailer has suggested that King George V and Queen Mary will visit the fictional Yorkshire estate. Time to party like it’s 1927.
For those who have been missing Lady Mary and Anna, Lord Grantham, Mr Carson and, of course, the Dowager Countess (still going strong, apparently), the Downton Abbey movie brings with it a most welcome opportunity to revisit the aristocratic Crawley family and their lively and loyal (for the most part) household and estate staff.
It brings another chance too to swoon at the fashions and outfits of what was undoubtedly one of the most elegant and glamorous periods of British style history.
First aired on ITV from 2010 to 2015, Downton Abbey took us from the aftermath of the Titanic sinking in 1912 to the inter-war period of 1926. The film picks up just a few months after we last saw the Crawleys and will feature almost all the TV cast favourites, including Hugh Bonneville as Lord Grantham, Elizabeth McGovern as Lady Cora, Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary, Laura Carmichael as Lady Edith, Jim Carter as Mr Carson, Brendan Coyle as Mr Bates, Joanne Froggatt as Anna Bates, Dame Maggie Smith as the Dowager Countess and Penelope Wilton as Aunt Isobel.
That Royal visit means we can expect a gallery of heart-stoppingly sumptuous evening wear. This is sure to spark a fresh trend for everything 1920s so if you spot any original fashion finds from the period, snap them up now while you can.
For the TV series, genuine vintage pieces were always key to creating the Downton look, with many found at Parisian flea markets and especially at Chez Sarah, a renowned vintage store in the Marché aux Puces in Saint Ouen, while the Marché aux Puces de Clignancourt was a source for authentic vintage buttons and beads.
In the UK, head to Brick Lane Vintage Market, Portobello Road Market and Old Spitalfields Market when in London, and in Yorkshire, look out for popular seasonal vintage fairs in York, Saltaire and Ilkley. Oxfam Online is also well worth browsing.
Although much of Downton Abbey’s appeal lies in its glamour as it showcases the dressed-up elegant evening attire of a bygone era – the gentlemen in their sleek black tailcoats and starched white tie, the ladies in their sumptuously beaded and feathered silk gowns – it’s actually the everyday and weekend wear that resonates most with modern style. And it’s remarkable just how wearable much of it remains.
This is particularly true of Downton Abbey 1920s mens clothing. The TV series always took care to celebrate and champion the best of British male style, whether portraying the staff’s pristine uniforms or the quintessential Englishman’s country wear. Has there ever been a gentleman with quite so extensive a wardrobe as Lord Grantham? Timeless, too. From his earth-toned tweed jackets to his cream linen suits, many of his outfits would not look out of place today. We can learn much from his classic approach to dressing and his flair for introducing just the right touch of individuality and personality.
The idea is not, of course, to dress as if you yourself have just stepped out of a costume drama, but rather to channel a little of the Downton elegance – the quality of cloth and cut, the immaculate grooming, the crisp pressing, the distinctive but practical accessories that can pull an ensemble together with confidence.
And so, inspired by Lord Grantham and his well-dressed clan, here’s how to achieve a little of that off-duty Downton Abbey look.
1. TWEED SHOOTING ATTIRE FOR GENTLEMAN:
Downton Abbey has come in for some stick for not being entirely authentic in its portrayal of early 20th century shooting party wear, but why worry when the Crawleys and their acolytes look so stylish? For men, a tweed shooting jacket with bellow pockets is a must, as are plus fours breeks – not necessarily matching but certainly near-toning. Cordings House Check shooting tweed pieces combine modern-day go-anywhere good looks with field functionality.
2. SHOOTING ATTIRE FOR LADIES:
Lady Mary leads the field here (she was never one to be left at home sewing samplers), opting for loose-fitting and longline tweed field jackets and matching front pleat skirts (the modern lady can choose breeks or culottes). Then, as now, it’s a look that’s field-friendly but also perfectly appropriate for a spot of village shopping. Add leather knee-high boots.
3. THE EVERY DAY THREE-PIECE SUIT:
Ah, Lord Grantham – a man never knowingly seen without a waistcoat, whatever the weather. But pretty much all the Downton menfolk follow suit, from the lamented Matthew Crawley (Dan Stevens) to estate manager Tom Branson (Allen Leech) and Lady Mary’s racy new husband Henry Talbot (Matthew Goode), in choosing durable, matching, tweed three-pieces for everyday wear. Cordings 21oz Tweed suiting offers the same practical, great-looking, co-ordinated work-to-weekend style.
4. SUMMER SUITING:
When it comes to garden parties and tea on the lawn, Lord Grantham opts for a summer-friendly three-piece cream linen suit, which he wears with a white shirt and a starched white collar, a silk cravat (see below), a pocket watch and chain, brown lace-up shoes and a light panama hat. An elegant, easy look that serves as well today as it did a century ago.
5. GENTLEMAN’S NECKWEAR:
Lord Grantham adores ties of all kinds, from simple slim working wardrobe ties to a rather more flamboyant silk cravat. This Cordings silk pheasant print cravat is similar to one he wore to a Downton garden party. Relaxed yet immaculate (we expect nothing less), it’s still a great way to add a distinctive twist to both smart-casual and formal looks.
6. LADIES’ FINISHING TOUCHES:
Gloves were a matter of etiquette, cleanliness and style in the 1920s, also offering the opportunity to complete an outfit with a luxe touch of leather or silk. These wine leather gloves with little buttons at the wrist will add old-school glamour to your outdoor look. And these adorable brogues would have delighted can-do Lady Mary combining style with function. Today they are the perfect modern answer to practicality with step-up style.