Friday, December 14, 2012


Downton Abbey is an historical english tv series written by BPG Awards winner Julian Fellowes (The Tourist, Vanity Fair, Gosford Park, Separate Lies). The drama sets the beginning of its intriguing story back to 1912 in coincidence with the tragic sinking of british passenger liner Titanic. The series follows the life's up and down of aristocrat Crowley Family  - as well as the Crowley's large domestic staff - living their lives in lavish Edwardian mansion and park nestled in the lush North Yorkshire landscape.
The show’s fashion has received so much attention that its fashion designer, Susannah Buxton, was nominated for an Emmy Award. Anna Wintour has given the show her seal of approval and even Pippa Middleton is a fan, visiting the set with her parents last season for a guided tour. “I explained to her that the costume tries to reflect personality and class of each character, and she was really interested,” Buxton says.
The show’s second season introduced World War I, and the upper-class Crawley family was forced to adapt to the changing times. “There was a question of how we would portray them,” Buxton says. “There were constrictions on the availability of good cloth. They weren’t able to indulge their fashion desires the way they would previously. In the daytime they dressed more somberly, but behind the scenes in the evening, all the diamonds came out.”  

But since the finale of Season 2, a lot has changed. For starters, the war has ended. And Buxton is gone; now the costume department is run by her former assistant, Caroline McCall.  Season 3 opens in the dawn of the 1920s, and styles change considerably Men’s suits have slimmer waists and wider legs; dresses are shorter and less fussy than those of the Edwardian period.  The show’s fashion is reflected most in the three young daughters of the house—Mary (Michelle Dockery), with her passion for sophisticated style; Edith (Laura Carmichael), who tarts up to snare a husband; and Sybil (Jessica Findlay Brown), with her love of bohemia— but certain characters remain stuck in the mud. Lord Grantham (Hugh Bonneville) remains largely unchanged, and Violet Crawley (Maggie Smith)—practically mummified in Edwardiana.

While the costumes appear to be a pitch-perfect backdrop to the unfolding drama, they surprisingly don’t adhere to the period as much as one might imagine.  “I wanted to achieve the aesthetic of the time, but to make it attractive to modern audiences,” McCall says. “It’s a translation rather than trying to be historically accurate.” That meant dying modern fabrics to appear old, creating pieces and accessories inspired by the period, and being influenced a fair amount by modern styles. The designers say they create a mood board for each principal character.

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