Downton Abbey

9 Fashion Ideas to Steal from Downton Abbey

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With season five newly concluded in the U.S., Downton withdrawals are sweeping the world once again, and these withdrawals are compounded by the knowledge that next year’s season six will complete the series.

What, precisely, is one to do to counter the inevitable depression at season end?

Pinch Downton’s fashion trends, obviously.

No-Fuss Vintage Fashion

Wouldn’t Downton fashion be difficult to recreate in the modern world? The Crawleys have valets and ladies’ maids to assist the family members in their respective dressing rooms.

But, no. Incorporating Downton fashion ideas doesn’t mean one must use Lady Mary, or the Ladies Edith, Sybil and Rose, as look books. Quite the contrary. Just as an outfit consisting of head-to-toe Burberry would appear costume-like, a full-on Downton outfit would be too much. One or two well-chosen elements or accessories, however, can add points of interest that celebrate the Roaring ’20s in a 21st century way.

Starting at the top, these nine ideas show how to include homage to the Abbey in ways that are sometimes thoroughly modern.

1. Hats

Upstairs, the young ladies of the house appear to be most partial to the cloche: the close-fitting, bell-shaped hat favored by Lady Mary.


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While downstairs, Daisy and Mrs. Hughes both have sported mushroom hats; essentially, cloche hats with small brims.

How better to triumph over the occasional bad hair day than with a smart, look-finishing hat? If the cloche or mushroom don’t suit, the bowler, Mr. Carson’s apparent favorite, provides another jaunty option.

2. Tiaras

No, tiaras are not hats; they are headdresses. Essentially, tiaras are hair jewelry. Their glittering magnificence spins a room’s light into a rainbow of sparkle in one’s coiffure.

Tiaras are, however, plagued by rules: only married ladies may wear them. Well, married ladies and beauty queens wear them in modern times.

3. Eton Crops

Lady Mary’s sassy, short haircut scandalized the blue-blooded family when she debuted it, prompting the delightful Dowager Countess to quip, “Oh, it is you. I thought it was a man wearing your clothes.”

The gender-bending implications of short hair no longer apply, so the Eton crop’s sleek, angular features and back undercut offer style and simplicity along with the nod to Downton.

4. Backless dresses

The popularity of multiple cutouts and extreme, waist-grazing necklines on modern dresses scatters attention away from the wearers attributes.

However, simple lines punctuated by a plunging back draws eyes to the wearers’ assets. Accessorized with a . . . oh, wait! That’s the next item to steal from Downton.

5. Knotted Pearls

Once the accessory of choice for grandmothers, knotted pearls now show a bit of class with a bit of sass.

The glowing stands can be worn traditionally draped down the front of a dress of blouse, but knotted pearls dangling over the skin exposed by a backless dress become racy and suggest an element that lacks restraint. Of course, limiting oneself to pearls is really not necessary; and well-made strand of beads can worn so.

6. Waist Coats

Downton Abbey. Series Two.Once solidly in the realm of men’s formal attire, the waist coat offers fashion options for members of both sexes. A variety of cuts and styles give the waist coat tremendous flexibility.

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Options include deep V-shaped cutouts, U-shaped cutouts, and single- or double-breasted versions to frame one’s style.

This Downton offering was contemporaneously appropriate in black, grey, or white; however, one may add a punch of color or a light-hearted pattern for a modern touch. The bottom button should, however, remain undone.


7. Gloves

These gloves are not the cold weather accessories of modern times; instead, they were status symbols. Well-bred ladies were not seen in public without their gloves.

While constant use might be too much for modern tastes, a pair of fine gloves can add panache to outfits for special occasions.

Gloves can very from wrist-length to covering three-quarters of the arm, and they come in a rainbow of colors. Lady Edith provides a model for glove etiquette: they should be folded on one’s lap under a napkin if eating or drinking.

8. Dropped Waist Dresses

Oh, freedom! Flapper fashion liberated women from the confines of corsets, and nothing emphasized this change more than the dropped waist.


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The fashion-forward look inspired adults to copy the styles of youth for the first time.

Today, the dropped waist affords the same freedom of movement while complimenting the curvy figures that are coming into vogue.

9. Spectator Shoes

Once the footwear of choice for young, stylish men in the Jazz Age, these two-toned shoes feature lace-like piercings on the contrasting toe panels.

Now adapted for ladies’ styles too, the traditional neutral colors can be passed by. Cerulean, magenta, or coral contrast panels can add a pop of color for any outfit and nod to the Crawleys at the Abbey at the same time.

What are your favorite outfits? Leave a comment below!

1 Comment

  1. Mikki

    April 13, 2015 at 1:37 am

    Dropped waistlines in the 20’s were similar to the ‘sack’ dress of the late 1950’s and gloves were still worn then to church and hats were still worn by some as well on Sunday. A lot of women were still taught Edwardian ‘manners’ up through the mid 1960’s in middle class and upper middle class homes as well as the wealthy in the Midwest.

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