Tuesday, November 5, 2013

A Down-turn for Downton Abbey

Lady Edith, the late Lady Sybil, Lady Mary

I nearly fell over the newly released Downton Abbey Jewellery (their spelling) Collection today, cleverly positioned near the mall parking garage doors of my local Macy's. These are "official" as annointed by Carnival, the producers, but they are not the real deal. Downton Abbey jewelry, copies of Edwardian and mid-twenties designs, are popularly priced (aka cheap) with a top price of $38. There were earrings (mostly dangly), a few brooches and some spidery necklaces stamped from black metal.

Interesting— The Great Gatsby never really took off style-wise. But Downton Abbey, soon to be airing here in its fourth season, still stirs the imagination and sets off trends. At the Lovely Boutique Where I Work, a customer was debating on a drapey overblouse in a deep forest green silk. She modeled it for her husband who questioned whether it was a little "maternity" (the kiss of death for many a mature woman). I told her to tell him it was "very Downton Abbey". She let me know he would probably go for that. Men like the show too.

Back to the jools. I love thinking that the era's fashions keep getting more respect. They truly were remarkable— liberating, practical, imaginative and more affordable through mass production. The jewelry, at least the pre Art Deco variety, usually read as a little fusty. Even the Crawleys couldn't afford the showier baubles. Don't forget, costume jewelry was only beginning to be accepted (thanks to Chanel). It was only okay to wear "paste" if the genuine articles were safely locked away.

In 2012 PBS developed its own line of Downton-inspired jewelry at a higher price point. With no permission from Carnival and no royalties traveling across the pond, they were soon ordered to cease and desist. The PBS website now offers the officially sanctioned stuff, all 153 items— quite a bit more than I saw at Macy's. Quantity never trumps quality (would the Dowager Duchess have said that?). The best thing about the Downton Abbey Jewellery Collection? The cardboard packaging— tasteful and elegant.

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