Thursday, February 25, 2016

Cheerio, Downton Abbey

Downton, the early years

Not aloha, shalom, salut or ciao— this is goodbye. After six seasons (that's six real years not the tv version of "seasons"), Downton Abbey will bid us adieu on March 6. At this writing there is one episode left. Wisely, PBS doesn't wish to conflict with the Oscar ceremony on February 28. They know their audience.

Downton Abbey will be missed on so many levels. Not only do I adore a good soap opera, this was History Come Alive. What I really loved, of course were the fashions.

Life imitating art

Note I am not calling them costumes. From the beginning the cast of Downton Abbey (especially the upstairs ladies) have worn original period garments, shored up or tweaked if necessary but honoring their integrity. This could not have been an easy task. Fabrics, especially delicate silks and embroidery, just don't hold up. That's one reason so little 1920s clothing remains. As the period was gossamer and fleeting, so it seems were the clothes.

We began our time with the Crawleys in 1912 and are leaving them in 1925. That was an amazing 13 years in the world and for women. Victoria had been dead since 1901, but women were still encased in corsets, their skirts hitting the ground. Those clothes were pretty to look at, but I never gave wearing them today a second thought. Not so with the fashions of 1925.

Hats off to Mary
No one but Sybil...
Cora, not showing off

Each character's personality is reflected in her clothing. Mary is gorgeous no matter what she wears. Interestingly she seems to get harder as the era's silhouettes loosened. Sybil, who dies young, shows her spunk by being first to model Poiret's "new look". Although young for a matron, Cora remains tasteful as she adopts to newer fashions. Isobel is fashionable and age appropriate, while her friend (yes they are friends) Violet barely changes her style (likewise her opinions).  Then there's Edith (more on her another time) who became a successful working gal and woman-of-the-world. Was it the clothes? The more styles relaxed the more she came out of her shell.

Isobel not baring arms
Violet not budging
Edith, who are you wearing?

Those in service had uniform changes through the years. We even see more of them in "street clothes" in the later episodes. Did modern conveniences mean they had more time off? And those clothes are predictably understated and practical as befitting a limited budget. If you only had one "good dress" it wasn't going to shout.

Daisy, blending into the furniture

Only Mrs. Patmore never seems to change or change frocks. All that cooking, baking and meddling has kept her from aging.

Mrs. Patmore, preserved

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