A Fortuny gown pops up in Downton Abbey and Costume Historians Swoon

 

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Lady Sybil’s Peacock Harem Pants. The embroidered panel is vintage. (I took this photo)

Beautiful fashion and Downton Abbey go hand in hand, but most of the costumes worn on the ITV drama were a combination of original elements from vintage garments and new construction.

There’s a good reason for this—the elegant couture fashions of the 1910s and 1920s didn’t hold up very well a hundred years later…colors faded, fabrics weakened and ripped.  The weight of thousands of glass beads and the pressure of the thousands of stitches needed to attach them could turn a silk garment to shreds after years and years in storage. To be fair, couture fashions weren’t really intended to last longer than a fashion season, maybe two.

The museum where I work, Winterthur Museum and Garden in Wilmington, Delaware  created a blockbuster Downton Abbey costume exhibit a few years ago. It’s safe to say that I visited that exhibit EVERY SINGLE DAY…and not just because I was working in the gallery next door. 🙂

Elements of beadwork are from the early 1900s for one of the Dowager's dresses, but the velvet and netting are new construction Photo Source: Me
Elements of beadwork are from the early 1900s for one of the Dowager’s dresses, but the velvet and netting are new construction (I took this photo).
Lady Mary's engagement dress was entirely new construction. Photo source: Me
Lady Mary’s engagement dress was entirely new construction. Although the beaded trim was most likely vintage. (I took this photo).

So “recreated” would probably be the best word to describe most of the fashions we see on Downton but from time to time, an original couture piece turns up– in its original state and without any additional modern construction–and when a vintage fashion lover spots one of these gems, it can make them gasp! This happened for me with  a completely original, jewel red Fortuny gown worn by Lady Mary. Fortuny was best known for their deeply pleated jewel tones silk gowns. Michelle Dockery is SUCH a lucky actress!

Downton Abbey | Series Six We return to the sumptuous setting of Downton Abbey for the sixth and final season of this internationally acclaimed hit drama series. As our time with the Crawleys begins to draw to a close, we see what will finally become of them all. The family and the servants, who work for them, remain inseparably interlinked as they face new challenges and begin forging different paths in a rapidly changing world. Photographer: Nick Briggs MICHELLE DOCKERY as Lady Mary Crawley
Photographer: Nick Briggs
MICHELLE DOCKERY as Lady Mary Crawley

DP124015For more detailed information about the Fortuny gown worn by Lady Mary

For more Fortuny gowns in the collection of the Met Costume Institute71.190a-b_CP1

And this is a wonderful article about design influences used to create Lady Sybil’s Harem Pants