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. 🙂
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!
For more detailed information about the Fortuny gown worn by Lady Mary
For more Fortuny gowns in the collection of the Met Costume Institute
And this is a wonderful article about design influences used to create Lady Sybil’s Harem Pants