December 19, 2012

Downton Abbey (Costumes & Sets from Series 1 & 2)

Much like the rest of the western television watching world, I was quickly gripped by Downton Abbey fever after the series premiered two years ago in 2010 (has it really been so long since?!). The lovely 
Mrs. Michelle Obama made headlines recently for requesting ITV to provide her with DVDs of the new Series 3 a couple months ahead of the scheduled January 2013 U.S. release and I can totally understand why! But fortunately I've been across the pond this half of the year and was able to actually watch series 3 as it aired on in real time. But out of respect for those who haven't seen it, I am holding off posting images from the latest episodes until later and instead present to you some selected ones from the first two series below. I hope you enjoy them!

Downton Abbey centers around the lives of the aristocratic Crawley family and their servants during the post-Edwardian era (1900-20s). It sounds kind of boring but the cast members have such chemistry with each other that I quickly became totally engrossed in their individual stories.

Downton Abbey is the name of the fictional Yorkshire estate in which the Crawleys reside but the real-life location used is Highclere Castle located in the county of Hampshire. It sits on 1,000 acres of parkland and it has been the country seat of the Earls of Carnarvon since 1679, with the present Earl and Countess still living there. The building was designed by a pre-eminent Victorian architect named Sir Charles Barry and is filled with stunning paintings, tapestries and furniture. The salon, library, dining room and entrance hall of the Highclere are seen frequently in the show, but the servants' quarters were shot on a newly built set at Ealing Studios. (I've put the images of the House's interiors at the end of the post). By the way, the House and Grounds are actually open to the public! (for more details, check out their website). 

Here's a brief breakdown: Lord Robert Crawley, 6th Earl of Grantham (Hugh Bonneville) is the patriach of the family. His mother is the Countess of Grantham, played by the always impressive Maggie Smith. Robert marries nouveau riche American Cora (Elizabeth McGovern), who then moves to live with him at Downton Abbey. Together they make the perfect, loving husband-and-wife and they have three daughters, Mary (Michelle Dockery), Edith (Laura Carmichael) and Sybil (Jessica Brown Findlay).  

Lord and Lady Grantham

How lovely that mother and daughters are all wearing varing shades of lavender.

Maggie Smith as as Countess Grantham, regal and impressive under a mountain of fur. 

Let's first take a look at the costumes featured in the show, beginning with the dresses of the eldest daughter Mary. One aspect that I really liked was that they recycled the clothes so the characters often wore the same things over and over again. This is to obviously save on production costs but it also lends a smidge of authenticity to them as well.

~ MARY ~
Being the eldest daughter, Mary gets to wear more embellished, sophisticated dresses than her two younger sisters. Because a great deal of the first season centers around her and her preoccupations with getting married, it is no surprise that she had the most number of beautiful outfits.

Although I love almost all of Mary's evening dresses, this might just be my favorite out of all of them. It's simple but elegant and the color is breathtaking. The bejeweled neckline is also to-die-for. I also love how the women wore long gloves with almost every gown, a practice that I feel needs to be brought back into style!DowntonAbbeyS02E09_Mary_beadedvneckburgundy1


Pale dusty blue gown.

Ivory gown with exquisite beading and a gorgeous pearl belt.

The back of the dress. DowntonAbbey_eveninggownsbacks

Mary in a black dress with interesting sleeves. DowntonAbbey_Mary_blackevening_horizstripsonsleeves


Mary in black again after the funeral. She hates wearing black but this dress is gorgeous. DowntonAbbeyS01E01_MaryBlackbeaded_mirror

Mary in a flapper-esque outfit with a starburst beaded design on the front. DowntonAbbeyS02_Mary_beigeblack_beeded


Another outfit with a starburst design. Love the color of the green here. DowntonAbbeyS01E02_MaryEdithSybil_olivegreen

Mary is seen in red a lot. I love this dress with the short scalloped sleeves.

Another red dress.


Yet another red dress.DowntonAbbey_Mary_redgown_embroideredcenter

Mary in an ivory-beige gown during Christmas. DowntonAbbeyS02E09_Mary_ivorychiffonbeaded

Lined up to pass out gifts to the servants. DowntonAbbeyS02E09_givinggifts

Mary in a satin navy gown with thin straps. 

This is irrelevant but can I just say how much I love Michelle Dockery's perfect shoulders? DowntonAbbeyS02E08_Matthew_MaryNavySkinnyStraps

Mary in dark brown and Edith (to the right) in beautiful olive green.

Mary getting laced up in a corset. Although it would appear that she rarely wears one.

Mary in a nightgown and coverlet. DowntonAbbeyS02E08_Mary_whitenightgown

During the day, Mary can often be seen in much more casual attire. Love that this otherwise ordinary cardigan is made a bit more interesting with the ivory satin trim along the buttons/collar. 

Black and white striped blouse with a sailor's collar.

Love the light tan silk blouse with the flared collar matched with the bold cranberry skirt.

Powder blue coat with contrasting navy trim.



In a beautiful fuschia blouse and gray skirt.

Adorable center buttons. DowntonAbbeyS02E01_Marylightbluedots

Lightweight striped linen dress. DowntonAbbeyS01E05_RoseContest_EdithMary_creamstripeddresses

Another simple, casual ivory top and dark coloured skirt.DowntonAbbeyS02_greendamaskwallpaper_smalldecor_jars

The same blouse with a different skirt. DowntonAbbeyS02E03_Marywhitelaceblousetealskirt

Love the buttons on the back of her skirt. DowntonAbbeyS02E08_WomenDaydressesback

Mary dressed down to suit solemn tone of the war (WWI). Like the olive skirt but the floral top looks like my granny's curtains...DowntonAbbeyS02E04_Mary_singing_olivegreenskirt+floralbouse

This dress is possibly the least fashionable of all her outfits. DowntonAbbeyS01E04_Mary_scallopedcollar

Mary in an exquisite blue satin jacket and brooch.DowntonAbbeyS02E07_Mary_darkblue

Mary in a gorgeous wool burgundy colored coat.

Mary in black for a funeral. Love the white center buttons.DowntonAbbeyS01E01_funeral_Maryblack

Mary dressed for a traditional [fox] hunt.DowntonAbbeyS01E03_Hunt_Maryblackoutfit


Mary in her another more casual riding outfit. DowntonAbbeyS01E06_Mary_Ridingoutfit


Mary in brown checked coat with an knitted dress. Love the buttons on the dress.DowntonAbbey_Mary_tancheckedcoat_ivoryknitteddress

Mary in another black outfit for a funeral. DowntonAbbeyS02E08_funeral_MatthewMary_black


Love her hat. DowntonAbbeyS02E08_funeral_Maryhat+Carlyle


Cora is Lord Crawley's American wife and her character is warm, loving, rational and fair. Even though she comes from a nouveau riche family, she settles into her role as a gentile lady of the British aristocracy very well. She is also kind to the servants, which makes her even more likable.

Cora in a breathtaking diamond tiara and necklace set

a better view of her black dress:

Cora in a dark blackish green gown overlaid with glittery silver beading

Cora in a soft pink gown with gold embroidery on the front

One of my favorite of Cora's gowns. 


The back of the dress.

Black netting.

Rosettes along the sleeves.

Navy coat and hat with black trim.

I actually like the brown skirt with matching fabric belt on the right more.

Cora in lush red velvet.

Cora in a blush-beige gown trimmed with intricate black embroidery 

Cora in dark brown velvet

The intricate beading on these dresses is just so so beautiful.

Love the pearl-lined scope collar.



Cora in iridescent purple.

Cora in purple again. DowntonAbbeyS01E03_Cora_Lavenderhighcollar

Cora in an orange printed blouse.

The image doesn't do this silky black & white dress justice. DowntonAbbeyS02_Cora_blackwhitestriped

Cora goes out to a flower show in off-white linen with black embroidery and an enormous hat.

Cora in more brown and beige. Even though the colours may be somewhat dull, the details on the dress and jacket are beautiful, especially the buttons.

Cora in an ivory laced nightgown and a blush pink robe. 

Cora in black velvet and pearls.


(Robert's mother, Cora's mother-in-law)
The Countess is truly a product of another era, holding firmly onto the customs and attitudes of the British aristocracy of years past. She shudders at the thought of America and loathes the waves of soci-economic and political change that is sweeping through the country.

the Countess is iridescent purple overlaid with black lace

the Countess draped in a (fox) fur stole

a more floor-length shot of her outfit

The following is some of the Countess's lavish evening outfits.

oh the beading and the sequins!




The Countess in her daytime attire.




the Countess (left) in beige linen with detailed embroidery during an outing

in black funeral attire.DowntonAbbeyS02E08_funeral_VioletRobert


Sybil is the youngest of all three daughters and the most socially progressive of all the characters. She supports feminism and  champions a women's right to vote. It is of no surprise then that she eventually falls in love and runs off with the House's chauffeur. 

Sybil shocks everyone when she had the bottom of her new dress made into trousers.


Sybil in a satin gown with beautiful brown velvet straps.

Love her jade necklace here.

Sybil in simpler clothes.


Love Sybil's hat (left) and her maid's cranberry jacket+skirt. The clothes actually belong to Sybil (lent to her so for an interview) which is why I included her here.



Edith is the middle daughter and often gets overlooked. Mary chides her for being homely and sometimes flirts with her suitors out of spite. True to her character, Edith is often seen simpler, dowdier clothes with fewer embellishments.

Ah, the collar! 



In a tan jacket with black trim and buttons.DowntonAbbeyS02_Edith_farmtractor_tancoat

A wide shot of her entire outfit. 

Edith take Matthew sightseeing. Here they are visiting a church.




Love her straw hat.DowntonAbbeyS02E07_Edith_checkedribbonhat

Love the burnt orange+black color +beige combination.

One of the few times when Edith is wearing something stylish during the day. DowntonAbbeyS02_Edith_overizedlapelivoryblouseredskirt

She does get the chance to doll up in nicer gowns for the nightly dinners though.

Blush pink gown.

Black gown with exquisite embroidery on the bust and sleeves.

A very simple black satin dress that can be worn even today.


Lavinia is Matthew's (first) wife. She is almost always seen in an up-do.DowntonAbbeyS02E03_Lavinia_hair

Despite being considered plain and mousy by the Granthams/Crawleys (especially by a most dismissive Countess Grantham), I actually think she's lovely here. 


Her elaborate up-dos are just brilliant. 

Dark navy blouse with colorful embroidery. Perhaps she did it herself?

Another shot of her navy blouse.

Cute hat.

Mrs. Crawley is Matthew's mother. This navy coat of hers is one of my favorites. Love the stripes on the sleeves.

Red velvet.


Lady Rosamund Painswick is Lord Grantham's incredibly stylish sister. Here she is during a brief visit to Downton. Love the ivory jacket with the blue-gray velvet trim on the lapels.

Even though she wears black frequently, she does it with the utmost flair.

I am breathless over this exquisite black gown with the scalloped sleeves.

Ah, the sleeves!!!

More black evening gowns.



Finally here are some images of the servants. Love this gray striped coat on Anna, the head housemade. Love the large black buttons on the lapel.

Beautiful maids' dresses.


Even though we tend to pay more attention to the ladys' costumes, the menswear deserves equal praise. 

Robert, Lord Grantham.DowntonAbbeyS01_Robert_coatshearling

Robert is slightly more casual attire, 3-piece brown tweed suit.DowntonAbbeyS01E02_MatthewBike_Robert


Love the dark gray herringbone Norfolk jacket on Matthew (right). And the caps!

Robert in summery 3-piece khaki colored linen suit and olive green ascot.

Robert in funeral attire. Top hat and cane, how proper.

Matthew in a red scarf.

Sir Richard Carlisle, a former suitor of Mary's. Extremely wealthy, self-made newspaper tycoon. Love the sheen on his suit.


Love the light tan herringbone and green color combination.

Another shot of the same outfit with the addition of a matching coat.

Even the servants are meticulously dressed, especially the higher-ranking ones. Below is Caron and Mrs. Hughes (butler and housekeeper, respectively).

Thomas (right, first footman) in a beautiful fitted vest. Love the lapels and the gold buttons on his jacket.

Thomas in a suit and tie.

Mr. Bates (Lord Crawley's valet) in a black wool coat over a 3-piece brown tweed suit finished off with a bowler hat and pocket watch.

Branson, the chauffeur seen in a double breasted vest.

Everyone during the hunting party.

A visiting Duke.

Sir Anthony Strallan, Edith's much older love interest.

Forget who this was. Love the black striped suit with the dark brown tie.

Branson again but this time as Lady Sybil's husband. He doesn't forget his humble roots though and insists on wearing "normal clothes." 

And finally a look at the settings featured in the series.

~DOWNTON ABBEY (Highclere Castle) ~

The grounds.

The ballroom. Some walls are covered with wood paneling while others in beautiful handwoven tapestries.DowntonAbbeyS02E08_roomwithgramophone

The stone fireplace!


The dining room with soaring ceilings and large oil paintings of their ancestors.DowntonAbbeyS01_diningroom

Love all the dark wood wainscoting and the hand-carved fireplace mantel. 

The library, with towering floor length windows framed with heavy red drapery.DowntonAbbeyS01_Robert_library


Lord Grantham writing at his desk in the library. DowntonAbbeyS01E06_Robertdesk

One of the more formal sitting rooms. I love the orange upholstered arm chairs and the design of their wood stretchers.


Another one of the more formal rooms. Love the painted ceiling and the crown molding along the top of the walls. And the orate mirrors are nice substitutes for the usual family portraits. This was actually a room in Waddesdon Manor, Buckinghamshire.

One of the less formal sitting rooms. Love the pale green damask wallpaper.DowntonAbbeyS02E08_interior_greendamaskwallpaper_pinksofas


Mary's Bedroom DowntonAbbeyS02E08_Sybil_blackgoldfloralback

Cora's Bedroom. Love the white mantel and the floral screen in front of it.DowntonAbbeyS01E07_Corachaiselounge_Violet

Love the white suitcases.

Cora writing at her desk but I forget if this was in her bedroom or in a sitting room. DowntonAbbeyS02E04_Cora_desk

A closeup of Cora's desk. DowntonAbbeyS02E04_Cora_desk2

One of the many guest bedrooms in the House. Love the beautiful painted wood headboard and footboard.DowntonAbbeyS02E08_Laviniabed_headboard

Another guest bedroom. Love that they have a fire going and lit candles.

The Kitchen.DowntonAbbeyS02E08_kitchen_sprigsoverstove

What a lovely shelf of beautiful copper pots.

The pantry.

Love the black doors and how they contrast against the cream walls.

 I forget if this is one of the servant's rooms or if it belongs to the rest of the shared servants quarters but I think it is the former (the butler Carson's room?) The windowsill that serves as a shelf for books and other items is adorable.DowntonAbbeyS02E08_Carson_shoeshinebrushes


Matthew's modest house in town (which he shares with his mother before learning of his massive inheritance and moving to Downton Abbey). This townhouse would be considered quite large and upscale by today's standards and I actually prefer it over Downton. Hall Place, Wycombe End in Beaconsfield was used for some of the shots.DowntonAbbeyS01E02_MaryRidingdress

Love the pale blue paneled walls and the cheerful yellow drapes. This house feels so bright and airy compared to Downton.

The hallway outside the sitting room. Love the blue-white vase on the console. This actually looks like it could be a hallway from our time now.DowntonAbbeyS02E01_Crawelyhouse_hallway

Matthew at his office. He worked as a barrister before retiring to a life of leisure after accepting his inheritance. Love the bundles of files wrapped in brown paper and tied with pink ribbons (right). DowntonAbbeyS01_Crawleyofficedesk

A very large estate that Mary and her former fiancé was considering moving into after their wedding.DowntonAbbeyS01E02_Interior_Grandgothicarches

The house belonging to the character of Sir Anthony Strallan, Edith's much older love interest. DowntonAbbeyS02E09_SirAthonyHouse_exterior

His book-filled sitting room/library.


Oh my goodness. Where to begin? This is really wonderful. And so much work on your part! Thank you very much. It's so nice to have it all slowed down so we can really study the clothes and the rooms. I've already scrolled through it a few times and every time I notice something new. The collars just get me. Yes, let's bring back gloves and gorgeous collars. And hats.... Sincere Thanks! Connie*

Thanks for this wonderful post.
Enjoyed it very much.

Thank-you so much for all the lovely photos and comments on the dresses. I will now have to wipe the drool off of my keyboard as I was coveting quite a few of these wonderful dresses. I have to say that the suit on Mrs. Crawley where she is walking outside with the dowager (cream with diagonal detail and large buttons) is my perfect idea of a suit to wear to a wedding. Mmmmmmmmmmm....

Oh, for some dress patterns for some of those blouses! I wouldn't care if I looked like a senile old lady in them...

Wow, you put a lot of work into this post. Thanks for the lovely pictures!

Love this post and I am a big fan of Downton.

Wow, this is fantastic thank you!
Did Cora lend her sister-in-law an evening gown? : )

@Anonymous The gown with the sheer black sleeves and the gold brocade bust does look very similar to one of Cora's gowns (and the kind of gown Cora tends to wear) but I don't think it was actually one of hers.

I'm pretty sure that they're the same dress like anon said- :)

Thank you for this. Have you thought about doing a similar survey of the characters' jewelry? It's harder to see, but how beautiful! You'd do a great job of it!

The costume design further enhances a brilliant cast and script. The BBC series Ripper Street looks incredible on screen but a few of the episodes have lacked the quality that DA offers.

Thank you for this really thourough post and I really admire your enthusiasm! I wouldn't have noticed all those beautiful details without reading this. Especially those pictures about the house itself. Thank you again ;)

interesting to read thank you I really liked your article I love your beautiful blog and so enjoy your posts.good job

Amazing collection. Thank you!

Lavinia wasn't Matthew's first wife she was his fiancé

love the downton abbey seasons dvd costume ,they look gorgers and beautiful,now i heard the downton abbey season 4 dvd box set is coming up ,i can't waiting to watch it.

is there any more seasons will be updated on Downton Abbey dvd?

That the mother and daughters are all wearing varying shades of lavender reflects the "half mourning" dress required after a suitable period of "full mourning" dress, usually at 6 months. in honor of the Crawley men who died in the Titanic tragedy, not a result of the costume designer being cute.

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