"Downton Abbey" has been a veritable hit on both sides of the pond in its first two seasons and the third season of this historical drama promises to be just as exciting. Season three begins on Sunday, Jan. 6, on Masterpiece Classic. In addition to the interesting characters, most viewers have been fascinated by the gorgeous costumes and are likely to want to wear the same type of fashion to events.
The first season was set in the Edwardian era, when costumes for both men and women went back to the simpler and more fluid lines of the Regency period, compared to the more elaborate and heavier styles of the just-ended Victorian era. Season two was set during the First World War and so women’s clothing became looser and more practical as they had to pitch in with the war efforts. Most men wore uniforms of different regiments and ranks. Season three will reflect the 1920s when fashion underwent even more of a change as women’s clothing became shorter and men’s pants had wider legs.
Emmy-winning costume designer Susannah Buxton was at the helm during the first two seasons and has revealed to Isabel Wilkinson of the Daily Beast that the costumes are “a translation rather than trying to be historically accurate.” So while Buxton tried to “achieve the aesthetic of the time,” she also attempted to appeal to modern viewers, and was more concerned about creating costumes that represented each character’s personality and status. Her team also utilized vintage garments and rented from costume firms as Edwardian dresses and men’s dinner jackets are expensive and time-consuming to produce.
What this means for costumers is that they don’t have to be as period correct and that there may still be usable vintage pieces that can be purchased. There may also be thrift store finds that can be adapted and even used outright especially since the styles from 100 years ago, especially for men, can still be found in today’s fashions. References for costumers who want to make their own costumes are the numerous depictions of people from the time period that are available in photo archives, costume history books and museum paintings.
The upcoming third season, which will reveal new challenges for the residents of Downton Abbey after the First World War, will most likely feature fabulous costumes by former assistant and now costume designer Caroline McCall, and provide even more inspirations for costuming.
Copyright 2013, Jean Martin.
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