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The 7 Best Costumes in the Downton Abbey Movie
The final season of Downton Abbey ended in 2015, but there were rumors and murmurs of a movie. In September of 2019, the Downton Abbey movie hit theaters. It basically exists as a long episode with a more cinematic look.
Set two years after the show’s finale, in 1927, the plot hinges around a Royal visit and how this impacts the Crawley family and their servants. The start of the movie is an homage to the opening of the show with a message arriving and someone arriving via train.
As this is a movie, with a budget to match, costume designer Anna Robbins, from seasons five and six, had a daunting task. The costumes from the show were a character in themselves, but with a large screen, it meant the movie’s costume had to be that much more grand and opulent. Add the royal factor into the orders and of course the costumes have to be beyond impeccable.
Given that this is a movie and not an eight-hour long season, there are less costumes to choose from. However, all of them are on point and lovely. There is a big caveat with this movie, which is a super formal grand dinner and ball. Both these scenes are at the forefront of this list; I can not resist all the pretty gowns. These seven costumes were ranked mostly by aesthetics, how they suited the character, and historical significance.
The tiaras worn in this movie were on loan from Bentley & Skinner, which is an antique jewelry company based in London.
7. Edith's Blue Gown
To the grand royal dinner, Edith, now the Marchioness of Hexham, wears a lovely blue gown. In some of the promo pictures, it reads more green, but in the film it looks blue. The sleeveless gown is covered in matching blue beading with floral beaded appliques in silver and white. This element comes down to a point at the hemline.
The hem of this gown is shorter than her mother’s and sister’s hemlines as it hits at the mid-calf. It’s important to keep in mind that while the royals were at Downton, everyone was supposed to be in their Sunday best, and royal etiquette dictated that dresses needed to be longer. Mid-cafe might have been alright for Edith given her position.
In addition to the gorgeous starburst tiara that encircles her head on a gold band, Edith wears layers of necklaces of various lengths along simpler diamond earrings. Her opera length gloves are gray to match the beading on her gown while her shoes match the blue of the gown.
This gown is in keeping with Edith's soft and bright approach to fashion. This look combines both florals and starbursts in a very art deco style.
6. Cora's Silver and Mauve Ball Gown
Cora’s fashion aesthetic exists between Mary and Edith; it's opulent and refined yet soft and feminine.
The ballgown that Cora dons for the royal ball is made from vintage fabric. It was originally turquoise. Robbins had it dyed a more mauve color as it is one of Cora’s signature colors. The leaf designs on this fabric are lamé.
Along the neckline there is a row of crystal trim. Chiffon sleeves were added as it's a signature look for Cora. These sleeves trail down to her ankles along with a bit of a train. At the dropped waist there is a wide pewter sash.
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She wears a pair of silver opera length gloves, which are very similar to the gown Edith wears with her blue dinner gown.
Cora pairs this gown with a diamond set with two lavish necklaces. The tiara she wears has a garland motif, which pairs very nicely with the leaf pattern on the gown.
5. Edith's Pink Gown
This gown is very true to Edith’s overall aesthetic and looks throughout the majority of Downton’s existence.
If you remember the first few seasons, Edith wore a lot of autumnal colors, meaning warm yet muted colors mostly. When she was feeling happy, her palette switched to brighter spring tones and colors. Colors like this peachy pink evening gown she wears to normal Downton dinner prior to the King and Queen’s arrival. However it was used in the film’s promotion.
The gown has beading all over it with some floral patterns done in white beading on the bodice and on the skirt. There are also four rows of white beading edging the neckline and armholes.
The hemline is asymmetrical with a slightly darker slip. She pairs it with warm, white opera-length gloves. As is the style, she wears a layer necklace look with earrings. Her headband that goes around her forehead looks to be made with pearls.
The 2019 Trailer
4. Queen Mary's Silver Ball Gown
According to Anna Robbins, Queen Mary's ball gown was among her favorite costumes from the movie.
Dressing the King and Queen was a unique challenge because they were real people and there was an added pressure to get it right.
Robbins was allowed to see the actual garments of Queen Mary to help build her looks. By recreating the construction methods and undergarments into the movie costume, Geraldine James’ performance was able to achieve her regal demeanor and movements.
The ball gown is also special as it uses silver lamé in the skirt that actually belonged to Queen Mary herself.
The gown itself is less in the style of the 1920s, but that isn’t surprising given her status and age. It harkens to another time and age before the war.
The ballgown is a combination of original fabrics in silvery tones.
Paired with this gown is a recreation of the the Cambridge Emeralds, which are part of the British royal jewels. The Cambridge Emeralds themselves have a fascinating history.
3. Mary's Silver and Black Beaded Ball Gown
For the ball scene, Robbins wanted the Crawley ladies’s in different styles to play off of each other and yet still work together. This was achieved by colors and textures.
Mary’s ball gown is a stunning example of art deco opulence. It’s a heavily beaded black and bright silver gown with a bold graphic design.
This gown was originally a French vintage beaded knee length dress with a different neckline. It was re-beaded to be floor length, and tab drapes were added at the back for added drama.
Robbins’ approach to Mary’s style is striking and feminine without being fussy or too overtly pretty. She likes to have Mary in angular looks, which juxtaposes Edith’s soft floral and Cora’s refined delicacy.
Mary looks very much of the Art Deco moment in this gown, which is further complimented by her tiara and jewelry. To add to the bold look, Mary wears this outfit with black opera gloves, which offsets the black neckline and beading.
2. Edith's Gold Ball Gown
The story of Edith’s ball gown is a subplot in itself. Edith orders a gown and has it sent directly to Downton Abbey. However, there was a mix up and Edith receives a similar dress that is far too large.
The situation is resolved by Anna threatening to expose the Queen’s dresser, Ms. Lawton, who in addition to being a seasoned seamstress, has been pocketing Downton’s treasures by helping fit the gown to Edith and returning the items.
The gown is made of panne velvet. Panne velvet is when the fibers are crushed in one direction. There is also a metallic print in a soft floral pattern. At the neckline and at the back there are layers of cross over gold chiffon. The hemline comes down to the mid-calf. It is asymmetrical as it is longer at the sides than at the front and back. There is a draped train at the back for drama and added movement for the ball scene.
Prior to this gown being altered for Edith, it had wider straps and a bow-like detail in front. You can see a lace detail at the hem. This lace can also be seen in the design sketch, but it’s hard to see in the movie since there are no long shots of the gown.
Edith pairs the gown with a diamond tiara that sits on her forehead along with long diamond earrings. For a necklace, she opts for a long layered look in gold. For gloves, she wears a soft gold color to add to her golden look.
This gown epitomizes Edith’s soft, overly feminine style.
1. Mary's Prussian Blue Delphos Gown
Never has Lady Mary looked more like she just stepped out of a fashion plate than in this blue gown. This Prussian blue gown is what Lady Mary wears to the royal dinner, and it is just perfect on so many levels.
The gown is made from finely pleated silk. This type of gown is referred to as a Delphos gown. The pleating technique was a secret used by French fashion designer Henriette Negrin and her husband, Mariano Fortuny y Madrazo. The Delphos gowns were inspired by Greek chiton, and the name is from the classical Greek statue, The Charioteer of Delphi.
The gown made for the movie was made in collaboration with the Fortuny textile house that has recreated the pleating technique. The beading along the side seams of the gown are white Murano beads, and they are sewn on with a silk cord. This is a very typical element with Delphos gowns as the weight of the beads help smooth the garment against the body to ensure fit as the garment allows for the wearer to be uncorseted.
A creative liberty that Robbins took with Lady Mary’s gown is the neckline. Delphos gowns are never v-necks, instead they are rounded. The deep v-neckline suits Mary’s more angular sense of style. It adds a nice bit of contrasts to the overall look.
Mary styles it with silver gloves, an art deco-style tiara, layers of necklaces both long and short, and diamond earrings.
The overall impression is sleek yet soft, classic yet modern, powerful yet yielding. A perfect gown for Mary in a luxurious, bold, and striking color.