'Downton Abbey': A Look Back at 8 of Lady Edith's Most Memorable Costumes

Updated on October 14, 2019
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Kaycee loves period dramas and is currently revisiting her obsession with Downton Abbey.

Introduction

Lady Edith certainly had her share of difficulties throughout Downton Abbey's six-season run. For a long time, it seemed like she could never catch a break, destined to live forever in her older sister Mary's shadow and resigned to her fate as a spinster. As the world changed and more young women of her class entered the workforce, Edith began to find her footing outside Downton Abbey, becoming a modern, independent woman—one who runs a magazine company, more than holds her own against her sister, and wins the love of an extremely eligible bachelor.

Below, I've selected eight costumes from the show that encapsulate Edith's journey from forgotten middle sister to enviable career woman who has it all. Warning: this article is not spoiler free!

Laura Carmichael as Lady Edith Crawley.
Laura Carmichael as Lady Edith Crawley.
The Crawley sisters. Jessica Brown Findlay as Lady Sybil Crawley, Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary Crawley, and Laura Carmichael as Lady Edith Crawley.
The Crawley sisters. Jessica Brown Findlay as Lady Sybil Crawley, Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary Crawley, and Laura Carmichael as Lady Edith Crawley.

Season 1 - Edith's White Dress

Edith wears this white dress with a long pointed collar to the garden party at the end of Season 1, which saw Lord Grantham announce the outbreak of war. The dress has a classically Edwardian shape with a high waist and narrow skirt. While pretty, it might also be a little plain compared to Mary's stripes or Sybil's flowers and certainly demands less attention. The costume design speaks to the power dynamic between the sisters, which comes into play this episode when Mary sabotages Edith's chance of happiness with Sir Anthony Strallan.

The dress had a previous life in Room with a View (2007).

Costume designed by Susannah Buxton.

Laura Carmichael as Lady Edith Crawley.
Laura Carmichael as Lady Edith Crawley.

Season 2 - Edith's Practical Outfit

By the start of Season 2, Edith has learned to drive and is helping out on the farm of a local family, the Drakes. A departure from her first season wardrobe, she wears a very practical outfit of jodhpurs and knee-length boots when she's out on the farm. The family's shock at seeing Sybil wearing a jumpsuit in Season 1 gave viewers some idea of how unacceptable it was at the time for women to wear trousers. It also shows how forward thinking the two younger Crawley sisters are, as it took until decades later for trousers on women to become widely accepted.

Working on the farm gave Lady Edith some independence, a sense of purpose, and even a little bit of romance before she returned to the idle life of an Earl's daughter—after Mrs. Drake saw her sharing a kiss with her husband.

Costume designed by Susannah Buxton.

Laura Carmichael as Lady Edith Crawley with Robert Bathurst as Sir Anthony Strallan.
Laura Carmichael as Lady Edith Crawley with Robert Bathurst as Sir Anthony Strallan.
Laura Carmichael as Lady Edith Crawley.
Laura Carmichael as Lady Edith Crawley.

Season 3 - Edith's Coral Evening Gown

Edith reconnects with Sir Anthony during the Season 2 Christmas Special, and they continue courting into Season 3. On the night they get engaged, Edith is wearing this Grecian-inspired coral evening dress with a beaded trim. Its looser fit was popular during the early Jazz Age, when the structured silhouettes of the Edwardian era fell out of favor for dropped waists and higher hemlines. According to The Chronicles of Downton Abbey, the dress is shot chiffon over silk and is worn without a corset. As a finishing touch, there is a braided rope belt with more beading and loose chiffon at the waist. Beginning in Season 3, Edith wears her hair in finger waves.

Costume designed by Caroline McCall.

Laura Carmichael as Lady Edith Crawley.
Laura Carmichael as Lady Edith Crawley.

Season 3 - Edith's Wedding Dress

At first glance, Edith's wedding dress may look similar to Mary's from earlier in Season 3. Simple and elegant, they both feature a dropped waist and straight silhouette. Like many aristocratic women, the sisters also wore their veil attached with the family tiara for their first weddings.

Edith's dress has several details that set it apart, however: it is based off a vintage silk train that was adorned with flowers and crystals, and the fabric of the dress (satin, in contrast to Mary's lace gown) is gathered at the hip with more embroidered flower accents. Her bouquet is also different, a cluster of pink and white flowers instead of the long white calla lilies Mary held.

Sadly, we know that the marriage is not to be. Sir Anthony decides not to go through with the wedding and leaves Edith at the altar, believing himself to be too old to give her the life she deserves.

Costume designed by Caroline McCall.

Laura Carmichael as Lady Edith Crawley.
Laura Carmichael as Lady Edith Crawley.

Season 4 - Edith's Criterion Dress

Thus far, Edith's character arc has been one disappointment after another, but Season 3 turns out to be a real turning point for the long-suffering Crawley sister.

After Sir Anthony calls off their wedding, Edith is at a loss as to what to do with herself now that she no longer has anything (or anyone) to keep her occupied. With some encouragement from Matthew, she writes a letter to the newspaper advocating for women's suffrage in England, which gets the attention of Michael Gregson, editor and publisher of The Sketch. Not only that—he invites Edith to London and offers her a column in his magazine!

Nothing best captures Edith's newfound confidence than this brilliant green gown with a beaded bodice that she wears to meet Michael at the Criterion Restaurant in London. It is completely different to any of her previous costumes and marks a new beginning for Edith, who for the first time in her life is finding camaraderie and companionship outside of Downton Abbey.

Costume designed by Caroline McCall.

Laura Carmichael as Lady Edith Crawley.
Laura Carmichael as Lady Edith Crawley.
Laura Carmichael as Lady Edith Crawley.
Laura Carmichael as Lady Edith Crawley.

Seasons 5 and 6: Edith's Work Wardrobe

As a working mother (and Editor-in-Chief!) at a fashion-forward magazine environment, Lady Edith incorporates more patterns and prints into her wardrobe as well as feminine touches such as the necktie on this blouse. She completes the look with a beautiful wide-sleeve trenchcoat and an elegant cloche hat that matches the color of her skirt.

Edith's work wardrobe is noticeably different from Mary's, who has taken over the role of agent for the Downton estate and has more classical pieces in her closet, including menswear-inspired shirts and ties and three-piece suits. Whereas Edith is feminine, the costume design posits Mary as her masculine opposite in style.

Costume designed by Anna Mary Scott Robbins.

Laura Carmichael as Lady Edith Crawley.
Laura Carmichael as Lady Edith Crawley.
Laura Carmichael as Lady Edith Crawley.
Laura Carmichael as Lady Edith Crawley.

Seasons 5 and 6: All the Gold Dresses

Edith has so many gorgeous dresses in the final two seasons of the show that it's almost impossible to choose among them. She is particularly fond of matching her dress to her hair, wearing gold on several important occasions—the first when she announces that she is going to live permanently in London, and the second when Bertie Pelham proposes.

Once again, she contrasts with Mary, who is glowering in the background of these scenes in a monochromatic dress. Unlike the beginning of the series, when Mary's status as the dominant sibling was communicated through her wardrobe, their gowns are equal in radiance. After many years living in her sisters's shadow, Edith is no longer content to play second fiddle.

Costume designed by Anna Mary Scott Robbins.

The newlyweds. Laura Carmichael as Lady Edith Crawley and Harry Haddon-Paton as Bertie Pelham.
The newlyweds. Laura Carmichael as Lady Edith Crawley and Harry Haddon-Paton as Bertie Pelham.
Laura Carmichael as Lady Edith Crawley and Hugh Bonneville as Lord Grantham.
Laura Carmichael as Lady Edith Crawley and Hugh Bonneville as Lord Grantham.

Season 6 Christmas Special - Edith's Second Wedding Dress

Lady Edith looked absolutely beautiful in her short sleeved wedding dress made from Brussels lace. This time, she wore her veil with a beaded headpiece instead of the family tiara, making a clean break from her last attempt at marriage. When she and Bertie tie the knot in a fairytale wedding, she becomes the Marchioness of Hexham, outranking everyone in her family. Finally, she gets her happy ending!

Costume designed by Anna Mary Scott Robbins.

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    © 2019 Kaycee Go

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