Kaycee loves period dramas and historical fiction. She writes for Screen Rant, where she talks about fashion and costume design.
Lady Edith Crawley had the worst luck on Downton Abbey. She lived in her older sister Mary's shadow, was jilted at the altar, and nearly resigned herself to a future of forever alone -- who wouldn't after every man one took an interest in turned out to be unavailable?
It seemed like Edith could never catch a break, but as the world changed and new opportunities arose for women, she began to find her footing outside Downton. By the end of the show, she was living an exciting life in London, more than held her own against her sister, and had won the love of an extremely eligible bachelor. And she did it all in amazing Edwardian and Jazz Age style.
Here are some of Edith's best costumes from the show that encapsulate her journey from overlooked middle sister to enviable career woman who has it all.
The Garden Party Dress
Edith wore a white dress with a long pointed collar to the garden party at the end of Season 1, where Lord Grantham announced the outbreak of war. Like her sisters' outfits, the dress had a classically Edwardian shape with a high waist and narrow skirt. It was a little plain compared to Mary's bold stripes and Sybil's modern print, which spoke to her status as the black sheep of the family.
The costume design also reflected the power dynamic among the sisters, which came into play this episode when Mary sabotaged Edith's chances of a marriage proposal from Sir Anthony Strallan. Like most of the costumes from Seasons 1 and 2, this summer dress was designed by Suasnnah Buxton.
A Jacket And Boots On The Farm
Season 2 of Downton Abbey took place during World War I, and the clothes became simpler out of necessity. The Crawleys rolled up their sleeves to assist with the war effort. To help out a local family that was short on farmhands, Edith wore a very practical outfit of jodhpurs and knee-high boots. She threw on a hat and one of her tailored jackets from last season for extra warmth.
The Crawleys' shock at seeing Sybil in the famous harem pants gave viewers some idea of how unacceptable it was at the time for women to wear pants. It also showed how forward-thinking the two younger Crawley sisters were, as pants did not become widely accepted attire for women until decades later.
The Coral Evening Dress
Edith began to take more sartorial risks in Season 3. She wore a Grecian-inspired coral evening dress with beaded trim on the night she got engaged to Anthony Strallan. The looser fit of the dress was popular during the early Jazz Age, when waistlines began to drop ever so slightly while hems inched higher. According to The Chronicles of Downton Abbey, the dress is shot chiffon over silk and is worn without a corset. As a finishing touch, Edith wore a braided rope belt with more beading and loose chiffon at the waist.
Wedding Dress #1
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.
Edith's dress has several details that set it apart, however. It is based off a vintage silk train 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 calla lilies Mary held.
The Criterion Dress
Season 3 turned out to be a real turning point for the long-suffering Crawley sister. After Sir Anthony called off their wedding, Edith found herself in need of something to do. She wrote a letter to the editor advocating for women's suffrage, which got the attention of Michael Gregson, publisher of The Sketch. Not only that—he invited Edith to London and offered her a column in his magazine!
Nothing best captured Edith's newfound confidence than this brilliant green gown that she wore to meet Gregson at the Criterion Restaurant in London. The dress was backless with a diamante neckline and beaded bodice. It was much sexier and trendier than any of her previous outfits and marked a new beginning for Edith as a fashion maven.
This iconic dress was designed by Caroline McCall, who made it from a piece of original beading.
Edith continued to develop her sense of style in Season 4. Now in a relationship with Michael Gregson, she was spending time with the famous writers of the Bloomsbury set, whose bohemian sensibility influenced her fashion choices. She continued to wear the corals and pinks that had been her wardrobe staples since Season 1 but now added unexpected details like a headscarf to freshen up the look. She also put more effort into her hair, asking her lady's maid Madge to style it in finger waves.
Season 5 was a struggle for Edith. She received confirmation of Gregson's death and had to fight for custody of their only daughter. The rest of the Crawleys seemed indifferent to her emotional turmoil; Mary tried out a new hairstyle, and her family planned a picnic for the next day.
Edith had neither the time nor the energy to experiment with fashion this season and wore mostly subdued autumnal colors like orange and brown. Two costumes stand out in particular: the wheat-colored dress with a floral trim that appeared in the now-famous water bottle promotional photo, and the beaded plum-colored dress with an unexpected olive trim.
The Work Edit
As a single mother and editor-in-chief at a fashion-forward magazine environment, Edith added more patterns and prints into her wardrobe as well as feminine touches such as a necktie on an otherwise basic blouse, or a busy floral jacket with a clashing orange skirt. Her work wardrobe was noticeably different from Mary's, who had more classical, menswear-inspired pieces in her closet.
All The Gold Dresses
Edith wore so many gorgeous dresses in the final season of the show that it's impossible to choose among them. Season 6 costume designer Anna Mary Scott Robbins shifted the predominant colors of Edith's clothing to a springtime palette as her personal and professional life blossomed. She incorporated green and gold into her wardrobe, with the occasional splash of a brighter red or blue.
Edith was particularly fond of matching her dress to her hair, wearing gold on several important occasions— when she announced that she may be making a permanent move to London and when Bertie Pelham asked for her hand.
Wedding Dress #2
Lady Edith looked absolutely beautiful in her short sleeved wedding gown made from Brussels lace. The dress was an original garment merged with two other lace pieces, including one with a lighter weight that became an underskirt to add length as well as the sheer sleeves and delicate neckline. The overall effect was one of softness. This time, Edith wore her veil with a beaded headpiece instead of the family tiara.
When she and Bertie tied the knot in a fairytale wedding, she became the Marchioness of Hexham, married to someone she loved and outranking everyone in her family. Finally, she got her happy ending!
© 2019 Kaycee Go