Charting Downton Abbey Style: The Servants

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To commemorate the end of Downton Abbey, we’re looking at how fashions changed over the course of the series, at least on the major female characters (sorry, boys!). Don’t miss the rest of our Downton Abbey coverage, including podcasts of the final season.

OK, the servants may seem like the least-exciting costumes ever, but we’re going to look some of the key downstairs women who get a bit of attention from the costume designers.

 

Character: Mrs. Elsie Hughes (Carson)

Mrs. Hughes, Downton Abbey

Clothing Style: Takin’ care of business
Dominant Colors: Black, black, and more black — with a tiny bit of secret spice!
Details: As the head of housekeeping, Mrs. Hughes is the #1 woman downstairs (and let’s face it, Mr. Carson only thinks he’s the boss of her). From day one until the final episode, she wears basic black or dark navy gowns as her workaday outfit. These follow the lines of the times and often have little bits of trim, whether lace, embroidery, or pleating, to show that she has status and probably makes a few more pennies than the rest of the staff. Mrs. Hughes doesn’t get that many off-duty storylines, but the few times we see her out of “uniform,” she shows off some touches of color and print. That, along with her sly wit, hint at a wild side hidden under there somewhere.

Mrs. Hughes, Downton Abbey

It’s a lot of look, but this is the kind of thing Elsie’s hiding under her dark off-duty duds.

Mrs. Hughes, Downton Abbey

Just a glimpse of patterned blouse peeking through.

Mrs. Hughes, Downton Abbey

Serious business, always with that chatelaine at her waist.

Mrs. Hughes, Downton Abbey

Mrs. Hughes knows how to relax — she was the first one out into the water during season 4’s seaside afternoon, & she dragged Mr. Carson with her, the old booby.

Mrs. Hughes, Downton Abbey

Series 6, and she has yet another black dress, just updated (a little) for 1925.

Mrs. Hughes, Downton Abbey

The fanciest thing she’ll ever own! Elsie & Charlie on their wedding day in the final season.

 

Character: Anna Bates

Anna Bates, Downton Abbey

Clothing Style: Unrelenting sadness
Dominant Colors: Grey and black uniforms and even in her off-duty clothes
Details: Oh Anna, nothing ever goes right for you! And your clothes make that abundantly clear. Sure, she spends the first few seasons in strict black or grey chambermaid uniforms, until she gets a full-time upgrade to being Mary’s lady’s maid. Oh yay, then she gets to wear … all black. *sad trombone* Even in her off-hours, Anna mostly wears greys, blues, and dull colors. Hell, even when she’s wearing a pretty dress, she makes it look sad.

Anna Bates, Downton Abbey

Lively print, snappy 1910s tailoring, but sadface.

Anna Bates, Downton Abbey

It’s the Bates’ wedding day — try to muster a smile, folks.

Anna Bates, Downton Abbey

Does she listen to Morrissey while polishing Lady Mary’s shoes?

Anna Bates, Downton Abbey

Woo-hoo, date night for the Bates’.

Anna Bates, Downton Abbey

Did Anna go to the seaside to drown herself? Pity, because she looks great in green with that yellow embroidery.

Anna Bates, Downton Abbey

Beautiful detail on her workday dresses in season 5 & 6, but so stern.

Anna Bates, Downton Abbey

Cheerful at the races in the final season, right before a death. She also wore this outfit when she was in a murder line-up. Hmm…

 

Character: Daisy (Robinson) Mason

Daisy Mason, Downton Abbey

Clothing Style: Mousy then yay, somebody noticed me!
Dominant Colors: Peach, orange, coral, faun, lilac
Details: The scullery maid turned assistant cook grows from total background character to developing her own storyline and lovely period wardrobe to match. The seeds were there from the beginning, at least with her colors and a tendency towards plaid. As a working-class girl, she wears practical clothes, but she’s also quite young so Daisy is drawn to a bit of flair as well with pleating and smart collars.

Daisy Mason, Downton Abbey

Muffin caps during the war years.

Daisy Mason, Downton Abbey

Even with her work uniform, her apron gets a cute orange print.

Daisy Mason, Downton Abbey

Such a great orange & green windowpane plaid dress in season 2.

Daisy Mason, Downton Abbey

All dolled up for her wedding to William Mason during the war.

Daisy Mason, Downton Abbey

Another soft hat when she visits Mr. Mason’s farm, plus another sweet plaid.

Daisy Mason, Downton Abbey

This seaside frock in season 4 is absolutely divine.

Daisy Mason, Downton Abbey

Her season 6 uniform gets more formal

Daisy Mason, Downton Abbey

And she greets the final season with some smart plaids.

 

 

 

Their costumes aren’t flashy, but have you noticed the servants’ style on Downton Abbey?

13 Responses

  1. Susan Pola

    I definitely have. What I liked immensely was that the costumers put each of them including Mrs Patmore into clothes that showed their character and developing character.
    I believe that this is shown most clearly in Daisy and Anna. With Daisy you can believe that she bought fashionable clothes in her price range and she kept them clean and in good care. With Anna it shows a beautiful woman who was abused as a young girl by her stepfather and is trying not to be beautiful. Anna would be able to receive from Mary her older clothes bc she was her lady’s maid.

    Reply
  2. Kendra

    Morrissey – HA! And I loved how detailed they managed to make all the black uniform dresses. Those differently angled stripes & buttons on Mrs. Hughes — dude, I want that as a day dress!

    Reply
    • Trystan L. Bass

      It was hard to not put every one of Mrs. Hughes’ black dresses in one article — they kind of look the same, but they don’t! Teeny little details make them unique & so cool, esp. the first couple seasons. Also, I need a chatelaine now like whoa.

      Reply
  3. Donna

    Wonderful post. Can you do one on the “day” clothes. And also the shoes. Love the shoes

    Reply
  4. Emily Barry

    I loved Anna’s pleated and buttoned linen coat that she wore to the flower show in Season One!

    Reply

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