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.
For this post, we’re going to look at the three Crawley sisters plus their cousin Rose, since they’re closest in age, and it’s interesting to see how the designers used costume to make distinctions between these characters.
Character: Lady Mary Crawley (Talbot)
Clothing Style: Tailored (day) and severely chic.
Dominant Colors: Black, grey, reds, whites.
Details: Mary is strong and sharp, and her clothing reflects it. She loves tailored looks, from menswear-inspired suits and coats to relatively severe blouses and skirts. She goes through mourning multiple times during the series, but that’s okay because she loves black and grey anyway. For evening, she Brings It with tons of glamorous sparkle, but she’s almost always in clean lines and geometrics.
Character: Lady Edith Crawley (Lady Edith Pelham, Marchioness of Hexham)
Clothing Style: Floundering at firsts, then daring glamour and career-woman chic.
Dominant Colors: Oranges, greens, gold, and blues.
Details: Edith spends the first few seasons unsure of herself and where she fits in her family and the world, and this is reflected in her wardrobe: she veers between Mary’s tailored looks and Sybil’s soft romantic style. When she starts writing for a London magazine and falls in love with the editor, she finally settles into herself and her wardrobe. First she finds her glamorous side, then as she settles into her career, she adopts a businesslike — yet still very feminine — air.
Character: Lady Sybil Crawley (Branson)
Clothing Style: Playful, soft, younger sister vibe
Dominant Colors: Muted blues, purples, and greens
Details: Looking back, Sybil was such a background character, it’s a wonder everyone didn’t predict she was going to be killed off. Her wardrobe was so muted — except for the notorious Poiret harem pants — and her style was so soft and sweet, that it’s like she was destined to die nobly in childbirth. Her clothes don’t show a huge evolution, since she’s mostly seen from 1914 to 1919 and just a little bit in 1920. Still, she does get the “young” styles, at least until Rose comes along.
Character: Lady Rose MacClare (Aldridge)
Clothing Style: Sporty, youthful, and fun — a classy flapper
Dominant Colors: Pastels, prints, and occasional brights
Details: Rose is the youngest woman of wealth we see in the show, entering in 1921, and this must have made the costume designers giddy with all the opportunities to try out trendy 1920s fashions on her. She starts out with wild curly hair, she wears ruffles, she’s in lots of prints (both florals and plaids), and her style is flapper wild-child to go with the antics of her storyline. Not until the end of season four, when she meets Atticus Aldridge, does her style (and personality) begin to settle down. Then bam she’s married and off the show and on to every other historical costume drama in the world.
What do you think about the Downton Abbey sisters’ style evolution? Do you have a favorite Crawley sister?
Thank you. Did you know that Worth did a harem pants fancy dress way back in the 1870s? It kinda reminds us of Lady Sybil’s.
And Lady Rose wore pink puff hair thingy at dinner first night, she was in something else pink for Lady Edith’s wedding.
I loved all the costumes each younger Crawley/MacClare wore.
Rose was indeed a debutante in the truest sense, she’s wearing more specifically a Court Presentation version of a Lavin’s robe de style, with train and ostrich feathers. I never much liked this style, but it certainly was cutting edge for it’s time.
That first picture of Lady Mary is so wonderful… I never liked her character, but she went from spectacular to dowdy over the years…
I read that Lady Rose’s wedding dress was an original, but never worn. I wonder what the story is behind that. It’s such an amazing gown.