Dressing Downton: Season 4, Episode 4

o-DOWNTON-ABBEY-570There weren’t quite so many striking looks this week, which was slightly quieter after the upheaval of last, but there were definitely a few things I noticed:

Characters developing ‘signature’ colours

Characters exhibiting their belonging through their clothes

Characters continuing to be tied together through their outfits

Upstairs

Tom had a bit of a rough week, poor guy, but it started off ok with a nice little exchange between him and that very sweet duchess:

normal_DowntonAbbey-404_0032 normal_DowntonAbbey-404_0033Note that in a scene where the two of them are making a connection over the mutual loss of their spouses, they’re wearing matching clothes. Also note the triumphant return of his favourite green tie. Makes sense, in an episode where it seems like he (eventually, with Hughes’s help) starts to get over his non-belonging and maybe gets his mojo back.

Just a quick note on Cora–what a fashionable granny she is!

normal_DowntonAbbey-404_0051She’s very buttoned up (it is day, after all, and early-to-mid spring, which isn’t a particularly balmy time of year in the north of England), but that’s a really lovely design, and the light fabric and drape of it are quite current to the early 20’s.

Mary, meanwhile, is pretty armoured up in the same scene, as she says goodbye to Gill and turns down his offer of a date yet again:

normal_DowntonAbbey-404_0057Beautiful dress, yes, but she’s wrapped up in thick, very dark velvet, with very little skin showing. Message: no entry permitted.

That same dress, however, allows her to really stand out in the next scene, with Branson and her father in the library:

normal_DowntonAbbey-404_0085Branson’s practically blending in with the bookshelves back there, and Robert’s fairly subdued green helpsĀ  him easily integrate with the browns, greens, and reds of his surroundings. But Mary, who’s starting to assert herself and getting businesslike, is definitely a focal point in that dark, no-nonsense dress and rather plain jewellry. All eyes on her: she’s got something to say.

Signature colours on the ladies at dinner:

normal_DowntonAbbey-404_0216 normal_DowntonAbbey-404_0226Rose in rose, Cora in blue, Mary in dark red with jet accents. Not that they always wear these colours, mind, but they do seem to be their go-tos in the evening. And they look great in those shades, too, though I think the brighter blues Cora had on last week suited her a bit better.

In London, though, Rose put aside her pinks in favour of a seafoam green:

normal_DowntonAbbey-404_0379 normal_DowntonAbbey-404_0401It’s another really lovely colour on her, and one we’ve seen before this season–on Edith, when she meets Michael for their fancy dinner. I tend to associate this colour with hope and new beginnings (it being a springtime colour). For more on that, check out my Borgias costume recaps. Considering this is what she’s wearing when she meets Jack for the first time (as an aside: Jack and Rose? She the society beauty, he the underclass artiste? Oy.), and lets the sparks fly. Presumably, we’ll be seeing more of him, despite her family’s disapproval. The colour of the dress also helps her stand out amongst the other members of her group, all of whom are wearing black or, in Mary’s case, fairly subdued grey. It makes her look fresh and youthful.

Speaking of fresh and youthful:

normal_DowntonAbbey-404_0844 normal_DowntonAbbey-404_0854Edith in the love colour. Note a couple of things here: she’s at Michael’s for dinner, but she’s not wearing gloves. Check out all the other pictures of the ladies in the evening. Even when they were dining just with their families, they wore above-the-elbow gloves. The lack of them here signifies a loosening of the formal Edwardian rules of dressing, and also allows Edith to show a bit more skin. Which makes sense in a scene where she finally goes ahead and has sex with Michael.

Love that simple head circlet, delicate long necklace and upper-arm cuff. She accessorises beautifully.

Later, to get her dressing down from Rosamond, something interesting happens–the two women match.

normal_DowntonAbbey-404_1029 normal_DowntonAbbey-404_1031 normal_DowntonAbbey-404_1038Edith’s worn that dress before, to have an at-home lunch with Michael. Remember that that was the scene she admitted it was getting harder and harder to say no to sex with him, so this dress seems a bit fitting, in a sense. This dress also seems to signify her walking in between the two worlds: the aristocratic one she was born into, and the moneyed bohemian one Michael inhabits. Remember that the colours in the dress previously linked her to Michael and his very modern home. Here, it’s doing the same thing, linking her very tightly to Rosamond, who’s wearing the exact same colours and even a slightly similar pattern (the red trimming along the front rather echoes the red front pieces on Edith’s dress) and to the room–the dark blue of Edith’s dress picks up on the wall behind her. Rosamond, the older, wealthier woman, wears a dress a little darker and sturdier than Edith’s, trimmed in gold, which bespeaks her wealth (along with the gold that’s all over the room).

Again, though, Edith is being presented in an ominously overpowering space. This relationship has some pretty overwhelming obstacles: social, legal, and familial. There’s also a significant gulf between the two women, as Rosamond makes it clear that she doesn’t approve of what Edith’s doing. The world that Rosamond was brought up in was wildly different in its expectations of women and their roles than the world the two inhabit now, and she doesn’t quite realise that yet.

On the opposite end of the spectrum from youthful:

normal_DowntonAbbey-404_0168The grannies. What a pair they make, though, right? It’s actually quite nice to see Violet (in violet, heh) and Isobel getting along so well these days. Their bickering could be fun, but it’s more realistic to find that over the past decade they’ve put most of their differences behind them and found some common ground. They’ll never be best friends, but they’re certainly pals now. They’re of different generations, as their clothes suggest: Violet’s still dressing like it’s 1900, whereas Isobel’s in a slightly more modern (but still old-fashioned, compared with other characters) look. The colours are calling out to each other in both their outfits, signifying their connection.

Clothes can indicate a connection to another person, as we’ve seen time and time again, as well as a connection to a place. This week, we got visual proof that Gill may belong more in Mary’s life than she might realise.

normal_DowntonAbbey-404_0648Like Tom earlier, his earthy brown suit fits perfectly into the walnut-panelled library. And once again, Mary, in her dark colour, stands out, though the prominent front-piece of her dress matches his suit rather nicely:

normal_DowntonAbbey-404_0647Even when Gill is out and about on the grounds he’s blending right in:

normal_DowntonAbbey-404_0942That’s some lovely harmony between him and his surroundings. He belongs in a place like Downton, probably more than Matthew ever did, simply by virtue of having been born and bred in a home just like it. He’s utterly at ease here. And, let’s be honest, he seems really good with Mary, right from the get-go.

Actually, in that above scene, they’re both at harmony with Downton’s surroundings:

normal_DowntonAbbey-404_0984He in the green reflects the lush grass (green, hopeful colour), while her mauve dress picks up in the darker trees in the background. He’s new life, a breath of fresh air, if you will, while she’s still clinging to what’s dead. But they are kissing and she later admits to Tom that she might have been wrong to let Gill go, so perhaps there’s hope for these two yet.

Downstairs

Everyone spent the episode in servant drag this week, so there’s not a whole lot to say, though we did get to meet our newest character:

normal_DowntonAbbey-404_0522Hi Jack! He’s a singer in a pretty swanky club, so he’s not going to go overboard with his clothes, but note that big white carnation in his buttonhole. A much showier accessory than we ever see the other men wearing (actually, I don’t know that we’ve ever seen the other men wear a buttonhole, though they were socially approved at the time).

Note, too, that Jack is wearing white tie while the other gentlemen are wearing black tie and dinner jackets. This is indicative of a major shift in evening wear for men, which Violet alludes to frequently throughout the series (and, indeed, in this very episode). Back in the pre-war days, gentlemen wore white tie and evening coats to dinner and any post-dinner entertainment. Servants like the butler and footmen would therefore wear black tie with their similar jackets, so no guest would accidentally mistake a footman for a fellow diner and embarrass himself by actually addressing the help like an equal. With the post-war loosening of fashion rules for both sexes, black tie became more common for informal dining and all but the most top-tier entertainments (white tie would still be work for formal dinners, balls, and trips to the opera). With that shift, the male staff and others further down the social ladder (like singers and other entertainers) started wearing white tie, to set themselves apart.

Over with the more sinister characters, looks like we’ve (hopefully, finally) seen the back of Edna. She only wore her maid’s uniform this episode, so there’s nothing to be said about her clothes, but she was given an especially sinister look this week by almost always being shot in shadow:

normal_DowntonAbbey-404_0111 normal_DowntonAbbey-404_0133 normal_DowntonAbbey-404_0708So long, Edna! You will not be missed!

2 thoughts on “Dressing Downton: Season 4, Episode 4

Leave a Reply