Dressing Downton: Season 4, Episode 5

uktv-downton-abbey-series-four-episode-five-5For the upstairs folk, this episode was a fair bit about reconciliation and people coming together in general (except where Violet and Isobel were concerned, and we’ll get to that), a fact reflected rather beautifully in their clothes.

Downstairs, it was about class distinctions, both between servants and those in service industries and rich folk vs. poor (or working class, at least).


This was the episode where finally it seemed like Tom, Mary, and Robert were starting to get on the same page.

normal_DowntonAbbey-405_0082 normal_DowntonAbbey-405_0098Last week, in essentially this very same scene, Mary was made to stand out considerably–a dark column between the two men’s earthy tones. But here, she blends with them nicely. They don’t all match exactly, but they certainly complement each other, colour-wise, just as they might wind up complementing each other temperament-wise as they go about running the estate. Mary’s determination, Robert’s sense of what’s right, and Tom’s notions of fairness could all end up working well together, eventually.

Actually, the whole Crawley family’s working on unifying:

normal_DowntonAbbey-405_0449That is one seriously colour co-ordinated table. Mary and Isobel match, Cora and Violet’s blues go together, and even Rose’s red is picked up by Tom’s tie:

normal_DowntonAbbey-405_0469 We could argue that the family’s becoming more unified than ever just now. Even Isobel and Violet have been getting along (though that won’t last). Interesting that Mary and Isobel are dressed the most similarly, as their viewpoints, at this moment, are fairly opposite: Mary’s advocating for a tenant to get kicked off his land for non-payment of rent, no second chances, whereas Isobel’s going back to her do-gooder thing and trying to help a struggling family out. But then, these women are tied together by something more important and more permanent than worldviews.

Mary’s rather pretty outfit also ties her to someone else:

normal_DowntonAbbey-405_0592 normal_DowntonAbbey-405_0596Was I the only one who cheered when Evelyn Napier showed back up?

Again, they’re not exactly matching (which would have been super cheesy), but their colours are complementing each other. That warm plum she’s wearing picks up in his tie and his pocket square. These two had a rocky past–she basically tossed him over to pursue Kemal Pamouk, and we all remember how that turned out. Nice to see them both so happy to see each other here, considering. Also, like Gill before him, Napier matches his surroundings perfectly:

normal_DowntonAbbey-405_0633Another man who clearly belongs.

And speaking of Gill, Mary takes a moment to once again slip back into mourning black to write him a congratulatory note about his engagement:

normal_DowntonAbbey-405_0234Clearly not a happy woman at this point.

Speaking of unhappy women, Edith, who’s pretty distracted by Michael’s sudden radio silence, had a bit of a sartorial off week.

normal_DowntonAbbey-405_0249That may be the drabbest thing we’ve seen her in all season. Not only does the colour not do much for her, it’s seriously covering her up, more than anything else has in a while. Can’t blame her for this, though. When you’re distracted and thinking your life’s about to go to hell (again!), you’re not too concerned with dressing sexy. That’s for after the breakup.

Notably, she’s missing from the colour co-ordinated lunch scene, and in the whole episode she’s only really matched up with one other character:

normal_DowntonAbbey-405_0812Rose, the other family rebel.

As a side note, Edith’s really loving those headscarves this season, isn’t she?

The quick glimpse we got of Edith in London didn’t give us much, except for the fact that she’s wearing that ‘between-two-worlds’ dress again, as well as the coat and hat she wore in the first episode to go meet up with Michael in town:

normal_DowntonAbbey-405_0563Hard to say anything about this until we know more about what she was doing at the doctor’s office.

normal_DowntonAbbey-405_0564A lot of people think she’s pregnant. I assumed this has something to do with Michael’s wife. The initials after the doctor’s name give us nothing, other than his credentials. A Bachelor of Science degree, and he’s a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons. Feel free to make of that what you will.

Not everyone was getting along so well, however. Despite starting to seem rather chummy lately, Violet and Isobel found themselves at odds once again.

normal_DowntonAbbey-405_0256 normal_DowntonAbbey-405_0263Remember how matchy-matchy they were last episode? Not anymore! Their clothes are wildly different here. Violet’s are rich and heavy, the clothing of a person of great wealth. Isobel, by comparison, is very plainly dressed. You could almost imagine someone from the downstairs portion of the show wearing her outfit, it’s so sensible. This illustrates their different statuses, which Isobel referred to in one of her previous scenes. She claims the Crawleys make it clear she’s not ‘one of them’, and here we have it visually. She’s going to Violet, her social better, to ask a favour, and Violet, enthroned like a queen, has all the power to grant it or dismiss her.

Later, however, when they start arguing on slightly more equal ground, Isobel’s dressed a bit more fancily, though still not as elaborately as Violet:

normal_DowntonAbbey-405_0986 normal_DowntonAbbey-405_0992Two quick closing remarks:

normal_DowntonAbbey-405_0063Anyone else notice that Cora’s robe matches her breakfast china?

normal_DowntonAbbey-405_0307How adorable are Tom and Sybbie?!


In a rare moment, thanks to Alfred’s test, we got a chance to see the marked difference between those in traditional service, and professionals in the service industry.

normal_DowntonAbbey-405_0381 normal_DowntonAbbey-405_0569The Downton kitchen crew is in a mishmash of colours, with no real uniform to speak of. The more highly trained, professional chefs at the Ritz are in a blindingly white uniform in a blindingly white, very sterilised kitchen. The Downton crew looks a bit shabby, by comparison. But we get to see the world that Alfred aspires to. Although Jimmy (who doubtless thinks all kitchens are the same) scorns Alfred’s desire to be a professional chef, reaching this kind of level was a big deal (still is). Professional chefs demanded a lot of respect, because they were seen as highly skilled. Alfred’s not interested in cooking the lunches of some rich family way out in the countryside, he wants to be good enough to serve dinners to the crowned heads of Europe and the people closest to them on the social scale.

Outside the servant class, we also got to check in with the estate’s working classes, in the guise of Isobel’s protege, Young Peg, and Mr Drew, the tenant who wants to take over Yew Tree Farm. Let’s check out Peg first.

normal_DowntonAbbey-405_0154Even in Isobel’s fairly modest (by upper class standards) drawing room, this kid is waaay out of his element. Note the eager-to-please face and the way he’s nervously twisting his cap. Also notice that his clothes are ill fitting, a bit too big for him. Poorer people simply couldn’t afford lots of clothes, especially ‘dress up’ clothes like the ones he’d be expected to wear for a meeting with a member of the Crawley family. This outfit was clearly either inherited from a father or older brother, or the family scrambled to pull the clothes together from various other relatives’ wardrobes, to make sure he was presentable for the meeting.

As with other working-class characters, the clothes are made from very thick, durable materials in an earth tone, meant to last as long as possible.

normal_DowntonAbbey-405_0552Even when Peg’s working he’s pretty dressed up. Note the tie and the jacket on the man in the background. This is what these people were wearing to work in the garden. What do you garden in? Probably not a coat and tie. It’s hard to say if this is really accurate–people did tend to dress more formally at this time, though I find it hard to believe they’d be wearing ties and jackets to dig in the dirt, but it does certainly illustrate how far we’ve come (fallen?) sartorially since then.

The nervously twisted cap has been replaced by a shovel, but the kid’s clearly still terrified, and with good reason: he’s now facing both Isobel and Violet.

With Mr Drew, we get something slightly different, for a little while:

normal_DowntonAbbey-405_0192 normal_DowntonAbbey-405_0198Robert, ever the proper landlord, has made an appearance at a long-time tenants’ funeral wearing the elaborate mourning clothes dictated by the upper classes (silk top hat, proper black silk tie, black suit with a white-edged vest). It’s a bit of a relic from the Victorian era, though back then the mourning would be even more elaborate. This was the kind of outfit someone of Robert’s class could afford to keep around for events such as this (of course, he’s also recently had deaths in the family, so naturally he’d have mourning clothes).

Drew, being more of a working man, does not have the same dressy outfit as Robert. It’s a pretty safe bet that he had this black suit and hat on hand (a sensible choice of suit colour to own, then as now) and that’s naturally what he wore to his father’s funeral. It’s implied that he’s been away from Downton, making his own way in the world, so his clothes are actually slightly more fashionable than most of the other downstairs folk we’ve been seeing. The hat, with the pinched top and sides, was a young man’s look at this time (most of the other men on the show tend to wear either flat caps or bowlers, which were rather old fashioned at this point). It’s hard to tell much else about the suit itself, but he looks very well turned out, whereas Robert, like his mother, looks very old fashioned by comparison.

But Drew, like young Peg, needs something from the Crawley family, so all that changes quickly.

normal_DowntonAbbey-405_0409A young man, in a brown suit, out of his element, coming to the upper classes literally hat-in-hand to ask for a favour. It doesn’t matter what your age is, facing the wealthy on their own turf was absolutely terrifying to most people at this time, especially those raised on estates in the countryside on the belief that the landlords were inherently better than they were. Notice the similar cap-twisting action (and the fact that the fashionable hat’s been replaced by a cap), and the black armband, which indicates he’s still in mourning. He’s far more humble here than he was at the churchyard. Luckily, Robert’s a pretty easygoing landlord.

normal_DowntonAbbey-405_1015By this point, when Drew’s taken over the farm, there’s no doubt at all who the upper-class people are and who the working-class man is. Mary and Tom are both very well dressed, whereas Drew’s in clothing that makes more sense for the type of drudgery farming requires. His clothing is designed to keep him warm, not fashionable, and the barn coat can hopefully help protect the woolen garments underneath. No tie, open collar. He probably wasn’t expecting them, or he might have dressed up a bit more, to observe the social niceties. The point is: Drew’s got a new place in the world, and it’s a worker’s place, not a fashionable man-about-town’s place. He’s ready to take over this farm and make a success of it, and he definitely deserves some kudos for that.

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