Dressing Downton: 2014 Christmas Special

Downtonc-57Pack up your tweeds and teagowns, the gang’s off to a grouse shoot!

Despite the fact that it revolved around a sport, a shooting weekend, even in the post-war era, was not an informal event. There was an intricate set of rules to be followed, meals were hugely elaborate, and clothes had to be chosen carefully and worn at just the right time. Breakfast and tea called for different outfits, tweeds were worn on the drive (which women only joined after lunch), and gowns, jewels, and tiaras were de rigueur for dinner. So we can expect lots and lots of loveliness.


Just a quick thing to get out of the way: I believe I’ve mentioned this before (and if not, well, here it is)–Edith and Cora tend to be costumed quite similarly a lot of the time, and this episode is no exception.

Downtonc-7 Downtonc-8 Downtonc-43 Downtonc-46They’re not exactly matching, of course, but the idea is the same: lace-trimmed hats and blue coats with light-coloured blouses underneath at the start. Lace nightgowns and dressing gowns with identical colour schemes. These two are tied together both through motherhood (one could argue that Edith’s the more maternal of the younger generation, and Cora, when she can pull herself together and stop being an idiot, is a total mama bear) and through their shared knowledge of Edith’s big secret.

(Side note: Mary gets the prettiest overall costumes, but Cora gets the loveliest robes. But while her robe, with its floral pattern, enhances her femininity, Edith’s far more stylish print not only reflects her chaotic state of mind, it also points to her modernity.)

Let’s stay with Edith for a second. A lot of people make a big deal about how modern Mary is, taking a hand in running the estate and all that, and how she represents a new kind of woman. Fair enough. But honestly, I think if we’re going to see a truly modern woman of the post-war era, it’s going to be Edith. Hell, it already has been Edith. She’s had an affair with a married man, birthed a child out of wedlock, and is now running her own business. A publishing business, no less, and publishing was (in many cases, still is) quite the boys’ club in the 1920s. She’s a single mother career woman. That’s pretty damn modern.

I’m hoping Fellowes eases up on this character and lets her get some happiness and success at last in the upcoming season, and I actually have some faith that it’ll happen because of some things that we saw in the costumes this episode. Though she starts off fairly low-key for the trip out to Brancaster, it doesn’t take long before Edith becomes fairly noticeable. Look at how much she contrasts with the others in the party in this shot:

Downtonc-48 She’s like an exclamation point, surrounded by everyone else in beige tones. Could it be that she’s starting to be drawn out because she’s going to get another love interest and a storyline that’s actually interesting?

Downtonc-58 Downtonc-60God, I hope so. Poor girl shouldn’t have to strike out a third time. Notice she’s wearing green (as is he), which has been a fairly happy colour for her in the past, often signalling new beginnings. She wears it again a little later on:

Downtonc-80 Downtonc-82There are a couple of things to note with that outfit. One, it’s decorated with flowers (roses, specifically), which we’ve seen in the past on characters in love (see also: Rose). Two, she’s trotted out that neat arm-bracelet again. I don’t recall having seen that since the episode where she slept with Michael. Hmmm.

Actually, there’s no mystery here. She’s into the guy. She dances with him, she enjoys the shoot with him, and after said shoot, she wears this:

Downtonc-71 Downtonc-74That, my dear friends, is a dress to get noticed in. It’s a bright, eye-catching colour and it’s kicky and fun. Note the giant flower she has in her hair, an accessory we saw on Rose a few times, in particular the night Atticus proposed.

She keeps the fashion game up for the rest of the episode, even after she goes home.

Downtonc-86 Downtonc-89 Downtonc-98 Downtonc-112 Downtonc-114Love the scarf detail in the top outfit. The ‘oriental’ scene beaded onto the second dress is another example of the ‘exotic’ influences that were being felt in fashion at the time. But the real story is that Christmas dress. Hot damn, Lady Edith! The other ladies, in their demure white, look almost puritanical by comparison. That dress is gorgeous, the draping a style that’ll be seen throughout the 1930s (perhaps another indication of Edith’s modernity). The rich bronze colour is fab and, as a bonus, compliments little Marigold’s dress beautifully. Well done, Edith. I knew you still had it in you.

Also looking beautiful this episode: Mary. She gets the best dresses, doesn’t she? Lucky girl. I mean, what I wouldn’t give for this coat, which she wears to visit someone in prison.

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How’s that for contrast?

She’s also got fabulous tweeds.

Downtonc-18 Downtonc-25And some pretty daywear.

Downtonc-15 Downtonc-50 Downtonc-72 Downtonc-84 Downtonc-85It’s all quite pretty, quite fashionable, but not terribly remarkable (though that black and white dress is pretty neat looking). She’s not making a huge statement this episode, just looking really nice. The elaborate beadwork on her Christmas dress is really beautiful, though.

Downtonc-99But what’s up with that face? All Edith did was reach out and take her sister’s hand while they remembered dear Sybil, and Mary pulls a ‘how dare you touch me’ puss? Ease up for a sec, Mary!

Notice the floral embroidery on that top blouse. Actually, flowers showed up on her outfits quite a bit this episode. Remember she, too, seems to have met a potential love interest in this episode.

She has also, apparently, found a new favourite accessory: the forehead headband.

Downtonc-33 Downtonc-79This was something of a trend with the ladies. It later showed up on Edith and Rose.

Speaking of Rose–she’s in love, newly returned from her honeymoon, and therefore spends nearly the entire episode in her signature rose/love pink and/or florals:

Downtonc-15 Downtonc-26 Downtonc-40 Downtonc-49 Downtonc-69 Downtonc-75I’m happy for Rose. I really am. I like her and Atticus together, they have great chemistry. I’m sorry they’re not going to be part of the show going forward. I wound up liking Rose as a character a lot more than I thought I would. She’s matured significantly since she was introduced and was actually kind of an adorable person. And she wore even ridiculous things beautifully.

And now for the older generation.

Lady Sinderby’s quite a bit like Cora in that she dresses quite fashionably, but not like a 20-year old. Both ladies look great, and they tend to match their surroundings and their men.

Downtonc-11 Downtonc-12Lady S is wearing a very Rose-like floral here, drawing a line between the two women, who have always gotten along very well. The colours of her dress also pick up in the sofa she’s lying on and in Lord Sinderby’s outfit. Lord S, though dressed in a perfectly respectable ‘gentleman in the countryside’ uniform, has a few things in his clothes that set him apart from the other men. His red waistcoat and the plaid tie are quite eye-catching, even a teensy bit loud when compared to the more subdued colours that Tom and Robert wear. He wears a similar tie when out shooting, whereas the others go plain.

Downtonc-18Downtonc-20 Downtonc-22

There’s a lot of talk about Sinderby’s ‘new to the aristocracy’ status. He’s trying to fit in, but he’s not 100% there yet.

Kinda cute that the Downtonians present a fairly united front through their shooting clothes. Mary’s tie matches Tom’s and Robert’s, and Cora’s outfit colour-compliments her husband’s.

Downtonc-64And since we’re looking at shooting tweeds, let’s check in with Talbot.

Downtonc-59Can’t say I’d mind standing behind him for a few hours. Note that his tie also matches the others’. Also, his shooting clothes are slightly different. His jacket is more fitted and looks a bit more flattering and fashionable. He’s also wearing a flat cap instead of the felt hats the other men are wearing. He’s being made to stand out and wearing young man’s clothes.

Meanwhile, back home, things get awkward for both Violet and Isobel. Princess Kuragin is back in town, and Merton’s still trying to convince Isobel to forget his asshole sons and just be happy with him already.

First, the princess. It was a teensy bit sad watching Violet try so hard to make this woman comfortable and happy, only to be rejected. It got a little sadder (to me at least) once we got the full background. She was really trying to make up for past sins and the Princess just wasn’t having it. It’s impossible to say whether Princess K was always like this (which might be why her husband wanted to leave) or if all the things that happened to her have made her bitter, but man, she was a piece of work, wasn’t she? No wonder the prince wasn’t exactly trying hard to track her down. Oh, and speaking of the prince…

Downtonc-29Yes, I can’t imagine why Violet might have once considered running away with this guy. He does clean up nicely, doesn’t he? For this nightmare reunion, Violet falls back on her signature/power colour: violet:

Downtonc-31The princess, on the other hand, is a rather bleak figure in black and grey:

Downtonc-34 Downtonc-35Is that one of Violet’s gowns? I’m not actually sure. It looks exactly like something she’d wear, though, even if it isn’t. Like her wardrobe, this is pure Edwardian, from the shape to the high neckline to the lace overlay.

Violet and the Kuragins are the main players in these scenes; Isobel and Merton are pretty much costumed to fade into the background. Note, however, that in a scene where both Violet and Isobel have moments with their lovers, both women are wearing dresses with rosemotifs. Violet’s are, appropriately, conflict blue.

Downtonc-41 Downtonc-42

She also wears blue at Christmas, when she spills the whole story about her history with Kuragin:


Isobel gets her own blue moments when she’s trying to decide whether to marry Merton after all.

Downtonc-52 Downtonc-54 Downtonc-62 Downtonc-63She really matches her own sitting room in that top photo, doesn’t she?

Once her mind’s made up and she (finally) tells Merton about that horrible letter from Larry, we get a sad repeat of a dress we’ve seen a few times before, always in happy scenes with him.

Downtonc-94I believe she first wore that to tea at his place, which was the real beginning of the romantic side of this relationship. So it’s fitting that she’s wearing it at the definitive end as well. Sad, though. Honestly, this whole plotline made me sad and slightly annoyed, because all of her protests that she doesn’t want to come between Merton and his sons are pointless. She already has. Merton is going to resent the hell out of Larry for scuttling this relationship, perhaps the last chance he’ll have in his life to be truly happy in a marriage. She didn’t do it intentionally, of course, and I can understand that she doesn’t want to be a persistent issue between father and sons, but still. I wish Merton had had the balls to just tell his sons to f-off, grabbed Isobel, and gone to live in France or something where she could found a hospital to treat ex-soldiers’ PTSD and be happy. Oh, if only.

Bonus: Cute Downton children (DownTots?)!

Downtonc-9 Downtonc-90 Downtonc-91 Downtonc-110 Downtonc-111

Is little Sybbie’s face not the very essence of adorable childish Christmas joy? I’m gonna miss that kid.


While Violet’s spilling her guts to Isobel upstairs, Hughes is spilling hers to Carson downstairs, revealing a somewhat random sister we had no notion she ever had, but whom she’s been supporting her entire life. Which puts her wardrobe in a whole new light. See, I had thought that she dressed the way she did, in dowdy, unfashionable clothes, because she just really didn’t care about fashion even the teensiest bit. And yes, that might still be true. But now there’s also the possibility that she dressed that way because she just couldn’t afford to do any better.

Downtonc-28Let’s face it, that outfit is bad. That hat is sad as hell and looks like part of Eliza Doolittle’s costume from a high school production of My Fair Lady. She’s also wearing blue. Even Patmore dresses better than this, but, as we know, she doesn’t have expensive family members to support.

Also dressing better: Daisy. It’s actually really nice to see her in pretty things and to know that at some point when she went to London, she looked around, realised she was a nice-looking young girl and decided to get some fashionable clothes at last. Her clothes aren’t anywhere near what’s worn upstairs, of course–those ladies wear couture, whereas Daisy almost certainly bought off-the-rack at a department store, but at least they seem somewhat 1920s, which her previous outfits did not.

Downtonc-38 Downtonc-61That scarf-at-the-neck detail on the pink dress was very popular at the time (see Edith’s dress up top), and the popularity of the trenchcoat for women was part of the trend to feminise menswear. Both look good on her, though, again, it’s obvious they haven’t actually been fitted to her body. The trenchcoat’s sleeves, for instance, are clearly far too long, and the dress looks a tiny bit too big.

Over at Brancaster, the shooting party gets an unexpected additional guest. Two of them, in fact.

Downtonc-67 Downtonc-68 Downtonc-69 Downtonc-73That poor, poor woman. You could tell as soon as she walked into the room that she just wanted to vanish. What a horrible trap, and what an absolute piece of shit Thomas is for doing this to her. Thank God for Rose, saving the day with some admirably quick thinking.

Both the woman and the little boy are clearly pretty dressed up, probably wearing their best (note how incredibly slicked down that kid’s hair is). Even so, they clearly don’t fit in. It takes pretty much everyone in the room (except Lady S, who’s either really unobservant or completely in denial) about a second and a half to realise these two should not be coming in the front door, if you know what I’m saying. The woman’s clothes speak volumes. Like Daisy’s, the dress is not particularly well fitted, and the hem isn’t even hanging straight. The handbag, which she holds up like a shield, doesn’t match. Her dress is pretty, but not terribly fashionable. The other ladies are wearing things that are very of the moment, whereas she’s wearing something meant to last her a few years. Like Rose, she’s wearing a floral. Unlike Rose, it’s blue. Diana’s bringing conflict, Rose is trying to prevent it.

Two quick things to end this roundup.

Spratt in civvies, but completely incapable of unwinding, even for a second.

Downtonc-102I really hope Violet’s put a stop to this nonsense now, because this belowstairs battling has gotten stupid and tiresome. Actually, it started off that way. Time for it to end.

Prisonwear, circa 1924:

Downtonc-4Oh, poor Anna. Let’s hope this is another stupid subplot that dies in the upcoming season.

That’s it for Dressing Downton. Thanks to everyone who read and followed these posts; they’ll be back in the fall!

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