We’re more than halfway through the series at this point, so things are finally beginning to come to a head. Charles Blake is proving to be a douchebag (though I get the feeling that wasn’t Fellowes’s intention), the thing between Cora and Bricker got out of hand, Rose is in love again, and Edith is getting screwed. Again.
Rosamond’s back in town! Yay! She’s usually pretty cool, and as a wealthy widow living in London, she’s also pretty fashionable.
Here’s what I noticed. In that first picture, Rosamond and Edith are presenting a fairly united colour front. Their coats match each other almost perfectly (though in reverse–the dominant colour in Edith’s coat is the trim on Rosamond’s and vice-versa. We’ll get to that.) They also both match little Marigold’s outfit (take my word for it, I couldn’t get a good screenshot of her). These three are united. The person who definitely doesn’t match or belong in that particular scene is Mrs Drewe:
I noted last week that red was showing up on a number of characters, and this week Rosamond joined them. But with her, it wasn’t just red that showed up in her scenes, it was a red/black combo:
That’s also a colour combination that Mary favours. It’s the colours of the Crawley family crest. Mary wore black and red during the scenes in the Christmas special when she was trying to steal back that letter to protect her family. Similarly, Rosamond, in this episode, is trying to protect her family’s good name, though she’s planning to go about it in the worst possible way. Her black evening dresses also set her in opposition to Edith, who wears white a few times this episode.
The inverted coat colours could be seen to do the same thing. She and Edith are pulling in opposite directions. The black also makes Rosamond seem a bit ominous, the same way it did for Lady Anstruther.
For some reason, Edith always seems to wear these two dresses when she’s depressed. Which is a shame, because they’re beautiful. They’re also nice examples of the sort of heavy beadwork that was popular at the time. The dress she wears in that library scene also serves to make her look a little childlike.
Women’s fashion in the 1920s was, creepily, all about making them look as childlike as possible. The straight lines were designed to hide their curves and give them boyish, pre-pubescent figures. The cut of the dress, as well as the colour (which typically connotes innocence) is making Edith seem quite young here. A little girl being told by her elders what she has to do.
Another colour Edith’s been wearing a fair bit of lately is purple.
Two other characters wear purple fairly frequently: Mary and Violet. So, what can we make of that? Well, all three characters are widows, of a sort (we all know Michael’s dead, right?), and purple is a common mourning colour. Also, all three women have sexual indiscretions in their past (it’s been implied that Violet’s relationship with Kuragin went a little beyond the flirtation stage). Violet’s kind of a link between the two sisters in that she’s the only one who knows both of their worst secrets: Mary’s affairs with Gil and Pamouk, and Edith’s secret baby.
I noticed this episode that Edith has been getting rather adventurous with patterns, moreso than the other women in her family (even Rose):
That’s super modern of her–those wilder patterns were becoming very popular in the mid-20’s, especially amongst the artsy types (the surrealist movement in art was starting to leak into fashion). It’s nice to see she hasn’t totally lost her fashion mojo. The wild patterns also somewhat reflect her confused and disordered state of mind this episode.
On the subject of modern looks, the ladies were going nuts with the headbands and hair accessories this episode, weren’t they?
Headbands were very popular at this time–the cloche hat of eveningwear. And speaking of cloches, that beaded one that Rose wears is pretty unusual, and very cool. I don’t think we’ve seen that on her before, have we?
Hey, Mary’s wearing one of the dresses from last week’s fashion show! I was hoping we’d see that one again. Also, her look in that scene is really similar to Mabel’s, isn’t it? That certainly wasn’t the case when they actually met for dinner.
Once again, Mabel looks like a fabulous, sophisticated city girl and Mary…does not. Mary’s outfit here is truly awful. The fit is unflattering (looks a bit like maternity wear), the seam across the chest is awkward, those…what the hell are those, flowers on her shoulder?–look like strange growths. The dress looks cheap. I’m sure it wasn’t, but it looks like something that a country dressmaker would make, while Mabel looks like she stepped off a runway (her dress is even better from the waist down–sorry I couldn’t get a picture of it.) I like to think that Mary took one look at Mabel and decided to step it up the next time she dressed up.
On the subject of people stepping it up, Isobel seems to be dressing a bit more richly lately.
She favours black velvet evening gowns nowadays, and with Merton she often wears that deep wine red (see also the time she had tea at his beautiful house). The deep red ties her to him: it colour compliments his suit, and his red tie picks up the colour. They’re a matched pair. In this scene, Clarkson and Violet, who are trying (well, Violet is, anyway) to break these two up, are also a matched pair in shades of blue:
That royal-blue velvet is really gorgeous on Violet, isn’t it?
By the way, Violet, in the middle of a lot of conflicts this episode, wears blue almost exclusively.
Rose, meanwhile, has a possible romance in her life, so she wears love-pink (also one of her signature colours) quite a bit. She also has blooming roses on her blouse in the scene with Atticus and the Russians.
That’s kinda cute. When they first meet, she’s wearing a really beautiful coat reminiscent of the one Cora wore to the National Gallery with Bricker.
As in Cora’s case, this coat is eye-catching. It also ties Rose to someone else having a romance at Downton (though in Cora’s case it doesn’t turn out all that well).
Cora turns up in love-pink as well, in the scene where Bricker shows up in her bedroom.
That robe/drape is unusual. She usually wears that really buttoned up blue and white robe. This is beautiful, feminine, and romantic. Perfect.
Bricker’s nightwear is nicely tied into hers:
Robert’s robe is solid and brown. Bricker’s is silk, with a floral pattern that apes that on Cora’s robe and gives him a more sensitive air. This is a man more in touch with his feminine side. Robert, on the other hand, is all manly man in his dress uniform and medals, a disquieting figure in bright, bright red.
And yet he acts like a complete child.
Now that her husband thinks she’s some kind of a harlot, Cora overcompensates at the cocktail party by putting on perhaps the most unflattering dress she has in her wardrobe.
That is an ugly, ugly, ugly, ugly dress. That fabric at the sleeves and awkwardly peeking out of the neckline looks cheap, the colour is unflattering, and the draping around the midsection is terrible. Cora, don’t frump yourself up for your hypocritical husband’s sake.
We may (fingers crossed!) finally be shot of the horrible Sarah, though I doubt it, because apparently she and Tom are in lurve. Fine, we’ll go with it. The costuming apparently agrees. When she comes to Downton to tell Daisy she’s leaving, Sarah’s wearing mostly conflict blue, but with a green blouse underneath, just peeking out a little bit, which calls to mind the green tie Tom used to wear a lot last season (whatever happened to that tie? I don’t recall having seen it once this year).
When Sarah finally goes, she’s appropriately attired in her usual blue accented with the red that’s been so prevalent. The colour that’s been associated with characters who don’t seem to have found their place.
They’re making one last connection here: the red and blue of her outfit are mirrored in the red and blue in his tie.
A quick word about Clarkson before we go. Has anyone else noticed that he’s the only non-servant male character who exclusively wears a bow tie with his day wear?
I’ve tended to think this was a way of setting him apart from all the other men on the show. He’s not one of the aristocrats, and he’s not a working-class man. He’s hovering in the middle, and in Downton that kind of means he’s in a class of his own. It may mean that, but on a recent episode of Masters of Sex, Dr Masters mentioned he wears a bow tie because it doesn’t get in the way when he’s doing exams. I wonder if that’s why Clarkson wears one too. It makes total sense, right?