Dress Like an Heiress from Downton Abbey


Fall 1916, Spring 1917 with the denizens of Downton Abbey: War, relationships, the clothes! I was fascinated to discover the ease with which any of us might deck ourselves from stem to stern in reproductions of Victorian/Edwardian apparel. All of the sites referred to here have a great deal more specific and elaborate ensembles should your inner Countess Cora or Lady Mary need airing. There are tea gowns, hats, parasols, even bloomers! I’ve chosen pieces which you might combine with more modern separates to achieve a whisper of more feminine times. (For more information or to purchase, click on the item name in red).

White Blouses

Left to Right:

Leg-o-mutton Sleeve Blouse- front and back- A classic in its time, this crisp blouse will add an aura of tradition and pristine femininity to any longer skirt, suit or pants. For house parties in the British countryside. Eight pleats on front waistline to create princess lined period silhouette. Stand up collar, back button closure. Machine washable. Cotton/Polyester Twill. $98.00

Venise Lace Blouse- Softer than the first offering, just the piece for the exasperating Lady Sybil on one of her campaigns. Proper and ladylike, but not posh. Ivory. Soft, crushed satin with lace in the front and attached with pin-tuck detailing to the cuffs. $46.00

Daydream Silk Blouse- This one suits Lady Mary. A bit more decisive in style, but still in form. Delicate design with crystal buttons and insert lace beside ruched bands of chiffon. Silk blend. $79.95

The Fichu Blouse-Vivienne Westwood for Anglomania- A more modern interpretation of the period fit and neckline. Lovely oversized collar can be drawn up to create a hood for the sudden arrival of convertibles with running boards; front button fastenings, single button cuffs. 97% Cotton/3% Elastane. On sale $175.53

Colored Blouses

Left to Right:

Cotton Blouse with Vertical Pleating- Anna might wear this on her day off, especially if Bates were available. ¾ Sleeves, button back, turn back collar. 100% cotton. Hand or machine wash. Flattering cornflower blue. (comes in lots of other colors) $79.95

Cora Blouse- It even has her name! Detailed unselfconsciousness. Black patterned jacquard. Scoop neckline -separate black lace high collared chemisette, generous poufed sleeves with undersleeve of satin and lace. Front button fastening and hemline dip into vest style. Acetate with Cotton Lace. $139.00

Chiffon Sequin Bodice- This might be worn by Lady Rosamund should the occasion arise. Draped and smocked sequined chiffon fabric featuring lace front and back yokes, scalloped lace high neck collar, Black satin underlining. Bishop sleeve and gathered cuffs. Beaded antique appliqué on front bodice. Back yoke button closure. $120.00

Sienna Lace Blouse- Perfect under a cropped jacket with or without one of those marvelous thick waist-defining belts. Victorian inspired bodice of stretch lace embellished with satin ribbon lacing and embroidery. Definitely fitted. On sale $39.95

Modern Takes with the Right Attitude-Vivienne Westwood for Anglomania

Left to Right:

The Marghi Blouse- Add a black skirt (or pants) and long gloves (yes, really) to turn heads. A Lady Mary in defiance piece? The time will come. Deep Neck Cowl with draped front and flared back hem. Figure flattering shape. Zipper at back. 100% Cotton. On sale $241.08

The Poppy Blouse- Lady Rosamund feeling flirty? Do you think she does-ever? Patrician but a bit adventurous. Bold black stripes on navy ground engineered to flatter the figure. Deep neckline, front button fastenings. Corset-like shape with tight silhouette. Pointed hemline. Gathered short sleeves. Cotton/Polyamide/Elastane. On sale $189.53

Tartan Jacket –Nipped in waist and flare creates that hourglass silhouette we’re all after. Picture this in town with a calf length skirt-well, maybe not calf-length these days- and high-necked blouse. Three button front closure, oversized lapels, flared side panels and pleated shoulders. On sale $355.57.  (Available in green $680)


Left to Right:

Velvet Jacket- Looks like The French Lieutenant’s Woman, doesn’t it? Probably worn by Gwen for dress-up. Deep blue. Close Fitting, V-neck closing, brass-like buttons. Slight puff at the shoulders. Nipped waist. Velvet cuff trimmed with button. $169.99

Monet’s Garden Jacket- The Countess, definitely, out to look at her garden with button boots and a basket should she care to take things into her own hands. Ok, it’s a little arty for her, but amusing n’est-ce pas? Hand-turned Silk blossoms appliquéd on lustrous pale pink dupioni silk. A sheer layer of black illusion tulle peeks out from collar and cuff. Ornamental silver rose buttons. $239.95

Mint Paisley Jacket- So pretty with grey or white. Then, a long skirt and netted hat-now, perhaps, pleated pants? Rich weave of mint and ecru in 100% Cotton. Slightly poufed shoulders. Nipped waist, pointed hem. $119.95

Long Fitted Cut-Away Jacket- Very finished looking. Pair with a short skirt or pencil pants today for a melding of eras. Would’ve suited Lady Edith when not on the farm. Metallic Brocade with low square neckline trimmed in black lace, black taffeta lapels and covered button closure. Long, fitted sleeves with black taffeta and lace trimmed cuff. $ 169.95

Evening Wraps

Left to Right:

Historical Velvet Cape- Definitely upstairs, even the Dowager Countess might be found wearing this piece. Opera? Opening party? Charity event? Be original. Extended collar framing the face. Full with back draping. Finished with black tassel and front frog closure. 100% Cotton Velvet, satin acetate lining. Available in a variety of colors. $299.95

Ruffled Lace Cape- This is a heroine piece. Elegant and undoubtedly unique among your circle. Sheer Victorian. Wear with long black dress or short, but not mini-why gild the lily? From neck to hip. Horizontal rows of dark lace with front satin ribbon closure. Polyester with acetate lining. This is black. Also in white or ivory. (Wedding?)$159.95


Top Left to Right:

Navy Blue Victorian Beaded Purse- In the drawers of any of the upstairs girls at Downton. Embellished with beads, stones, and sequins. 8” Lx 8 ½” H x 3” W; 2 chain straps-48” & 16” $30.00

Hat with Feathers and Trim- What we now know as a Fascinator. Perfect for cocktails today, simply appropriate headwear back then. Can be ordered in fabric to match an ensemble. $89.95

Beaded Collar- Jet Glass Beads meticulously hand sewn onto sheer fabric make a cape to demurely cover bare shoulders. Suitable for Matthew’s new lady. Or lay it over a sweater $49.99

Bottom Row Left to Right:

Burgundy Red Victorian Purse- Again, in any Crawley drawer. Embellished with rhinestones, beads and sequins. 6.75” L x 6” H x 4” W. 2 Chain straps- 36” & 12” $30.00

Knitted Gaiters- This is not only a great idea, it looks swell. Everyone will ask where you found them. Saves lacing up a boot. Knitted gaiters with brass snaps to wear over or create boots (with shoes) 88% Nylon/12% Spandex. 24” long. Top stretches about 18” around. Machine wash. $15.00

Lace Gloves- These finished an ensemble then and finish one now. Strictly decorative, emphatically feminine and rather flirty. One doesn’t leave Downton without one’s gloves! Fine black nylon lace with floral pattern. Wrist length with a ruffle finish. Hand washable. One size. $19.00

Lace Cuffs- Add to a sweater or plain blouse or simply wear under a jacket for that period feel. Not recommended on dinner dates for obvious reasons. Two layers of antique Venetian lace with an elastic wristband. $28.00

Lace Collar- Daisy would have fainted dead away had someone gifted her with this. Dresses up a sweater. Adds a hand-made touch. 100% Cotton Crochet collar with crochet button closing in white or ivory. Hand wash. $9.95

Opening photo by Nick Briggs

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