make this look: dressing downton in the modern era

it’s an obsession, and many of us have it:  the clothes in downton abbey.  i’m sure loads of you have been scouring the internet for thoughts on how you might get an exact look–or, if you’re like me, you’ve been collecting images and adapting them to patterns you’ve seen or may already own, modern and vintage, to create your own spin.  i’m not a costume sort of girl, and i love the idea of flouncing around the office in my downton-inspired garb, but still looking like i belong in the 201os instead of the 1910s.

for some thoughts on accurate recreation, i’ve been entertained and inspired by the efforts of the girl with the star-spangled heart.  for myself, i’ve been thinking in these terms…

i love this overblouse and the gray skirt.  i’d probably go for a great vintage bolero pattern, a simple blouse (or T!) in lace or cream, and a gray a-line skirt for the look.

ahh, the flower show.  scene of triumphs and heartbreaks.  honestly, this is probably my favorite episode of series 1.  the two base patterns i’ve honed in on for a version of this look are the folkwear garden party dress:

and the sense and sensibility tea gown:

either would be a perfect blank slate for some great design options in those front panels, or the skirts.  i love the layered look of the S&S pattern and could have a lot of fun with that.

the obvious and excellent choice in this instance is the folkwear patterns “armistice blouse.”

as illustrated in the inspiring version casey made for the sew weekly:

my favorite piece from series 1 is definitely mary’s casual jacket with the contrast upper collar. as i see it, there are two great options to consider: a modern girl might go for vogue 8601:

and someone looking to play more to the times might consider this little gem from reconstructing history:

this is a beauty, and it’s all about the details. for my own version, i’m going with a deep blue, and definitely taking inspiration from the mix of textures here: a matte silk/wool blend will be my base, with the upper collar and waist details in a silk charmeuse. covered buttons will be a snap with some help from pat, and i’m using as my base the delightfully chic simplicity 8142.


this great a-line skirt may be a bit of a no-brainer, but i’ve been thinking about it for a while and still can’t decide between a version using the colette ginger skirt, a bias-cut skirt, or something self-drafted with a bit of flair. but as you can see from my musings, the possibilities are nearly endless. i’ve already acquired a lovely belt buckle to add a bit of extra interest at the waist, like miss mary here, and i’ve got a RTW silk purple blouse that is always looking for a new friend. the color, too, is gorgeous. in fact, all of the colors of the girls’ skirts i’ve seen this season have been lovely, from the rich gray paired with mary’s cream-colored blouse, to this beautiful wine color, to the stunningly bright blue worn by lady cora in multiple episodes.

believe it or not, this blouse would be lovely and easily done using the colette jasmine blouse.  i had this realization over the weekend, while i was prepping the pattern for something else entirely.  the neckline would be beautiful in a simple lace and the shape would be chic and modern while still having a romantic feel to it.  obviously the sleeves are infinitely adaptable:  you can stick with the short sleeve included with the pattern or swap in a long or 3/4 sleeve for something more akin to mary’s look.  and who doesn’t love a decorative button treatment?

what are you  making from the 1910s lately?

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11 Responses to make this look: dressing downton in the modern era

  1. Vicki says:

    Thanks for all the pattern ideas – I’ve been repeatedly eyeing the Armistice blouse and Walking skirt patterns for ages, but I haven’t sewn a Folkwear pattern since the ’80s. I can’t remember if their patterns are great or crap, although I do remember ditching the French Cheesemaker’s blouse as a teenager when I tried it on and burst out laughing!
    I loved that blue jacket of Mary’s from the first season too. I have some screencaps of the back because it was so interesting.

    • puu says:

      vicki, i definitely have mixed feelings about folkwear. i’ve made a version of the armistice blouse, and it needs major tweaking before i go for a real one. i’ve also tried the edwardian underthings pattern – the chemise – with decidedly mixed results. their sloper is definitely not similar to mine! but their details cannot be beat, and even if their patterns don’t fit me properly, they make a wonderful starting point for that kind of period detail.

  2. Mary says:

    Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and your pattern research! I have been admiring the clothing and would love to recreate either a blouse or a hat from the series. I definitely am smitten with the styles, but they are a far cry from my usual style. The necklines are a primary focus and I have thought I might use the neckline of one of the gowns in a knee length dress.

    Such fun-both my husband and I love this series.

    • puu says:

      i’d stay start small, with a neckline, and see how it suits you. i definitely wouldn’t want to jump in and realize it wasn’t love but only lust :-) good luck!

  3. Meg says:

    This post filled my heart with unending amounts of joy!!! Thank you so much for sharing all of your research and ideas – I have wanted to replicate the styles, but didn’t know where to start – you are too fabulous!

    • puu says:

      thanks, meg! for me it sort of clicked once i matched the first pattern–then i couldn’t turn my brain off! i’ve been amazed at how easily some of the styles can be interpreted for a modern wearer while still having a great edwardian quality…

  4. Jill says:

    I’m so glad I’m not the only one who suddenly wants to dress like the Ladys Crawley. Thanks so much for your helpful comment over on my fledgling blog. And I think it’s a great idea to Downton Abbify Simplicity 8142.

  5. Lawgal says:

    Great blog post! Thanks for the tips.
    I haven’t looked at the Folkwear in years, but I definitely want to get the Armistice blouse pattern.
    From my storage bins, I found vintage Simplicity 2779 – perhaps from the 1950s. The gored skirt may be workable, although it may be more of a flared look than an a-line.
    Recent Butterick 3532 skirt can be a Downton look if the skirt slits are sliminated and the addition of a belt or overlay. Recent McCall’s 4215 includes a riding jacket style.

  6. Lawgal says:

    Thanks! I’m still pondering the Lady Mary skirt (without all the peplums, etc.) and thought perhaps Colette’s 1016 Ginger made up as a maxi or just above ankle length would be interesting. The pattern won’t be available until April, unfortunately. A basic a-line pattern should be readily available – I’m just not nuts about the walking skirt or most of what I’ve seen so far.

  7. Pingback: renfrew, downton style

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