Let’s face it, Downton Abbey may be off our screens (for now) but the mania is never far away. We all can’t get enough of this popular period drama that swept the globe.
The award-winning ITV series follows the lives of the Crawley family and their servants at their opulent Edwardian country estate in Yorkshire. The estate used as the backdrop for Downton Abbey is actually Highclere Castle in Newbury. And – wait for it – you can get married there!
Filled with exquisite houses, beautiful gardens and the most intricate of costumes, Downton Abbey simply oozes vintage glamour and romance. So, it’s not hard to see why this is such a sought-after wedding theme!
We love the concept of 1920s glamour combined with the regal elegance that Downton Abbey exhibits. And, who doesn’t love a vintage style dress?
Downton Abbey starts in 1912 with the sinking of Titanic. Although this comes after the Edwardian era, fashion did not change much in the years before the First World War. Of course, Downton Abbey covered many historical events and the changing fashions of the ‘10s and ‘20s are included.
In around 1900-1914, pre-war Edwardian fashion consisted of simple shapes, high waistlines, gloves and hats. Figures were softer as corsets became less extreme and allowed for a more natural silhouette. From 1908 onwards, women’s waistlines continued to rise. Furthermore, around 1914, they were at their highest and the empire waist from the Georgian period featured a brief revival.
This period really saw the dawn of modern fashion as we now know it today (minus the gloves and hats of course). Everything else can still be seen to this day, from long fitted skirts right through to tiny little jackets.
Of course, we cannot ignore Lady Sybil’s harem dress from the fourth episode. Orientalism was on the rise in the 1910s. Designer Paul Poiret strove to make things different, and credits himself with the abolition of the corset.
And, the other big change between fashions of then and now is the number of outfits. Women of this period would have a morning dress, an afternoon dress, a tea dress and an evening dress. You might wish to avoid so many costume changes on your big day!
Enamelling techniques were extremely popular during this period, with butterflies, dragonflies, orchids, irises and waterlilies being especially popular motifs. Jewellery was ethereal and delicate and broaches complimented the fashion.
Just raid your local antique or charity shops, or even car boot sales to find the perfect piece!
Remember headwear. Even if the idea of wearing a sunhat doesn’t strike your fancy, you must find a headpiece. From fascinator to tiara, the women of Downton wore them all.
Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon’s Wedding Dress
Wedding dresses at the beginning of the 20th century were beginning to become more extravagant. Whereas in previous years common fabrics included satin and lace, this decade saw the growing popularity of more delicate materials such as silk and chiffon.
The most popular dresses of all, however, were made from satin and brocade with a court train. These dresses consisted of a lot of draped fabric, resulting in a long, flowing, feminine and graceful appearance.
When imagining these delicate and flowing gowns, we can’t help but automatically think back to the dress The Queen Mother wore on the occasion of her marriage to the Duke of York in 1923, not much later than Downton Abbey’s era.
Soft and relaxed, The Queen Mother wore a mid-calf-length gown with a drop waistline. It was much lower than those of brides just a decade before. However, you can still see similar features in the detail of the dress. It has been described as “the simplest dress ever made for a royal wedding”, but had two trains and an elaborate veil headpiece.
Lady Mary’s Wedding Dress
Lady Mary’s wedding gown was extremely fitting for her status during the time period. Her wedding to Matthew Crawley takes place in the third season which was set between 1920 and 1921.
The dress is silver lace tabard fabric that flows down into a train in the back. Underneath there is a silk slip and on top a trailing veil. Like all dresses of the day, the gown features demure long, sheer sleeves and a high neckline.
The drop waistline is a classic 1920s style, similar to that of The Queen Mother. Not seen on camera, the lace back goes into a V-shape and with small buttons and an edging made from tiny rice pearls and Swarovski crystals.
Lady Mary’s beautiful long train secured onto a fabulous 45-carat diamond tiara from the Grantham family vault. It featured a pattern of flowers and leaves and was a perfect fit for Mary. Ever elegant, she carried a simple bouquet of white calla lilies. These flowers have often been associated with the Virgin Mary and with purity. Perhaps this was an extra bit of symbolism from the wardrobe team at Downton Abbey.
Lady Edith’s Wedding Dress
Two episodes later, Edith donned a demure wedding dress. Elegant and graceful, Lady Edith wore a simple ivory silk gown for her wedding to Anthony Strallan. Softly gathered at the hip with intricately embroidered flowers, the fabric is beautifully draped over her body.
The scooped neck and loose sheer sleeves combined with her floor-length veil emphasises Edith’s English rose look on her wedding day. She even wore the same tiara as her sister.
However (spoilers!) poor Edith was unfortunately jilted – despite how fabulous she looked! Looking exceptionally glamorous, Edith finally has her happy ending in the series finale when she marries Bertie Pelham.
Lady Edith is striking in a glorious short-sleeved lace dress featuring intricate detailing all the way down her ankle-length gown. She wore a dazzling beaded headband and lace veil with her hair pinned into soft curls framing her face.
Find Your Own Vintage-Inspired Gown
Vintage dresses are going nowhere and they are as popular as ever. It shouldn’t be too hard to find the perfect gown to fit your Downton Abbey wedding theme.
You can read more advice on sourcing original vintage gowns here! And be sure to check out the directory to start planning your own Downton wedding…