Posted by amybou on:
I'm obsessed with "Downton Abbey." Last night I dreamed that I was wearing a burgundy lace Edwardian gown and a matching wide-brimmed hat with a jaunty feather to the side. In my dream I had fair skin, brown eyes, and brown ringlets, a cross between Lady Mary and Helena Bonham Carter (in an outfit circa “The Wings of the Dove,” but wearing an expression on her face circa a nightmarish Tim Burton film, take your pick).
In truth, the Edwardian outfit I wore in my dream would make me slightly out of fashion—if the Edwardian period ended in 1910, and I was wearing the dress circa the first season of Downton, which beings when The Titanic sinks in 1912—well, I like to think that I’d be a little more au courant, if not fashion forward. Perhaps that explains the horrified expression on my face/Helena Bonham Carter’s face as I/she looked in the mirror. (The dream took place at the rumored-to-be-haunted Ragdale House, an Arts & Crafts estate and artist residency in Lake Forest, Illinois, where I stayed for a few weeks last fall—not a bad stand-in for Downton, as stand-ins go.)
If I were a character on "Downton Abbey''—from the upstairs cast, rather than the servants downstairs--I'd like to think that my wardrobe would include the robin-blue Poiret harem ensemble that Sybille debuts on Season 1, Episode 3. Not because I’m a fan of harem pants per se, but because Sybille’s taste for the designer who freed women from the corset foretells her own quest for emancipation. If I were just going on pure aesthetics, any of Lady Mary's black beaded gowns, which foreshadow the look of the coming decade, would surely do.
You can see the evolution of fashion from the 1890s to the 1920s on the show—from Violet, Dowager Countess of Grantham’s vaguely foreboding Edith Wharton-esque bustle dresses, to Lady Cora’s feminine floral almost-Art Nouveau tea gowns, to the loathsome Lavinia Squire’s modern dropped-waist asymmetrical velvet frocks and feather headbands, which augur the post-war dawn of the flapper.
Alas, I’ve watched all nine episodes of “Downton,” in a marathon viewing last weekend, and will have to wait to watch the episode that is airing as I write this until tomorrow, when PBS will hopefully post it online. It’s almost worth getting cable for this show, or at least befriending a few television-watching friends, or perhaps moving to England, where I believe they’re ahead of us by an entire season.
My sister is now catching up on Season One and sending me a flurry of text messages with her favorite lines. “I’m sure you can compose a letter to a young man without any of my help”—indeed! I agree with her that Lady Cora does remind me of our mom, who would surely drag the dead body of her daughter’s lover across a great distance to save either of us from disgrace.
Now, why do I feel compelled to knock wood?