I loved Downton Abbey ! As you can imagine , being a Vintage Clothing Dealer, it has been my not so secret pleasure. I admit I am not the best person with whom to watch old movies or historical fiction television programs. Not because I don’t like them but more because I watch with tunnel vision. For me it’s all about the costuming and sets . How true are they . Yes , I’m critical, can’t help it I suppose.
This peculiar viewing started for me as a child in the 1960s watching The 3 Stooges on Saturday mornings, with my 2 brothers. We loved them, the slapstick, the sound effects, the off the wall personalities. Face it they did everything your mother told you not to do and for the reasons she told you. But for me it was more than this, it was the ladies in their chic and stylish clothing and amazing hats unapologetically dripping in diamonds and furs. Many episodes were set in beautiful mansions and art deco apartments decorated in the most fashionable home decor. You see these were filmed mostly in the 30’s with true to date clothing and props.
As I got older and expanded my televisions viewing my family loved the westerns and we loved “The Duke”. Now here is why I admit to being , ” Not Much Fun To Watch With” , as it made me crazy that the Prairie Dresses all had zippers up the back ! And the women had long loose flowing hair and open necked , button up blouses . No shirtwaists or proper hairstyles and I won’t even mention the blue eye shadow. Even at that age I knew that is not how they looked .
I was not much interested in movies or television in my 20’s and 30’s , to me it was just more of the same and I was busy living with true vintage. Then in 1995 I saw Sense and Sensibility with Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet … whoa and wait just a minute, could this truly be accurate costuming ? It was just so lovely from the beautiful hairstyles and Empire waisted frocks right down to the simple cotton bed gowns. Was there some shift in costuming that I was unaware of in my viewing absence?
We all know of so many beautifully done historical pieces and I have so many favorites but along came Downton Abbey and it has stolen my heart. Yes the story is wonderful ( I have paid attention to the story, usually on my second viewing) but the creators have masterfully recreated the History of Fashion from 1914 to 1926 which, for the most part is a forgotten period, with the exception of the Flapper . I know you think of the Flapper and the incredible beaded dresses of the latter 20s but the program has showcased the early begining of the the rise in skirt lengths, the gradual dropping of waistlines , the loosening of corsets and lighter , longer beads replacing ornate collars. Because the program had 3 young women the fashion team was really been able to showcase this transition beautifully. You even see Cousin Violet’s skirts rise . Now what is most true to life is The Dowager Lady Grantham’s outfits took on the least amount of change. Her fabrics weren’t as heavy , her jewelry eventually tones down abit but not until this last season do you see her day outfits reflecting a more modern style, though still floor length skirts.
I see this in dealing in Vintage Clothing. Many women want to wear a particular era vintage for an occasion, a car club trip or a Gatsby Weekend but these women aren’t ususally in their 20’s, but more mature . So what is available to them , in their size, is ususally a more mature outfit with darker coloring and not as much jazz. With the right accessories these outfits work perfectly when a woman wants an authentic look. The right hat will do that .. oh, but the hats are a blog for another day.
Now I hope that this blog post has insipired you to look at old movies and true to the period pieces in a new light. If you have never watched The 3 Stooges try it . When you see the clothing and sets you will be hooked and will be recording Turner Classic Movies from the 30’s and 40’s, loosing a couple of hours in the past, and starting a new passion for True Vintage.