Watching Downton Abbey, I can’t help but fall in love with the clothes. So elegant, so refined, so otherworldly. While we can’t exactly go back in time to wear vintage clothes in their prime condition, we can wear new vintage inspired clothes that are a perfect combination of past and present. Downton Abbey style clothes come in everything from the very formal evening dresses that the sisters wore for dinner to the simple daywear of the working class. The 6 seasons on Downton Abbey span 1912 to 1925. For this article, I will focus just on the last few seasons of Downton Abbey fashion set in the 1920s.
Whether you want reproduction 1920s clothing or a more modern take on ’20s style, there is something here for you. Read about how to spot 1920s Downton Abbey style in clothing today, and then follow the links to the shop pages where I show you hundreds of 1920s style clothing to buy online.
Downton Abbey Fashion
1920s Beaded Dresses
Breathtaking, beautiful, fully beaded evening gowns are back in fashion thanks to Downton Abbey. Long, sleeveless dresses with all over beads and sequins bring formal dresses back to the elegant early to mid 1920s. Hemlines rose from ankle to below the knee during this time period. The above-the-knee bead or sequin dresses very popular right now are inspired by the 1960s, when a flapper fashion revival was happening.
Intricate beading is making its way onto tops and blouses, too, for day wear. Add a long pleated skirt to complete your ’20s day look. Wearing any beaded dress or top will certainly get you started on the road to a 1920s Downton Abbey style.
Pisarro Nights make beautiful beaded dresses for all sizes and height, with and without sleeves, and in a variety of seasonal colors. Perfect for dinner at the Abbey.
Although less popular and a bit harder to find, a non-beaded evening gown with jacket is a perfect choice for mature ladies.
Tiered Tea Length Dresses
Beading is very expensive to make, both back in the ’20s as well as in clothes today. The ever popular cotton, silk, or chiffon tea dress was what most women wore to afternoon parties. These dresses were “tea” length, meaning they came to mid shin in soft pastel colors or in white for special summer time events. They often had a few wide tiers of fabric on the skirt. The drop wait (just below the hip) was what set the 1920s style dresses apart from other eras. Today, drop-waist tiered tea dresses are everywhere in both formal and daywear looks. The fluttering layers give them that “flapper” look without the cheap fringe. Perfect for summer, many long tiered dresses make great winter party dresses as well.
1920s Style Cloche Hats
The classic tight fitting, short brimmed hat of the 1920s is called the cloche. They have been back in fashion for a few years now, so they are very easy to find. Wool cloche hats are great for winter and straw hats keep cool for summer. Decorations ranged from the simple side bow to more elaborate Art Deco ribbon designs, peacock feathers, and beaded applique. The cloche hats in Downton Abbey feature wide brims and short crowns until the last season set in 1925, when brims became very narrow.
Shop new 1920s inspired cloche hats.
Instead of hats for evening wear, the ladies of Downton preferred the latest ’20s craze – headbands! Not just any headbands, these were full of beads, gems, rhinestones, and sprigs of feathers. The different styles ranged from a decorative hair comb on one side, to the classic beaded headband, to a full cover head piece, to even a sparkling tiara.
You can read more about the different headband styles here. At Downton Abbey, fashion headbands were usually worn just at dinner, since hats were generally not encouraged indoors. Later in the series, we see young ladies wearing a simple ribbon headband during the day.
The prettiest bands are sold as wedding accessories. Many styles, materials, and price ranges can be found. Shop 1920s Style Headbands and hair clips.
Silk Shawls and Scarf Coats
Silk shawls, scarf coats (above) and evening wraps, all often beaded, were stunning accessories worn with formal wear. Lady Grantham wore many beautiful evening shawls with her dinner wear in Downton Abbey. Even the Dowager accessorizes her looks with silk shawls that were in style with the previous teens decade. In winter, fur wraps, muffs, and hats kept the ladies warm as well as exceedingly fashionable. Today, faux fur trimmed accessories are in style as well as beaded and fringed evening shawls (also called Kimono coats). Throw one on over almost any dress for instant ’20s glamour.
For day wear, a long thin silk scarf was tied in a knot around the neck. We will be seeing a lot of this look in season 6 with the more sporty day wear clothing.
Downton Abbey Fashion: 1920s Style Shoes
Since dresses were becoming shorter, shoes in the 1920s had to become prettier. Boots were out of fashion for evening wear and slowly going out of fashion for day wear too. Instead, ladies preferred dancing shoes with T-straps, Mary Jane single straps, and higher heel pumps. Heel heights were only to 2.5 to 3 inches and were very chunky heels (no skinny heels yet). Most shoes were black or brown leather or white fabric in summer. Very formal shoes were hand painted to match the dresses, and some were covered with beads or featured rhinestone shoe clips to add some sparkle.
Today, T-straps, Mary’s Janes, and lace up Oxford shoes (daywear) are coming back in fashion. Chunky heels of a reasonable height make them even more vintage looking. Low heels and flats were uncommon, but acceptable today. Avoid open-toed sandals.
With the exception of long pearl necklaces, 1920s style jewelry has almost been forgotten. The Art Deco movement with its geometric shapes, distinct color palette, and global influences, is slowly coming back into fashion. Most of the ’20s style jewelry feels more 1970s Art Deco revival and that’s OK. 1970s fashion jewelry is very in style today. From crystal headbands to oversized gold geometric necklaces and long pearl necklaces, the ’20s style is still very much an influence. In Downton Abbey, we see the more traditional long bead and gem necklaces worn by the ladies. Learn about 1920s jewelry styles.
You can shop for these and many more 1920s style jewelry here.
Downton Abbey Fashion Costume Guide for Women (for men click here):
If you need help finding Downton Abbey style clothes not listed here or on the shop pages, please feel free to contact me and let me know what you are looking for.