Going Out in Style

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Downton Abbey, the cultural juggernaut that had fans proclaiming one another “a total Mary” (a compliment, depending) or “such a Barrow” (an insult, always), has begun its sixth and final season. Taking its characters from the Edwardian era through the Roaring Twenties, the show bloomed with the accompanying fashion evolutions and revolutions. From corsets with tight laces to short hems and drop waists, the passing years’ trends could be found within all the impeccable period outfits.

The characters’ dress habits were also used to illustrate one of the show’s themes: as modernity approached, society relaxed to more casual standards. This year sees them dining in black tie rather than white, something that previously would have been unthinkable, as exemplified by one of the Dowager Countess’ best lines from the third season: When Matthew was forced through circumstance to show up in black tie, she scathingly remarked, “I’m so sorry, I thought you were a waiter.” (If only that were the worst thing to happen to Matthew that season…)

Even if the frocks upstairs got the most attention, the uniforms downstairs were chosen and crafted with the same attention, cross-stich detailing, and embroidery. There’s a reason the costume team won an Emmy.

With the series finale on the horizon, the audience can be sure that the characters may have some tricks and plot twists up their sleeves—but also that said sleeves will be perfectly tailored.