The Suits of Downton Abbey
Posted: Dec 26 2016
Downton Abbey is a TV show we love, especially for the classic British style. The series chronicles the lives of the Crawley family and their servants, during the years leading up to 1914 and the start of World War I. What makes this show particularly good is the attention that went into reproducing details from that epoch, and the suits are no exception. For us at Tailor On Ten that is eye candy, since the era witnessed the birth of the modern suit.
For this article we will use a slightly broader approach, and instead of dissecting looks one by one, we will give out some general notions on the evolution of clothing. The first thing that we noticed while watching the series was that the jackets had a very high cut and short lapels. This might be an odd concept if you look at modern suits that try to slim and flatter the body with longer lapels, and with lines running longer on the front of the jacket. The short lapels, in conjunction with the heavier fabrics, make for a look bulkier than what is expected from a modern suit. The wools used for the garments are also thicker. There are two reasons behind this, the rudimental machinery used for milling back then, and the general living conditions that exposed men to colder temperatures. The thick, textured fabrics made use of the great properties of natural fibers, prior to polyester era.
Another interesting aspect of the suits of Downton Abbey is their colors. Earth tones dominate in all the attires, and while they might feel a little conservative and muted, they ensure that the combinations are never clashing, and that even the most subtle details can pop out and put an interesting spin on a combination. Another consequence of using only earth tones is that all the characters match with each other and their rural backgrounds, giving a general feel of harmony and peace, even when they hold shotguns.
While watching the show, we also noticed that the utilitarian nature of clothes is omnipresent. When the characters go hunting for example, three piece suits turn into sports wear, adding belt details to keep jackets closed and big pockets to store ammunition. The woolen pants are also safeguarded by leather boots and gaiters, so not to ruin the dapper three pieces ensembles when stalking prey in the muck.
On the other extreme, the gentry of Downton Abbey insist on wearing white tie to dinner each night, which speaks to our love of evening wear and tuxedos (even if they were even more formal).
Moving away from jackets and pants, we want to spend a few words of praise for waistcoats. The picture above shows just how versatile a waistcoat can be. Imagine the same picture with the same men wearing no waistcoat, how would they stand out as gentlemen? By simply adding on a vest, a pocket chain and a tasteful tie, even rope pulling looks like a gala event.
Another detail we particularly love is the subtlety of the shirts, doing their job in the background, and letting the classy, elegant ties do most of the talking. We find the ties on this show to be always impeccable with pristine patterns, and never too shiny. Downton Abbey is a jump in the past of our trade, and it reminds us of how simplicity can often be the way to go. If you want to give a vintage spin to your wardrobe come see us in store, we will help you pick the right tweed for you.