Fabric line traces Downton Abbey lineage
“Lord and Lady Grantham request the honour of your presence at high tea at Downton Abbey. Formal attire required.”
If, like me, you are a fan of this wildly popular British period drama on PBS television, receipt of such an invitation could cause you to spill your Earl Grey and choke on a crumpet.
Oh dear, Mr. Carson, the butler, would not approve.
Yet, soon you will have an opportunity to look closer into that upper crust Edwardian era so superbly re-imagined and written by Oscar-winner Julian Fellowes and re-enacted by a stellar cast.
Before the long-awaited Season 4 airs Jan. 5, a line of fabrics will debut that is based on the costumes worn by the Dowager Countess, named Violet, played by the inimitable Maggie Smith, and her three granddaughters, who live upstairs on the grand country estate.
The fabrics will be in stores in November, so we can all have a bit of Downton Abbey for ourselves.
Called “The Women’s Collection,” the licensed fabrics are a collaborative effort of Andover Fabrics, the company’s designer Kathy Hall, Makower UK, a fabric design studio at Henley on the Thames, and the award-winning Downton Abbey production team.
Along with the fabrics, centered around the distinct fashion of each woman, are a multitude of quilt designs with names such as Union Jack, Violet’s Quilt, Simply Sybil and Grand Entrance.
Clothing and accessories also are offered: Authentic 1920s hat patterns and one-hour vintage dress patterns were originally designed by Ruth Wyeth Spears in the ‘20s. You’ll find patterns for handbags and a tea cozy as well.
The challenge for those of us who quilt and sew will be to determine which of the four characters we most admire and to whose clothing style
we are most attracted. Perhaps we’ll want some of each, and then there are the companion prints that tie together all the women’s collections.
Another piece in the collection is the Downton Portrait fabric featuring an image of the abbey itself repeated on a pale background.
I thought at first this one would be the perfect quilt backing, but I see several of the quilt patterns incorporate it into the main design. Downton Portrait is a must-have on my list.
Andover Fabrics gives these descriptions of the starring female characters and their material:
1. The Dowager Countess: Bold and elegant, like the Dowager herself, this collection of fabrics is punctuated by prints and paisleys as big as her presence. The gray, purple, and black colors come straight from her wardrobe, and the patterns speak to her undeniable flair, steeped in refined tradition.
2. Lady Mary: A resolute, breathtaking beauty, her fabrics showcase both her strength and style. Dark burgundy, blue and green jewel tones saturate her patterns, some of which are inspired by her stunning headdress.
3. Lady Edith: Enterprising and avant-garde both in character and fashion, Edith’s collection features breakthrough colors and patterns from the Edwardian era. Edith’s fabrics suggest the transition toward art deco, as demonstrated by her stylized ﬂoral patterns.
4. Lady Sybil: Sybil’s fabric collection embodies her kindness, cheer and dynamic character. The bold geometric and large floral really speak of Sybil. Her colors are a darker seafoam and blue gray with mauve purples, too.
I wonder if this nostalgic fabric collection with its aristocratic styles will influence 21st century clothing designs. With the series being an international hit, and fashion as fickle as Downton Abbey’s fortunes, who knows? Perhaps such styles will strut the runways of New York, Paris and Milan in the future.
I’m reminded of a scene in Season 2 after the war ends in 1918, a new decade about to dawn.
Mrs. Isobel Crawley says how much she likes the new fashions (of that time), “shorter skirts, looser cuts.”
“The old clothes were all very well if one spent the day on a chaise longue. But if one wants to get anything done, the new clothes are much better.”
To which her nemesis Violet, the Dowager Countess, quips, “I’ll stick to the chaise longue.”
Change is not the Dowager’s cup of tea, you see.