The rich tapestry of characters of Downton Abbey offers much to play with for the teams in costume, hair and makeup design.
At the same time, the 1920s color pallette throughout the television show’s tenure would never see a lady of the house in red or pink. The cuts and flow of garments enhance a scene setting the stage for a character’s entrance and exit and adds to the script unspoken dialogue that can be quite compelling.
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The wardrobe of the movie continues the television show’s and the main challenge Costume Designer, Anna Robbins are the fewer outfits for each character she has to tell the story. The looks from the show had such an impact on its viewers, where major retailers reported massive spikes on vintage clothes featured on the show. Indirectly, the style trends on the runways saw a resurgence in hats and art deco jewellery incorporated into seasonal looks.
“Such a fabulous film, I loved everything about it especially the fashion. It’s set in an era of timelessness that still influence many of today’s looks that come off the runway and we see remnants of it in the recent Haute Couture shows of Paris Fashion Week and New York Fashion Week. The film is exactly what a fan of the series would expect and then some.” said Warren Pasi, Model and Lifestyle Influencer.
Robbins researched the 1920s period Downton Abbey is set and has become somewhat of an expert in the fashion of that time. For the film, many of the cast’s costumes were made from scratch.
“I used a lot of vintage, authentic pieces, and designed around them, either restoring, customising, or using vintage fabrics and doing something new.” describes Robbins, “All that fabric, all that detailing, all that craft has got to stand up to the scrutiny of being on a massive screen. The quality control when we were shopping was much higher, I was much more selective. You’ve got to have the impact and effectiveness as a head to toe outfit, but then be able to hone in on detail, and not have it overpower the scene.”
Hair & Makeup:
Anne Nosh Oldham describes the design of hair and makeup and the challenges of maintaining character individuality.
“In the film some of the characters are true to history, we wanted everyone to retain some degree of individuality.” she says, “When we had Lady Bagshaw come in played by Imelda Staunton, she has a certain station in life and also quite a nice backstory, which we wanted to reflect in the way she looks. When she’s sitting with Cora and Violet and the Queen, they all have a very different sort of look. It’s always challenging because the last thing you want is to have two people sitting next to each other and thinking they look the same, so you work really hard to make them feel right.”
“There’s some seriously good wig work going on there, and they take a lot of maintaining. The Queen was a pretty monster hairdo. The biggest challenge always is to make everyone look very stylish but very natural. You don’t want the audience to spot a wig or a false moustache. We want everything to blend in such a way that everyone looks real and natural. I think from the very start everyone was aware that it is a film now and it’s not a series. We wanted everything to have the familiarity of Downton, but make everything really sharp because it is a movie and it’s going to be seen on big screens.”