Just the other day, the 3rd season of the excellent British period drama Downton Abbey kicked off in the UK , and once again, there were a number of interesting men’s outfits, suits & morning coats on display (being abroad, I was lucky enough to get a preview) that I would like to discuss today.
The show is now set in Britain of the 1920’s, which were very different in terms of clothing than the 1930’s and 1940’s and even different from the clothes worn in the US at the time. For example, trousers were cut narrowly with little seam width. The coat’s shoulder fit rather narrowly and wear tailored using almost no padding in the shoulder. Very little if any drape can be seen in the chest or over the shoulder blades. Hats were obligatory and men still wore three piece lounge suits, as well as morning and evening wear. We are very eager to see how the clothing changes as the decade progresses, but it is evident that the younger generation is moving into more modern attire.
In this episode, Lady Grantham’s American mother visits the Crawley family because of the upcoming wedding between the eldest daughter of the family with the future heir. For the same reason, Sibyl returns from Ireland with her husband – former Downton chauffeur and now journalist – Branson.
As seen before, Lord Grantham pulled out his Astrakhan collar overcoat when he goes to town. For him, it seems like little has changed ever since the shows premier season, which was set in 1912. However, Lord Grantham is a still an excellent example of the differences in dress between town and country, unlike his unfortunate son-in-law Branson, who owns only one suit.
The new footman Alfred, wears simple clothes: wool suit, detachable club collar and wool tie:
Morning Dress in Downton Abbey
Of course, a black silk top hat was the only form of headwear appropriate for the morning coat ensemble and, of course, he would wear gloves, but also note the livery. Today, these special garments for servants have become extinct for the most part. This is perfectly illustrated by the fact that Savile Row tailor Henry Poole once employed 60 livery tailors but today there is just one left!
The father of the bride and butler Carson both wear morning coats in this picture. While Lord Grantham opted for the more celebratory Ascot cravat and a slip, Carson put on a tie. Both wear an Albert watch chain and cashmere trousers. In contrast to the younger men, both do not unbutton their waistcoat button with this garment since it is more formal than a lounge suit.
A beautiful collar and a stick pin adds a decorative element.
Evening Wear at Downton Abbey
Traditionally, white tie shirts featured a heavily starched bib. For the show, it seems to me like modern day shirts were used that did not have the old school details to attache the shirt to the evening waistcoat. Hence, the shirt front bunches up on occasion as you can see in the picture below.
Here we can see the shirt without the vest and the evening suspenders used.
Back then, shirt fronts had one or two visible studs and I enjoyed the fact the costume designers paid attention to such little details. Also, the collars are detachable and not wing collars, but straight stiff collars, which you won’t really see a lot anymore. However, in this case I think it is too big – can you see the huge gap between his collar and neck?
If you look closely you notice the white bow ties are all similar yet different in their shape…
And finally, the Season 3 trailer: