Halloween Comes to Downton Abbey

I predicted in this post from April that people would be hot to trot for Downton Abbey influenced costumes this Halloween. True to form, a lot of readers have been finding my blog by searching on “downton abbey halloween costumes.”

I’m thinking that there will be quite a few Annas & Mr. Bateses, some Lord & Lady Granthams, and quite a few Marys & Matthews.  And I’m sure there will be a few Dowager Countesses chortling it up. (Anyone going as that tasty Turk?)

But a Halloween costume that evokes the grandeur of the early 20th century isn’t as easy to come by as googling for a French Maid outfit. Cheap cotton, polyester lace, and too short skirts aren’t going to help the gal who aspires to “Go Downton” this Halloween. If you enjoyed the detail and glamour of the costumes ported in the PBS series, then some smashed tawdry outfit out of a plastic bag just isn’t going to cut it.

To see what sort of success my readers were having by searching for Downton Halloween costumes, I googled “downton abbey halloween costumes” myself. The offerings were pretty slim, with only one site offering some passable possibilities. Rentals are probably going to get you the closest to that Downton look, but are pricey. Even if you are familiar with constructing historic reproductions, putting something together worth sewing will cost you in materials, even if you can find the vintage baubles to take that gown to the next level. Read this fun interview from Susannah Buxton, costume designer for the series, here (note: as a museum professional, I do cringe at the use of historic elements in theatrical costumes).

I think if I were going to attempt making my Downton Abbey outfit with a month to go, I’d probably scare up a copy of Patterns of Fashion 2, mix it with a little Past Patterns and their helpful period construction techniques notes (especially if I don’t have time to look at originals), and review some museum collections online and some period magazines for inspiration.

Alas, all that will have to wait for a crash course on period corsetry! I’ll take the eighteenth century any day.

A little early, but it’s a start. Callot Souers, 1914. Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2009.300.1193.

About Becky Fifield

Becky Fifield is a cultural heritage professional with 25 years experience in institutions large and small. She is currently Head of Collection Management for the Special Collections of the New York Public Library. An advocate for preventive conservation, Ms. Fifield is a Professional Associate of the American Institute for Conservation, Chair of the AIC Collection Care Network, and former Chair of Alliance for Response NYC. She is also a scholar of 18th century female unfree labor and dress. There's a bit of pun in the title The Still Room, delineating a quiet space brimming with the ingredients of memory, where consideration, analysis, and wordcraft can take place. Ms. Fifield’s interests include museum practice, dress history, historic preservation, transit, social and women’s history, food, current events, geneaology, roadtrips, and considerations on general sense of place. Becky and her husband, Dr. V, live in the Hudson Valley.