Best 11 Costume of Season 4 of Downton Abbey
In the second season Christmas Special Robert, the Earl of Grantham, advises Mary to go to the “Middle West” of America and to bring home a cowboy to shake the family up a bit. And while that would have made for some intriguing storylines as well as maybe adding to the desire of suitors in season four, it turns out the Crawley’s did not have to look so far outside their family to get things shaking in the fourth season.
Enter Lady Rose MacClare, daughter of Robert’s cousin and staying with them while her parents are in India. Rose was first introduced in season three and proved to be a fun loving party girl. That is still the case in season four as she goes off to farm-hand dance, dances to the old gramophone, has a Jazz band perform at Downton Abbey and almost narrowly causes a royal scandal.
With the addition of Rose, we are treated to other 1920s fashion trends. Looks that are less gamine or boyish in silhouette and more feminine and romantic. Season four covers a short period of time, only six months in 1922 and the London season of 1923 in the summer. It is refreshing to see other styles of the early 1920s than the straight loose silhouettes that are so associated with the decade.
Season four of Downton Abbey sees many beautiful costumes as there are just so many parties this season and there are less repeating garments. Some costumes however are just more memorable in both their aesthetic and how they reflect the characters and the scenes.
List rankings are by their very nature subjective and not everyone will agree 100%, though I think most people would agree with the number #1 pick for season four. This page does try to rank the costumes worn by the ladies of Downton Abbey Season four. This list was nearly 15 costumes which speaks to how lovely the costumes were this season. However, it was reduced down to 11, however that could always change and could be 20 someday.
The costumes for season four were designed by Caroline McCall.
List is subject to change.
Also there are spoilers for Season four so read with caution if you haven’t watched it and if you haven’t go watch it.
Cora's Grey Court Evening Gown
The first season of Downton Abbey was considered a small period show, so it was rare for the action to occur away from Downton itself. There were only a few scenes in London and that was after Lady Sybil’s coming out which the family did talk about. So it was a bit of disappointment when we didn’t see her coming out as she was one more popular character. The show tried to make up for this Rose and her coming out.
In this capacity a lady was presented to Court and it would signify that she was out in society and that she could marry. The presentations of the debutante kicked off the London social season.
Ladies were present with a sponsor, typically their mothers but it could be a woman known to the family. For Rose it was Cora but she does say that it was nearly Violet.
To present Rose to the royals Cora wears a soft grey gown. The grey has a slight blue undertone and looks to be made from velvet. It has a sheath silhouette and there is a dropped waist with matching fabric band. At the neckline there is a sheer fabric layer that is cut into a pointed pattern. This fabric extends to form the sleeves. This fabric is heavily beaded with bright silver beads. Hanging off the sleeves are beaded tassels. There is also some more beading along the back.
While you can’t really see the back, there are some pleats giving a drape akin to the style of the 18th century, more on that further down the list.
Cora has the same sheer veil and feather headdress as the rest of attendees as well as gloves. She wears diamond jewelry including a bracelet, a long necklace with large stones, earrings and a tiara. The tiara could be her countess coronet.
Cora looks very refined and regal as she performs the duty of presenting Rose to the King and Queen.
Rose's Purple Dress
Lady Rose MacClare was first introduced late in season three. She is the daughter of Violet’s niece, Susan. Owing to her family situation of her father’s foreign appointment in India, tensions with her mother and the family’s financial situation it’s decided that Rose will move in with the Crawleys.
In effect Rose is Sybil’s replacement as the family’s bright young thing and rebel. While Sybil was into politics, Rose is not so much. She doesn't care about social conventions but she is more about having fun and shocking her mother. She can come off less genuine and at times flighty. She certainly has a devil-may-care attitude but that is ultimately all part of her charm.
In the second episode, Rose convinces Anna to take to a dance that is more for servants and farm workers than the upper class. But Rose wants to dance the one-step so she wants to go for some fun. She does secure Lady Mary’s permission though so it’s not as devious as it sounds.
During this scene she wears a purple dress with a white print pattern. The pattern is an all-over print of what looks like curved brush strokes and diamond with a rose in the center. The print showcases Rose refined yet free-spirited nature. The fabric is sheer as well. The sleeves are ¾ and they have two bands of white trim at the cuff. The bodice has a deep v-neckline with two rows of small white buttons. There is also white trim edging the opening of the bodice.
The waistline seems a bit higher than the iconic 1920s dropped waist. The sash at the waist is the same fabric. The skirt seems to have two attached drapery panels on the sides that drape down. The layer has the same white bands but there are three of them and they are wider. This detail is hard to see, so it’s hard to make out fully. Could be a hip gore dress and not separate pieces or an example of double side drapes.
The under-layer is a white blouse with two rows of small ruffle trim and sailor collar over the outer layer.
She pairs this costume with a white cloche hat that looks like wool. It is decorated with ribbons that form a flower. She wears small white earrings.
Rose wears many cute day outfits throughout season four but this one highlights her free-spirited fun-loving nature.
Rose's Royal Blue Tier Gown
While pink seems to be a go-to-color for Rose she does flirt with shades of blue. She dons this royal blue tier gown in two scenes involving her relationship with Jazz singer Jack Ross. The first time she wears this gown is during Robert’s birthday party when she hired Ross’ band to play at Downton. At the end of that same episode, Mary catches Rose kissing Jack in the servant's hall.
The second time is in episode eight Rose wears this is when after a dinner, Mary confronts Rose about the relationship. To which Rose declares that she will marry Jack and her desire to watch her mother’s face crumble.
This dress is linked to Rose’s forbidden love with Jack. While red traditionally denotes passion the bright vivid blue color could connect to hope and freshness.
The gown itself is a tube-like silhouette with a dropped waistline. The neckline is a wide v-neck both is the and in the back. The hemline hit mid-calf.
There is quite a lot of beading by the design and placement is very simplistic. The colors used are dark blue, gold, and some green.
The beading details are on what looks like a sheer outer layer and this outer layer makes up the three tiers on the skirt portions. Tier skirts also called layered skirts were very popular as they were considered very pretty and very feminine which suits Rose perfectly.
To emphasize the very fashionable open back, Rose pairs this gown with a sautoir or tassel necklace with a lovely green stone and diamonds. She has a pair of matching earrings with green stones. In Episode six for Robert’s party when Jack’s band plays, Rose wears a double standard pearl headpiece. In Episode eight she opts to wear a small diamond hair piece in back, most likely a comb.
Edith's coral and dark blue dress
Season Four of Downton Abbey shows an upswing in Edith’s style. She is one of those people who gains her style sense through osmosis, whomever she is trying to impress is where she takes her fashion cues. In the case of season four and the tail end of season three, it’s Michael Gregson and his group of literary chic intellectuals
Edith has a very chic and a few times alluring style in season 4. As she is finding happiness with Michael her signature color palette sees an update. Instead of her autumnal colors that are muted, now her colors are bright. She wears a lot of spring tones at least at the start of the season, the muted broken tones do come back into play when Michael goes missing.
Edith wears this casual look twice, one with Micheal at this apartment drinking coffee and once when she is confronted by her aunt, Rosamond, after spending the night with Michael.
The look is a bold combination of coral over-layer and dark blue under-layer with sheer details. The fabric of the outer layer has a lovely supple drape that hangs loosely. The straps are gathered at the shoulders. The neckline is warped and waist is dropped that has a band and the bodice and skirt are gathered to the band. On one side of the band is an embroidery applique. This dress was re-created from a vintage dress that Costume Designer Caroline McCall said was “literally falling apart.”
The dark blue under dress is very dark blue with sheer long sleeves and a sheer band across the bodice.
She pairs this outfit with a simple long beaded necklace.
This costume is a very nice change for Edith as it’s both very chic and very relaxed.
Rose's Turquoise Gown
During a trip to London in episode four, Rose convinces Mary, Tom and Rosamond to go to a nightclub. It is there that band leader Jack Ross saves Rose from humiliation after her drunk dance partner makes a scene then leaves her alone on the dance floor. Rose is instantly smitten with the dashing band leader as he is sauve, kind, and desirable as he is off-limits to her as the daughter of a marquess.
To the nightclub Rose wears a very lovely and very feminine gown. Turquoise is a very joyful youthful and feminine color. Though it is not a supersaturated tone of turquoise, it adds a hint of demureness which makes it very appropriate for a damsel in distress.
There are quite a lot of details. It’s hard to tell if it’s beading or sequin or a combination. It might have been a little early in the 1920s for Rose to be wearing a gown with sequins as sequin came back into style after the discovery of King Tutankhamen in November of 1922 whereas episode four took place in April of 1922. But it’s possible for the production to take creative liberty. Along the edges is a white beading or sequins. Below that is a darker green-ish color beaded trim detail. This darker green-ish color makes up the majority of the embellishments on the gown with just hints of white sprinkled in. Going does the bodice the beading has a floral pattern.
The front panel of the skirt looks to be pleated and in the between the pleats are rows of ruffles in the same fabric. On the side of the skirt are leaf-like patterns.
Rose styles this gown with a long pearl necklace, diamond earrings and a thin diamond headband. She also wears long white gloves.
Rose's Ball Gown
Season four’s Christmas special takes place during the London season in summer of 1923. The big event is Rose’s debut which had been talked about since the end of season three. This was a big event as it meant Rose was officially out in London society and ready to marry. The event was marked by being presented to the King, Queen and the court and then held a ball in the debutante’s honor.
The Rose is set up to be the Darling of the season after The Prince of Wales kicks off her ball by dancing with Rose. This is because Rose saves him from scandal after a love letter of his to his Mistress falls into the wrong hands and Rose and the Crawley family who help get it back along with Mr.Bates.
To her ball, Rose wears a gown that is an example of Robe de Style. Robe de Style was the signature design of Jeanne Lanvin. It was the opposite of the tubular shapeless cut of the 1920s. Instead it had a full skirt which needed crinoline, panniers, or petticoats to keep its shape. It did have a fitted bodice and a dropped waist. It was the 1920s interpretation of the 18th century.
The color is a bright pink. This color was used to make Rose stand out against all the extras who were dressed in golds, silvers and other subdue tones.
Her gown is embellished with large beaded flowers on the full skirt and small flowers along the collar.
She wears a long diamond necklace with a pendant, a bracelet, earrings and double strand headpieces with round focal points in the center and sides of her head.
This look of Rose’s is very youthful, boldly feminine and fun. All traits that encompass’ Rose’s personality.
Rose's Debutante Gown
The most important moment for any debutante is being presented before the King and Queen. This signifies that a young lady was out in society and thus on the marriage market, so to speak.
While fashion style changed over the years there were classic conventions about what a debutante should and what they must wear when being presented. The gowns that young ladies wore were a very specific type of gown. For one thing they were evening dresses as was traditional for court dress. The debutante's gowns were shades of ivory but pink was acceptable. The ladies wore a veil that had three ostrich feathers and a train. She would hold it on her arm till she was presented. For jewelry they would wear pearls but family jewels could be worn. The item that a debutante must wear was white kidskin opera length debutante gloves. This was an important symbol of upper-class femininity.
For Rose’s debutante gown she wears a gown that is an example of robe de style which is a gown with a dropped waist and full skirt. The color is a soft pale pink. There is a lace over layer which creates the sheer rounded collar. Along the bottom edge is a floral trim which also adorns the full skirt starting at the waistline.
All of Rose’s accessories are in keeping with a proper debutante. She has a long pearl necklace, a bracelet and earring to complete her look.
Costume designer Caroline McCall wanted Rose’s look to be romantic and it truly does.
Mary's Steel Grey Gown
Season four opens with Lady Mary still mourning after the sudden death of her husband, Matthew. Though by the end of the first episode she starts to move beyond her grief her clothing still reflects her status as she wears darker colors and purples.
While she does wear more subdued colors throughout season four her garments are still very lavish and very in vogue.
In episode four during a trip to London Mary wears this two tone grey tabard style evening gown. Mary wears this gown to the Lotus Club, when Rose meets Jack Ross for the first time and when Mary dances again with Lord Gillingham. She wears this gown again in episodes six and seven.
The tabard was a type of garment seen as early as the 13th century. It started as a humble piece of rectangular cloth that went over the head and tied at the side. They had no sleeves. They were considered a jerkin or a sleeveless jacket. They were also used to show heraldry.
The tabard made a comeback in the 1920s but instead they took the form of embellished outer layer for ladies’ evening wear. An early example of this style of garments come from Callot Soeurs in either 1922 or 1923. It’s hard to say when and how this style came into vogue but likely it had to do with silhouette since the tabard had a shapeless silhouette that was on trend but with the added bonus of having an open side which added a sensuality to the garment even with an under-layer.
Mary’s gown is a dark steel grey overlay, or the tabard part and the underdress is a lighter grey. The layers attach at the dropped waistline and most likely at the shoulders. The overlay is beaded with dark grey beads. They line the edges and on the front and back of the bodice and down the skirt they have a floral shape. The under-layer of light grey is probably a silk fabric as it has a lovely drape. The hem of the gown looks like it hits mid-calfs.
She styles this gown with black opera length gloves, a long black beaded necklace, black earring and a diamond hair pin worn in black.
Mary looks very chic in this gown.
Edith's Pink Beaded Gown
Season four is a renaissance of style for Lady Edith. Where once was a young girl who didn’t get her fashion choices right, now is a modern woman not afraid to be provocative and alluring in her clothes. This pink gown of Edith’s is not her most impactful fashion moment but it still showcases her daring new style.
Edith first wears this gown to a grand house party her parents are throwing. She gets Michael invited, so of course she dresses in accordance with both, tasteful yet glamorous.
The gown has a collar that attaches to the bodice in a V shape at the neck and looks like normal straps in the back. The effect shows off her shoulders. Costume Designer Caroline McCall was inspired by the works of Paul Poiret and the billowing illustrations of George Barbier illustrations for some of Edith’s look in season four. The idea was not only to subvert the era but to express Edith's desire to rebel.
While this gown does adhere to Edith’s typical color palette, it’s a brighter tone. The beading is a diamond pattern capturing an art deco style which is also seen in the dropped waistline and the ankle length hemline. The lower skirt has a sheer overlay which has a slight gold or orange tone making it look like it glows.
Edith pairs this gown with some lovely hair accessories, earring and bracelets. All seem to be made from diamonds.
Mary's Black Beaded Gown
The grand house party of season four yielded many lovely gowns and by far one of the loveliest was Mary’s black beaded gown. She wore it most notably when she danced with Lord Gillingham for the first time.
This gown is Art Deco at its finest. The gown itself is composed of a black overlay with a dark grey slip layer. The overlay has a boat neckline and has arched shape beading at the neckline with beaded applique flowers on the bodice. Intermixed with the black beading is what looks like bronze in the applique. There is also beading on the kerchief hemline. The beading goes all the way around to the back of the gown. The grey under layer has a straight neckline which just adds so much to the geometric Art Deco look of this costume.
As is the style the waistline is dropped and has a long black velvet sash. Lady Mary pairs this with the Grantham family tiara, black gloves, and simple earring. The neckline has enough visual interest that a necklace is not necessary.
Edith’s Criterion Gown
Lovingly referred to as “Beadith,” this gown worn by Edith in the first episode of season four is a showstopper. It marks Edith as a woman as she meets her married lover in a fancy restaurant in London.
This is Edith’s fashion at its peak, she has come into her own now and is happy and confident and this gown reflects this aspect of her character’s growth. Costume Design Caroline McCall was inspired by the works of George Barbier for this barely there gown with its exposed shoulders. Unlike the pink gown she wears in episode three, this gown has more exposed shoulders, in fact this gown is mostly strapless.
The gown is bright teal, a color Edith does not wear usually. The neckline has a very delicate V shaped shimmering strap that drapes in the back which is also exposed. The bodice has beading that resembles a peacock. The beading which also inspired this gown is an original piece.
The waistline is dropped with a sash that matches the silk of the skirt. The skirt also features a high slit and has a sheer overlay which adds the flow of the skirt.
She styles this gown with opera length gloves, a bracelet, simple earring and two hairpins. The one worn in the back is the one she wears with the pink gown.
This gown is just dazzling and one of the great fashion moments in the show’s history.
This gown was used for Lady Edith Royal Doulton figure.