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Top 11 Best Costumes From Season 1 of Downton Abbey

Lady Sybil Crawley

Jessica Brown Findlay as Lady Sybil Crawley, Season 1 Downton Abbey

Jessica Brown Findlay as Lady Sybil Crawley, Season 1 Downton Abbey

The Top 11 Best Costumes from Downton Abbey Season 1

Downton Abbey was an immensely popular show from the UK that ran from 2011 to 2015. It’s about the lives of an aristocratic family and their servants between the years of 1912 to 1926. The first season spans the time between April 1912, the day after the Titanic sank to August 1914, ending the season just as World War One was announced.

Downton Abbey is known not only for its compelling ensemble cast of characters but also for the rich amount of details of every facet of its production.

The fashion of the 1910s are on full display in season one. The style differed from the decade prior which favored the top heavy S-shape to women’s wear. This decade saw a softer silhouette with skirts starting to taper towards the hem.

During this period the rise of Orientalism was a big inspiration to fashion which saw more drapery elements being employed, vibrant colors and column-like silhouettes. It also introduced the harem pantaloon.

The 1910s also saw the rise of fashion designers like Paul Poiret and Lucuille, Lady Duff Gordon.


Given the attention to detail that Downton Abbey is known for it would come as no surprise that the majority of the costumes are faithful to the times. Many of the costumes are either originals from the 1910s or use components from the period.


Which of the costumes are the best from season one? Which ones stand-out? Which are the most memorable? Or represent the character the most? Those are subjective questions that will differ from person to person, list to list and they are also very tough questions.


However, here is a list of the 11 Best Costumes from Season One of Downton Abbey. It only features costumes worn by the ladies.

There are some spoilers so read with caution if you have not seen season one. Also the word "season" is used and not the UK word which is "series"

Costume Designer for Season One was Susannah Buxton.


Number #11

Jessica Brown Findlay as Lady Sybil Crawley, Season 1 Downton Abbey

Jessica Brown Findlay as Lady Sybil Crawley, Season 1 Downton Abbey

Sybil's Draped Light Blue Gown

Youngest daughter, Lady Sybil Crawley is not as interested in fashion as much her sisters, especially Mary. She is more free-spirited, idealistic, romantic and rebellious than either of two older her sisters. Her clothes reflect her character perfectly. This evening gown she throughout season one taps into her romantic sensibilities.

It’s a light blue color, which is a staple color for her during this season. The outer layer of the skirt has floral embroidery in a matching blue tone. The belt is made from a satin-like fabric cut into a dramatic point which mimics the cut of the neckline of the outer layer. The bodice has the same floral embroidery as the skirt.

The sleeves are made from sheer fabric that is much lighter. It has a rectangle embroidered detail with small white beading adorning the edges. This sheer drapery that makes up the neckline and sleeves adds so much romance and a dream-like quality to this gown.


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Number #10

Maggie Smith as Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess of Grantham, Season 1 Downton Abbey

Maggie Smith as Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess of Grantham, Season 1 Downton Abbey

Violet's Purple Day Suit

When one thinks of the formidable Dowager Countess of Grantham from season one this costume she wears comes to mind. It’s her look.

As an older Lady, Violet does not go in for the newer style of the 1910’s, she sticks to her Victorian convention of dress which is more lavish and ornate with the structured corset and under garments.

The fabric is richly textured of two tones of purple with black embroidery on the edges. The skirt and the jacket match. She wears it with a high lace blouse. She pulls the whole look together with a hat that has purple details and tulle.


Jennifer Saunders wore this costume in a Downton Abbey parody for Red Nose Day.


Number #9

Jessica Brown Findlay as Lady Sybil Crawley, Season 1 Downton Abbey

Jessica Brown Findlay as Lady Sybil Crawley, Season 1 Downton Abbey

Sybil's Blue Lace Gown

Like her other blue evening gown, this gown of Sybil’s showcases her romantic and sweet side. She wears it notably when Matthew meets the Crawley family for the first time.

The fabric has a floral pattern overall, probably a jacquard. The belt is a darker blue with ornate beading. She wears a short lace overlay at best that makes up the sleeves. This lace is in a lighter blue shade. It adds both a softer dreamlike quality and a hint to her rebellious free-spirit.


Number #8

Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary Crawley, Season 1 Downton Abbey

Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary Crawley, Season 1 Downton Abbey

Mary's Green Starburst Gown

Eldest daughter, Lady Mary Crawley's clothes are always on point. She has a very high-fashion sense of style. Costume designer for season Susannah Buxton said she used Coco Chanel as inspiration for both Mary and Cora. Lady Mary is a fashion icon.

In addition to being very fashionable, Mary’s best looks are when the costume is both ornate and bold as it reflects her personality. Mary does have a fair number of beautiful costumes that reflect a softer side but for whatever reason they don’t suit her as much though they do speak to her inner vulnerability. Her white evening with drapery and her olive gown with lace details are amongst these looks.

This green and black gown with beaded starburst detail speaks to Mary’s bolder side. She wears this gown notably when Matthew and Isobel first dine at Downton Abbey. As they all dine she regales everyone with the story of Andromeda. She likens herself to Andromeda and Matthew to a sea monster.

The outer layer of this gown is a sheer black over the brighter green under layer. The black layer makes up the sleeves which are long and have tassels at the ends. The black layer also forms a wide border at the wide neckline giving this gown a very bold graphic effect. The starburst is also on this black outer layer. The hem has black fringed beading.

She pairs this gown with a black double layer necklace and black gloves.


Number #7

Elizabeth McGovern as Cora Crawley, Countess of Grantham, Season 1 Downton Abbey

Elizabeth McGovern as Cora Crawley, Countess of Grantham, Season 1 Downton Abbey

Cora's Flower Show Suit

If one could dream up the perfect outfit for a high ranking lady to wear to a village flower show, one would and did come with this costume worn by Cora in episode five.

It’s an ideal Edwardian day look. It’s made from a heavy white fabric with black corded detailing at the edges and at the hem. She wears a high neckline white blouse with black trim details and a marching skirt. She completes the look with an impressive hat.

She looks like she stepped off of a fashion plate.


Number #6

Elizabeth McGovern as Cora Crawley, Countess of Grantham, Season 1 Downton Abbey

Elizabeth McGovern as Cora Crawley, Countess of Grantham, Season 1 Downton Abbey

Cora Black Beaded Gown

Much like Mary, Cora is very fashion conscious. Her looks are inspired by Chanel. This evening of Cora could fit in nowadays with modern styling.

This gown is heavily beaded on the bodice. It appears to be black but could be a very dark steel grey. There is a sheer overlay. The belt at her waist is slightly wide. The sleeves are ¾ and have fringed beading at the ends.

It's a simple yet chic pick for Cora.

Number #5

Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary Crawley, Season 1 Downton Abbey

Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary Crawley, Season 1 Downton Abbey

Mary's Garden Party Dress

Worn during the flower show episode and the season one finale, Mary's striped dress is both casual and very pretty. The square neckline is framed by white lace which acts as a collar. It adds a refined touch to look which Mary’s costumes have in abundance.

The fabric of this outfit is made of striped blue and white fabric. The stripes are arranged in contrasting patterns with the front panel on the bodice and short sleeves going horizontal and the side panels of the bodice and skirt are vertical. The differing directions of the stripes adds visual interest. There is white trim and buttons on the front bodice panel and a thin darker blue waist band.

In episode five during the flower show Mary pairs this costume with a dramatic straw hat adorned with flowers white tulle and a long pearl necklace. During the garden party in the finale of season one, she pairs it with a smaller cloth hat with white flowers and a white ribbon and a chunky white beaded necklace that is not as long as the pearls. In both episodes she wears the same wrist length white lace gloves.

Number #4

Laura Carmichael as Lady Edith Crawley, Season 1 Downton Abbey

Laura Carmichael as Lady Edith Crawley, Season 1 Downton Abbey

Edith's Pink Gown

Unlike her sisters, Edith is hit or miss when it comes to her fashion choices. Sometimes she gets it right and other times she just looks odd. Costume designer, Susannah Buxton says this was intentional. Edith can look either stunning or awkward but the aim was never to make her look frumpy just not as fashion savvy as Mary and not as daring as Sybil.

Most of Edith’s color palette for season one and the first few seasons is very autumnal. Lots of subtle pinks and oranges. Which makes her look even more out of place next to Mary and Sybil.

However one of Edith’s better looking evening gowns of season one is her dark pink gown. This color of pink is very dusty in tone which suits her color palette. The overlay has a floral pattern and beads. It also has a thin ruffled trim. The bodice is curved over the bust and the sleeves are short and gathered at the shoulder. The neckline is scooped.

Edith wears this gown as she overhears Mary and Cora talking negatively about her which puts the wheel in motion for her to reveal Mary's scandal and also when it’s revealed that she is responsible for the scandal spreading around London, further hindering Mary’s chances of a suitable marriage.


Number #3

Elizabeth McGovern as Cora Crawley, Countess of Grantham, Season 1 Downton Abbey

Elizabeth McGovern as Cora Crawley, Countess of Grantham, Season 1 Downton Abbey

Cora's Black and Light Grey Gown

Cora wears this gown as she welcomes the new Crawley family and heir to the estate to Downton.

The gown is the epitome of the look of the 1910s especially 1912 when the first season was set. It has a wide open neckline with flowing sheer sleeves which were inspired by Kimono sleeves. There is ornate beading on the front of the bodice which gives way to a raised waistline and column silhouette to the skirt.

She pairs it with a choker-style necklace and black gloves.

Cora looks commanding and chic in this gown, the perfect gown for a Countess.


Number #2

Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary Crawley, Season 1 Downton Abbey

Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary Crawley, Season 1 Downton Abbey

Mary's Red Gown

Few of Mary’s costumes are as iconic and as notable as her red gown from season one. She wears this gown during quite a few memorable dinners throughout season one mainly her kiss with Pamuk which ignites a scandal and her bonding with Matthew over the salty pudding fiasco.

This red gown has an overlay that is made from a red fabric with floral embroidery. There is a pleated chiffon layer of a darker red that goes over the bodice to form short flutter sleeves with a cut-out detail. There is a wide waistband that appears to be made from a satin.

She pairs it black gloves and a red stone necklace and in one scene a feather in her hair.

There is a paradoxically delicacy and boldness to this gown that perfectly encapsulates Mary’s personality and style for season one.

Royal Doulton used this gown for Mary's figurine.


Number #1

Jessica Brown Findlay as Lady Sybil Crawley, Season 1 Downton Abbey

Jessica Brown Findlay as Lady Sybil Crawley, Season 1 Downton Abbey

Sybil's Harem Pants

For a costume that only appears once at the end of episode four, Sybil’s harem pants are definitely one of the most iconic costume scenes in the entirety of Downton’s run. So much so that the others characters refer to it every so often throughout the show's run.

The very concept of a woman wearing pants in the 1910s was unheard of so it’s a bold statement Sybil makes when she comes down for dinner in her “new frock.”

Sybil’s blue toned harem pants were inspired by Ballet Russe, a ballet company in Paris that existed from 1909 to 1929. The harem pant design was for a production of Schéhérazade in 1910 that caused a sensation. The costumes were designed by Leon Bakst, a Russian painter. Also the prolific fashion designer of the period, Paul Poiret introduced the concept of the Harem pant to women’s fashion in 1911 to “liberate” women fashions.

Sybil’s take on the harem pants are two-tones of blue with one dark and the other side a lighter blue. The ankles are cuffed.

The bodice is embroidered with a paisley design. It was made from a vintage piece and was quite fragile. The sleeves are three-quarters and a bit of blue fabric at the end. She pairs her bold exciting look with a headband worn on her forehead.

Sybil’s pant puts her free-spirited, progressive and rebellious nature right at the forefront and is easily one of the most remembered and beloved costumes of Downton. No small feat either.


Downton Poll

Jessica Brown Findlay as Lady Sybil Crawley, Season 1 Downton Abbey

Jessica Brown Findlay as Lady Sybil Crawley, Season 1 Downton Abbey

Who Else Loves Downton?

DoctorOrEngineer on December 10, 2012:

That flower/radial black dress from season 1 was just........ amazing. I'm going to sew one up. Someday.

mosaic-tiles on November 10, 2012:

Great show, great costumes.

rooshoo on November 08, 2012:

Hi, great lens. Is the poll supposed to say Mary's red gown? Because that's my favorite! Great show. This is a cute lens.

JoshK47 on November 06, 2012:

I need to watch more of it - definitely a very enjoyable show!

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