Downton Abbey’s Costume Designer Susannah Buxton Influences Major Fashion Labels

Posted: February 23rd, 2012 | Author: |

Fans of the relatively sedate yet sophisticated ITV period drama Downton Abbey enjoy its beautiful location scenery and the delightful drama of its storylines, which examine the complexities of the Upstairs, Downstairs relationships between servants and their upper class employers during the epochal WWI era.

However, despite its amazing domestic success, its gifted creator Julian Fellowes and talented costumier Susannah Buxton could scarcely have believed that it would enjoy terrific transatlantic success, pulling in over 6 million viewers an episode in the States and transcending TV in order to inspire renowned designers such as Ralph Lauren and L’Wren Scott to produce Downton-inspired fashion collections, when the series premiered in 2010.

The series has granted Susannah Buxton creative license to showcase some of the most stunning examples of elegant Edwardian fashion, including the beautiful corseted dresses of the ladies of the noble Crawley family, the stunning and suave suits of the aristocratic gentlemen and the immaculate uniforms of the scullery maids and butlers whose personal triumphs and tragedies intermingle with those of their employers to the backdrop of the stunning setting at Highclere Castle in Hampshire.

Susannah has stated that she approaches her work with the dedication of a historian and uses archive material such as vintage photographs and paintings as well as the retro designs of fashion legends such as Coco Chanel to inspire her intricately detailed reproduction costumes. Furthermore, it has also been necessary for her to study various memoirs and other primary sources in order to paint a picture of the daily habits of Aristocratic Edwardians and the formal routines which required several costume changes throughout any given day so that leisure wear and more formal outfits are always depicted at the appropriate moments. Moreover, Susannah also finds enough variation in the fashions of the Edwardian era to carefully choose costume creations which reflect the personalities of each character and even the uniforms of the servants can be subtly adjusted to provide a sense of individuality whilst preserving the prerequisite uniformity.

At New York Fashion week, Ralph Lauren deferred to Susannah’s sublime skills and paid homage to the series’ popularity by including several Edwardian men’s three piece suits and glamorous ladies ball gowns in his catwalk collection and a terrific touch of Downton magic could also be witnessed in the fabulous fashions unveiled by L’Wren Scott, who adorned her models with vivacious velvet Edwardian frocks as well as the distinctive hairstyles of the era. By combining grace, glamour and superbly crafted storylines, the influence of Downton Abbey has indeed spread far beyond the serenity of the English countryside.


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