Hurrah! The wait for Season 3 of Downton Abbey, the British-American period drama on PBS that has changed our world and captured our hearts, is over! Who would have thought that gruff Americans would have embraced the lives of post-Edwardian British aristocracy and their servants so fervently? But then again, who can resist Dame Maggie Smith as the Dowager Countess Violet Grantham–the staunch protector of English dignity with a quick-fire tongue and a stiff upper lip. The show dazzles us with the drama of “upstairs”: searching for an heir to the Grantham estate only to find that the closest male relative is of the professional class (the horror!); the eldest daughter, Lady Mary’s, scandalous encounter with a foreigner who dies in the house; her disingenuous pursuits of Matthew, the heir to Grantham estate, that turn into true feelings only to be eclipsed by a misunderstanding, World War I and Matthew’s new fiancé; and a slew of other drama that can only be caused by people of leisure. Below stairs, you have O’Brien, Lady Grantham’s scheming lady’s maid, and Thomas, a villainous footman, who plot their ascent in the world while taking down a few of the other servants along the way; Bates, Lord Grantham’s charming and loyal valet with puppy dog eyes and a dark past who falls in love with Anna, the daughters’ lady’s maid, who stays true to her course and her belief in Bates’ goodness; and Carson the stern butler with a heart of gold who sees it as his sole responsibility to maintain the standards and dignity of the house. Interwoven in all this drama is the unwavering dignity of old world practices–dressing for dinner, drinks in the morning room, afternoon teas, hunts, proper running of households, and the beauty of a life where everyone has a role and a place whether it be above or below stairs.
On Downton Abbey jewelry helps set the stage for the show and I have to give kudos to costume designer Susanna Buxton for her accuracy. When Lady Mary went into mourning for her betrothed who died on the Titanic, she wore a necklace made of jet–a fossilized black wood considered to be a minor gemstone. Mourning jewelry was often made of jet from Whitby, England; and reached the height of its popularity after the passing of Prince Albert when Queen Victoria required her entire court go into mourning for a period of three years and only wear jewelry made of jet at court for the first year.
Lady Mary in mourning jewelry.
For the most part, Downton Abbey jewelry has been subdued throughout first and second seasons to reflect the austere times of mourning and World War I that the family has endured. As the show progresses, we see the fashions and jewelry evolve with the characters and with the changing world. Lady Sybil, the youngest and most rebellious of the Crawley daughters, is the first to lose her corset and don the cutting-edge French fashions of the belle époque–as epitomized by Paul Poiret, whose signature looks were harem pants, turbans and headbands–to the shock of the rest of the family.
Lady Sybil in her French fashions.
As we progress into Season 3, I anticipate a bit more glitz and glamour in store for Downton Abbey jewelry and fashions. We are heading into the 1920’s, a time of post-war prosperity and of course the arrival of Martha Levinson (played by Shirley MacLaine), the very American (and very wealthy) mother of Cora, Countess of Grantham. With the roaring 20’s underway and the possibility of a wedding between Lady Mary and Matthew Crawley, I am just itching for some serious Art Deco jewelry to make its appearance on the show.
What would a period piece be without costume and jewelry? I truly shudder at the possibility. Nothing brings a show or movie to life-like accurate jewelry (see my post about Anna Karenina jewelry for an example of inaccurate period pieces) and I cannot wait to see what jewels will be used to set the stage for Downton Abbey, Season 3. Since I have an obsession with brilliantly crazy old ladies, I shall leave you with a clip of the Dowager Countesses best one-liners thus far and a link to my Pinterest Art Deco Jewelry Board in case you want a little inspiration of your own.
Big Kiss and Bigger Diamonds,