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Up-Trending with Downton Abbey Fashion


When 10.2 million dedicated fans tune into a single TV show, that’s a trend your retail Fashion Trend Analyst takes note of.

On Sunday evening, January 5, 2014, a record number of viewers sat back, (presumably with a nice cuppa tea), to watch the premiere episode of season four of Downton Abbey. These numbers have broken all previous records, surpassing season three. 10.2 million devotees made this the highest rated drama premiere in the entire history of PBS.

How does this information influence us?  As we know, Downton Abbey is a British costume drama based in 1920’s England.  The story is a contrast of the lives of the upstairs aristocracy and their downstairs staff. Because it is a British produced series, the attention to detail is exquisite.  Let’s focus on the top fashion details that will be important to bring into the retail mix. Some of these trends we will want to bring in with more emphasis than others.

The Drop Waist:

This is the silhouette most identified with the 1920’s. Simply put, women were permitted to remove their corsets and Coco Chanel reigned as the queen of comfort and style. Many designers are showing drop waists now. (Remember, Karl Lagerfeld, always ahead of the curve, presented the drop waist back in July, 2013, for his Chanel Fall 2013 Couture Collection.) Here’s a neat drop waist by Chloé in striped twill.

The Tuxedo:

This is a body that never goes out of style, for both men and women. The classics are still important; how can you argue with an Armani tux? But there are new boundaries in the area of the tuxedo. Take this one by Dsquared2. The topstitched gold leather panels launch this jacket right out of the ordinary and into a totally new stratosphere.

Opera Length Gloves:

Every female above stairs at Downton Abbey is forever slipping on her gloves, with the assistance of her lady’s maid, of course. It’s a look we all love. Short, wrist length gloves for day, long, above the elbow formal gloves for evening. The rule is, the longer the glove, the shorter the sleeve. Today, gloves come in every color, length and price range. If you have a bridal department, you probably already carry sheer white gloves. Add an explosion of color with vibrant hues in different lengths to show your customers you’re all over the trend.

Opera Length Pearls:

Pearls will always be a classic choice. To lure the younger customer, offer different colors in a variety of lengths and price points. The industry standard for pearl strands: 16 inches: choker length. 18 inches: princess length. 22 to 24 inches: matinee length. 30 to 32 inches: opera length. The long line of the opera length strand complements beautifully the drop waist silhouette. Be sure to display them together. This long strand by Mikimoto, of multi-colored gold, white and black south sea cultured pearls. Of course this captivating piece of jewelry needs to be sold along with an insurance policy.

The Drop or Lariat Necklace:

This is a must-have style. Very Art Deco and very now. Here is a real beauty by award winning, British jewelry designer to the couture designers, Shaun Leane.

The Cloche Hat:

My theory is that the flappers of the 1920’s wore heaps of make-up because their hats were pulled down over their faces and the eyes and mouth needed definition in order to be seen. Here’s a beauty of a cloche by milliner Albertus Swanepoel.


Yes, we’ve seen tweed since Ralph Lauren took over that genre years ago. But we’ve got some very interesting fashion going on in this category. Take a leap of faith that your customers will appreciate. How about this tweed jacket by MSGM? Multicolored cotton blends, with unfinished edges. Clearly not the Duchess of Canterbury’s tweed.

Fur Collar Coat:

A must-have fashion statement for the 1920’s. This white raccoon fur trimmed coat by Just Cavalli is a total knock out. Of printed satin and wool twill, this piece is way up there on the stunning scale.

White Full Apron:

Does poor, overworked Daisy, the assistant to the cook on Downton Abbey ever get a chance to wear anything but a white apron? 10.2 million fashionistas must feel sorry for her. But then again, she has unwittingly set a trend. There’s something homey and self-assured about the full length white apron; rather professional. I’m positive that your customer’s chicken pot pies will taste better if they make them wearing one of these. Here’s a display idea: Create a life size photo image of Daisy, put a white apron on her and display your stock of aprons right next to it. Can’t miss.

Need a Fashion Trend Analyst on your staff to make heads and tails, (that was a tuxedo pun) of the constantly changing trends? Contact SaSR, retail staffing experts for a perfect fit.


Fashion Trend Analyst contributor: Diane Weisbeck.

TAGS: retail, retail trends, retailers, fashionista, fashion, fashion trends, fashion stylist,
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