Style Check: 1920s style

PUBLISHED : Monday, 06 May, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 06 May, 2013, 10:56am

I can still remember being 12 years old and watching Pride and Prejudice on television (not the Keira Knightley version). Wearing a side ponytail, black leggings, and my baggy pink "RELAX" sweatshirt, I was transfixed by all those corsets, heaving bosoms, and bonnets.

It was the 1990s, and it sparked off my first real interest in the construction of fashion. Since then, I've always loved a good costume drama.

My latest obsession, like many others, has been the British television show Downton Abbey. There is Lady Sybil's down-to-earth bohemian chic, Lady Mary's uptight glamour and, of course, the dowager countess' elaborate full gloves, luxurious shrugs and corsets, worn by actress Maggie Smith. The lady certainly knows how to accessorise.

I'm not alone. Downton Abbey, along with other shows and films, has sparked a revival in '20s fashion. Just think what Mad Men did for the '50s silhouette.

Those who love styles from eras past will be glad that Downton Abbey's cultural capital just got a whole lot bigger. The producers of the show, NBC Universal and Carnival Films, have announced the launch of a Downton Abbey fashion line, along with other ranges from beauty to houseware and furniture.

This comes after the show's popularity soared in the US during the third season. Merchandising for successful television shows and films is an old game, but I have known few instances where they've brought out a fashion line.

I don't recall if any of those were all that successful. It's one thing taking inspiration from a television show, quite another being seen buying apparel from a TV production company.

But there's been plenty of interest in the Downton news, so it's easy to see what the producers were thinking. So how will the aristocratic style of this post-Edwardian era be translated to fashion for modern women?

I see rails of fashionable beaded column dresses, light silky blouses, and extravagant hats. There will be embroidered low-waisted dresses in charming feminine colours, lovely textured fabrics and plenty of deep reds and (unfortunately) lavender.

Downton Abbey is also interesting as it covers the period before and after the first world war. It shows styles shifting from a stiff and corseted look, to loose shapes with more free-form tailoring.

Although no date has been set for the launch of the apparel line, I'd be interested to know who is designing it and how much it will cost.

The era has taken hold at many high fashion houses already. Designers like Ralph Lauren have transformed key '20s pieces into chic, contemporary ready-to-wear. Lauren's spring-summer 2012 collection was an ode the Roaring Twenties, featuring light pretty pastels.

Rounded hats, similar to those seen on Downton Abbey, were very on point, as were the slinky pyjama pants, floral dresses and long column gowns.

Here the inspiration was more stateside: from The Great Gatsby, the F. Scott Fitzgerald novel set in a period of American prosperity and the good life. Much has been made of Miuccia Prada's work as costume co-designer with Catherine Martin on Baz Luhrmann's Jazz Age epic.

If successful, the Downton line could signal a greater, more refined, and profitable crossover for television and fashion.