Thursday, 12 January 2012

Double Take at Downton

The big news this week... eagle-eyed viewers spot hand-me-down costumes on Downton Abbey.

Everyone seems shocked to hear that a number of Downton Abbey's award winning costumes are in fact second hand, having previously made appearances on the big screen.

Lady Mary's red beaded dress has graced Hollywood royalty, having been worn by Catherine Zeta Jones in the film Death Defying Acts, whilst a sheer green gown first appeared in J.M. Barrie biopic Finding Neverland. It's not just Lady Mary's wardrobe where you'll find these short cuts, the tabloids are reporting many more examples.

It's not just Lady Mary's much admired wardrobe where you'll find such short cuts, the tabloids are reporting many more examples.

The truth is the cost of making all the costumes from scratch would have pushed the popular period drama well over budget, a fact reiterated by Downton costume designer Susannah Box, who said:

"We couldn't have done all of them - it would have cost a fortune."

Instead, only around 1/3 are new, with the remainder reused either as they are or with considerable alterations - a common practice in the film, television and theatre industries. I remember an actor friend of mine getting very excited when he found out his suit had been worn by one of his idols - even if it was a little short on the sleeves!

However many times the costumes have been seen, surely what matters is that the clothes are a suitable fit for the character and era. In a time of recession, maybe this could encourage us all to share and share alike, by trying out swishing events, or designer dress hire websites.

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