If the Women of Downton Abbey Wore Our Patterns

Last week I wrote a post on what if the women on the HBO show Girls were home sewers and used our patterns. It was a lot of fun to write and you readers seemed to enjoy it. So this week I thought I’d take on the lovely women of Downton Abbey.

First of all, the very thought of Mary, Edith, Cora or any Grantham being a home sewer in 1924 is well, just so silly! Of course they’d take trips to Paris to buy couture or to London to see a dress show. So with Mary, Edith and Cora I’ll speculate on the types of patterns they might ask a dressmaker to make in 1924, and further suspending disbelief, as a 21st-century women in 2015. (Many thanks to Seamstress Erin for suggesting the patterns-of-today touch.) For Anna, Mary’s handmaid, I’ve picked two patterns she might actually sew herself in 1924 and 2015. Read on!

Dressing Lady Mary of Downton Abbey in patterns from 1924 and 2015.

Lady Mary: I think this past Sunday’s episode was the first time Mary indicated an interest in fashion. “Oh, yummy!” she gasped at one of the frocks in the London fashion show she attended with Aunt Rosamund. It’s easy to imagine her embracing the new shapes of the 1920’s and yearning for a bit of discreet sex appeal, so I can definitely see her in the 1924 Butterick pattern on the left, with its diaphanous sleeves and skirt with breezy godets. For the Lady Mary of 2015, how about this new Ralph Rucci for Vogue Patterns ensemble as the perfect attire for an “informal conference of northern landowners,” wink wink? The beautifully-shaped jacket keeps it all respectable, while the lower skirt and top—both made in semi-sheer silk, are ever so flirtatious.

Dressing Lady Edith of Downton Abbey in Butterick and Vogue patterns from 1924 and 2015.

Lady Edith: Oh, dear Edith, I do so wish they’d give her a better storyline, and soon. There is a fun girl trapped inside her, I’m convinced. Fortunately they costume Edith in pretty clothes, and this green 1924 Butterick dress with satin roses would be smashing on her. Time-traveling to 2015, today’s Lady Edith is still unlucky in love, but she’s firmly in control of her own destiny these days. Daughter Marigold lives with her because, c’mon, it’s 2015, and Edith would be quite the yummy mummy about town in this Donna Karan for Vogue Patterns top, skinny pants, and fringed jacket outfit.  You go, girl.

Dressing Countess Cora y of Downton Abbey in Butterick and Vogue patterns from 1924 and 2015.

Countess Cora: Art historian Bricker to Cora:”Everything in Downton is beautiful, including its mistress.” To quote the very funny New York Times recapper Louis Bayard, this come-on is “not the last word in suave, but since Robert appears only to have eyes for Isis the pooch, this is about as good as Countess G is going to get.” Now that we’re seeing the artistic side of Cora, let’s imagine her in this 1924 Butterick pattern with a decidedly Spanish influence. For trips to galleries with Bricker, the Cora of 2015 would wear this Vogue Patterns curving, sculptural jacket in white paired with slim ankle pants. And if Robert is still blind to his wife’s loveliness, well, she can always come back to New York where she’d be much appreciated.

Dressing Anna of Downton Abbey in Butterick and Vogue patterns from 1924 and 2015.

Anna Bates: Here’s another one deserving a little happiness! Would it have been that boring to make Anna and her husband Mr. Bates just a pair of really nice people living quiet, contented lives? And maybe a baby in the future? Sigh, I guess so. For Anna’s off-duty Sunday outings with her hubby, she’d sew this smart 1924 Butterick number with the attractive button detail. (Baxter would have taught Anna how to sew on the sewing machine they added to the household last season.) For her 2015 imaginary life, I can see her looking all kinds of cute in this Vogue Patterns culotte jumpsuit, especially if it’s made in a lightweight stretch denim à la Dior. Perfect for a day trip to London to see if her husband really could be a murderer.


As I write this it’s Monday and we’re being bombarded with snow in Phase 1 of what NYC Mayor de Blasio says “will most likely be one of the largest blizzards in the history of New York City.” Fingers crossed we don’t lose power, ’cause I need my wifi and I need my sewing machine! (Food and warmth are also good things to have.) Hope as you’re reading this on Tuesday that all of us on the east coast woke up to much less snow than expected!

We’ve been sewing since 1863.

  1. Meg, I would love to see a Downton Abbey collection from Vogue — beginning with these three designs!

    1. Hi Margaret! Did you see these Butterick patterns that were Downton-inspired? B6093 and B6108. http://butterick.mccall.com/historical-pages-385.php

  2. Love the modern choice for Cora. I could play this game all day!

  3. This is a charming way to write about past patterns and contemporary styles! Enjoying it immensely in my not so nearly snowy part of the world (Chicago). Still cold though.

  4. Love this and love the new patterns I can’t wait to sew a few up!

  5. I would love to see what you would suggest for any of the Real Housewives episodes.

  6. I love this post. Well written and an excellent way to draw the lines and make connections to past and present. Thank you for taking the time to do this!

  7. I love the choices! These would be mine: Cora I pick V1415 and V1324, Mary v9077 and v9079, and Edith v1420 and 1435 🙂

  8. Thank you for this lovely post that combines 2 of my favorite things – Vogue patterns & Downton Abbey!

  9. What a fun way to share patterns! I love Edith best; great choices for her look.

  10. So much fun to imagine these characters in 2015. Mrs Patmore needs a new look also.

  11. Ahhhhh, this is so fun!!!

  12. Love the Ralph Rucci jacket!

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