Not only has Downton Abbey transformed our winter Sunday evenings into sofa-loafing TV heaven, it has also influenced the way we dress, making us reappraise the sort of clothes we once thought of as antique and fusty, and recognise their status as British classic fashion.
The outfits have been one of the most enjoyable aspects of the award-winning drama (alongside some of the dialogue), which so far has spanned 1912 to 1922. Lady Mary has, of course, been a vision in her many beaded gowns, and Lady Edith deserves a special mention for her increasingly fabulous bohemian-meets-Deco wardrobe, but it has been the traditional countrywear that has really impressed and influenced. And this goes for the chaps, just as much as for modern-day town-meets-countrywomen.
Since the 1960s, traditional British tweed has been worn chiefly by the eccentric and those who teach history. Now Lord Grantham (Hugh Bonneville) has transformed it into classic-meets-contemporary cool, while Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery) has demonstrated that tweed and wool tailoring make the ideal building blocks for the stylish 2013 winter wardrobe.
Kilts and hacking jackets, tailored tweed trousers and waistcoats, shift dresses and tunics, gorgeous coats and even breeches – tweed, wool and moleskin tailored casuals are the new go-to luxe key pieces for this winter’s wardrobe. Wear head-to-toe or mix in with other fabrics, go for a traditional, vintage flavour or just add a touch of classic charm to a more contemporary outfit, the versatility of wool and tweed is impressive.
Tweed’s rich colours – earth tones, soft greens, heathers and blues – reflect the Scottish highlands and moorlands in which the cloths originated. Traditional Harris tweed is still dyed, spun, woven and finished in the Outer Hebrides, while companies such as Moons of Guiseley and Johnston’s of Elgin have also built strong reputations on the excellence of their tweed and woollen cloths, and are leading the way in taking the fabrics forward with bold, contemporary designs and lighter weights that work all-year-round and suit city living and working, as well as weekend and country wear.
The lustre of tweed and woven wool, the way it takes and transforms colour, then tailors to perfection, yet provides practical, wearable, beautiful clothing ... well, it’s hard to beat. And tweed is going nowhere – the front rows at this autumn’s Paris fashion week for spring 2014 were jam-packed with fashion-forward tweed wearers, including US Vogue editor Anna Wintour. Coco Chanel’s love affair with tweed began when she holidayed in Scotland in the 1920s; for next season, current creative director Karl Lagerfeld has reinvented classic tweed suits with shots of metallic and bold bright colour.
You never know... maybe Coco Chanel will turn up at Downton one day soon, and ignite a new fashion revolution.