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Steal Their Style: The Fashion of Downton Abbey

We’re all currently mourning the fact that 2016 will mark the sixth and final season of our favourite television show, Downton Abbey. However, while we may no longer be able to follow the new adventures of the aristocratic Crawley family, their servants and their family, that doesn’t mean the dramatic plot has to die out completely. It can live on in our imitation of their brilliant attire.

Some may call it “retro.” We call it classic- at least most of their wardrobe choices. If you love the fashion on this popular show, we have a few tips that can help you rewind time to the 1920s.


Men’s Formal Wear

Formal attire is a way of life in Downton Abbey, as any good aristocratic family knows. If you want the same kind of look, you need to start with a simple tuxedo. You’ll also need:


  • A white or black bow tie


  • White gloves


  • A white waistcoat


  • A button-down wingtip-collar dress shirt


You might immediately think that finding a tuxedo that fits into 1920s fashion might be hard. However, that isn’t the case. While there have been some minor changes to tuxedos over the years, they haven’t been significant enough to warrant finding an authentic 1920s tuxedo.

Whether or not you choose to wear white tie accessories or black tie accessories depends on your own personal style choices. In the early 1920s, traditionalist style dictated white accessories. However, as the decade wore on black tie accessories became acceptable as well.


Day Wear

You wouldn’t find a man wearing his team’s favourite jersey or a pair of sweat pants in the 1920s, and you aren’t going to see it on Downton Abbey. Instead, you’ll find men’s suits and men’s tweed jackets.


Men’s Suits

There’s a reason we refer to this time period’s clothing choices as “classic” instead of “retro:” a 1920s men’s suit isn’t that different from today’s. Both feature a slim-fitting jacket and classic pant leg width. There are some things to keep in mind when purchasing a suit to fit the Downton Abbey style, however.


  • Choose suits made from materials that stand out. This includes herringbone, textured wools, thick stripes and checks. Subtle looks were not acceptable during this time. Men wanted to be noticed, and they were. During the summer, linen in ivory or summer white was the appropriate suit style for outdoor events and parties.


  • Suits could either be single or double breasted. However, single-breasted suits were a much more popular choice. Lapels on the suits weren’t skinny or wide, but somewhere in the middle, with notch cut outs. Unlike today’s suits, which tend to button up to the bottom of one’s ribs, traditional suits during this time period buttoned higher. If this feels uncomfortable to you, you can get away with a modern suit jacket with modern buttons.


  • While high-waist pants are the norm on Downton Abbey and during the 1920s, they don’t fit today’s styles and can be difficult to find. Luckily, you won’t even notice the difference if you wear a classic waist that falls just below your belly button. Make sure they are hemmed with a break at the ankle and a thick cuff, however, for that traditional appearance. This was not the era for baggy clothing (and it shouldn’t be an option today. Remember, fit is king!)


  • A waistcoat was an important article of clothing to wear with men’s suits. While they may disappear under a jacket that has been buttons, they tend to stand out once you’ve taken off the jacket or unbuttoned it to sit down. Look for a waistcoat in the same fabric and style as your suit. If you can’t find one, attempt to match the colours of your waistcoat to your suit.


  • Speaking of colours, low-key is best when attempting to steal the style of the Downton Abbey characters. Grey, brown, green and blue are the most appropriate. The later 1920s were becoming more and more acceptable of brighter and boulder colours, but that doesn’t mean you should overdo it. Add a soft pastel pocket kerchief to your pocket if you want, but avoid bright-coloured socks.


Tweed Jackets

Casual style wasn’t so casual back then. Today you might walk around the house in a pair of jeans and a t-shirt. In the days of Downton Abbey, the tweed jacket represented the most casual look. Tweed was the perfect solution for any casual or outdoor activity in this time period. Whether you were riding a horse, taking part in a fox hunt or taking a walk through the garden, a tweed jacket looked brilliant and provided protection against the cool weather.


Dress Shirts

Dress shirts in the 1920s tended to have detachable collars. While you may not be able to find these specific shirts today, you can still find ones in the same style, with round club or point collars. Colours for these shirts were solid white most of the time, but the early 1920s saw stripes of blue, green, yellow or grey as well. As the decade wore on, new and brighter colours were mixed in as well. This is why you might see your favourite characters wearing orange, purple or even pink dress shirts under their suits or tweed jackets.



If you want to steal the style of your favourite Downton Abbey characters, your tie is an essential accessory to consider. In this era, both traditional ties and bow ties were often used. Choose ties with small patterns that repeat, paisley or wide stripes. If you choose paisley, consider ties that offer deep jewel tones like green, gold or purple. Bow ties should have polka dots or wide stripes.



In Downton Abbey, if there’s one thing you notice about men and their fashion, it’s their hats. A man’s hat was his identity in this era. Felt hats included the Bowler, the Fedora and the Homburg. These were worn in winter and in the cooler days of spring and fall. Straw boater hats were often used in summer for their lighter style. Flat caps were worn by young men and the working class all year long and were made of heavy tweed and wool. Wealthier men would also wear them, but only when they were taking part in sports like hunting.

Want to look the part of a Downton Abbey character? With so many classic features, you can easily transform your men’s suits and tweed jackets into 1920s fashion.

By Brook Taverner 19 October 2015 Leave a comment Go to comments