Get That Look: Downton Abbey and the Outdoor Life

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One of the loveliest parts of all the period British dramas is the depiction of the outdoor life of the British noble and gentry classes.  Certainly, the Brits are known for their love and expertise at gardening, riding and hunting and the exquisite lawn parties filled with ladies and gentlemen dressed in white enjoying simpler pursuits. I thought in this weeks post on Downton Abbey, I’d focus on the outdoor pursuits of the Crawley’s and their friends.

The Cora, Countess of Grantham (played by Elizabeth McGovern) takes tea on the lawn of the estate with her mother-in-law mother-in-law, the Dowager Countess (Dame Maggie Smith)

From this view, we can see just how far away from the big house their little tea time is. Which was likely a fair burden on the serving staff who had to shlep all the furniture out side (no Sunbrella then!) as well as the full tea service, including still hot tea. One has to assume, however, that these were some of the few times the ladies could chat in complete privacy.

Outdoor sports such as riding and hunting have historically been very important aspects of British country life. This is one of the iconic images from the series featuring Lady Mary Crawley (played by Michele Dockery) getting ready to ride out. Although riding in full dress, with corset, and side-saddle to boot must have been incredibly uncomfortable, it sure looked pretty! 

The Crawley family, and friends, go shooting on a chilly autumn day. The dress is decidedly less formal than Mary’s riding habit above, but dashing in its own way. 

Of course, thrashing about in the bramble after the dogs must give one a hearty appetite. And once again, the servants are tasked with serving a meal in an out of the way location such as the barn. Romantic looking, though, isn’t it?

Countess Cora, recovering after losing her baby in the last episode of Season 1, stays warm and out of the way at their annual garden party.

Middle daughter Lady Edith Crawley (played by Laura Carmichael) watches her suitor as he leaves without proposing (oh that scheming Lady Mary!) in front of the picnic tent that is filled with skirted tables, folding chairs and flowers. An interesting note is that the dress Lady Edith is wearing is purportedly a rented costume that was previously worn in Merchant & Ivory’s Room With A View starring Helena Bonham-Carter. I actually scrolled through Room to see if I could spot it, but could not. The time periods and thus the dress styles were so different between the turn of the century Room and late-Edwardian era Downton (in this scene). Possibly it was used as an under dress or its scene was edited out. Or I could have missed it.

Here we have a sky shot of the grounds at Highclere Castle, setting for Downton Abbey. Interestingly, the current Lady Carnavon of Highclere has been re-building these gardens from scratch and the cast and crew have not been allowed to go in them. One wonders if this is a bonus of the funds earned from the rental on the property to the production. If so, it’s a great use of the money!

Additional links for Downton Abbey:

  •   Visit my Downton Abbey Country Living Board on Pinterest for additional images, links and credits for all of the above above.
  • Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun Times relates to Carson the Butler.
  • Claudia Juestel from The Adeeni Blog is inspired by Downton Abbey and has a great post about the show, including beautiful large photos from the show and other similar manor homes. 
  •  Styleture blog offers a great collection of Downton inspired bathroom fixtures
  • WNET Channel 13 in New York offers their Downton Dish – which is truly hysterical.
  • The “fabulous and opinionated” Tom + Lorenzo maintain weekly recaps of the series, which are not to be missed, especially if you have missed any episodes! 
  • Vic over at Jane Austen’s World has a fantastic recap of the newly aired “Secrets of the Manor House” which goes into the societal changes leading up to and influenced by the first world war. For some reason, this hasn’t aired on WGBH/Boston (hello @masterpiecepbs – care to respond to my tweet??) but I did see a ten minute portion of it, and it looks like a perfect companion piece to the series. Can’t wait to see it. (WGBH – are you listening? Don’t make me come up there!)

If you’ve seen a great post on Downton Abbey, or are covering the show yourself, please be sure to leave a link in the comments, or email me, so I can add it to next week’s post.

If you would like my help on your design project, I would love to chat with you! Please email me. Thanks! Subscribe to ::Surroundings::

xoxo Linda

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