The Search for 'Downton Abbey' Inspired Fashions

Downton Abbey is not just successful as good entertainment. Women everywhere are clamouring for clothing inspired from the show, and finding that modern-day retail wear is not even as pretty as the show's most simple dresses.

The longing for Downton Abbey-inspired fashions, and the very few options available at the retail level, indicate that a change is needed in women's fashion. Most women can't afford a $1,000 dress, and designers and manufacturers will continue to make cheap, ugly, throwaway clothing until people stop buying it. But there is one option remaining for turning the fashion tide: Making or buying only top-quality, beautiful clothes, and making do with a limited wardrobe . . . like most people did for centuries. We should bring the emphasis in fashion back to having a few quality items, rather than amassing a huge quantity of synthetic items that we grow weary of after a few months. Women are already realizing this, and have started searching out homemade clothing (and making their own) in the quest to bring some true style back into fashion.

So can women today find anything that's comparable to Downton Abbey fashion (without making it, or wearing an evening gown during the day)? I've scoured online women's boutiques and department stores, and after looking through thousands of dresses, here are the best options I've found for Downton Abbey-inspired style. There are some great dresses at exorbitant prices, but in this list, everything is under $200.

(If you're looking for authentic vintage style, check out the Ladies Emporium, Recollections, Etsy, or this list of retailers from Sense & Sensibility Patterns.)

Long Dresses for a Look That's Casual or Elegant

The ladies of Downton Abbey are usually dressed to impress. But it's possible to find empire-waist dresses and long dresses in a variety of styles that have a bit of pre-World War I British flair.

The ladies of 'Downton Abbey' in dresses that feature chiffon, brocade and satin

 

Who would have thought that a modern take on Downton Abbey could be found in Jessica Simpson's line? This empire-waist dress is available at Belk, $79:

Floral print maxi dress

 

This Calvin Klein chiffon dress has a soft, romantic feel due to the fabric, pleated bodice, and delicate belt. Available at Macy's, $179:

This Calvin Klein dress is available in pink or cobalt

 

This jewel-waist maxi dress looks very 1920s. Available at Coldwater Creek, $139.95 - $149.95 (plus 30% off):

Jewel-waist maxi dress

 

This dress could be straight from the show if it included a bit more fabric. Unfortunately, the fit gets pretty poor reviews. Available at Piperlime, $89:

Floral Maxi Dress

 

A knee-length lace dress. Available at J.C. Penney, $90:

Shutterpleat Dress

 

This peacock printed dress from New Directions looks much prettier up close. Available at Belk, $34.99:

A print with peacock feathers

 

An Easy Downton Abbey Look

A lacy white blouse with a solid colored skirt is probably the easiest Downton Abbey look to put together.

A vintage blouse with a skirt

 

This sheer lace blouse needs a camisole under it, but has the benefit of being tuckable. Available at Urban Outfitters, $39.99:

Collared Lace Blouse

 

Ann Taylor's white blouse can have an old-fashioned feel with the right skirt. Available at Ann Taylor, $58:

Short Sleeve Cotton Shirt

 

White Fabric, with Black Embroidery

This look is in style right now, so luckily can be found on a variety of dresses and blouses.

Cora in a white ensemble that features black embroidery

 

An embroidered blouse from White House | Black Market, $98:

From White House | Black Market

 

This dress isn't embroidered, but it looks great. Available at Piperlime, $121.99:

Shelly Ruffle Front Print Maxi Dress

 

Or, go for the reverse look with this jersey dress with soutache embroidery. Available at Macy's, $119.50:

The soutache embroidery gives this dress a bit of old-fashioned flair

 

Understated Color, with Lots of Feminine Touches

Chiffon and lace come together in this pale green dress. There are similar options with lace from Dillard's.

Mary in a jade gown featuring chiffon and lace

 

This Willow & Clay dress of pewter chiffon, with beaded latticework around the neck, has a similar feel with a modern flair. Available at Dillard's, $59.40:

Willow & Clay beaded dress

 

For a more casual look that's still long and ladylike, this knit maxi dress has touches of lace in the front and back. Available at Dillard's, $46.80:

Delicate lace in the back gives this maxi dress an old-fashioned element

 

The Women in White

The pre-war days in Downton Abbey include some almost all-white ensembles for the ladies. Add a straw hat, and the look is complete.

A flowered print, stripes, and plain white

 

This is more pink than white, but it's definitely old-fashioned. Plus, it's machine washable. Available at Talbots, $139:

Rose-Print Dress

 

This shirtdress with a bumble-bee print is cotton and silk. Available at Anthropologie, $148:

Honeyed Life Shirtdress

 

This macrame dress almost looks handmade. Available at Piperlime, $148:

Hostess Maxi in Gingerbread

 

Embroidered, Black and Sheer

There are plenty of evening dresses that are similar to this style. But what about something more casual? Scroll down for a dress that can go either way.

Mary in a detailed black dress with a sheer look

 

With a different belt, this Chelsea & Violet embroidered dress can have a Downton Abbey feel (you have to zoom in to see the embroidery). Available at Dillard's, $148:

Chelsea & Violet dress withe delicate embroidery

 

Do you have other suggestions? Let me know, and I'll add them to the list!

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