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

 

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