The Ladies of Downton Abbey haven’t had very much luck in marriage thus far, so it must be with a little trepidation that Lady Rose walks down the aisle in this season’s finale.
Lady Mary’s husband Matthew was killed before the couple could celebrate their first wedding anniversary, Lady Edith was jilted at the altar by Sir Anthony Strallan, and Lady Sybil died months into her life with chauffeur Tom Branson. The odds of a happily ever after are against the frivolous niece of Lord Grantham. Luckily she isn’t one to heed the example or advice of others, and is head over heels in love with Jewish banker Atticus Aldridge (below).
And nobody could be more pleased for the couple than Anna Mary Scott Robbins, Downton’s costume designer. “What a privilege to get to do a wedding dress on Downton,” she explains, “it’s the high point of my career.” But having joined the production at the beginning of this series and watched the other girls tie the knot (or attempt to) from the comfort of her sofa, the pressure was immediately on for her to top the wedding dresses that had gone before.
“Lady Rose would have had her wedding dress made especially for her big day, so I was anticipating having to make something for her from scratch. As it happened, we had the biggest stroke of luck,” the designer recalls. “The dress she wears is a completely original piece that we unearthed in a vintage shop in immaculate condition. The hairs on the back of my neck stood up when we found it and when Lily James put it on, it was one of those perfect moments you don’t get that often in your career.
“There must be a terribly sad story behind it however, because I fear the girl this wedding dress was originally made for never actually got to wear it – it’s in just too good a condition to have ever been worn. How sad – such a beautiful dress, never worn but sat in a box.
“It cost nearly £2,000, which in terms of how much women spend on their wedding dresses today isn’t too bad. Vintage is always good because you get so much more for your money.”
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While scouring the vintage shops of Notting Hill’s Portobello Road and Paris’s vast antiques market in Clignancourt for the perfect dress, Scott Robbins was also keeping an eye out for a dress of her own, although with less success.
“I’m actually engaged and my future husband and friends have been laughing at me because I have been more obsessed with finding the perfect dress for Lady Rose than myself!” she says with the slight panic of a soon-to-be bride. “Mine has been pushed to the side and I haven’t found one yet. I would love to borrow Rose’s but unfortunately I’m six foot tall. I think I’ll have to go for a more 50s-style dress that suits my body type. I just hope I find one that is as perfect as hers!”
The joy of working on a show like Downton for Scott Robbins is that the Grantham girls would have only worn the most fashionable and beautiful clothes the season had to offer, and that each of them has a very individual style.
“Mary is the kind of Lady who would be wearing Chanel and Lanvin,” she explains. “With her iconic bob we were able to re-create the quintessential 1920s look. She is a high- fashion clothes horse with perfect lean lines, so I can lift the looks straight out of the magazines of the time and re-create them for her.
“Edith was tricky this season because she’s been stuck in an emotional quagmire, and we had to reflect that in her clothes. Hopefully next season she will be in London, working and independent and we can carry that emancipation through into her style. She could be really avant-garde and edgy.
“Rose is feminine, pretty and frivolous. She loves going shopping and drinking cocktails so we can have more fun with her. While she is not a flapper in the truest sense, she is the closest to that style. I just hope that she has better luck in marriage than her cousins. She and her future husband make such a handsome pair. Maybe we could finally see a fairy-tale ending befitting of her and her dress.”
With Lily James, who plays Lady Rose, next appearing in cinemas playing Disney’s Cinderella, perhaps Julian Fellowes might just consider letting her and her Prince Charming make it down the aisle and live happily ever after. Or if that is asking too much – Downton is, after all, no fairy tale – both of them surviving the first year of marriage would at least be a start.
Downton Abbey is on ITV tonight (9th November) at 9.00pm