From dowdy to divine on ‘Downton’

Laura Carmichael steps out as the newly stylish Lady Edith on “Downton Abbey.’’
Nick Briggs/Carnival Film & Television
Laura Carmichael steps out as the newly stylish Lady Edith on “Downton Abbey.’’

There was a scene, early in the life of “Downton Abbey,” when the parents of dowdy middle child Edith Crawley (Laura Carmichael) had a cringe-worthy discussion about their daughter’s romantic prospects. It went something like this:

Lord Grantham (Hugh Bonneville): “Poor old Edith. We never seem to talk about her.”

Cora Crawley (Elizabeth McGovern): “I’m afraid Edith will be the one taking care of us in our old age.”


Lord Grantham: “Oh, what a ghastly prospect!”

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Fast forward several seasons, and it looks like Edith is the least likely to remain in the drafty castle taking care of her parents and their spoiled dog. Edith has undergone a massive transformation, and, as viewers, we’ve seen this unfold not only through an increase in confidence, but in her stunning wardrobe. It appears that Edith has had an opportunity to do quite a bit of shopping during those trips to London.

Nick Briggs/Carnival Film & Television
Laura Carmichael as Lady Edith.

“Our designer allows modern trends to creep in,” Carmichael said in an interview with Elle. “Because Mary is in mourning, she wears modest styles, but Edith is sophisticated. She’s got this amazing dress in the first episode and these travel coats. In terms of the hair, this year is all about the soft finger wave.”

The blooming of Edith can be traced back to one of the most traumatic events of her character’s adult life — getting dumped at the altar by Sir Anthony Strallan. “I just want to be happy,” said poor Edith. After a pep talk from her grandmother, Edith finds confidence penning a newspaper column, and in the affections of her editor. Unfortunately, this editor is married. Our Edith has found herself ensnared in another romantic conundrum. But this time she looks fantastic in flapper chic as she pieces together the shards of yet another potentially shattered romance.

In the past, Lady Mary played the role of fashion plate. But in season four (which concludes Sunday), it’s Edith who commanded sartorial attention. Edith has produced one gasp-worthy fashion moment after another.


“There’s a brilliant dress I wore in the Criterion which the costume girls were calling ‘Beadith’ because it’s covered in beads,” Carmichael said in an interview with Britain’s What’s on TV. “Her costumes feel so risqué this year! They’re beautiful and sexy. There are some things that people would wear to award ceremonies now — they’re stunning.”

Christopher Muther can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @Chris_Muther.