Caroline McCall, costume designer on Downton Abbey, tells all about Lady Mary’s wedding dress and what it’s like to work on the nation’s favourite period drama.
What inspirations/ideas did you have in mind when you designed Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery)’s wedding dress?
I wanted her to look ethereal. I knew there would be the shot on the landing with the light streaming through the window and I wanted her to twinkle in the light. We used a lace with a light silver thread through it so it would catch the light and embellished it with Swarovski crystals and rice pearls so it would twinkle.
How did it feel when everyone saw Michelle Dockery walking down the stairs in the dress for the first time?
A huge relief – we actually filmed the wedding before the stair scene so when Michelle came into the church, everyone gasped. It was a very special moment.
Why is the design of a wedding dress so important, do you think?
It’s usually the only day most women get to be the centre of attention and feel like a film star. Plus, it’s probably the most expensive outfit they’ll ever wear so you want to feel fabulous and confident!
Did you design Lady Mary’s flowers, too?
I asked for long stem Aram lilies as they were very fashionable at the time and they suited the simplicity of her dress.
What were wedding dresses typically like in the 1920s?
Early ’20s wedding dresses tended to be very soft and flowing, unlike their Edwardian predecessors which were heavily constructed. Soft lace, satin and gorgette were popular fabrics.
The main difference between them and today’s dresses is that most brides were married in church and it would have been unseemly in those days to bare your shoulders, so most dresses had sleeves.
Michelle Dockery (Lady Mary) said she felt like the Duchess of Cambridge in the dress. What did you think of Catherine’s wedding gown?
I thought it was beautiful – very Princess Grace! It was a very clever design because it had to make an impact in the scale of its setting, Westminster Abbey, as well as photograph beautifully, which it did. But it didn’t overpower Kate – it complimented her beautifully.
What’s it like working on Downton?
Very hard but very rewarding. We have a fantastic cast and it’s a pleasure to dress them!