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Hats Worn in Downton Abbey: 5 Fascinating Facts

By Taylor James


Updated on

One of the reasons Downton Abbey has been such a hit is its show-stopping fashion. This period piece showcases authentic and exquisite fashion from the early 20th Century in the United Kingdom. Some of the biggest fashion highlights from this show are the hats seen on the characters.

Here are 5 fascinating facts on hats worn in Downton Abbey:

  1. They are a mix of old and new creations.
  2. They are created with authentic materials.
  3. They are made without sewing machines.
  4. Fashion researched down to the year.
  5. The styling is used in character development.

Let’s take a look at what is happening behind the scenes in Downton Abbey and get a glimpse of the magic that goes into the show’s hats and costumes. 

1. They Are a Mix Of Old and New Creations

According to the head costume designer from season five, Anna Robbins, the hats you see on screen are a mix of original hats and creations made just for the show. When they don’t have the exact hat they want for a scene, it just gets made from scratch.

2. They Are Created With Authentic Materials

According to Sahar Millinery, one of the hat creators for Downton Abbey, one of the greatest challenges of working on the show was authentic material matching. 

In the actual historical period, materials were much more limited than they were today. For example, any veiling would have been painstakingly created by hand. In modern times, veiling can now be made in a more automated way but won’t have the exact authenticity for which the show strives. 

Milliner spoke about the challenge of seeking out vintage materials in constructing the Downton Abbey costumes. She looked for materials that largely avoided modern conveniences in order to give the hats the most authentic look possible.

3. They Are Made Without Sewing Machines

When it came time to construct the hats, Sahar did her best to recreate the processes used by hatmakers of the target time period, which means that using a sewing machine was out of the question since this wasn’t something commonly used at the time. 

So, when you see the delightful and detailed hats on Downton Abbey, you can trust these were all made by hand just for the show. 

To see Sahar discussing her process, you can check out this Youtube video:

4. Fashion Researched Down to the Year

Sahar also speaks about her research methods for the show. She would spend her days in the library, looking at actual newspapers from the time period and studying the photographs from the pages. 

From these authentic historical documents, she was able to begin building her ideas for what the characters should be wearing on the show. 

She says that she made her research as specific as possible, focusing on the very year required, and learned how fashion changed from one year to the next. She used this information to inform her choices for the hats and costumes. 

5. The Styling Is Used in Character Development

According to Robbins, as the characters develop, so do the hats. Wider brims are used on the older characters, while the cloche hat with a tighter brim gives the characters an “edgier” look. This styling change is advantageous for younger, bolder characters on the show. Discover more intriguing facts about Cloche hats in this article.

About Taylor James

As Philip Treacy once said, “How a hat makes you feel is what a hat is all about.” And on that note, I hope you enjoy your hats and find the site useful. Learn more about Hat Realm's Editorial Process.