Monday, January 21, 2013

Jean Patou's Jewel Festooned Potato Sacks: Love them or Hate them? And Another Scandalous Day at Downton

Once again, I'm hooked on Downton Abbey! I couldn't be happier that season three has started. Without giving anything away, I'll tell you that I'm drinking in all the fussy beaded details on the dinner dresses and clutching my heart over the drama. Will Bates and Anna ever get a happy ending? Will Edith ever take center stage? Will Matthew and Mary just shut up and get married already?

For those of you who aren't watching, picture this: The ladies of Downton are giggling over a certain bride's wedding dress and trousseau over tea. The sly, dry Dowager Countess--my favorite character!--practically titters as she tells the bride, "I'm rather disappointed you didn't go with Patou - I would have paid." But Cora insists that Patou makes one look like a chorus girl, and Lucile is a safer choice. Immediately, I had to look at Jean Patou's body of work. How could the Dowager Countess possibly love a frock that Cora found too racy?

Egyptian style evening dress by Jean Patou, 1924 - Victoria & Albert Museum
*singing* One singular sensation, every little step she takes...
 Okay, it does evoke a chorus line, but what's wrong with that, Cora?!
Beaded silk evening dress by Jean Patou, 1927 - Metropolitan Museum of Art
Is it terrible that this is something I'd wear under a beat-up gray cardigan with black tights? I love it.
Beaded red silk evening dress by Jean Patou, 1924 - Metropolitan Museum of Art
It's like someone said, "Let's draw as much attention to the belly as possible, while hiding the waist entirely!"
And yet I kind of want to wear it because I bet it feels like peachfuzz and caterpillar down. I'm confused.
I'm scratching my head over Patou's designs. The beadwork is gorgeous, especially the Art Deco geometric motifs. And the fabrics are so sumptuous, I want to roll in them for days. But the silhouettes--oh, the horrible, unflattering silhouettes! It's as if Mr. Patou intentionally set out to make women look like boxy, squatty jewel boxes. There's not a waistline in sight! I imagine that all the hourglass figures of this era went to waste under these bejeweled potato sacks. There is no denying the beauty of the embroidery and the details, but I don't think they do anything to enhance a womanly shape. What do you think?

Black and silver Art Deco evening dress attributed to Jean Patou, late 1920s - Metropolitan Museum of Art
Is this the front of the dress? Is it the back? Does it matter? This is my favorite one! Look at that tiny silver bow!
Beaded gold silk evening dress by Jean Patou, 1925 - Metropolitan Museum of Art
It's terribly unflattering, but who needs a waist when you have sumptuous beaded gold fringe in your lap?
Incidentally, a little name-drop on Downton is a big deal. The lingerie line by Cora's preferred designer, Lucile, was revived last year by the founder's great-granddaughter. According to The Look, "The passing reference was enough to send hundreds of fans to Lucile’s website, sending sales skyrocketing 48 percent and website traffic up 60 percent, the company said." I'm reeeeeally hoping Lucile adopts a new tagline as a result. Something like "Lucile: Never be Mistaken for a Chorus Girl." Or, "Lucile: Approved by Lady Grantham." Or (spoiler alert!) "Lucile: For Jilted Brides Everywhere." OH NO SHE DIDN'T.

White and blue floral silk evening ensemble by Jean Patou, 1929 - Metropolitan Museum of Art
This is more like it! It looks like a nightgown with a matching bedjacket!
Could this be the incredibly racy lingerie that Cora wanted to avoid?
Are you watching Downton? Can we talk about what happened at the end of the third episode, ohmygawd?

Sir Anthony deserves to be throttled. His poor-me-I'm-so-bad-for-you-look-at-my-poor-self-esteem schtick is so obnoxiously self-obsessed. If you're bad for her, stop enjoying her attention and stop encouraging her! And if you want to be with her, just marry the poor woman already! There are few things more selfish and annoying than a man wallowing in the thought that he's a bad idea, while simultaneously encouraging a woman's attention. It's like, "Oh, my poor aching ego! Would you massage it? Okay, great, now go away. I mean... it's for your own sake. Yeah, totally for your own sake. Oh, but first wouldja tell me I'm not a bad guy?"

On a completely different note, is Mr. Carson harboring a secret affection for Mrs. Hughes? Will there be canoodling in the butler's pantry? And would that be as adorable (in a stodgy, British way, of course) as I imagine? Someone please prevent me from making a crack about polishing the candlesticks. WHAT WHAT?


  1. ok, now i had to get on hulu and start watching season 2. i had forgotten about the show (i don't know how!) beautiful gowns, but you are right, so shapeless.

    1. Do catch up! Season 2 was very different from the first because WWI required the family to focus on a lot of things outside Downton, but it was still so good. So far, I think season 3 is more like season 1. It mostly focuses on family and what's happening in the house.


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