I’ve been looking forward to writing this post for ages. Why the hold-up? Well, aside from a conscious decision I’ve made to spend a little less time away from social media to focus on my own collection (read: portfolio), when Ralph Lauren had debuted this fall collection, I hadn’t yet actually seen the series (!!!!) . I know, clearly you must think I’ve had no right calling myself a chic geek until this point. The fashionably geeky elite shake their heads disapprovingly.
However, having finally caught up to the rest of the world, via a little help from a friend’s Netflix account and a Hulu Plus free trail, (I am TV-less), I too have fallen in love with the fashions, the characters (BATES!), the fashions, and overlapping intrigues of the Abbey’s residents… also, the fashions.
And while I was giddy with excitement over the idea of comparing the ultimate fashion plus geekery crossover spectacular—The A-list cast is comprised of many familiar faces from other well-known series’. The Dowager Countess herself (Maggie Smith) seems almost a continuation of Smith’s Professor McGonagall from the Harry Potter films. Too, we’ve had our shouting at our screens “OMG, she’s that chick/ he’s that dude from Game of Thrones!” moments. And so on. (this a show that Vogue writers are obsessed with, you guys. Obsessed)— I found, that there wasn’t much to compare. Hear me out.
What I loved about the collection: It’s exactly what you’d expect from Ralph Lauren. What I didn’t love about the collection: ….It’s exactly what you’d expect from Ralph Lauren. I love the label. It’s known the world over for producing chic, luxurious, beautifully tailored garments. At some point or another, we’ve coveted many a timeless piece of his. But that’s just it. Those beautiful, timeless, luxurious pieces worthy of the English aristocracy will always be there (I suddenly NEED a gold cardigan). More than anything, this collection was more of just Ralph Lauren doing Ralph Lauren. Suddenly creating those pieces in tweeds, styling them with all the hats, doesn’t necessarily make it Downton Abbey.
Can we see the nods to Yorkshire? Absolutely. And I love that the inspiration goes beyond dresses to the menswear. Does it look like Lady Mary raided Matthew’s closet at the start of the show? Yes. Would Lady Sybil jump at the chance to wear ALL the pants? Yes. But I suspect a second reference is at work here too. Why? Because Ralph just can’t help himself….
- Stage set with stunning chandelier over the runway? Check.
- Downton Abbey theme opening the show? Check (wait, it has WORDS?!)
- References to WWI era England? There were hunting plaids, smoking jackets, jodhpurs (albiet, in velvet)… umm… check.
- A feather cape worthy of the Dowager Countess? Check.
- Models gracing the runway sporting canes they could’ve borrowed from Mr. Bates? Check.
To my knowledge, however, he only has the one. So where could the other have come from? What other fictional character could’ve said, “here, Ralph, the lady can borrow mine?” (Because, let’s be honest, the countess isn’t letting anyone touch her cane. Ever.) And this is possibly where the allusion to the second reference is made. The cloches, the bowlers, the top hats…. Yorkshire? Yeah, I see it. But what of the nods to the flapper towards the end? Like I said, Ralph just can’t help himself. Did you see the Spring collection? The beading and Art Deco embroideries look less like a preview of Downton season 3, and more like a continuation of Spring/Summer, the Roaring Twenties and Ralph’s favorite go-to reference…. Gatsby.
Here, in a review of Spring 2012, Style.com writer Nicole Phelps, offers insight:
NEW YORK, September 15, 2011
In 1974, not long after he founded his company, Ralph Lauren designed the costumes for The Great Gatsby. They launched a mini Jazz Age trend at the time and jump-started his career. Today, with Baz Luhrmann remaking the film— are reprising the roles originally played by Robert Redford and Mia Farrow—Lauren took the opportunity to revisit the roaring twenties, half a year before the movie actually hits screens and everybody and his mother decides to “do” the decade themselves.
More like a whole year before, as Warner Bros. just announced on Monday that the film has been pushed back from it’s original Christmas release, to Summer 2013. But now, it all makes sense.
And now, something else to think about: In a fight (over a Lauren gown, of course) who would win: Lady Mary, or Daisy?