The 8 biggest questions about underwear and Downton Abbey

The Cast of Downton Abbey

PBS

When you think of period drama Downton Abbey, you might not think of underwear. But it still turns out that even the undergarments on this British drama prompt a few big questions.

The basics

Q: Do you see the underwear on Downton Abbey? Why is it notable?

The underwear on the show is notable precisely because you usually don’t see it. The commitment to period detail is so strong that cast members are regularly asked to wear underwear that will never be seen on screen.

Q: Are they really not allowed to wear modern underwear?

There used to be exceptions, but a recent gaffe in which a water bottle appeared in a promo photo has caused an authenticity lockdown. Producers are now insisting the cast always wear period underwear.

Q: Why would anyone care what underwear they wear?

A couple of reasons. First, if inaccurate underwear shows through their clothes, the mistake could only be fixed through a reshoot or expensive visual effects, neither of which are practical solutions.

Second, and less importantly, some of the actors say that every detail, including the underwear, helps them play their parts.

The underwear itself

Q: Who has it worse? The men or women?

Most cast members agree that the women have it harder because their underwear is more elaborate, constricting, and generally less comfortable.

Q: How is the men’s underwear different?

According to the actors, in addition to different materials, the period underwear provides less support. As one actor put it, “They don’t contain a chap.”

Q: How is the women’s underwear different?

At the time, lingerie was usually made by hand and decorated with embroidery. Typical materials included gauze, cambric, silk, or wool, and Downton Abbey’s costume designers presumably use the same. Knickers were also common, and they prove to be a lot for modern actors to content with.

How the underwear changed underwear business

Q: What brands have been on Downton Abbey?

Downton Abbey has featured a few brands of underwear, including Patou, Lucile, and Marks and Spencer. Lucile says sales soared 50% after being mentioned on the show.

Q: How else has Downton Abbey changed underwear?

Modern fashion designers have taken inspiration from the series and, in some cases, there have even been museum lectures about the classic lingerie.

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