When Michelle Dockery’s Lady Mary Crawley first graced our screens in 2010, many fans of the show saw her as cold and unsympathetic. Now, five years later, she is a fan favorite and one of the most heavily featured characters in a large ensemble cast. This shift is due in part to the way Mary’s character has grown and changed through the acclaimed show’s five seasons.
The cultural and political upheavals of the 1920s parallel major changes in Mary’s life. As upper class English women in general make gains in social, financial, and political independence, Mary does the same. She marries for love; she takes a leading role in the estate of Downton — in short, she takes control of her own life. The unhappy, repressed Mary of Season 1 has transformed into a woman who knows her worth and demands the respect she deserves.
Such dramatic character development naturally shows itself not only in Mary’s behavior but in the way she dresses, too. Downton costume designer Caroline McCall reflected on these complexities in an interview with Glamour:
Glamour: Who is the most challenging character to design for?
McCall: Probably Mary in this [season]. There are so many constraints on her wardrobe due to class and mourning [the death of her husband Matthew]. This whole series she’s in burgundy tones, purples and mauves and black, monochrome and grey. The whole wardrobe had to be in those tones because we couldn’t lift her out of mourning. As a result the vast majority of Michelle’s wardrobe had to be custom made. Even her country clothing had to be heathery tones, tweed. So that was quite tricky.
Whether you miss the sarcastic (and often cruel) Mary of earlier seasons, love the outspoken Mary of recent episodes, or both, you probably admire McCall’s award-winning work. The costumes of Downton Abbey have a timeless beauty — and we can help you recreate that beauty in your jewelry!
This long, simple necklace appears in the very first episode of Downton Abbey, which was set in 1912. This single-strand necklace makes for an easy beginner’s project. You only need a few materials:
- beading wire
- faceted black beads, 6mm to 8mm (onyx for a more authentic look; Czech firepolish if you’re working on a budget; or Swarovski crystals to bring some extra shine)
- findings to finish the necklace and attach a clasp
Mary’s necklace in this scene is probably close to 42″, but the beauty of making your own jewelry is that it’s custom-fitted to whatever length you prefer! Once you’ve measured out the beading wire to the length that feels best, you can begin stringing your beads. This may take a while, especially if you choose the 6mm beads and a long necklace, so you may want to multitask (perhaps by catching up on Downton Abbey). Once you’ve strung all your beads, simply follow the “finishing with crimps” instructions here for completing the necklace — and be sure to share pictures on the #BeadazzledCreations hashtag!
For a bigger challenge, you can make a knotted version of this necklace. Just remember to pre-stretch your silk cord before using it! You can do this by unwinding all the silk from its card and dampening it lightly with your wetted thumb and forefinger. Loosely tie each end of the cord to a heavy object such as a shoe or a pair of scissors — then drape it over a doorway or shower rod and allow to slowly stretch overnight. Finish the necklace by following the “tying off with bead tips” instructions here.
At first glance this season five piece might look similar to the one from season one above. Both are long, black, evening wear necklaces. But this second necklace is actually much more complex than the first, both in terms of the craftsmanship involved in its creation and the character development it indicates.
Instead of a simple single-strand necklace, here Mary wears a multi-strand woven lariat. This is a very long, open-ended necklace wrapped loosely like a scarf. Mary has it layered with a ribbon choker for an added elegant affect. Including the neckline of her dress, this part of Mary’s outfit has five dominant lines — all curved and all complimentary, but still far more complex than the simple necklace from season one. The color blocking on her dress adds to this affect, and all together McCall has created the impression of a woman who carries complexity with self-assured ease.
If you are comfortable with seed bead weaving, you can recreate this impression for yourself. As an accessory of an aristocratic woman in 1920s England, Mary’s necklace is probably made of jet. But you can use glass seed beads in black opaque matte. If you’re not familiar with seed bead weaving, check out some of our classes or how-to books.
Season five of Downton Abbey hits U.S. screens early in the new year, so hurry up and create your Lady Mary look now!
Our “What We’re Watching / What We’re Wearing” series draws from all media to feature distinctive jewelry anyone can make themselves. If you would like to see us feature any particular character or public figure, comment below with suggestions!