Downton Abbey and Your Snapshots

By Maureen A. Taylor

downton series 4.jpg

It’s finally here! If you’re like me you couldn’t wait for the premiere of season 4 of “Downton Abbey.” My husband and I are avid fans of Crawley household happenings. Last year I wrote about “Downton Abbey” and your family photos.

Here’s another installment of Downton fashions. Season 4 is set in 1922. It’s the Jazz Age. When you tune in, watch for clothing trends, then take your family snapshots and see how they compare.

Political and social changes affected fashion in the 1920s. American Prohibition and the passage of the 19th amendment giving women the right to vote influenced what men and women wore. For instance, women shortened their skirts and wore more makeup.

Americans first listened to commercial radio broadcasts in 1922. Will the folks in the Crawley family follow suit? Movie stars emerged and going to the pictures was a popular pastime. We’ll have to watch and see if the scripts include mention of these innovations.

There are likely to be a few subtle difference between photos taken in the United States and England. In general the women of 1922 wore the following:

  • dresses with dropped waistlines
  • clothing with a narrower silhouette
  • longer hemlines

Throughout the 1920s, hemlines and waistlines go down and up. You can find a good overview of average fashion for men, women and children by reading the Sears catalog (digitized on This illustration is from the Spring 1922 catalog.


  • Gingham was popular for everyday wear
  • Middy blouses were fashionable for young women
  • Galoshes worn with the tops unbuckled gave rise to the term “flapper” due to the sound they made when walking.
  • Men wore striped shirts with white collars.

I don’t expect major changes in the way Violet dresses in the 1920s. There’s no way she’s going to change her conservative ways. It’s up to the younger women in the Crawley household (and Cora’s American mother) to wear contemporary fashions.

Solve your family photo mysteries with these books by Maureen A. Taylor:

  • Family Photo Detective: Learn How to Find Genealogy Clues in Old Photos and Solve Family Photo Mysteries
  • Fashionable Folks: Bonnets and Hats 1840-1900
  • Preserving Your Family Photographs
  • Fashionable Folks: Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album