Lady Mary: One Well-Dressed Bitch

Minor spoiler from the second-to-last episode of Downton Abbey: Mary Crawley is a bitch.

Okay, that’s less a spoiler and more a fact that we’ve all known since – I don’t know, probably since she helped conceal the corpse of a certain Turkish diplomat.

But in the penultimate episode, Edith finally (FINALLY!) called Mary out on it, and damn, it felt good.

Lady Mary isn’t without her better qualities, though. She’s shown real personal growth after losing her sister Sybil and Matthew, her cousin who she was also married to. She takes good care of little George, or employs people who are good at taking care of him anyway. Lady Mary has an open mind toward all religions, and really nice eyebrows besides. Yet above all, Edith was right: Lady Mary is kind of a bitch – but such a well dressed one!


Shortly after we meet Mary, she establishes herself as the fashionable one with this crisp menswear-inspired riding outfit. Around this time, she also disposes of the body of a man that she slept with after the cousin she was supposed to marry dies on the Titanic.

Still very much in that pre-war, 1910s fashion, Mary wears a beautifully beaded gown that is just starting to show the more streamlined Art Deco look. She also complains that Cousin Matthew, who didn’t ask for any of this, can’t hold a knife.

Mary, in a very Rose Dewitt Bukater- appropriate evening dress, waits to accept Matthew’s proposal until she finds out whether her mother’s having a boy, in which case Matthew wouldn’t have access to that sweet Crawley money.

Moving on to season two (series two if you’re nasty), the world is at war and Mary shows her respect for that situation with these demure separates that are starting to almost look like modern clothes. She also shows her respect for that situation by getting engaged to a newspaper man who will cover up the Pamuk cover-up.

Wearing her signature color (the blood of angry men), Mary breaks into the postwar period with a full, layered skirt, unlike the closer fitting gowns we usually see her in. The perfect dress for getting engaged to your cousin after you’re pretty happy that his fiancee died.

A few important developments: Mary and Matthew finally tie the knot; Downton Abbey is in peril because Lord Grantham spent all his money on yellow labs named after figures in Egyptian mythology; the 1920s finally arrive and with it, the drop waisted dress. Mary’s Art Nouveau hairpiece is so perfectly early ’20s. The whole wedding was beautifully nostalgic, and Mary’s dress reminds me of my great-grandparents’ wedding pictures from the 1910s and ’20s. (Like the Abbey itself, or an item that Lady Mary should have carried on her wedding day, I AM SOMETHING OLD.)

Lady Mary really made you like her in season 3. Not only does she help save Downton from ruin by encouraging Matthew to accept his inheritance from Reggie Swire – AND suffer the loss of Sybil, the noblest of all the Crawleys – she also acts reasonably supportive of Edith when she finally gets her chance at the altar. To celebrate the occasion, Mary wore her springlike best: a wide-brimmed hat, a light cyan lace dress with chiffon sleeves, drop pearl earrings, and an oh-so-20s layered pearl necklace. Then Edith got jilted. GOD. Not the topic of this post, but Poor Edith, right?


All of that work getting us to feel for Lady Mary was leading up to Matthew’s death. Thanks, Downton. The first half of the season is just a lot of black mourning dresses, a custom I’d ALMOST like to see brought back. It was a bit too rigid and sometimes you want to wear a color, but it’s a nice visual reminder that someone’s going through something so maybe you should go a bit easier on them.

That’s why it’s such a big moment when Mary busts out the partial mourning dresses and shows up to lunch in a lilac frock. You really feel for Mary – she doesn’t want to be a hard or cold person, she feels like that’s just how she IS. Of course, that calculating, chilly demeanor can really help you out in business, and Mary proves herself savvy in handling Matthew’s estate.


In the early ’20s, like today, the faux bob was popular with people who weren’t quite ready for the big chop. Mary’s ALMOST got the Jazz Age look down (meanwhile poor Anna is still being forced to dress like she’s from a Beatrix Potter picture book)… but just wait…tumblr_ndlvl2pzb21r3losno1_500

SHE’S GONE AND BOBBED HER HAIR. Well, I’ll be. And it looks great! It’s an open-minded hairstyle for an open-minded Mary, who has no problem cavorting with Lord Gillingham then dumping him when she realizes he’s too stupid for her. I mean, she does also tell Tom to stop rolling with that newfangled hussy Sarah Bunting, so in some ways she’s still the old Mary.


The bitch is back: Mary, pictured here in a phenomenal red hat, thinks Edith should stop hanging out with Marigold. Although admittedly, the whole Marigold thing would seem a bit weird if you didn’t know the back-story.

I cannot get enough of this fur-trimmed coat and especially that phenomenal hat! It all looks so warm. Almost warm enough to melt Mary’s chilly heart, but who are we kidding, it’s a coat not a miracle.

By the final season, Mary is dating a driver – and with that come driving accessories! Check out the duster coat, the cloche that even looks expensive, and the buttery leather gloves. THIS is an outfit that says “character development”: but don’t worry, Mary is still quite contrary.

I NEED THIS GOWN. No, really. I need this gown. I have a 1920s-themed wedding to go to this year and nothing to wear. Also, this is the perfect picture to comment on another aspect of Mary’s personality: she’s not exactly a girls’ girl – except arguably her semi-purchased friendship with Anna.

Faults aside, I still really loved Mary’s character and wanted her to find happiness. Here she is at her second wedding, all Art Deco lines and accordian pleats. As one final bitchy act, she informs Edith’s love interest that – gasp! – Edith is only weirdly obsessed with the little girl who lives with her because the little girl who lives with her is her daughter.

By the end of the series, everything is patched up with the Crawley sisters, Mary and Edith are both happily wed, and the Downton Home For Half-Orphaned Children will be in the family for years to come. In a final ground-breaking 1920s fashion move, Mary is the first person on the show to wear sunglasses – though with the amount of shade she throws, it’s amazing that she needs them.

Gigantic Old-Fashioned Wool Bathing Suits For Every Body

Memorial Day is here, and Memorial Day means the beginning of summer*! And summer means bathing suits! And bathing suits mean bathing suit shopping, and bathing suit shopping means falling further and further into despair as a cheerful shopping attendant tries to bring you ill-fitting bikinis, ending up like a real-life version of a late-80s Cathy comic. ACKKKK!!!

It doesn’t have to be like this. Once upon a time, swimwear experienced a golden age, when toned abs and cellulitic thighs alike were covered by thick woolen fabric. I’m talking about the 1860s through the 1920s, the bathing suit’s zenith.

So, like so many fashion magazines, we thought we would help you find a bathing suit. Nay, not just any bathing suit, the absolute perfect old-timey bathing suit for your body type. Spoiler: it probably weights over 5 pounds and comes with a superfluous belt.

* Also technically, solemn reflection for those who have gone before us. But mostly barbeques! [Source: my Facebook feed]

Apple Shaped

The real challenge for the apple-shaped woman is choosing between a two-piece (which is going to expose your midsection), or dealing with clingy Lycra and spandex adhering to your belly. However, in the 1880s you could let it all hang out (and then immediately cover all of it with wool). For ladies who carry their weight in their (neatly corseted) midsection, these full, proud pantaloons lead the eye down and balance your proportions. Bonus: the giant legs makes your feet look like Barbie feet tacked onto a My Buddy doll.

Pear Shaped

In the present day, ladies with serious hip-thigh situations spend a lot of time looking for bathing suit bottoms that actually cover their entire butt. In 1864, these styles from Godey’s Lady’s Book had your ass covered! As well as your knees, calves, and forearms. Note the shape of these swim costumes, which flare out… shall we say generously? from the waist. Today’s fashion is all about trying to camouflage your derriere, but this is a suit that says “oh, these hips are on purpose.”


Hey there, little lady! What better way to take advantage of your petite proportions than dressing like an actual pixie? You know everyone’s thinking it, anyway. Note the zig-zag hem on the far left, a style that says “I made this outfit out of a flower petal.” The style is complemented by criss-cross lace-up shoes, telling everyone on the beach “yeah, I could be a ballerina with this petite body shape and delicate swim dress.” The sassy turban at far right indicates “I’m Bohemian! But I mean, Bohemian in the “La Boheme” sense. I might have consumption. But look how petite!” Carrying a blanket around, like our friend in the “maillot” style,  reminds other beach-goers that you are very tiny and cold.


With its kicky sailor collar, sodden wool skirt, and improbably small waist, the only way this suit could better enhance your hourglass figure is if your bosom gradually filled with sand if somebody tipped you over.



You’ve worked hard at the gym. You run, you lift, and summer time is the big payoff. So leave the pantaloons at home, because you have toned your way into this formfitting tank dress. In case people couldn’t tell that you work out by your awesome quads and triceps, you can steal a robe from an actual prizefighter to let them know you’ve been putting in your hours at the gymnasium.

If you’re prepared to rock this style, you will be showing a LOT of skin – so don’t let it get all burned and gross. Sport a straw witches’ hat with a four-foot brim to keep away unwanted sunbeams and attention. If you look this good, you gotta ward off those crowds somehow.


This demure nautical romper will cover up everything you want covered, and even some things you probably don’t.

23 Skidoo! Downton-Era Slang For Every Vocabulary

Downton Abbey came back for its fourth season last night (for our more law-abiding North American readers anyway), and that talkie is the cat’s. I’m not just beating my gums here — the ’20s were the start of our modern pop-culture age, and the slang was the bee’s knees.

Incorporate some of these phrases and you’ll sound like your favorite sheik or sheba in no time!

23 skidoo! – leave quickly

  • Example: The coppers are busting the gin mill. 23 skidoo!

And how! – I agree with you SO HARD.

  • Example:

Herman: Those flappers sure are showing a lot of ankle!

Hattie (showing a lot of ankle): And how!

Bank’s Closed: stop making out

  • Example: It’s a speakeasy, not a hootenanny. Bank’s closed, Sam and Ida!

Beat one’s gums – to talk a lot of nonsense

  • Example: Lula says the stock market’s going to tank, but I think she’s just beating her gums.

Beef – a complaint. Actually, just like how we use it now. Thanks, ’20s!

  • Example:

Myrtle: What’s your beef?

Maude: You borrowed my stockings and got rouge all over the knees!

bee’s knees – really, really awesome

  • Example: Boy, Josephine, these movies that you have to read sure are the bee’s knees!

bimbo – a macho, overly manly man

  • Example: Reginald’s always lifting barbells on the boardwalk. What a bimbo!

blind date – a date with a stranger. Actually, just like how we use it now. No thanks, ’20s!

  • Example: George missed his blind date with Thelma because he was stuck on top of a flagpole.

blotto – drunk

  • Example: Mabel is completely blotto off that moonshine!

bubs – boobs, but way more fun to say

  • Example: Now Mabel’s showing her bubs! Geraldine, get her home!

cancelled stamp – a shy, wallflower-y girl who’s not very fun.

  • Example: Say what you will about Mabel, at least she’s not a cancelled stamp like old Gertie!

cat’s pajamas – particularly great. Often abbreviated to just “the cat’s.”

  • Example: Ida and Roger think dance marathons are the cat’s pajamas!

dead soldier – empty beer bottle

  • Example: Clean the dead soldiers off the field, boys! A football game’s starting and they could scratch our leather helmets!

drugstore cowboy – a guy who hangs out in public trying to look good and pick up ladies. See: the text of No Scrubs.

  • Example: Bernice bobs her hair, and next thing you know she’s taken off with some drugstore cowboy!

Dumb Dora – an unintelligent lady

  • Example: Maxine’s such a Dumb Dora – you can get better conversation out of a silent film!

gasper – cigarette

  • Example: Harold says that gaspers can make you sick, but I think he’s just beating his gums.

giggle water – booze

  • Example: Slow your roll, Mabel. Enough of that giggle water.

half-seas over – drunk

  • Example: Mabel is completely half-seas over off that moonshine!

handcuff – engagement ring

  • Example: George has the handcuff on ol’ Thelma and he’s never at the speakeasy anymore.

icy mitt – to coldly blow off a person who’s trying to get with you

  • Example: Now that Ruth’s a coed, she’s giving all of the townies the icy mitt.

Let George do it – something that you’d say to get out of work.

  • Example: I don’t want to work on my financial planning for 1929. Ah, let George do it!

Moll – a gangster’s lady-friend

  • Example:

Moll: No, Irene, this is just the name my parents gave me. I’m not affiliated with the mafia. But I hope my great-granddaughter will be named after me, because what are the chances that the name Molly would be associated with a seedy subculture again in 100 years?

ossified – drunk.

  • Example: Mabel is completely ossified off that moonshine!

quilt – an alcoholic beverage that keeps you warm

  • Example:

Mabel: I sure am cold after that sledding party! Somebody get me a quilt.

Ethel: Oh, you’ve had quite enough, Mabel.

Mabel: I meant a literal quilt, though.

petting pantry – a movie theater. Still relevant for anyone who’s gone to the movies only to realize that it was apparently the couple’s show.

  • Example: Let’s go to the petting pantry! There’s a new Louise Brooks flick. And I want to make out.

So’s your old man – a response to somebody who said something that irritated you. Sort of a “your mama” for the 1920s crowd.

  • Example:

Phyllis: I saw your beau Jimbo at the petting party with Olive. He’s courting a hussy!

Gladys: So’s your old man!

sheba – girlfriend (or a good-looking lady). For millenials, that usually translates to “this girl I’m kind of hanging out with, I don’t know.”

  • Example: Arthur’s sheba is Lucille.

sheik – boyfriend (or a good-looking man). Millenials: “that guy I’ve been seeing or whatever, not really sure what we are.”

  • Example: Lucille’s sheik is Roy. Don’t tell Arthur.

spifflicated –  drunk

  • Example: Mabel is completely splifficated off that moonshine!

struggle buggy – a car’s backseat

  • Example: Wow, it sure is easier to neck in a struggle buggy than it was in a regular buggy! I always felt like the horses were watching.

Tell it to Sweeney! – I don’t believe you. Tell it to someone who does.

  • Example: Sick from gaspers, Harold?! Tell it to Sweeney!

zozzled –  drunk

  • Example: Mabel is completely zozzled off that moonshine! I think she might have a problem.

Old trends don’t die as soon as a new one starts. Case in point: 40-something women who still dress like they did in the class of ’87. So, some of the early ’20s Downtoners were still using their World War I and Edwardian-era slang. It’s not too late to start using these words, too:

balmy on the crumpet –  crazy

  • Example: Henrietta is wearing bloomers! She’s gone balmy on the crumpet.sybil

blue devils – feeling down in the dumps

  • Example: Aminta has the blue devils because her best corset just broke.

beaver – a man’s beard

  • Example:

Jonesy: Why the long face, Jamesy?

Jamesy (whose face is hairless):  I can’t give Clorinda what she wants. I’m a baby-faced boy, but she likes the beaver.

Jonesy: Perhaps she can find a beard elsewhere.

boner – a mistake

  • Example:

Ronald: I made a real boner while I was courting Flossie in her parents’ parlor. I think I really ruined my chances.

Donald: A boner while courting in her parents’ parlor? What was it?

Ronald: A boner while courting in her parents’ parlor.

cheese it! – stop it!

  • Example: Cheese it, Edmund! You have to take your cod-liver oil!

clergyman’s daughter – a whore

  • Example: Bridget’s a clergyman’s daughter, and mark my words, in ten years her little Mabel will be just as bad.

cootie – crabs

  • Example: Bridget has cooties.

curtains – the end

  • Example: So… I guess that means it’s curtains for you and Bridget, then?

fittums – a great fit

  • Example: Constance, your new hobble skirt is just fittums!

jumping jesus – a fanatic

  • Example: I mean, I’m as excited about the coronation as anyone, but Nigel is a bit of a jumping jesus about the whole thing.

off his chump – crazy

  • Example: Now Henrietta wants to vote, as well? She’s off her chump.

pad the hoof – walking

  • Example: Ready to pad the hoof to the magic lantern show? It’s really the best entertainment option at this point in history.

pipe off – lose interest (in a romantic relationship)

  • Example:

Edwardine: Why did you pipe off Simon?

Thomasine: He spent more time with his hair tonic than I did on my pompadour!

Razzle-dazzle – to go out there, stir up some trouble, and get some ladies!

  • Example:

Bert: Shall we go razzle-dazzle, Simon?

Simon: I’m actually less interested in razzle-dazzling than you might think.

Teagie – tea gown

  • Example: You know, calling it a teagie makes it seem like it would be pretty casual, but it takes like three handmaids to change into this thing.

What priced head have you? – How bad’s the hangover?

  • Example: You really hit the music-hall hard, Basil. What priced head have you?

yeah – yes

  • Example

Charles: In 100 years’ time, will old people still get mad when you say “yeah” instead of “yes?”

Charlotte: Yeah.