Downton for the down-towners

After in Downton mode and, right, thoroughly modern career women Amy, Faith and Janet
After in Downton mode and, right, thoroughly modern career women Amy, Faith and Janet
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Millions of us have got the Abbey habit...

We sink into Downton, that warm, Sunday night bath of a TV series, and emerge an hour later, wrapped in nostalgia’s cosy glow.

Before  Janet Thornton,  Amy Tingle and Faith Dougla

Before Janet Thornton, Amy Tingle and Faith Dougla

Since it first graced our screens in autumn 2010, ITV1’s post-Edwardian saga of upstairs-downstairs life on a fictional Yorkshire country estate has had us hooked.

It’s now Series Three and we can’t get enough of the aristocratic Crawleys – or, it seems, their sense of style. Fashion is having a 1920s moment. This party season, expect long, slender, graceful gowns in rich but understated fabrics, say fashion experts at John Lewis Sheffield.

But how to work the look so you ooze Crawley class and Lady Mary-like chic?

I took three die-hard Downton fans, city businesswomen Faith Douglas, Amy Tingle and Janet Thornton off for a Twenties make-over at Tallulah’s, Sheffield’s newest Vintage Salon.

Owner Jane Jacks, a civil servant by day, a period hair and make-up artist by weekend, had never seen the show before we challenged her to transform us. But she had done her homework, watching re-runs of the blockbuster drama for guidance – and admits she got hooked on the series in the process.

“Twenties women would set their very long hair into Marcel waves and they slept in hairpins. The next day, their maids would fashion it into a faux, chin-length bob by pinning underneath.

“They wanted their hair to look short and neat without having to take the radical step of cutting it,” says Jane, who gives vintage style to hen and bridal parties, rockabilly nights and Lindy Hop dancers.

She discovered she had a knack at 16. “I had a foot-high blonde Mohican style. It took an hour to create and would last all week. I figured if I could make hair do that, I could make it do anything.”

These days Jane, 37, of Norfolk Park, is all Fifties film star and sports a ten-inch red beehive – which takes her just 15 minutes.

We headed to her pop-up salon at Mary’s Marvelous Vintage and Craft Fair on Bramall Lane and while Jane gave us the Marcel wave the thoroughly modern way with crimping tongs, her vintage make-up artist Sophie Eagle, assisted by Sheffield College media make-up student Abigail Clarke, turned our faces pale with porcelain foundation.

Our ghostly complexions were teamed with dark mauve shadow worked into the eye sockets and huge, thick fake eyebrows.

I glanced in the mirror: I looked like one half of Hinge and Bracket. But once my lips had been painted into a tiny, plum rosebud and my hair had been pinned, I could see a hint of Lady Edith, my Downton nemesis; journalist, long unlucky in love.

Similarly, Janet, Amy and Faith were transforming before my eyes. We slipped into stunning evening outfits befitting of post-Edwardian aristocracy from John Lewis’s latest collections, raided the fair’s stalls for period accessories, then struck ladylike poses for The Star’s cameraman Barry Richardson.

We thought we looked quite the thing!

For tips on how to recreate Downton style, watch Jane Jacks’ video tutorial at www.tallulahsvintage.com

Jo, pictured right, wore: Sapphire blue pure silk and lurex gown £189 and matching shrug £69 from Damsel In A Dress at John Lewis, blue veiled fascinator £25 from Nicola Holloway of Matlock (tel 07969 729 365), sparkling choker £5 and marcasite ring £30 from Diana’s Vintage Treasures of Sheffield (tel: 07887 898849).

I felt different, more elegant - Faith Douglas

Faith Douglas, Nat West business manager, is 54, a single parent and lives in Coal Aston:

I love Downton because: “I’ve watched from the very first episode. I’m impassioned by that era; it was so elegant and graceful. I enjoy ballroom dancing and I love finding clothes and bits of jewellery and going off to parties all dressed up in Twenties style.”

Character I identify with: “I suppose I’m Isobel Crawley. Much as I hate having to admit it I’m more like one of the older characters, rather than the glamorous young daughters. I can see a lot of myself in her. She is constantly standing up for other women and fighting their corner. I do a lot of that through the Inspiring Women business group, which I’m a founder member of. She doesn’t let society cloud her judgement and she’s not money-minded. Neither am I – and I work for a bank.”

Getting the Downton look: I didn’t like the heavy make-up or my hair at first – I never wear it up. But once I’d got my gorgeous dress on it all worked. I felt quite different, more elegant and ladylike.”

Faith wore: Somerset by Alice Temperley nude and black lace gown, £249 from John Lewis. Fur stole; Faith’s own. Swarovski and pearl necklace £30 and bracelet £40 from Paula Blake Weddings and Events (tel: 07807 819464).

The dress was so glamorous - Amy Tingle

Amy Tingle, managing director of Sheffield’s Benchmark Recruitment, is 25 and a married mum of one from Nether Green:

I love Downton because: It takes you back to such a different time, when morals and family values were high. I’m sure it wasn’t so pleasant at the time, though. It’s also fascinating to see the emergence of women. All the Downton women have strong opinions and are determined to be heard.”

Character I identify with: “Lady Mary; she wants to do something with her life but she also wants to be a mother. I run a business which is very importance to me, but so is motherhood.”

Getting the Downton look: “I loved the experience. The dress was so very glamorous. I have never pinned up my hair but I quite liked it for a change. I don’t usually wear much make-up but I’ve always wanted to try the smokey eye look and this was my chance.”

Amy wore: Gunmetal draped gown, £219 from Damsel In A Dress at John Lewis, fur stole £30 from www.theQueensDrawers.co.uk, fascinator from Nicola Holloway of Matlock, £20 (tel: 07969 729365).

It was hard for the stylist - Janet Thornton

Janet Thornton runs her own company in Sheffield, Janet Thornton Recruitment. She is 63, lives in Richmond, is married and a grandmother of one:

I love Downton because: “It’s pure escapism on a Sunday night; I’ve watched every single episode. It takes me back to an era when ways were so different. I’m fascinated not by the life of the aristocracy, but life downstairs.”

Character I identify with: “The cook. I would have loved to have been her in the makeover, actually. My grandma was in service in Barnsley. She worked her way up from kitchen assistant to cook. My mum died when I was young so grandma taught me how to cook. Now I relax by baking speciality cakes for friends and family.”

Getting the Downton look: My hair is short and layered, a style no woman would have had in the Twenties, so it was hard for the stylist. And the pale foundation and dark eyeshadow wasn’t me at all. I love make-up, but not like this.”

Janet wore: Beaded and sequinned black Chesca gown, £185, matching shrug, £75, John Lewis. Swarovski bracelet (£25) and necklace (£10) from Paula Blake Weddings and Events, Whiston (tel: 07807 819 464).