What would you wear to Downton Abbey? How about Vintage Steam Punk Attire?

Ever imagine what it must be like to live in that house during Women’s Liberation, WW1, the invention of the telephone? Imagine wearing beautiful lace, gloves, one-of a kind garments, and statement jewelry on a day-to-day basis. Featuring this week will be some great looks inspired by the historical context of Downton Abbey and its characters with a spin of steam punk using vintage and contemporary attire.

With Laguna Beach, Real Housewives of Orange County, and other portrayals of life in the O.C., I certainly didn’t think I’d come across this cool little pocket called The Lab in Costa Mesa – an urban youth “anti mall.”

It offered a hub of locations for us to craft our vision in creating contemporary vintage steam punk looks inspired by Downton Abbey and our imaginary visit to dine at the mansion.

Downton Abbey

Credit: (C) Carnival Film & Television Limited 2012 for MASTERPIECE

I collaborated, once again, with Courtney Shermer of the online vintage shop MadameXVintage. As lovers of the series , we couldn’t resist putting together outfits inspired by the show, but also because we adore vintage. In a previous feature, A ‘Bella Tanchi’ Vintage Valentine’s Day, Court wrote about how vintage attire is typically tanchi friendly because clothes made during a different era cater to a different set of measurements on women (tanchi ones).

Upon entering at The Lab, there is a shop in an RV – totally hipster, totally cool, totally unlike Orange County. Then we proceeded to step under walkways of leaves, and a wall montage of colorful metal banister fountains. We made our first shop stop at Buffalo Exchange. I’m sure anyone out there who has ever taken trash bag loads of clothes here to sell or trade can relate – you have a love hate relationship with BE. They really vary city by city. For instance, at the one on Hillcrest in San Diego, I haven’t struck gold yet with any great pieces and they rarely buy from me – recently they even turned down a Coach clutch (originally purchased at a Buffalo Exchange).

thelab Costa Mesa

Los Angeles BE’s all snag my Veronica M pieces in a heartbeat (not the case in San Diego BE’s). This one in Costa Mesa is probably the best one I’ve ever been too. I walked away with a Philip Lim sunflower color skirt ($40 originally $330) – awesome for covering my panza and a hi-low white maxi skirt ($21.50) – all pieces I would pack should I ever visit the Crawley family.

Philip Lim skirt

So what is steam punk? It is a combination of high end, Victorian fashion with industrial hardware motifs from the steam engine era. The “punk” aspect brings it into the modern age. It looks like a sci-fi, futuristic, Edwardian period aesthetic. During, the Edwardian period, the world was getting introduced to phones, electricity, etc. As we’ve seen in episodes of Downton Abbey, Carson can’t figure how to use a phone and Granny is not into the whole electricity-in-her-home thing for example. Steam punk takes the grandiose elegant Edwardian, hand-crafted quality and creates almost sci-fi like pieces using gadgets as a medium.

Court and I also found an array of great pieces for a contemporary steam punk Downton Abbey look, here are some of our finds (left to right):

Buffalo Exchange steam punk inspired clothes

1) White sleeveless chiffon tank contrasted with black lace detail and collar.
2) Black crop top bustier with metal spikes.
3) Red, ankle high, leather boots with accenting large buttons. It’s so Moulin Rouge reminiscent and a detail that is found in shoes of the Edwardian period.
4) Can’t get enough of this skirt – Phillip Lim sunflower skirt has a mix of metallic and golden hues
5) Lace, lace, lace in this white blouse – great panza cover up
6) Sequins galore in metallic colors making patterns along this black high collar sleeveless dress. It’s so elegant and fancy with enough skin showing to make it modern. Great for a cocktail function.
7) White ¾ sleeve peasant top with an accented button chest area of very fem like ruffles.
8) Spikes along the sleeve of this black, button up, collared dress shirt – a dignified, yet edgy look.
9) Pink Victorian coat tail gown. Although this choice is not as wearable, it is still awe-inspiring with its aesthetic of the period – a coat tail detail that’s rarely seen nowadays in garments.
10) A beautiful mid-line skirt with golden/pink hues, lace, and layered wonderfully with chiffon. The lace has a great flower pattern! So glorious!

We found great attire and moved onto to accessories. We ventured to Pop Killer – kitschy fun pieces with locations in Los Angeles as well. They have jewelry using guns, bullets, large goggles, skulls, compasses, skulls, pocket watches, binoculars, mini-telescopes, and lots of metal.


At the Lab, you’ll find the Rumble Ruse, a cart with fantastic pieces! We found jewelry made from whistles, memory disks, cameos with edgy yet fem skulls, keys, clocks, metal chains, wire, and copper material.

Steam Punk Jewelry

Stayed tuned all week long to see our styled looks of Downton Abbey characters. How will Women’s Liberation Movement influence their dress and workplace attire? How do you dress with swag and yet stay true to Edwardian tradition? Using vintage and contemporary pieces! These are styles you don’t want to miss tanchis! To wine and dine at this house – be ready to dress to impress (the steam punk way)!


7 thoughts on “What would you wear to Downton Abbey? How about Vintage Steam Punk Attire?

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