The Washington Post has another one of those articles where the producers of costume dramas talk about how much time and effort they expend on getting every last detail correct. This time, the focus on Downton Abbey as the third season is set to begin airing in the United States this weekend. Here is a representative quote:

Still, the film crew does go to extreme lengths to convey authenticity. Designers created a family crest for the Crawleys, which is printed on menus and baked onto the china, Adams says. The crest even had to pass muster with a heraldry authority to ensure it didn’t resemble the coat of arms of a real family.

Of course, there are the inevitable slip-ups:

And when there are slip-ups, the audience is bound to notice. In Season 1, an identifying mark on the bottom of a cup held by the Dowager Countess gave away the anachronism that the piece had been manufactured after 1912, when the action is supposed to be taking place.

One might focus on the more obvious slip-ups. Here is an example:

Collars Worn Wrong

You might notice that the actor playing Matthew is wearing his collar completely wrong. In white tie, the wings of the collar are supposed to go behind the bow tie where they can lift it up and help keep it in place. Costume dramas almost always get this detail wrong and I have never been able to figure out why.

To be fair to this series, Matthew is supposed to be an ingenue who is unused to the ways of the aristocrats he’s related to. This might account for his obvious lapse (although doesn’t he eventually have a valet to assist him?) And it is difficult to say that Earl Grantham is wearing his collar incorrectly since it looks to be designed to not have wings.

I continue to hope that the media will be inspired focus as much on simple and obvious details that are still relevant today such as the proper way to wear a collar, and get that right, before focusing on fictional crests.


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