What The 'Downton Abbey' Cast Looks Like In Real Life, Because Those Gowns Are For TV Only

The great thing about modern TV is that you can see an actor or actress play a character on screen in full-on costume — and then see them in real life, looking absolutely nothing like that character. Thanks to really awesome makeup and costuming skills in period TV dramas, these portrayers can become totally different people on-screen. The female cast of Downton Abbey looks different in real life, compared to how they appear on the show and it's so awesome. It's really crazy how a totally different hairstyle and wardrobe from another era can make a person almost unrecognizable.

Here a handy guide of what the Downton Abbey actresses look like on the show, versus in their real lives.

Anna Bates

Anna has a very plain wardrobe — she is a lady’s maid, after all, so she’s mostly in uniform. She also doesn’t wear much make-up, and her husband, John Bates loves her for who she is and her natural beauty.

Still, the actress who plays her wouldn’t mind getting a little dolled up on-screen every once in a while. In an interview with Who What Wear, Joanne Froggatt said that she wishes her character would get a taste of some of the other Downton fashion. “If I could steel anyone’s wardrobe from Downton, it would of course be Lady Mary’s,” she said. “I’m desperate to have a scene where Lady Mary catches Anna in one of her gowns.”

Image: Nick Briggs/Carnival Film and Television Limited 2013 for MASTERPIECE

Joanne Froggatt

The Golden Globe-winning actress who plays Anna has long blonde hair and of course, a much more modern style than her character. When I saw her win a Golden Globe earlier this year, I had no idea that she plays Anna — I didn’t even recognize her!

In an interview with Who What Wear, Froggatt described her own personal style. ”My strategy for red carpet events is to wear something that is appropriate for the event and that I feel good in,” she said. “I work with stylist Brad Goreski for U.S. events and he makes the whole process so easy and fun. Once I try something on, I know if it suits me or not and if I feel good in it, but he gets me to try things that I wouldn’t have the vision to.”

Lady Mary Crawley

Lady Mary (played by Michelle Dockery) is very primp, proper, and put-together. She usually wears her hair up, with not a strand out of place, and her dresses are always fabulous. Of course, there was also her all-black mourning period for late husband Matthew as well.

“Our costume designers Susannah Buxton [series one and two] and Caroline McCall [series three] have certainly influenced me,” Dockery told Ralph Lauren Magazine. “Susannah is always insistent that simplicity is the way forward. Their work is incredible, and I am not surprised that their designs have been a source of inspiration for the fashion world.”

Image: Nick Briggs/Carnival Film & Television Limited 2014 for MASTERPIECE

Michelle Dockery

The actress who plays Mary has had several hair styles — short, long, up down, straight, and curly — in real life throughout her years on Downton Abbey. She has a softer look than Mary, who always seems so uptight.

Dockery also told Ralph Lauren Magazine that her personal style is “understated.” “Although I love trying out different looks on photo shoots,” she said in the interview. “I would say I’m quite classic in my style, and I look at French Vogue for inspiration.”


Lady Edith Crawley

Poor Edith (far left, played by Laura Carmichael). She always gets flack from her family for her appearance, which is totally uncalled for.


Laura Carmichael

The Crawleys may actually have a totally different view on the actress who plays Lady Edith, as Carmichael looks very different from her character. The contrast is most apparent in her hair, which she styles in a looser, flowy way off camera. And according to an interview with the Telegraph, she wears jeans in her everyday life.

“I sometimes feel people are disappointed when they see you in jeans,” she said in the interview. “You’ve spoilt their fiction slightly.”


Lady Cora Crawley

Cora (played by Elizabeth McGovern) is always dressed to the nines as the Crawley mother, wearing the finest dresses, jewelry, and head-wear available in Downton Abbey.

In an interview with Elle, McGovern said her favorite era of clothes in the show is the 1920s. ”My favorite era, that is really my taste, is the season five clothes,” she said. “We’ve got the most brilliant costume designer working on the show, and it just looks so great. I like that ’20s style: everything’s moving, the hair’s getting shorter. I love the look, that low waistline, the long, straight line, the boyish thing that they go for. The clothes this season have such a sense of richness and color.”

Image: Nick Briggs/Carnival Film and Television Limited 2013 for MASTERPIECE

Elizabeth McGovern

Cora’s portrayer McGovern actually doesn’t look too different from Cora herself. She was actually one of the most recognizable faces I saw when I first began watching the show.

In an interview with British magazine Grazia, McGovern said she sometimes likes to take it easy, style-wise. “I do like to wear designers, but I don’t usually make the effort because my life is so grungy,” she said.

Tristan Fewings/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Violet Crawley, The Dowager Countess

Don’t mess with the Dowager Countess — or her wardrobe. This kickass matriarch wears epic hats and threads. Plus, she’s got her cane to go with it all.

Image: Carnival Film & Television Limited 2012 for MASTERPIECE

Maggie Smith

The Dame who plays the Dowager is just as kickass as her character, but she doesn’t have a cane, crazy hats, or that permanent scowl that seems to be on the matriarch’s face most of the time.

Stuart Wilson/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images