Ralph Lauren dreams of Downton

If any of you are wondering why Downton Abbey is such a hit in the US, look no further than Ralph Lauren – the designer who has built an entire global empire founded on his passion for period English aristocratic style. Not that he claimed to take that Downton era specifically for inspiration this season, but this was as ‘vintage’ a Ralph show as it gets.

First, the huntin’, shootin’, fishin’ set – all ‘glen’ plaids, fair isle sweaters, jodhpurs, Shetland houndstooth, diamond-check socks, cloche hats and flat caps, waistcoats and breeches. You could just picture the next Ralph Lauren advertising campaign: a family of models, all serene and haughty, posing around a grand fireplace of an English country estate, carrying the odd 12 bore shotgun and possibly a brace of pheasants.

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Then he took us to town by way of black and white Prince of Wales check cut into lean city coats, with pristine shirts and ties, accessorised with top hat, or bowler and walking cane. But what is so clever and brilliant about Ralph is that somehow all this nostalgia never looks like it’s come straight out of the costume department – peel away the eccentric accessories and you’re left with classically elegant clothes that totally work in a modern context.

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Especially when it comes to eveningwear – and there is always a long evening wear section to his shows, the better to show off the beautiful workmanship of those gowns. It is the opposite of red carpet bling, even when a long slither of a black gown is teamed with a black and gold feather cape or black velvet columns come encrusted with jewelled necklines.

Ralph Lauren is not only the master at selling English aristo style to the world but also the best advert for understated elegance.

See the full collection here

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