"Poor Edith" was a common phrase in the Crawley household, referring to the family's second daughter and her neverending misfortune. Though the upstairs drama seemed all-consuming during Downton Abbey's six-season run, the problems that the downstairs characters faced often dwarfed the marriage games of Mary and Edith.
Between the false accusations against her husband and a brutal assault behind the green baize door, Anna Bates (nee Smith) certainly suffered more than most among Downton's ensemble cast. While she didn't have a glamorous wardrobe or as many costume changes as her upstairs counterparts, what variety her costumes lacked they made up for with the trove of information one could glean about life below stairs in the era of great houses like Downton. Below are ten hidden details about Anna's costumes you probably didn't notice.
10 She Followed A Dress Code
Like the Crawley family, all housemaids working at Downton needed a day dress and an evening dress for service. These dresses were not to impress suitors or other members of the elite, however, but rather served as uniforms the maids wore at different times of the day.
The day dress was a subdued green-grey print fabric with a plain apron for cleaning, while the evening dress was black with a more decorative apron. Housemaids like Anna would rise at the crack of dawn to finish their dirtiest chores early and change into their more formal black dresses to serve the family. Ideally, no one upstairs would ever see the maid in her drab day dress.
9 She Made Her Own Uniforms
According to The World of Downton Abbey, housemaids had to make their own uniforms. Because the fabric could cost up to six months of wages, many houses gifted their maids a bolt of cloth for Christmas - as Mary did for Anna one year - so they had only the work of making new dresses.
Fortunately for Anna, the housemaids of Downton had only one significant uniform change during her time in service. Her evening dress now had a skirt that rose above the ankle, exposing the T-bar shoes that had replaced the ankle boots of the older uniforms. The day dress that she wore to do her cleaning in also had a more modern print and a double-breasted button detail on the front. Finally, the housemaids' head frills moved forward, giving the overall uniform a more contemporary look.
8 Her Apron Indicated Her Rank
In the earlier seasons of the show, the costume department added some individuality to the maids' uniforms with different aprons. Anna's decorative apron that she wore with her evening dress is noticeably frillier and narrower than the other maids' and is perhaps an indication of how long she's been in service. Because housemaids either had to make their uniforms or pay for someone else to make them, it would have made sense to hold onto a garment for years with the style dating it.
The frillier apron could also denote her position as head housemaid. Anna would have had authority over the other maids and been responsible for carrying out the most delicate household tasks, such as dusting beautiful furniture and valuable objects.
7 She Kept Up to date With the Latest Hairstyles
As head housemaid, Anna was also responsible for helping the daughters of the household with their numerous dress changes throughout the day. Because the skill of the lady's maid had a strong influence on how fashionable a woman looked and whether she could try the latest hairstyles, it was essential for maids like Anna to keep up to date with the latest looks and how to create them.
When Mary is interested in the Marcel wave in Season 2, she asks Anna to practice on herself first. We later see Anna in her room downstairs using the curling iron. It's no coincidence that she begins sporting the waves in subsequent seasons of the show, having mastered the curling technique for the both of them.
6 She Stopped Wearing An Apron After Awhile
Anna's experience attending to the Crawley sisters won her Lady Mary's friendship and eventual promotion to lady's maid, whose responsibility it was to wait on her mistress from the moment she woke up until she went to bed. As Mary's lady's maid, Anna was no longer required to wear her housemaid uniform and instead donned a black dress. Notably, she no longer wore an apron because lady's maids did not perform any cleaning - their primary duties were to help the lady get dressed and maintain her vast wardrobe of silks, furs, and other expensive items.
Anna's costuming was so oversaturated with black that Joanne Froggatt has all but purged the basic neutral from her own wardrobe.
5 She Wore Hand-Me-Downs From Mary
At Mary and Matthew's wedding in Season 3, many viewers spotted Anna wearing a pale blue dress that looked very familiar. It turned out to be an intentional costume repeat -- the dress was first seen on Lady Mary in Season 2 as she was tending to an injured Matthew.
One perk of becoming a lady's maid was getting your mistress's old clothes when she no longer wanted them. According to Caroline McCall, Anna is wearing an old dress of Mary's that she had altered to fit her. Anna accessorized the look with gloves and a demure hat for a stellar wedding guest look befitting her station.
4 She Echoed The Trends Upstairs
Between practicing the latest hairstyles and handling Mary's clothes, it was inevitable that Anna would eventually incorporate some trends into her own wardrobe when economic circumstances allowed it. Years after Mary cut her hair into a sharp shingle bob, Edith followed suit with a short curly crop, and Anna and Daisy echoed the look downstairs with their chin-length hair.
The simplicity of Anna's look is paramount. Although Mary contributed to Anna's wardrobe in several ways, and Anna occasionally took mild fashion cues from the Crawley sisters, the lady's maid should never dress in a way that outshines her mistress.
3 She Wore Color On Her Days Off
Although Anna most often wears her housemaid uniform or black lady's maid dress, she does appear off-duty in regular clothes on occasion. There was the green dress that she wore to the seashore, featuring pinstripes, a dropped waist, and a deep V in the front paneling decorated with embroidered flowers.
She also wore a colorful drop-waisted dress on a rare night out with Mr. Bates at the Netherby. And, like many working-class women, Anna got married in her best daywear, which was a crisp white blouse, blue skirt and matching hat, and a bouquet of colorful wildflowers.
2 She Loved Delicate, Feminine Details
Excellent sewing skills were a necessity for almost any woman working in household service (the exception being kitchen staff). As a lady's maid, Anna would have been responsible for cleaning, sewing, and ironing Mary's clothes, including any undergarments. She also would have been able to apply these skills to her own wardrobe, much like her fellow lady's maid Baxter.
Her uniform featured delicate details like pleating down the front in one dress and two rows of small buttons in another. These embellishments were not as ornate as Baxter's, given the latter's background as a seamstress, but they were enough to catch the eye without being overtly designed to do so.
1 Her Costume Showed Her Loyalty
For the sixth and final season, the costume team made several changes to the downstairs characters' closets that carried over to Downton Abbey: The Movie. For Anna, now happily and raising a son with Mr. Bates, the team updated the fabric of her uniform with a soft damask textile to reflect her femininity.
They also continued to emphasize the delicate details and clean lines that evoked a simpler version of her mistress's style. This detail becomes important as Anna is one of Mary's most active supporters in her role as Downton's steward, and the parallels in their costume emphasize their shared interest in the continued prosperity of the estate.