When the Desdemona arrived at Bourvis’s Portobello Arcade HQ—a magical intimate boutique stuffed to the rafters with textiles—Jane sent all 12 feet of it to India, where her trusted embroiderer set to work replicating the fragile piece over several months. The Downton costume designers came calling in 2020, and fell just as hard as Jane.
“Anna Robbins [the Emmy-nominated Downton wardrobe lead] was steadfast about the colors and the type of lace they wanted for the veil,” recalls Bourvis of the gentle, meticulous researcher, who never settles for anything less than absolutely authentic. “The amount of work that goes on behind the scenes is huge; nearly everything is made from scratch,” attests Jane, who always makes replicas of the originals she sources in order to preserve the little slices of history. Anyway, the original Desdemona would have been too frail to withstand the filming process, and the slight stains—markers of a life once lived—not polished enough for the silver screen.
While Bourvis, who has also made costumes for tulle lover Carrie Bradshaw in Sex and the City, trades off her eye for truffling out beautiful lace for brides seeking something unique, it is getting increasingly difficult to find antiques. Museums are snapping up original lace confections for their private collections, and many pieces simply languish because of their poor packing. It was, says Bourvis, simply extraordinary to find an unusual veil worthy of ’20s bride, Lucy Smith, nowadays.
Another veil and boxes of trimmings and beadwork were sent to Team Downton to accentuate the fashion we’ll see play out on the silver screen. But Lucy’s floral veil, enhanced by the sort of large cascading bouquet that was in vogue at the time, is the pièce de résistance, because of the stories it symbolizes from the past and those who work hard to keep them alive.
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