Joanne Froggatt talks Downton style and celebrating women in film

In an exclusive interview, the Golden Globe winning actress discusses her Downton Abbey “black dress” and reveals her new costume as a Victorian serial killer, as she tells all about celebrating women in film through vintage couture

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With Downton Abbey returning to our screens last Sunday, there’s been much discussion around the sixth and final series. To celebrate its release, we chat with one of the show's stars Joanne Froggatt (best known as Anna) about the decades that empowered women in the film industry.

In a photoshoot commissioned by American Express ahead of the BFI Film Festival in October, the 35-year-old Golden Globe-winning British actress pays homage to the twenties and sixties, as the two decades that saw leading ladies take the spotlight on the big screen.

Froggatt interprets two key looks styled by William Banks-Blaney, founder of WilliamVintage. “It was quite fun to be in the traditional, original vintage clothing and it also felt more of a character…trying to capture that feeling of the 1920s and 1960s, and what was happening at the time, what was happening to women,” she told The Independent

For the twenties look she wears “a very traditional original black beaded drop waist dress”, which she claims “is a hard shape to wear, you had to have a certain height to be able to pull it off. I think because I’m petite drop waist don't always do me justice, so I prefer the sixties look.”

The sixties look features an original bright canary yellow A-line coat - it has high neck, quite big buttons and big pockets. “That’s most like my character in terms of what I would wear,” she said while explaining why she felt more connected to that era. “Probably because it’s closer to where we are now. I like that sort of fun vibe.”

However, Froggatt believes the twenties was the stronger decade for female roles. “It’s sort of a time when women film stars started making a career that was well respected in acting, they made it a world-respected profession,” she said. “Then moving into the sixties it was a new era of female protagonist roles. So I think both those eras play huge part on where we are now.

“We’re in a great place really. Now women are leading movies, and not just leading but realising that there’s such a huge audience for films with female protagonists. And that doesn’t mean that I dislike a film with a male protagonist, but there’s a place for both things.”

In these images, Froggatt looks worlds apart from her Downton Abbey character Anna, whose trademark dowdiness will not change in Season 6. “I’m afraid Anna is still in the black dress; her evening dress and day dress," she said.

“Anna doesn’t have the most adventurous wardrobe.” 

But although wearing stunning period gowns can be exciting, the award-winning actress explained how it eased up her costume and fitting. “For a long job, sort of six months, it was definitely a happy costume.

“They were not original,” she added.  “They’re based in the original design, but they were made new and they made the material more substantial,  so if I wanted to have a little power nap at lunch time, I could do it without worrying about ruining lace on the dress.”

But with the final series of the Sunday night period drama coming to a close, Froggatt moves away from Anna in her next role, radically changing her wardrobe in ITV’s brand new series Dark Angel, in which she plays a real life British serial killer from the Victorian era called Mary Ann Cotton.

“In this I have a lot of costume changes. I feel like every season is quite another change. This is fun as well, but this is only sort of an eight-week job.”

Giving a sneak peek of what we're about to see of her, she said: “I quite like the Victorian series really, I think it’s very flattering to all shapes and sizes really.

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