Get the Downton Abbey make-up look


The Downton beauties; Jessica Findlay as Lady Sybil Crawley, Laura Carmichael as Lady Edith Crawley and Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary Crawley in series 3. Photo: ITV

Make-up artist Magi Vaughan reveals the tricks she uses to create the Crawley Ladies’ iconic beauty in Downton Abbey.

Who hasn’t fallen in love with Downton Abbey and its leading ladies? With over 10 million viewers it’s no wonder the styles from Edwardian to the early 1920s have had a huge impact on fashion and now what has become known as ‘the Downton effect’ is extending to beauty. Requests for Downton inspired loveliness at cosmetic counters are so frequent that from this week John Lewis Oxford Street is offering complimentary Bygone Beauty Tutorials to enable customers to give their Christmas 2012 party look a vintage twist. (To book call 0203 073 0653.)

However, I tracked down the Make-up Designer for Series 3 and the Christmas special of Downton Abbey, Magi Vaughan, at the Illamasqua School of Make-up Art. Here, she reveals the tricks behind Lady Mary, Lady Edith and Lady Sybil’s ethereal beauty.

Lady Sybil - Downton Abbey

The ultimate no make-up make-up look; Jessica Findlay as Lady Sybil in series 3. Photo: ITV

While well-bred women wore scant in the way of colour cosmetics in the early twenties, “this is Downton and it needs to look beautiful’, said Magi, who gets her cosmetic inspiration from portrait paintings of the period – think John Singer Sargent and Philip de Laszlo. I was very excited to witness her make-up demonstration revealing how to achieve the Downton look she creates for the actors and using a surprising amount of modern make-up.


Portrait of The Viscountess Stuart of Findhorn (1902-1977) 1917 by Philip de Laszlo

Radiant complexion

A key trick in achieving their aristo’ looks (well fed and groomed with plenty of country walks) is a fine layer of light reflective pink primer, Makeup Forever HD Primer in Pink no.7, £25.45, followed by a layer of foundation such as Make-up Forever HD Foundation, £29.95,  or Illamasqua Skinbase Foundation, £27, airbrushed onto skin one after the other. Magi explains; ‘The radiance of the pink glows through the foundation very subtly giving the girls that fresh, healthy, porcelain complexion.” Downton is filmed in unforgiving high definition so airbrushing is essential for the actresses, but for the rest of us a foundation brush will work just fine, but as Magi warns, “never powder, it deadens the skin”.

If under-eye circles need brightening, “We used YSL Touche Eclat, (£25) or By Terry Touch-Expert Advanced (£28.50) after applying foundation,” adds Magi.

Lady Mary - Downton Abbey

Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary Crawley in series 3. Photo: ITV

Doe eyes

Next up; a tea-rosy trio of matt Illamasqua Powder Eye Shadows were used, £15.50 each. First a matt pale pink, named Toxic, was brushed all over the lid, while Truth, a matt brown was blended into the socket line in a ’round shape as was the ideal in the twenties,’ points out Magi. Then a third mid-tone, Dizzy, was brushed under the lower lashes. Brows were left soft and natural and while lashes in series 1 were mascara free, for series 3 Magi applied one coat of mascara. She also added a few individual lashes, from Ardell, but “just in the centre of the upper lid to emphasise the round shape as using them on the outer corners would create a more forties or fifties winged effect.”

Lady Edith Downton Abbey series 3.

Laura Carmichael as Lady Edith Crawley in series 3. Photo: ITV

Blushing cheeks

To get that flirty, flushed look Magi uses Benefit Benetint Rose-Tinted Lip and Cheek Stain, £24.50. “Just a couple of drops in the airbrush achieves the desired blush,” says Magi. If, like me you find it hard to blend with a finger you could try Giorgio Armani Blushing Fabric, £29, which is a slight creamier formula and comes in three shades.

Rose-bud lips

Finally, on lips Magi applied a sheer stain of Illamasqua Lipstick in Box, £16.50, a true, matt red which Illamasqua Creative Director, Alex Box created as her signature shade though she wears hers full-on and vampy. So, get two looks for the price of one.

Don’t miss the Christmas special of Downton Abbey at 8.45pm, Christmas Day on ITV1.


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A beauty editor and academic turned blogger