The keys are for two friends who have avoided the UK chat rooms, and thrumming with anticipation, will spend till the next night or two up late, in a haze of stately-home bliss.
Season Four's clothes shift to the '20s; for the wealthy, the period between the two wars offered sumptuous fabrics for bodies newly-freed of pre-war boned corsets. Costume-wise, Season Four features the best wardrobe yet, especially the evening wear, heavy on beading, embroideries and art nouveau jewelry.
Lady Edith escapes dowdiness to embrace the halter neckline, finger waves, and a lover:
With Lady Mary in mourning attire, and Lady Rose too young to really strut, Edith snags the most alluring gowns:
Ensembles like Lady Edith's traveling suit taxed the wardrobe team's skills and the show's budget.
Lady Cora makes me want to give up jeans forever, to wear languid tunics over skirts:
And the pearls! The Countess still wears hers in nearly every episode:
Lady Mary, an ivory obelisk stunning even in grief, wears this flapper sautoir:
Lady Rose, the youngest, could step into today's Brora catalog, though 90 years have passed. Knit sportswear was new tin the '20s, and like now, the young were the early adopters.
Today's Counties girl looks much the same in her cashmere Fair Isle.
This season's "Downton" reaffirmed the enduring grace of a velvet jacket, silk blouse, fine wool skirt: that sensibility. ("What", I imagine the Dowager Duchess intoning, is a logo?") After Season Four, running shoes have never looked so uninspiring. They wore heels, but they could walk in them!
The intervening 90 years have brought us welcome innovations (especially the ability to incorporate stretch into nearly any fiber), but we seem to have forgotten a good deal about tailoring.
Below, some of the cast in present-day attire. Michelle Dockery's Elie Saab shorts suit is of the moment, but can't touch the elegance of her Season Four drop-waisted dress:
Of course, not everyone on the estate could afford those luscious hand-sewn embroideries and dense velvets, nor can I today.
But what wonders were shown on the women in Downton's principle rooms and boudoirs! I was enchanted, and mourned that clothes sold at the end of 2013 retain only remnants of that workmanship.