Costume Dramas & Sewing Viewing

I love a good costume drama. They're a great accompaniment to an afternoon's sewing and are ideal viewing to get ideas for sewing too. Often you can dip in and out of them and have them on in the background when sewing or knitting - if you're not paying full attention this means you can watch them over and over. Perfect!

I thought I'd list some of my favourite costume dramas. This does not include Downton Abbey - although I know it is loved by many seamstresses, I felt it really went off the boil after the first series. The second series was crammed too full of storylines which were treated in a superficial manner. And the third series? Pretty dull. I was delighted when one of the major characters died, just because SOMETHING ACTUALLY HAPPENED. I found most of the characters very grating by this point too and as often happens when TV shows go rubbish, all the bad characters become not-so-bad and the writers seem to want to give everyone a happy ending rather than a good storyline. Dull. And fashion-wise, yes some of the costumes are nice but are nothing like anything I'd actually make.

So, Downton rant over, here's my top 4:

1. The House of Eliott


If you know me in real life you'll probably know my love for this 1990s BBC series. It tells the story of two sisters in the 1920s who start a fashion house. What's not to like for seamstresses in this gem? There are 3 series worth of hour long episodes - get stuck in. It's available on YouTube here.

2. Pride and Prejudice


The classic BBC 1990s version. Not the first adaptation nor the last, but bloody great. Yes, it has Colin Firth in a wet shirt but I just love the Bennett family and there are some very funny moments. Watch a clip here.

3. Cranford


Fantastic adaptation, packed full of top class British acting talent and again, some really funny moments as the book is fantastically brought to life. You can watch a Trailer here.

4. Bleak House


Yet another BBC adaptation, this time of a Charles Dickens' novel. This series has quite a modern feel (it was adapted by Andrew Davies) and is really absorbing. The Trailer is on Youtube here.

I thought I should also mention a few other shows that I love - not necessarily costume dramas but are nonetheless great sewing viewing for inspiration or just for something easy to watch:

  • Mad Men

Image from Couture Allure

Of course! Nothing to add here as every seamstress seems to know and love this series and has fallen in love with the fashions.

  • Miss Marple
 Image from here

I love Joan Hicks and Geraldine McEwan in this role. When looking for pictures for this bit, I discovered that Jennifer Garner has been cast as Miss Marple in a Disney film. The most inappropriate casting since Meg Ryan was set to play Sylvia Plath - I don't think this actually happened though so hopefully Jennifer Garner's Miss Marple won't happen either.
  • Poirot
 Image from here

Can't beat David Suchet as Poirot, and since there are episodes on ITV3 practically every weekend, there's always an episode to watch.


What are your favourite costume dramas or other programmes to watch while sewing and knitting?

K x

37 comments:

  1. The House of Eliot! How I loved this programme! Where do you still see it? I also love that version of Bleak House and, of course, Pride and Prejudice. Any TV detective series does it for me - I'll take any of them. It's the comfort factor. I will also flick from soap to soap. Many of my more cultured friends (actually, most people I know) will look horrified at my soap addiction, but I make no apology. It's there, it's comforting, it's not too taxing - and I think (though not too recently) that the script writers on Coronation Street are comic geniuses.

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    1. They've been showing HoE on ITV3 on Saturday mornings but it seems that whole episodes are available on YouTube via BBC Worldwide. What a treat!

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    2. I loved the house of Elliot. I've also enjoyed The Hour - not quite a flash as mad men, but still some stunning costumes.

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  2. A fab round up Kerry, House of Eliot is one of my all time favourites, as is the BBC Pride and Prejudice. My particular TV addiction is crime dramas, so I'm pleased to see the two Agatha Christie series here, although in my opinion Joan Hickson IS Miss Marple which leaves no room for Geraldine McEwan! Two more period dramas that have great frocks are The Forsyte.Saga (the one with Damian Lewis as Soames) and the recent Upstairs Downstairs - the 1930's clothes in the latter are just gorgeous. x

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    1. Ah yes, the recent Upstairs Downstairs has had some great costumes.

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  3. Forgot to comment on Jennifer Garner as Miss Marple!!! WTF??!! Splutter, splutter.... words fail me. x

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  4. Fun list. I haven't seen all of them. However, it's nice that in the last few years via online services, we're suddenly able to watch all the BBC shows. Yay!

    I like the 1960's shows like Get Smart and The Avengers. On some episodes of "Get Smart", the women's outfits are astonishingly "pointy", hehehe. I do wonder if that was true in real life, or just television.

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    1. I agree, some of the 1960s shows are really great too - very 'of their time'. I used to Love Randall and Hopkirk Deceased or more recently I watched The Prisoner (not the remake though!)

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  5. Miss Marple and Poirot are wonderful! I agree, Jennifer Garner as her sounds dreadful - if it does happen I'll avoid it like the plague.
    Midsummer Murders can be fun, and I always enjoy Grand Designs. More 4 and ITV3 are definitely to blame for whole evenings lost to the TV. I don't know if I should admit to watching Police, Camera, Action and UK Border Force though :/

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    1. Yep, ITV3 usually has something semi-watchable on it. I also indulge in Lewis, Morse and Frost.

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  6. NBC has great tv adaptations.. I love watching it all

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  7. Lately I've been rewatching Twin Peaks as I sew-- it's soapy, strange, and fun. Arrested Development is another one that's fun to pop in while I'm stitching away. Can't wait to check out some of these BBC dramas!

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    1. I watched Twin Peaks for the first time this year, weird but good!

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  8. Did anyone see 'the making of a lady' tonight on ITV, pretty dreadful plot but the costumes were beautiful. I also like the original series of star trek of the alien ladies wacky 60's hair, make up and costumes

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  9. I flippin' LOVE the House of Elliott! I watched it until my eyes fell out! I love all of the costumes, especially Evie's fabulous flapper dresses :) Cranford is also fantastic - I love anything with Judi Dench.

    I really don't like Mad Men at all. Will I be run out of town for admitting that? LOL! While the costumes are glorious, it's just not enough to offset a terrible, sycophantic, repressive story line.

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  10. Sarah, I'm with you - I don't like Mad Men either. When I went to link to House of Eliott I was told it isn't available for me to view. So that leaves Miss Marple and Poirot. If they aren't being shown on Public Television here in the states I can watch them both on Netflix. I like to watch movies from the 50's and 60's. I just watched Breakfast at Tiffany's and was swooning over the clothes.

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    1. That's a shame, I assumed because it was on YouTube anyone could watch it but must be limited to the UK.

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  11. The Hour and Board Walk Empire! OMG awesome. Also love the costumes in Mrs. Marple. MadMen I sorta went off of overtime- I'm not into 50s froufrou and although they're in the mod era now-everyone on the show (apart from Megan) is too old to wear Mod-also plot-wise they seem to be getting really lazy (I mean Pete got punched in the head thrice last season-which I love but seriously-shake it up a bit writers-get him kicked in the nuts or something!).
    Totally disinterested in Downton (although I loved Colbert's Downton/ Breaking Bad mashup-featuring the actual men of Downton XD Lot's of stuff happening there-so you'll probably prefer it to the original XD).
    I quite like the 'period clothing' (futuristic-Western) in the Firefly series and am looking forward to The Great Gatsby-will prob. wait for the dvd and forward through all the shit acting and just watch the parties XD

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    1. Ah yes I also like Boardwalk Empire (still getting over learning why Jimmy joined the army!) and have been enjoying S2 of the hour as I didn't get into s1.

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  12. Eep! Can you say spoilers before letting me know someone dies?! Season 3 of Downton hasn't aired yet in Canada.

    I love watching Miss Marple while knitting. I like a lot of the other shows on your list although I haven't seen them all. One series that would have to be on my list is North and South (the bbc one, not the civil war one). Perfect for sewing, especially since the story takes place around a cotton mill :) And is has Richard Armitage....so pretty...

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    1. Oh no! Sorry! It was part of the advertising for S3 before it started over here that one of the characters dies (plus other hints I won't mention.), so assumed that would be similar everywhere and I'd be safe to say it. Hope that hasn't spoiled things too much for you.

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  13. You've got some of my faves on there and I so agree with you on Downton (I watch online so I'm up to date...) I started calling the character names while watching, so sad for me. Why did I watch each one? Who knows.

    Stephen Colbert (don't know if he's on in your neck 'o the woods) did a spoof with the Downton actors meshed with Breaking Bad. Seriously funny...so much better in 2 minutes than Downton is now. Link is here and hope it works!
    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2248799/Breaking-Abbey-Who-needs-Downton-Abbey-Stephen-Colbert-invites-male-cast-British-hit-TV-perform-hilarious-Breaking-Bad-spoof.html

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  14. Full link here in case you're interested...

    http://www.colbertnation.com/the-colbert-report-videos/422221/december-13-2012/uncensored---breaking-abbey

    You probably can't knit along to this one what with all the laughing.

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    1. Thanks, will check this out tonight :-)

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  15. Wow, how alike our tastes are! I agree, Downton Abbey didn't really deliver. I LOVE HoE, prefer Joan Hickson to all other takers as Miss Marple, and I think that P&P stands so far as the best. Due to airing times and things nly shown on cable, which we don't have, I've yet to see Madmen, Cranford or Bleak House but I am sure I'd love them.
    I have all of the Midsomer Murders on DVD, as well as Lewis, most of Miss Marple, Jeeves and Wooster by Fry and Laurie, most of Joan HIckson's Miss Marple and Murder in Suburbia. Love them all. Movies to sew by include Ever After, Love Actually, Words and lyrics. It's so true that by not really watching them, it works to see them many, many times! Such a wise observation!

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    1. Ah Jeeves and Wooster is good fun too. Am sure you'll love Cranford and Bleak House.

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  16. Ooo I love a costume drama! great selection (though how can I have missed out on House of Eliot these years?!). I'll add Jeeves and Wooster, Daniel Deronda and anything Austen. And Wives and Daughters - my absolute fave!

    (I agree re Downton -- I seem to only watch it to see how much more ridiculous it can get. My favourite character is the dog.)

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    1. Ooh get involved with HoE! You won't be disappointed

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  17. I'm a disgrace, I'm really not into costume dramas (although I love The Hour). I like Poirot for sewing to as I've read all the books and it doesn't require too much concentration when I'm getting my head round a pattern! x

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  18. Ooh I've never heard of the first one, been looking for some new costume dramas to watch, I rewatched Pride and Prejudice last week and my obsession has been stirred! (fun fact - about a year ago I was thinking I should really have seen the BBC version and found it the next day in a charity shop, the universe clearly agreed with me!) Must admit I love Downton but will agree the last series was dull, no idea what they're gonna do in the Xmas special since EVERY loose end was tied up... thanks for the list, I'm gonna track down some of these to watch! :)

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  19. Some of the clothes in the Geraldine Miss Marples are amazing! There's one episode at a girls school where a teacher gets murdered and the sweaters they were wearing were SO AMAZING! It made me wish I could knit sweaters.

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    1. Yes! They've done a great job with costume in the more recent ones, some gorgeous clothes.

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  20. I love to watch those old Ealing comedy films whilst I knit, but I did love the series 'The Devil's Whore' set in Civil War England that Channel 4 showed a few years ago.

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  21. Great list!!!! I LOVE Pride and Prejudice....love everything about it. Yes, that's the best version....the others aren't even acurate as to what they actually wore during the Georgian period. I've been wanting to watch the House of Eliot...it looks really neat! By the way, I totally agree with you about Downton. I loved the first series, but after that it just got, well, dull....but don't tell me about the third season! Here in the US we haven't watched it yet. One of my favorite shows for hand sewing is Tommy and Tuppence; it's just so cute! I also really enjoyed the first season of Upstairs Downstairs, but to be honest I hated most of what they put in the second season...

    Thanks for the post!

    youngyankeelady.blogspot.com

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  22. I love House of Elliot! And P&P. And Poirot - there is an awesome outfit that Honeysuckle Weeks wears in an episode - trousers, blouse and knitted top - that I just have to replicate!

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  23. I never watched HOE the first time round but really fancy it now, must track it down! One of my faves for the costumes was An Education (a film not TV series, but still...) - not the stereotypical mini-skirted 60s.

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Thanks for reading and commenting - I love to hear what you have to say