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Downton Abbey's Catherine Steadman: 'I was so lucky to play a wealthy heiress'

Catherine is best known for playing heiress Mabel Lane Fox in Downton Abbey. She has appeared in many TV productions including Law & Order UK, Missing and Lewis, and in films including Fishing In The Yemen, Dust and Richard Curtis’s About Time. She is currently playing Jean Tatlock in Oppenheimer at London’s Vaudeville Theatre. Catherine is married and lives in north London.

How would you describe your style?

Simple, minimalist and planned. I think about what the day’s going to bring.

Which colours and shapes suit you best?

I like clean, fitted lines, neutral tones, reds and Monet-type watercolours – lilacs, soft blues and yellows. I’m bolder and brighter with my accessories.

What is your favourite fashion era?

Now – current fashion has so much variety. I also like vintage with a modern twist.


Photo: formal dresses adelaide

What did you think of Mabel Lane Fox’s wardrobe in Downton?

I was so lucky to play a wealthy heiress because so many of my costumes were designed especially for me. I particularly loved my point-to-point riding clothes, which were handmade by an expert tailor – I didn’t want to give them back.

My favourite evening dress was the colour of a Tiffany box, covered in crystals. It felt amazing to wear it.

What about Jean Tatlock’s wardrobe in Oppenheimer?

Set in the 40s, her wardrobe is feminine but practical. She’s a strong, independent woman and her wardrobe reflects that.

What are your favourite high- street brands?

Cos, Acne, Whistles and APC.

Who are your favourite designers?

Alexander McQueen and Chanel – I wish!

From left, clockwise:

Three of Catherine’s favourite shoulder bags. The yellow style is from Zara, the brown snakeskin by Smythson and her blue satchel is from Brit-Stitch

Catherine prefers delicate jewellery. This lizard diamond brooch is Georgian; the Alex Monroe bumble bee necklace was a gift to herself; her rooster necklace is from Liberty; and the cockerel necklace and gold ball pendant were both presents

The actress wears this yellow padded bed jacket from Grays Antiques with jeans for daytime or with a dress for the evening

A selection of Catherine’s shoes including black platforms from Zara, pumps by Manolo Blahnik and brown, strappy heels by Christian Dior

Catherine’s collection of Hermès scarves in beautiful, vibrant colours

From left:

This Burberry trench coat is Catherine’s most expensive buy – “I’ll wear it for ever,” she says

This reddress is one of Catherine’s favourite recent purchases from French Connection

Catherine models her favourite LBD from Cos, worn with a belt from Jigsaw and a ball pendant given to her by her father when she was 12. Her black heels are by Manolo Blahnik

Do you have a style icon?

Cate Blanchett. She knows intuitively what suits her and always looks amazing.

What is your best beauty secret?

Eyelash curlers.

Are you a hoarder or do you clear out your wardrobe each season?

I have regular clear-outs. Whenever I buy a few new things, then it’s out with some of the old.

Are you a fan of vintage?

I’m more of a fan of antiques, clothes and particularly jewellery or accessories, which date back to the 20s or earlier. I’m not so taken with retro fashion from the later 20th century.

How many shoes and handbags do you own?

Not a lot. Probably about 12 pairs of shoes, excluding trainers, and six handbags. I tend to go for investment pieces. I bought my gladiator-style Christian Dior sandals five years ago but I’ve worn them again and again ever since. My Smythson handbag was another treat, which you can wear as a shoulder bag or as a clutch, so it’s really versatile.

What is the best piece of fashion advice you have ever been given?

Wear what you feel comfortable in.

What is your current favourite outfit?

My black Whistles jumpsuit – it can be dressed up for evening, but is great for daytime, too.

Is there an “old favourite” you turn to in a wardrobe crisis?

A burgundy L’Wren Scott column dress – it’s very fitted and falls just below the knee. It’s my go-to dress for special occasions.

How much do you spend on clothes each month?

Nothing this month. I tend to shop seasonally, when the weather changes. I don’t buy on impulse – I plan my purchases.

What is the most expensive item in your wardrobe?

The most expensive item I’ve bought myself is a Burberry trench coat but it might be a creamcashmere sweater by Loro Piana – a gift from my parents.

Do you have a favourite little black dress?

An evening dress from Cos.

What is the one item of clothing you couldn’t live without?

Black merino-wool tights. I wear them all year round with dresses and skirts – my favourites are by Falke.

What is your favourite piece of jewellery?

My Georgian brooch inset with tiny diamonds.

Have you ever made a fashion faux pas?

When I was 12 I had a jumper with the words “horse crazy” across it. I wore it all the time. It was a bit mad!

What is the most crushing remark anyone has made about your clothes?

When I was wearing my black jumpsuit, a man randomly inquired whether it was a onesie. But I wasn’t too crushed – he was in his fifties and obviously didn’t know much about fashion.

What item of clothing would you save from a burning house?

Only my jewellery.

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