It was the sort of dress that would have given poor old Carson an attack of the vapours. There at the Screen Actors Guild awards in Hollywood, quite literally exposed for all to see courtesy of her plunging gown, was Lady Mary's embonpoint.
Alright, yes, we know, we know ... it wasn't really Lady M, but the actress who plays her in Downton, Michelle Dockery.
Undoubtedly, though, that contributed to the shock factor. Okay, it's real-life but we were still kind of seeing our favourite Crawley daughter... in fact, seeing rather a lot of her, as it happens.
Of course, Michelle Dockery (32) has form when it comes to flashing the flesh. In the past, she's sported a peek-a-boo cut-out maroon coloured dress and she's also worked the controversial sideboob look too. This J Mendel dress, however, was by far her most daring, breaking one of the golden style rules by exposing both cleavage and thigh.
Was it a red carpet winner though? Certainly, it attracted plenty of attention, but did it actually do much for her? Will there prove to be career gold in that there valley – or did she put the sag into the SAG awards?
Less is more ... - writes Frances Burscough
Tongues have been wagging in distinct disapproval since Lady Mary Crawley stepped out after dark on Sunday in a very daring dress indeed. Not only were her Ladyship's legs very ill-concealed, but her bosom was plainly visible too! Whatever would the Earl of Grantham say, one wonders?
But wait. Before we all fear for the demise of Downton Abbey and Lady M's spiralling moral compass, I should point out that this happened in real life at the Screen Actors Guild Awards in Los Angeles and not on the set of our most beloved period drama. Nevertheless, the headlines have been harsh since then. Critics have been horrified to see Michelle Dockery, aka, the archetypal English aristocrat flashing so much flesh for the cameras and looking so feisty. It's just not British!
But those who cannot face the reality of seeing stars out of character clearly don't get the point of these red carpet functions. For actresses in particular, dressing completely out of character is a career move and this is where they come to mix business and pleasure in equal measure.
Not only are the world's paparazzi out in force, but also every director, writer, producer and casting agent worth his salt gather at these functions, making them like glorified trade shows for stars of stage and screen to show off their physical versatility. So if Michelle is hoping to be noticed as a potential future Bond Girl, for example, then what better way than to dress as the very antithesis of her most familiar alter ego? If she truly wants to break out from the typecast cage, this is where she goes to show that she's as comfortable as a high class hooker as she is playing a cosseted member of the genteel English gentry.
So despite the disparaging remarks made by the social commentators, that plunging-to-the waist/slashed-to-the-thigh gown by J Mendel was a fabulous triumph for Michelle. Its tuxedo styling showed she's got the nerve to carry off something completely different; its daring cut showed off the killer curves that are usually concealed beneath modest Edwardiana and yet she still succeeded in looking sophisticated, sexy and elegant.
Classy and sassy in one fell swoop? I'd call that a show-stopping success wouldn't you? I'm guessing she wanted the crowd to gasp in surprise when she first emerged, thigh-first, from her limo. And they did.
Who knew the Lady was a vamp? We all do now ...
Put it away! - writes Una Brankin
As Joan Rivers would say, there hasn't been such a bad black and white combination since Seal and Heidi Klum started scrapping. The plunging J Mendel gown worn by Michelle Dockery was attention grabbing – for all the wrong reasons.
Ok, she has a good tidy cleavage and shapely legs but the monotone dress was wearing her, rather than the other way around.
Ill-fitting and contrived looking, the fabric sat awkwardly beneath her shoulders, making them appear broad – a big no-no in the la-la land of skinny minnies – while the daring neckline provided no support for her assets, creasing under the bust-line.
The slit in the skirt was slashed to just the right length but she could have done with a little bit of colour on her legs and arms, and particularly on her wan chest, which was too pale against the white V-neck panel.
She got the swept-back hair right and the scarlet lips added a much needed splash of colour, but she could have done with some rubies or emerald or turquoise on her wrists and ears. Even her finger nails were colourless.
No doubt the Anglo-Irish beauty was trying to make a statement that she's more than a costume-period actress, just as the annoying Miley Cyrus is hell-bent on showing the world she's a frisky grown-up. But Miss Dockery could have chosen a classier way to do it.
Although she looked confident on the red carpet, she doesn't have the chutzpah to carry off such a slinky revealing number, and it was disappointing to see her baring flesh to get noticed. That's expected from Z-listers, not from quality drama stars. She could have shown a little flesh in a more elegant way, with a less gaping neck-line that didn't flash her two half moons.
Of course the new eye-popping plunge-scoop is all the rage in Hollywood but if Ms Dockery's stylist couldn't find a more subtle one, she should have had something made for her. Designers would have been jumping up and down for the exposure, excuse the pun. The fashion press have not been unkind so far, admiring the tuxedo effect of the bodice, but it will be interesting to hear what Joan and her Fashion Police panel make of it on E!
They've already hammered Emma Thompson and Julia Roberts – deservedly – for their recent red carpet disasters, and I can't wait to hear what they make of the latter's shocking pink catsuit with its very odd crotch detail.
At least the shade was warm and flattered the 46-year-old Pretty Woman's skin tone. Michelle's dreary white-on-black did her and her pasty decollete no favours – and she fully deserves a conviction for this dreadful crime of fashion.