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 ...