Vintage Sewing

The Vintage Sewing Nerd’s Guide to Netflix

January 24, 2016

Chances are, if you’re into vintage sewing, you’re not above watching a show just for the clothes. We love a period drama around these parts and here’s what we’ve been binge-watching on Netflix (ok, and PBS and YouTube and a few Australian networks that I have no understanding of) while cutting out our patterns…

Disclaimer: Netflix/PBS/YouTube offerings vary over time and country; if something is not available to you right now, bookmark the post so you can try again later.

(P.S. No mention of Downton Abbey because, dude, you already know about Downton…) EDIT: Ok, ok, I’ll put in Downton 😉


Pride and Prejudice

There have been tons of versions of Pride and Prejudice through the years, but this version produced by the BBC in 1995 represents the high water mark for a lot of people. Relentlessly entertaining.

Death Comes to Pemberley

Set after the events in Pride and Prejudice, Mr Wickham continues to be a scoundrel.

The Paradise

Small-town English girl with big ideas moves to the city and takes a job at The Paradise department store.


North & South

When her father moves his family to an industrial mill town, the parson’s daughter, Margaret Hale, struggles to adapt to her harsh new surroundings.


Mr Selfridge

Following the flamboyant American founder of the London department store.


Gran Hotel

Spanish language drama about a young man who comes to the Gran Hotel to investigate the disappearance of his sister.

1st December content


Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries

Lady detective Phryne Fisher sashays through 1920s Melbourne, Australia.


The House of Eliott

This show from the 1990s is set in a 1920s fashion house and is now all available on YouTube.


Downton Abbey

What can I say about Downton that you don’t already know? I originally left it out of the list but there was uproar 😉




During the Great Depression, an Oklahoma farm boy and a charismatic minister learn that they are key players in a proxy war being fought between Heaven and Hell.


The Time in Between

El Tiempo Entre Costuras is the original Spanish title. This one is in Spanish with English subtitles. Young Spanish dressmaker Sira becomes a spy for the Allies.


Indian Summers

Set in India during the decline of the British colonial rule.


Upstairs, Downstairs

The lives of the family and servants in an English household.



Following quirky Belgian detective Poirot. This series started airing back in the 1980s and ran until fairly recently, so tons of episodes.




A young woman finds out that her mother worked as a spy for the British Secret Service during World War II and has been on the run ever since.


Land Girls

Follows four English girls who join the Women’s Land Army during WWII.


Bomb Girls

Ensemble drama following women working at a munitions factory.


Agent Carter

Part of the Marvel universe (…Captain America…Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D…)


Foyle’s War

Crime drama following police inspector Christopher Foyle during WWII.



A world of secrets and science in New Mexico during the race to built the atomic bomb.



The Crown

Netflix original series about the early reign of Queen Elizabeth II.


This Spanish language show is set in a 1950s fashion store.


Call the Midwife

Following a newly qualified midwife and her colleagues at a nursing convent in 1950s & 60s London.


The Bletchley Circle

Four women who worked at Bletchley Park (the infamous code-breaking center) reunite in the early 50s to track down a serial killer.


The Hour

Following British journalists in Cold War-era England.


Masters of Sex

Drama about the pioneers of the science of human sexuality whose research touched off the sexual revolution.


A Place to Call Home

Following the lives and loves of the residents of Ash Park, a grand Australian homestead.




English doctors and nurses in a 1960s gynecology ward. Find this one on PBS.


Astronauts Wives Club

Based on the book of the same name by Lily Koppel and telling the story of the wives behind the space race.


Pan Am

Following the pilots and stewardesses of Pan Am.


Love Child

Set in 1960s Sydney, Australia. Probably not on US Netflix but go hunting the web and you might find it.


Mad Men

Like Downton, you already know about Mad Men. But any excuse for some gratuitous Don Draper action…



So..did we miss any? What are you watching?


    1. What about Murdoch Mysteries, a police drama set in Toronto at the turn of the 20th century? Also, The X Company, about a Canadian undercover group of men and women in France during WW 2 and Dr. Jeckyl, a new CBC period drama set in the 1800s. It’s another version of the famous story that begins in Ceylon and moves to Britain where Jeckyl goes to find the secret of his life and his father. Lots of period costumes in all of these shows.

  1. Thank you so much for this wonderful list. I have copied it and placed it next to my Big TV. I have House of Eliott on DVD (one L, two Ts – I am sure you care since you are studying Eng. Lit).

  2. It just started, but Mercy Street on PBS focuses on a makeshift army hospital in Virginia during the height of the American Civil War. You get a good eyeful of all types of clothing from varying social classes and professions.

  3. Love the Bomb Girls and wish it was still on! My wife looked exactly like Gladys when she was her age, face, vintage clothes, hair……everything. I have to do a double take when I watch it.

  4. I would add “The Mrs. Bradley Mysteries” starring Diana Rigg and set In the 1920s. It only lasted five episodes but the period attire was stunning.

  5. What a great list! There are a lot of shows on it I haven’t seen yet (although I’m not sure I can find all here in the Netherlands. I looked for Upstairs Downstairs on Netflix and it wasn’t there)
    I would like to add two BBC series: “Father Brown”, about a priest doing detective work in a village in northern England in the late 1940’s and 1950’s (you’ll want to watch for Lady Felicia’s wardrobe alone! )
    and “Inspector George Gently”, a fairly gritty police drama set in a northern English town in the mid-1960’s. Mad men era but a lot more down-to-earth (no program website)
    Oh, and the BBC seems to be doing regular Agatha Christy mini-series set in the 1950’s now. The latest one aired over the holidays and is called “And then there were none”.
    I’m not sure whether any of these shows is available on demand anywhere but a lot of BBC shows end up on Netflix eventually. If you are in the Netherlands, Belgium or Luxembourg, you can watch reruns of “Father Brown” on BBC First.

  6. One you may want to add to 1940s era is X Company. It’s a Canadian show that is set within Canada (training grounds) and nazi-occupied France. It about a team of spies who perform sabotage and espionage missions. The team is usually in civilian clothing which makes the costumes much more interesting. Season 2 is premiering this week in Canada, but S1 is available on Netflix.

  7. A great series that can only by seen on DVD so I don’t know if it is “list worthy” is The Tales From Avonlea Series all 9 seasons..It is great for showing even children in period Classic Victorian era

    1. I’m so glad someone else remembers Avonlea! That was one of my favorite shows growing up. It’s one of the things that got me interested in this crazy business!

  8. Grantchester! Another PBS mystery, set in 1950s England. Something I just added to my netflix is called When Calls the Heart, looks like it is something with mounties, but haven’t actually watched it so no promises it is good.
    A Young Doctor’s Notebook, Murdoch Mysteries, The Time in Between, The Buccaneers, Egypt (BBC on Netflix)… again, all in my queue waiting to be watched.

  9. Thank you for this great list!
    For me there’s boardwalk empire taking place in the ’20 with Steve Buscemi by hbo 😉

  10. Peaky Blinders. Post WWI Industrial urban Birmingham UK. And it’s actually on Netflix, not some random internet search. Next season will take place in the roaring 20s.

  11. I’m surprised you missed “The Duchess of Duke Street” which was far superior to either version of “Upstairs, Downstairs”….costume-wise and in every other respect.
    As for “Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries”, I find the lead actress’s costumes far too fanciful and often quite inappropriate for the scene she’s playing. Love the millinery, though…it’s fabulous. The rest of the cast are usually extremely well costumed, however.

  12. Outlander! And if Hercule Poirot embodies everything 30’s, I think that Miss Marple does the same for the late 40’s or early 50’s I think it is… Mostly I like Poirot for the architecture and furnishings that are all Art Deco!

  13. “Atelier” (on Netflix) follows a young fabric lover in Tokyo as she navigates the world of heigh end, custom lingerie. The Devil Wears Prada of bras but with a less harsh Miranda. The show is fashionable (though not period) but is more interesting for being about the fashion world than for the fashions in the show. It’s in Japanese with subtitles. I hate subtitles and the show was so good I went through the first season in 4 days! Definitely worth checking out for any sewing nerds (you may also appreciate the main characters strange love affair for with fibers)

  14. Pre 1920: Lark Rise to Candleford. Story of a small town where life revolves around the little post office. Lovely dresses and men’s wear!

  15. Great list-lots of wonderful clothes to drool over. I also like the PBS shows Father Brown, Granchester, Homes Fires & The Crimson Fields.

  16. On Netflix: Peaky Blinders (post WWI / 1919-early 20’s). Yes to the herringbone tweed and the detachable stiff collar shirts. Dancing on the Edge is also brilliant period drama series. It is set in the 1930’s and all about jazz.

  17. Mad Men – the best series that i’d watched last year. BUT Peaky Blinders is not in the list – this is a big omission! I fell in love with Cillian Murphy because of these series. it’s luck that Steven Knight after all gave him Thomas Shelby’s role…

  18. Hey, great list! Thanks! For some good 1980s….ok I know that was only 30 years ago, but anyways check out Halt and Catch Fire on AMC season 3 will air this May. Check out season 1 and 2 on Netflix or Amazon. Great show about the beginning of the computer age. Great cast.

  19. Thanks for sharing this list. So many great costume dramas I hadforgotten about. I’m making a wardrobe from 1932 for the Historical Sew Fortnightly challenge this year and the list you’ve created will come in handy when I’m running short on ideas.

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