“Dressing Downton” ~ Part Five

At last, the final post covering the ton of photos during my tour of the “Dressing Downton” exhibition at Cheekwood Mansion in Nashville a few weeks ago. It was a phenomenal experience. The previous posts explain a bit more about the exhibit (links below) and have a bunch of photos that should not be missed, obviously!

Here are the links to all the blogs on “Dressing Downton” — 

“Dressing Downton” ~ Part One

“Dressing Downton” ~ Part Two

“Dressing Downton” ~ Part Three

“Dressing Downton” ~ Part Four

Generation Gap ~ Season Three

I’m giving the gentlemen of Downton Abbey the spotlight first.

In the below photo from the exhibit, the outfit on the left is the hunting ensemble worn by Robert Crawley, Earl of Grantham in several scenes, a belted tweed wool suit with breeches, called “plus fours.” Worn with short boots, this was standard daywear for men on country estates. The wool fabric is warm and the outfit is comfortable except for the starched collars. The shirt has a separate collar attached to the neckband, with studs to keep it in place. This made it easier to launder shirts as the collars could be starched separately. Since collars came in different styles, men could also change their look.

In the below photo, the outfit on the right was worn by Sir Richard Carlisle. It is a beautifully tailored three-piece wool, herringbone suit with a wool coat. Self-made men like Sir Richard used their clothes to demonstrate their status. He wears expensive fabrics cut by the best London tailors.

Season Four ~ 1922 to 1923

By 1922 the styles of dress had definitely changed. First up is Lady Rose MacClare wearing a silk velvet evening dress, original to the period, with glass bead and sequin decorations. This evening dress is not full-length, as would have been the case before World War I. By the 1920s, stylish evening dresses were the same length as day dresses but straighter in style and looser in the bust. Lady Rose would probably not have worn a corset under this dress as young women were discovering the comforts of the less-restrictive brassiere. Although Rose denies being a Flapper, her style is moving in that direction.

Next is a stunning gown worn by actress Christina Carty playing the part of Virginia Woolf, the famous writer and figure of London Literary Society. The evening gown has a Bohemian feel and incorporated original fabric panels. The black silk-net fabric features intricate, metallic-thread embroidery known as Tambour work. This is characterized by rows of chain stitching worked with a hook on fabric held taut to resemble the head of a small drum, or tambour. The necklace is made of Bakelite, an early plastic that became a popular material for jewelry during the Art Deco period (1909-1940s).

Finally, yes, finally … the last two characters in two fabulous gowns.

In the image to the right, the lady to the farthest right is Madeleine Allsopp, a debutante wearing a gown of silk satin with attached beaded panels at her Court presentation. Once presented, a young lady could participate in “The Season,” an annual cycle of balls and parties attended by some 4000 of the richest people in London, which acted as a marriage bureau for young women looking for husbands. This gown was wholly made for the TV series. Sequins, beads, and fringes became very popular in the 1920s as they sparkled and swayed as women moved across the dance floor. Dancers relished the upbeat sound of new dance crazes like the tango and the Charleston, and era was known as the “Roaring Twenties” or the “Jazz Age.”

Standing beside Miss Allsopp is Freda Dudley Ward, also for her debut at Court (or “Coming Out”), wearing a silk and silver beaded dress. The georgette layer with beading is original and has been strengthened by the addition of a fine net lining, to which the motifs are tacked. The satin underlay is wholly new, the slightly paler color brightening the look of the original georgette. The front panel is made from silver-accented lace, and the embellishments continue all the way around the dress.

That is the last of them!
I hope the series has been enjoyable to browse through and read.
Please share your thoughts in the comment section.



Sharon Lathan

Sharon Lathan is the best-selling author of The Darcy Saga, a ten-volume sequel series to Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice.

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