Two weeks ago I was in Nashville, Tennessee visiting with my daughter and son-in-law, and as we searched for entertainment in the metropolis, I stumbled across an exhibition I could not miss: Dressing Downton. Although admittedly not an obsessive fan, I did watch Downton Abbey® and along with the excellent story, delighted particularly in the outstanding costuming. Edwardian clothing has many similarities to Regency style, for one, and is incredibly detailed and constructed of rich fabrics. The experience was phenomenal and I must share the information and photos I snapped.
As the official website notes–
Dressing Downton highlights fashion from one of the most widely watched television dramas in the world, Downton Abbey®. Follow your favorite characters, both upstairs and down; walk through a costume chronicle of the period in this now traveling exhibition that showcases nearly 40 period costumes and jewelry from the hit series!
From what I can gather on the website, the exhibition has been touring the US since 2015. Unfortunately, after leaving the Cheekwood Mansion in Nashville at the end of this month, it is scheduled for only one more stop. If you live anywhere near St. Augustine in Florida, visit the Lightner Museum from October 2017 to January 2018. It is SO worth the cost and time, trust me!
The experience was phenomenal, so I thought I would share the information and photos I snapped. If possible, I accompany the museum photo with a still from the series. I also include the information given in the exhibit pamphlet. NOTE: Images are resized to fit nicely but can be clicked to view larger. NOTE #2: The colors do look different in some instances. The variances in filming and lighting, I suppose. I had not brought my camera — the museum visit decided after my hubby and I left our home in Kentucky — so I only had my cell phone camera. It takes surprisingly excellent photos, but not as perfect as my camera! Enjoy!
The British Idyll ~ 1913 to 1914
Above are the ensembles worn by Robert and Cora Crowley, the Earl and Countess of Grantham at the Downton Village Flower Show. Lady Grantham‘s silk day dress and coat trimmed with black frogging, the large brimmed silk hat with net overlay, flowers, and ribbon detail. The three-quarter length coat became known as the “lampshade” silhouette. Lord Grantham‘s suit is a light cream linen with a straw Panama hat. The pale colors and light fabrics echoed the heady, halcyon, carefree days of late Edwardian Britain.
As seen in the screenshots from the TV series (right) worn by the actresses, below are the costumes on display at Cheekwood. First is the riding habit worn by Lady Mary Crawley when she first meets Matthew Crawley. It has a skirt split at the front and back, and is worn over jodhpurs to ensure modesty. The jacket is long and made from twill, a tough wool that offered protection from thorns. The tight cut and shorter corset helped the rider keep a straight back while galloping.
The next exhibit image is the costume worn by Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess of Grantham in season one. This two-piece silk day dress is set off with jewelry and a netted toque hat. The shape of the dress is dictated by the S-bend corset, so-called because it accentuates the bosom, squeezes the figure in at the waist and pushes out at the back, as did the bustle before it. The Dowager Countess wears purple because she is in half-mourning for relatives lost on the Titanic.
Known in the period as “white tie,” the formal outfit worn by Matthew Crawley consists of a black tail suit with cream (or white) waistcoat, white shirt with detachable wing collar and white tie. The shoulders are rounder and softer than today’s formal suits. This waistcoat is silk with pearl buttons. The trousers have a satin side-stripe, the shirts and collars are heavily starched and very stiff. After World War I the short dinner jacket became an alternative for informal events and gatherings, but the evening tailcoat remained standard for formal and ceremonial occasions.
The red evening dress is worn by Lady Mary at the infamous dinner with the Turkish diplomat who later …. well, no spoilers! According to the Downton Abbey costume designer Susannah Buxton, “This dress is made from a turn-of-the-century Spanish evening dress. We sourced beautiful silk chiffon and had it pleated for the cap sleeves and bands across the front. We built layers for the final effect, with embroidered lace laid over the deep-red satin under dress.”
This next dress is interesting to me as the color widely varies in every photo I saw online. As seen in the two images I took at the Cheekwood Mansion exhibit, the net overlay creates a bluish tone to the fabric, which is clearly a pale shade of green (seen uncovered in the front). As further noted in the screenshot from Downton Abbey Season 1, the dress when on actress Michelle Dockery, and as described in the brochure, is: “a silk evening dress with net overlay and black and silver starbursts.” To me the starbursts are gold rather than silver. Whatever the case, I can guarantee that the silver (or gold) was very subtle! So, shaking my head on this one, but it is beautiful either way.
More from the brochure: The long necklace of jet, a black stone popular in the Victorian period when it was worn as a sign of mourning. The use for mourning ended with the death of Queen Victoria, but the fashion for long necklaces remained. By 1912, dresses were becoming looser and shorter, with high waists, thin belts, and A-line skirts. French designer Paul Poiret is credited with achieving a corset-free style of dress.
This ends the images for today. I shall share more in the days ahead.
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Here are the links to all the blogs on “Dressing Downton” —