“Dressing Downton” ~ Part Two

Time for more images from my awesome experience at the “Dressing Downton” exhibit at Cheekwood Mansion in Nashville.

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

“Dressing Downton” ~ Part Five

Continuing from Friday’s selection of images, these exhibit pieces are from Season One which covered the years 1912 and 1913: The British Idyll.

First, the cotton and silk suit worn by Lady Sybil Crawley for an afternoon outing of clothes shopping with her mother and sister Lady Edith. Accessories include a straw hat with striped ribbon trim and matching powder-blue gloves. The tailored suit was the most characteristic garment of the period. The women who wore such practical-looking clothes expressed their independence of spirit as they moved into the workforce.

See *NOTE #2 below: This a perfect example of how lighting and film create variances in colors. The exhibit outfit did look bluer than the image taken with my phone camera, but not nearly as blue as the still shot (left) from the TV show. Weird!

The three ladies were driven by Tom Branson, the Downton Abbey chauffeur. Branson’s uniform was based on a Victorian coachman’s outfit. Cars were less open to wind and rain than carriages, but the driver’s uniform still needed to be weatherproof and tough. Overcoats were made from serge and lined with tweed for warmth, as well as sewn with a double-breast to protect from the cold. Chauffeurs donned peaked caps with a chinstrap to keep the hat secure at high speeds. Breeches and tall boots remained a part of the uniform until the 1920s when cars became more enclosed and less draughty.

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!

In Season Two the First World War broke out. The regiments featured in Downton Abbey are inventions, and thus the crests and regimental badges are fictional but based on authentic examples. Below is Lord Grantham‘s Mess Uniform (an outfit traditionally worn for meals in the officer’s mess) was based on a 1912 Indian Guides officer uniform. Lady Grantham‘s beaded dress and green velvet jacket were worn at the hospital’s Charity Concert. The ivory silk center panel, beaded with glass diamonds, pearls, and seed beads, is a rare piece of vintage fabric. Clothes were made to last, so panels of dresses were often re-used, lace was cut-down for collars or cuffs, and ribbons were re-used in hats and trimmings.

Matthew Crawley in a Captain’s uniform of wool, worn throughout his war service and when he returns to Downton Abbey after being injured during the Battle of the Somme. As an officer, Matthew would have had his uniform made by his own tailor. However, the vast numbers of uniforms needed for ordinary soldiers meant that productions methods had to be streamlined. The new methods continued to be used after the war to mass-produce ready-made civilian clothing at a cheaper cost, and the impact on ordinary people’s dress was enormous.

Lady Mary Crawley is seen to the right (with Matthew) in a crepe skirt and satin scoop-necked blouse which incorporated original floral chiffon fabric for the front panel and cuffs.

Also from Season 2, Lady Mary wore this stunning two-piece deep maroon wool ensemble with velvet trim on the collar and cuffs, a felt hat with silk ribbon, and a velvet handbag with a metal clasp. Tailored clothing for women were worn for travel or sporting activities from the late 19th century onward. The handbag, based on luggage styles but smaller, became an essential accessory for working and traveling women.

Lady Sybil is seen here in her nurse’s uniform. Of cotton fabric, the narrower silhouette and shorter skirt reflect wartime condition: not only were fabric supplies limited but also shorter skirts for nurses avoided the problem of soiling from mud and blood on the floor.

This ends the images for today. I shall share more in the days ahead.

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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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