Downton Abbey Film Still / Credit: Nick Briggs, Carnival Film and Television Limited 2010 (provided by Winterthur)
Seven weeks' gestation spawns a season's worth of dazzling Downton delights at the hands of costume designers Susannah Buxton and Carolyn McCall. Four cycles in the making, fans of the hit British drama, Downton Abbey are in the midst of a nail-biting hiatus before the next new episode (Season 5 release date TBD). In that time, 40 signature styles across all 4 seasons will be on display at the former Dupont Mansion, currently the Winterthur Museum in Willmington, Delaware. Keep reading for more on the exhibit...
Introductory entry wall to the exhibit
Soaked in sequins, velvet and lavish intricacy, each garment is rich in complexity and history. A few period-based pieces are sourced from Cosprop; Other vintage items have been adapted to fit the fiction and figure. Some of the especially exquisite outfits are handmade and built around original bits of embroidery or beading. In creating the "looks" of early 20th century England, Buxton and McCall reference period designers the likes of Paul Poiret (i.e. Lady Sybil's harem pants), Jeanne Lanvin (i.e. Lady Edith's wedding dress) and Coco Chanel (i.e. Lady Mary's wardrobe). For good measure, they've added a hint of contemporary influence by Miu Miu and Stella McCartney.
Downton Abbey: the cast of characters
Winterthur curators contextualize the clothing by connecting them to quotes from the show and pieces of Dupont history. To ground one's understanding of culture and period technology, an old-style bell system (used to call servants) is displayed across from an electric version used by the Duponts. A reference letter written by Mr. Dupont to release a member of the household staff hangs among other relics in the room containing costumes of the hired help.
Edith's wedding dress in Downton Abbey film still / Credit: Nick Briggs, Carnival Film and Television Limited 2012 (provided by the Winterthur)
Along the way, placards prompt viewers of etiquette essentials. Did you know that white tie is more formal than black tie? Or that--back in the day--the pinstripes on a suit signify where you work? A case of long silk/satin gloves is shown with details of the travails keeping the dainty accessories clean. A box of Oriental tea is out for smelling, alongside a full explanation of the origins. Though the mannequins are a bit awkward, the tidbits around each set of costumes is insightful. Not to mention, the costumes are exceptional! If you plan to visit, it may be wise to purchase tickets in advance. There is a timed entry, and some dates are sold out. Click here for details. The exhibit runs until January 4, 2015.
Edith's wedding dress
(L) Evening dress for Isobel Crowley, (M) Evening dress for Violet, Dowager Countess of Grantham, (R) Evening dress for Martha Levinson
Cora wearing a cream sequin dress and olive studded velvet jacket in Downton Abbey film still / Credit: Nick Briggs, Carnival Film and Television Limited 2011 (provided by the Winterthur)
(M) Cora's sequin dress, (R) Violet's silk velvet + sequin ensemble
Sequined evening gown worn by Cora, Countess of Grantham
Matthew + Mary in Downton Abbey film still / Credit: Giles Keyte, Carnival Film and Television Limited 2011 (provided by Winterthur)
Costume worn by Mary and Matthew during Matthew's proposal
Cricket costume in Downton Abbey film still / Credit: Giles Keyte, Carnival Film and Television Limited 2012 (provided by Winterthur)
Partial view of the main room of the exhibit--There's the cricket costume!
Black maid outfit in Downton Abbey Film Still / Credit: Nick Briggs, Carnival Film and Television Limited 2011 (provided by Winterthur)
Costumes worn by "the help" and the different bell tones for each members of staff
Expandable traveling closet!
The Hunt, Downton Abbey film still / Credit: Giles Keyte, Carnival Film and Television Limited 2011 (provided by Winterthur)
Robert wearing hunting attire / Credit Nick Briggs, Carnival Film and Television Limited 2010 (provided by Winterthur)
Tidbit on ties
Velvety red dress!