Gift #1020: Dressing Downton

I’ve had some difficulty with internet connectivity the past several days, but I think wifi is cooperating enough right now to get in a blog post.  I’ve been so excited to share some of my recent trip to Cincinnati.  Every year my mom and I go to attend the Stampaway event, which is a large rubber stamp show.  We started off just going to Cinci once a year – down on a Friday afternoon and back Sunday morning, only for the show.  Now that we’ve gotten to know the city better, both Mom and I are hopelessly smitten. We go down on a Thurs morning and don’t come back till Sunday night – and we visit several times a year.  We are always finding new things to see and do – the city is full of delightful places.  This past spring we became acquainted with Taft Museum of Art when we went to see the Daubigny exhibit.  We made plans to return in August because they were hosting the “Dressing Downton” exhibit.  I’m not a diehard fan of the show, but I do especially enjoy the historical period when the first part of the show is set.  The costumes and the grand home are my favorite aspects of Downton.  Since I didn’t think Highclere Castle would be touring the US anytime soon, I jumped at a chance to see the costumes instead.


The exhibit was very well displayed, with about 20 costumes you could admire up close.  Many were oriented so that you could see the back of the garment as well.  Pictured here are a few of my favorites.  The theme centered on relationship between clothing and culture.  The 1910s saw a dramatic shift in every aspect of society.  In many ways it was the swansong of a passing era, but it was also the birth of “modernity”.  The exhibit did a fascinating job of exploring the ideas, traditions, and hopes of each generation portrayed in the drama.  And now to the costumes!  Pictured above is Violet’s iconic costume – this was the first on display.  And we got to see the hat too!


This iconic dress was a delight to behold.  One of the things I appreciated about the costumes was that they incorporated original fabrics and trims whenever possible.  Such was the case with this piece of lace which was converted into an overlay for the dress. I love everything about this one.


Sybil’s day dress was a surprise for me.  On screen it looks blue, but it’s actually more of a grey color.  I learned that there was no formal color palette for the three daughters, but they still seemed to gravitate to particular colors to give each of the actresses a unique personality.  Sybil often was dressed in soft cool tones of grey, blues, and purples to accentuate her sweet and selfless demeanor.  We also learned in a lecture that this particular costume is a bit more subdued with black tassels because the family was in mourning during the 1st season.  Each  character wears black in their costumes in different ways.


This evening dress was incredibly stunning and one of my favorites.  The bodice and front of the gown is completely beaded in a dramatic art deco style.  Embroidered flowers and sewn-in pearls add additional details.  All of this was hand-stitched and it made my heart flutter.  The long velvet overcoat has hand-stitched gold beads all along the edge.  Here’s a close up.  It was so feminine and elaborate.


To round out the selection for today, this last photo may initially seem like a let-down after the evening gowns, but this one would be the one I’d like best to own.  I love this one dearly.


It’s beauty is in it’s tailored practicality and understated details.  Though not covered in beadwork, it’s every bit as beautiful and full of workmanship.  The traveling coat is made of boiled wool in a fitted, graceful style.  It features dyed fur cuffs and collar (and we’re just going pretend it’s faux fur)  Accessories are modest and tasteful – a matching velvet purse and a hat which is the crowing glory of this ensemble.  It made me long for the days when a lady would wear such a thing to board a train with her steamer trunks for winter holiday.  Hands encased in warm velvet gloves and maybe a lace knit shawl for added warmth about the neck… oh, why don’t we dress like that anymore?


Here’s a closeup of the hat.  Oh, my goodness!  Isn’t it beautiful?  I love the way the brim is blocked to slightly flair up above the face at that angle.  And there’s yards of dyed silk wrapped in a bow around the crown.  It’s brilliantly executed indeed.  While the exhibit extolled the progress of the decades ahead, I think most people, myself included, came away with a feeling of nostalgia.  On the “other side” of progress we can acknowledge that not all the revolutionary changes propelling us into the modern age were necessarily better. They came with their own set of unique problems, and I think that forges a bond between us and the characters of Downton.  Our times are not dissimilar from theirs; like the characters upstairs and down, we also struggle to make sense of a changing world, to have a sense of purpose, to find love, and make the most of the time we’re given….  although one can’t help but think it would be easier with tea and a beaded gown…

Blesssings to you,


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1 Response to Gift #1020: Dressing Downton

  1. Eliza Waters says:

    I saw this exhibit last year at the Biltmore Estate and loved it. I’m going to miss seeing the costume designs on that series. Whoever did them did a terrific job.

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