Thursday, October 16, 2014

For Fans of Downton Abbey

My mother is visiting me, a good excuse for the two of us to take a trip to Winterthur to see a special exhibit called Costumes of Downton Abbey.  (Winterthur was the home of Henry Francis du Pont and holds his vast collection of American furniture and other decorative arts.  Henry was a descendant of the founder of DuPont Chemical; money was no object for him.)

The special exhbit of costumes from the TV drama Downton Abbey was very interesting, especially for those who sew.  The costume designer copied some original dresses from the era (1912-1924 so far), used vintage fabric and embroidery fragments in some cases (augmented with new fabric), but had to reimagine some designs to be more suitable for TV. 

The two dresses below were worn by Sybil and Mary for the garden party scene at the end of Season 1. 

This dress is really a harem pants style jumpsuit, worn by Sybil as evening dress to shocking effect on her family during Season 1.  The bodice was made from antique embroidered lace.  It tore or split in several places during the filming and had to be hand stitched to repair it.  You can see the repairs up close but they don't show up on television.

This is one of Lady Cora's evening dresses.  It was inspired by a length of jet and pearl embroidery that had formed a center vertical panel down the front of a vintage evening gown.  The original panel was re-worked to form the bodice of the dress and new fabric was embroidered in a coordinating design for the skirt of the dress. It was worn with a coat, as shown.

The costume crew has only seven weeks to assemble all the costumes for a season of filming.  Many have hand embroidery or other embellishments. Some costumes are re-used, just as real people would wear clothing multiple times.  The costumes below were worn by Mary and Matthew for the proposal scene out in front of Downton Abbey.  The wanted a simple dress for Mary that would not distract from the scene.  The dark red dress had beading along the neckline and on the edge of every other flounce. 

Some costumes for the servant characters were included in the exhibit, making quite a contrast.  This is Mrs. Patmore's dress and apron (the cook).

If you are a fan of Downton Abbey and have a chance to see this exhibit, by all means go!  I enjoyed it very much.  And Season 5 premieres Jan. 4!

1 comment:

  1. What a fun exhibit and your commentary really added some insight into the clothing. Glad your had an opportunity to see it.


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