Last week I visited Winterthur Museum near Wilmington, DE, where they are hosting a wonderful exhibit featuring 40 historically inspired costumes from the hit British TV series, Downton Abbey.
The exhibit includes Lady Sybil’s controversial harem pants, Mathew Crawley’s cricket whites, and Lady Edith’s ill-fated wedding gown. The downstairs staff is well represented with uniforms for almost all the primary characters, including Mr. Carson, Mrs. Patmore and Thomas Barrow. Not surprisingly, their clothes pale in comparison to the glamor of the ensembles from the upstairs Crawley Family.
You’ll see many of Lady Grantham’s and Lady Mary’s beaded gowns, as well as velvet eveningwear from the Dowager Countess and Martha Levinson. The upstairs men are represented with dapper sporting and hunting attire and eveningwear.
But the exhibit isn’t just made up of mannequins decked out in period clothing. The curators tell the story behind the costumes in many ways. For Mathew’s dramatic proposal to Mary, her burgundy gown and his tuxedo are displayed in front of the film clip of their engagement.
Nearby on the wall is an enlargement of the corresponding dialogue from the script. There is also an explanation from the costume designer about why the show chose to keep her dress from being too ornate (they didn’t want to distract from the scene’s action), while special lighting creates the romantic effect of snow falling all around you.
More footage, photos and scripts segments can be found posted throughout the exhibit. You’ll also find interesting explanations about how some of the costumes were made, which ones are actually vintage or incorporate vintage fabrics.
The exhibit also includes descriptions that explain the clothing’s historical context. If you wondered why Lady Mary wore so much lavender this season, the exhibit explains that during the Downton era, it was considered the appropriate color for mourning dress—which is why it was also worn by the Crawley women at Baby Sybil’s christening.
Winterthur visitors are allowed to take photos of the Downton exhibit garments, which is rare at any museum, and a real treat for fans who want photos of themselves standing near their favorite costumes. Barring a trip to Highclere Castle in England, where the series is filmed, photographing oneself at this elaborately detailed exhibit is probably as close as fans can get to actually entering the world of Downton.
Costumes of Downton Abbey will be at The Winterthur Museum until January 4th, 2015. Tickets are timed and should be bought in advance, as the show is already selling out on some days. Admission: $20 for adults, $18 for seniors and $5 for children 2 to 11. Visit winterthur.org or call 302-888-4600. Would you like to take a video tour?
“With its engaging cast of characters, a setting reminiscent of “Downton Abbey” and a storyline that celebrates faith, family and friendship, The Governess of Highland Hall is more than an historical romance. It’s a book that’s sure to delight Carrie Turansky’s current fans and bring her many more.”
~Amanda Cabot, bestselling author of Christmas Roses and With Autumn’s Return
For more information about The Governess of Highland Hall or any of my books please visit my website.
Which is your favorite Downton costume?