Saturday, March 18, 2017

The Downton Experience - Part One


Downton Abbey will always have a dear place in my heart, partially because it was the décor inspiration for my wedding, and partially because it was a major piece of getting this blog going. But even without these elements, I still would have been psyched to hear that the Downton Experience was coming to the Mall of American in Minnesota. (Sorry, folks, it's gone now.)

Actually, I totally freaked when I found out. Actual Downton Abbey costumes coming to Minnesota so I could see them in person? Seriously? A dream come true! (Probably the only thing I'd get more excited about would be if the Star Wars costume exhibit ever came here. I would die of happiness.)

Let's clarify - there are two Downton Abbey costume exhibits going around, one bigger, one smaller. The one at MOA was the smaller one - but still well worth the price of admission! There were 27 costumes, all of which you could see at extremely close range (most were not even behind glass).

And yes, photography was allowed, so I am going to show you all of the glorious details! (But I still recommend going yourself! $10 for admission, or less with a groupon deal!)

My husband and I attended as a celebration of our 3rd Anniversary. By this time in our relationship, Nathan has a pretty solid footing on which to enjoy costumes himself, and he was well equipped to take photos. Actually, I was planning to take photos myself, but then upon entering the exhibit, Nathan told me "Now Honey, you just enjoy yourself. I'm going to take photos, just let me know what you want me to take."

"Everything!" I told him. "I'll let you know if we need detail shots of anything!"

He took almost 100 photos. So we're going to break this up into a few posts.

The exhibit thoughtfully provided a lovely full color brochure for the attendees, detailing the materials for each costume, along with when they were worn and by whom. My only qualm with this brochure is that I would have liked more information on what garments were made by the production, which were rented, and which were authentic vintage. A few accessories were marked as vintage, but otherwise there was no indicator of manufacturer.

Click any photo to see it in full resolution.


A silk and wool dress, worn by Mrs. Hughes in Season 2 (1920). Upon closer viewing, there is a lot more embellishment on this dress than you would expect.


Season 5, Robert and Cora's pajamas (1924). Both nightgown and pajamas are made from sand-washed silk.


 That nightgown is so pretty. And the dressing gown! Why are bathrobes so boring these days?


This ensemble was worn by Edith in Season 5 (1924). Believe it or not, that sweater is silk and the skirt is wool crepe! It's really interesting to look at the materials these garments were made from, as it shows a level of opulence that is only really evident if you know how much more care these fibers take to manufacture and care for. This ensemble might not look too different from some more recent styles at Target, but the fabric is VERY different.

Note: I felt the exhibit had a rather overabundance of Edith. Also, there is no Matthew or Sybil represented. I'm wondering if many of their costumes went on to other productions after they left the show?


Another Edith dress (also Season 5), this one made of silk using a burnout technique called Devore. Weirdly, I once dyed a Devore silk scarf this exact shade of green. I was going to sell it at a garage sale this spring, but now the Downton Connection might be too much for me... I need to have an 'Edith Scarf', right?


Obviously there's extreme perspective going on here, but (as often is true with actors) it was fascinating to see how tiny many of the actresses really are! (For comparison, I am 5'9)


The ladies dominated the exhibit, (and for good reason!) but we did get a few masculine ensembles, including this three-piece suit worn by Tom Branson in Season 6.


Adorable pinafore dress worn by Sybbie in Season 6 (1925). One of the biggest surprises of the exhibit for me was seeing how much detail there was on the children's clothing. I mean, outside of baptismal gowns, how often would anyone even think of putting a dainty lace collar on a little girl like that?


This is an authentic vintage needle lace collar, and the flowers are hand embroidered in silk.



This is a silk ensemble worn by Lady Mary in Season 5. In the photo attached to the brochure, the fabric looks lavender, but here it is quite clearly gray.


Hem detail - liberty print cotton trim.


More gorgeous kid-wear! This pinafore was also worn by Sybbie in Season 6.


I mean, just look at the crazy pleat detail in that collar! Normally I'd never think of putting a style like this on a little girl, but Sybbie looks adorable in it.

BUNCHES more to come, friends! Check back next week!

In the meantime, would you do me a favor? I have a chance to win $10,000 in the Etsy Small Business Contest, which would not only allow me to expand my embroidery business (the best way I've found to earn money with my chronic illness), but it would also let me get an awesome new camera, which I need before I can make my sewing books happen. And the good news is that you can vote for as many shops as you want, so there is not need to pick favorites! (They ask for your email for verification only, and no other personal info.) Vote here!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for posting about this. From the link to the exhibit page I found out that the larger show is currently at a museum about 1.5 hours from where I live. Excited to go see it.

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