Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The Downton Experience - Part 3

The time has come, my friends, to celebrate the final post of the Downton Abbey costumes that I was able to see in person. If you are behind, you can check out post #2 here! 

As before, all photos were taken by my husband, Nathan Hajek, and the clothing details were sourced from the pamphlet handed out by the Exhibition. 

My favorite Downton dresses usually involve velvet or beading, so it is no surprise that this piece was one of my favorites of the exhibition. Worn by Edith in Season 5 (1924), it features a gorgeous burnt orange velvet and a rose-hued slip of crepe silk. The draped velvet is the highlight of the dress, but a closer look reveals exquisite embellishment in a few key places.

I just love the detail and depth here (Click any photo to view it in full size and resolution.)

Love this neckline!

Although the front neckline rests on a slender beaded ribbon, it actually attaches to a larger piece and the slip itself in the back, allowing the heavy weight of the velvet to distribute evenly over the body. The ripples in the fabric here also indicate that the gown was cut on the bias.

Just beautiful.

This green dress of silk chiffon was worn by Lady Mary in Season 5.

Although the beads appear to be embroidered directly onto the dress, they are actually appliques, closely clipped and stitched to the gown.

The belt buckle is one of the few pieces specifically labeled as vintage.

Although this type of elaborately embellished chiffon overgown was popular during season 1, by the time we reach season 6, such gowns are usually worn only by the older matrons. This lovely piece was worn by Mrs. Pelham (Edith's future mother-in-law).

I especially love the swirls on the neckline of the undergown.

Simple the lines may be, but elaborate the fabric is on this velvet gown worn by Lady Edith in Season 5.

Interestingly the pamphlet describes the embellishments as "dark silver pinstripe beading and floral beading around the waist. Necklace of cut glass and tiny silver beads."

Looking at all those rows of beads simply makes my fingers ache!

Detail shot from a dress worn by Lady Mary in Season 6. Subtle decor on the front...

...but interesting patternwork on the back. The train is described as "vintage silk lame train." A close look reveals that the fabric from the train was also used to edge the border of the beadwork, as seen two photos up.

This dress, worn by Lady Edith in Season 6, appears to have a neckline atypically low for the show. Production photos reveal a complimentary shift of gold and silver that fills up the neckline gap. Why this undergown didn't appear on the exhibition, I don't know. Perhaps it was rented out and unavailable? Maybe it was a false insert that was removed later? Or was it damaged? The pamphlet gives no clues.

But what we do see of the dress is quite stunning. Simple at first sight, a closer look reveals thousands of gold beads sewn over a gown of painted cotton.

I really have to wonder how heavy this piece was!

There were four dresses on display in the windows outside the exhibition, designed to lure in mall shoppers. Unfortunately, the window glass made it a bit difficult for us to capture good photos of the front of the garments.

This evening gown of blue velvet and gold beadwork was worn by the Dowager in Season 2 (one of the very rare Season 2 pieces we got to see!).

This Season 5 gown of devore velvet was worn by Lady Edith. Unfortunately the details were not captured by us, but they include beading and tassels.

Lady Mary wore this evening gown of cotton gauze in Season 5. I love the beautiful swirly peacock beadwork!

And, last of all, we have one more Lady Mary gown, also from Season 5. I love the beautiful multi-tone floral embroidery on the silk tulle overgown!

Although I've written extensively about Downton Abbey costumes before, I have never made a reproduction costume. Why? Well, although I received a few inquiries back when I took commissions, none of them panned out. The extensive beadwork and embroidery can make such costumes very cost prohibative. Personally, my figure is all wrong for the the clothing of the time period, and I knew that I would be frustrated by the final results of any attempts for my personal use.

I did, however, have a Downton Abbey-themed bridal shower, to which my mother-in-law got her whole family to wear costumes. I made a quick historical piece to wear for that, and it was acceptable, as you can see here.

For more of my Downton Abbey Costume musings, check out this post here.

And if you'd like more regular updates on costuming and design, I invite you to follow my sewing account on Instagram.

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