Elbow gloves, lariat necklaces, extravagant headpieces and meticulous beading were all the rage at the "Dressing Downton: Changing Fashion for Changing Times", an exhibition celebrating the sixth and final season of Downton Abbey and highlighting its fashion, produced by London costume house Cosprop Ltd. Many of the costumes use original fabrics and embellishments from the early 20th century, while others are re-created from old photos, paintings, patterns, and magazine editorials.
I caught the now defunct showing at the Virginia Historical Society in Richmond. No worries, “Dressing Downton” opens at the Richard H. Driehaus Museum in Chicago on February 9. For complete tour schedule: HERE.
"Dressing Downton" is a great reminder on how easy it is to get dressed in 2016, but also makes you yearn for the days when there was ceremony to it. I knew before I visited the exhibit that the four women of Downton Abbey were strong, vulnerable and trying to find their place in a time when the definition of being an aristocrat was being challenged. What I didn't realize is that their clothing choices spoke to how they saw themselves and to how willing they were to buck tradition and protocol. Lady Mary Crawley, the eldest daughter, still clung to the older post-Edwardian style of dress, while her younger sister, Lady Edith, experimented with tomboyish flapper dresses, shorter hemlines and really embodied what it meant to dress as a working woman in the 1920s. It’s amazing to see how the style of dresses evolved from 1912 to 1923.
Between the bustle of the Dowager Countess of Grantham and the tiny buttons on the evening gowns of Cora the Countess's dresses and layers of underpinnings, it's remarkable how much detail viewers miss while watching the show. Finally seeing the dresses, tuxedos and accessories face-to-face, I have a new understanding as to why support staff was so important during that time period. — Topaz Yolande McKenzie
Checkout the highlights of "Dressing Downton" below: