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Downton Abby Withdrawal Hit you Hard?

Downton Abby
Downton Abby: Changing Fashion for Changing Times

If you reacted to Lord Grantham’s vomiting blood in Season 6 with worries about possible splatters on Lady Mary’s dress, then I have the exhibit for you.

Even if you are less obsessed with the fabulous clothes on the Sunday night PBS series that has captivated the TV watching public, you’ll want to hot foot it to Chicago to see “Dressing Downton: Changing Fashions for Changing Times,” a collection of  35 garments from the show on display at the elegant River North Richard H. Driehaus Museum.

Downton Abby Costume Exhibit
Dining room at Driehaus Museum in Chicago
DSC_7584
Fireplace detail at Driehaus Museum, Chicago
Downton Abby Costume Exhibit
Ceiling detail at Driehaus Museum, Chicago

The beloved British period drama set in a fictional Yorkshire estate has dominated Sunday night TV for six seasons and for good reason.

If you watch, you know why.
The clothes—a crash course in high end fashion progressing from 1912-1923—beaded gowns, tea dresses, elbow length gloves and festive hats enthralled me.

Drieshaus Mansion in Chicago
Dressing Downton: Changing Fashion for Changing Times
DSC_7635
Dressing Downton: Changing Fashion for Changing Times
Drieshaus Mansion in Chicago
Dressing Downton: Changing Fashion for Changing Times
Drieshaus Mansion in Chicago
Dressing Downton: Changing Fashion for Changing Times
Drieshaus Mansion in Chicago
Dressing Downton: Changing Fashion For Changing Times

 

I especially enjoyed the fabulous layers of bling that the Dowager Countess (Maggie Smith) dons for dinner or tea. Who could forget some of her  fabulous zingers like, “What’s a weekend?” or “Stop whining and find something to do.”

You get to see her battleship of a garment, the great purple two-piece day dress she was seen in frequently along with the lovely and less dominating attire of the men, staff and major characters.

The clothes are displayed in grand settings in the museum where you can get up close to see the detail. A nice touch are huge photographs from the Downton series as backdrops to the costumes revealing when and where the costume was worn.

I was particularly fascinated to follow the audio guide that described the creation of each garment and how it was authentic for the time. Some of them started with just a swatch of beading.  One of my favorites began its life as an embroidered tablecloth.

Dressing Downton: Changing Fashion for Changing Times
Made from a tablecloth, Downton Abby Costume

The Driehaus gives the exhibit plenty of room to breathe and to appreciate the Gilded Era decor—elaborate paneling, gorgeous  ceramic tiles, Tiffany lamps and over-the-top details. Clearly clothes in this era had to be standouts to compete with the layer-on -layer  ornamentation.

You learn about the history of the era and how it impacted the clothing, especially significant during WWII and, of course, the difference between upstairs and downstairs social order.

If you have any thoughts of going, get your tickets now. The exhibit in Chicago ends early May but it does travel to several more locations. When you buy your ticket you select a specific time to enter.  This is  great because the exhibit never gets really crowded.   You might also consider turning off your smart phone and having tea in the adjacent auditorium. It’s a lovely getaway without going far away.

taking tea at the Downton Abby
Driehaus Museum
Drieshasu Museum
Dressing Downton: Changing Fashion for Changing Times
Drieshaus Museum
Dressing Downton: Changing Fashion for Changing Times
Driehaus Museum, Chicago
Dressing Downton: Changing Fashion for Changing Times
Driehaus Museum, Chicago
Dressing Downton: Changing Fashion for Changing Times
Driehaus Museum, Chicago
Dressing Downton: Changing Fashion for Changing Times
Driehaus Museum, Chicago
Dressing Downton Changing Fashion for Changing Times

A similar exhibit was held with great success at Winterthur. Read Judy Bereza’s guest blog post here.

Driehous Museum link: http://www.driehausmuseum.org

Post Author
Susan J. Smith
Susan's career includes writing for newspapers, lots of community work and a wonderful family life. Now she is enjoying traveling, photography and writing for DesignDestinations and Grand Rapids Magazine. She welcomes you on her journey and appreciates your comments.

Comments

4 Comments
  1. posted by
    Sue Schroder
    Apr 12, 2016 Reply

    From the museum’s Website: TICKET UPDATE:
    We are sold out of ALL advance tickets for Dressing Downton.

    A limited number of day-of walk in tickets are available onsite but cannot be reserved in advance. These tickets are limited due to occupancy restrictions.

    fyi: If you love the opulence of the Gilded Age, treat yourself to the Driehous, even if tickets to Downton are a long-shot.

    • posted by
      Susan J. Smith
      Apr 12, 2016 Reply

      Thank you, Sue, for posting that. Obviously this is a very popular exhibit.

      Here’s the link for the Exhibition schedule. If readers are going to be in any of these cities they may want to explore the option of attending this delightful exhibit.

      http://dressingdownton.com/tour/

  2. posted by
    Kathy
    Apr 12, 2016 Reply

    Your new blog format is wonderful. I find it easier to read with the more open formatting and the I love the larger pictures! It is so fun to be able to easily see the detail in your pictures of the garments!

    • posted by
      smithsj
      Apr 12, 2016 Reply

      Thanks, Kathy, I appreciate your comment. Glad you like the new format. I do think I’ll have to work harder at getting images in focus. The doggone tremor in my right hand makes it hard. Oh well, worthy goal.

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