Dressing Downton

I first heard about the “Dressing Downton” fashion exhibit, featuring costumes worn on Downton Abbey, almost two years ago, and didn’t think much of it, because it wasn’t going to be on display in St. Louis. But when I found out that it was going to be in Nashville this summer, at Cheekwood Estate and Gardens, a place that we have a reciprocal membership to through the Missouri Botanical Garden, I knew I was going to have to see it for myself. I wasn’t disappointed…not only were the costumes on display gorgeous, there were more of them than I was expecting!

The first big display of three costumes, in front of a Highclere Castle backdrop, was especially eye-catching.

The Dowager Countess’ Edwardian mourning costume is, in my opinion, an iconic early Downton Abbey look:

Lord and Lady Grantham’s outfits are also easily recognizable:

In that same room was Lady Mary’s riding costume:

We moved on to wartime looks worn by Matthew Crawley and Lady Mary:

And a lovely tailored outfit also worn by Lady Mary:

I loved seeing Branson’s chauffeur’s uniform next to a lovely blue suit worn by Lady Sybil:

And, of course, Lady Sybil’s nurse’s uniform:

Lady Edith may not have been my favorite character, but the detail on her coat was amazing, and I liked the use of props in the display, too:

And, while we all remember Lady Sybil shocking the family in her harem pants outfit, let’s not forget that Lady Edith also wore breeches when she was working on the farm:

We then moved on to more formal wear. This beautiful evening dress worn by Lady Mary had amazing details:

Another wartime look, featuring a dress uniform worn by the Earl, and lovely dress and jacket worn by the Countess, were especially eye-catching flanked by a Union Flag bunting:

There were also lots of informative signs spread throughout the exhibit:

I was glad that there was a section dedicated to the wardrobe worn by some of the downstairs staff. I especially enjoyed seeing how the keys attached to Mrs. Hughes’ uniform:

And not only did I get a look at the maids’ uniform, but also another beautiful evening dress worn by Lady Mary:

We saw the “plus fours” worn by Lord Grantham when he was out and about on the estate, as well as a three-piece suit and coat worn by the scheming Sir Richard Carlisle:

The security guard working at the exhibit when we were there was very knowledgeable…he informed us that this detailed dress, worn by Lady Cora at Lady Edith’s (non)wedding, was made from a vintage tablecloth!

This dress, also worn by the Countess of Grantham, likewise had amazing details:

There was one, and only one, hands-on section. You could actually ring the Downton bells…and we all did!

It was especially interesting to see the one maternity dress on display, worn by Lady Sybil, up close:

Lady Rose may have denied being a flapper, but that’s the first thing that comes to mind when you see this dress, displayed next to the formal wear Jack Ross wore when performing:

This dress worn by Virginia Woolf, which was barely seen on the show, is full of Tambour embroidery work, but I was most impressed by the Bakelite necklace:

Remember when Lady Rose was presented to King George and Queen Mary? There was an entire room dedicated to that episode, and it may have been my favorite…all of those fancy dresses, beautiful tiaras and jewelry, and lovely accessories! This was also the room that explained the Cheekwood-Downton Abbey connection. Huldah Cheek, daughter of Leslie Cheek, who built the estate, was presented at court in a similar fashion.

The lavender dress worn by the Countess of Grantham was displayed with the dress worn by Madeline Allsopp, along with all of their beautiful accessories from tiaras to necklaces to feather fans:

Freda Dudley Ward’s unbelievably intricate dress was also on display:

After all that, Lady Edith’s boyish silk dress was almost boring…but not quite, thanks to the lovely embellishments:

Another beautiful dress worn by the Dowager Countess…seeing clothing actually worn by Maggie Smith truly brought a tear to my eye!

This dress worn by Martha Levinson wasn’t too amazing, but the necklace paired with it certainly was!

And another of Mrs. Levinson’s styles, featuring a coat trimmed with fox fur:

The final costumes were not in the exhibit itself, but spread throughout the mansion at Cheekwood. We saw a footman’s uniform, and I made sure to pay close attention to the buttons:

And white tie apparel worn by Matthew and Lady Mary, appropriately displayed in the formal dining room:

This was an unbelievable exhibit, and I’m so glad we had the opportunity to see it. The workmanship that went into the costumes is truly amazing, and seeing the level of detail up close was an experience. It brought one of my favorite TV shows to life in a way I didn’t know was possible!

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