We spent an afternoon with our old friends the Crawley Family of Downton Abbey. That is to say, we visited the Dressing Downton exhibit during its final days. Our earlier plans kept getting thwarted, so I’m delighted we managed a visit before they turned out the lights.
The Lightner Museum of St. Augustine hosted Dressing Downton, Changing Fashions for Changing Times. The museum spent two years curating their stored pieces to create period vignettes highlighting 36 costumes from the Downton Abbey series.
Museum staff did a fabulous job creating eras that spanned pre-WWI to the Roaring 20s. My phone photos don’t do justice to the elegant displays.
Cora Crawley, Lady Grantham
American by birth — and stylish — Cora donned this stylish Edwardian silk day dress, complete with black frogging in Season 1. Her broadbrim hat delicately froths with ribbon, netting and flowers. Lord Grantham, meanwhile, sports a white linen suit appropriate for warm weather.
Moving into the 1920s, Cora remains chic despite her conservative apparel. The seamstresses of the television series built this silk evening dress around the front panel laden with beads and jewels. The pannier sides deliberately exaggerate the hips. What woman doesn’t want that?
Astonishingly, the jacket below was originally sewn from an embroidered tablecloth dating from the 1920s. Lady Grantham wore the outfit to Edith’s wedding.
Violet, The Dowager Countess
Violet’s two-piece day dress reflects Edwardian fashion. She would have worn an S-bend corset to accentuate her chest and push out her bottom. The purple color signals she’s emerging from black mourning clothes following the death of relations on the Titanic.
Lady Mary Crawley
Lady Mary modeled sensational outfits throughout the series. Obviously, I didn’t take this photo of her in the dramatic red silk evening dress that conveys Mary’s confidence. My photo doesn’t do the dress justice. She wore this gown in Season One (1913), at dinner with the Turkish diplomat.
Mary, dressed in this riding habit, arrived on her steed when she first met Matthew at Crawley House. Way to intimidate!
Another frock from Season 1, when Lady Mary wore this green silk evening dress with black net overlay and black and silver starbursts. She chose it for Matthew’s first dinner with the family. In the background, center, stands maid Anna’s functional black cotton dress with white lace trim, covered by a white cotton apron.
World War I ushered in utilitarian fashion for the ladies and military uniforms for the gentlemen. Lady Mary’s outfit below includes a crepe skirt and satin scoop-neck blouse. The blouse’s front panel and cuffs incorporate original floral chiffon fabric.
Yet even during wartime, Lady Mary proved resourceful. She wore this dusty-pink silk evening dress with black net overlay for Sir Richard Carlisle’s first dinner at Downton Abbey. It drips with beads and sensuality.
Lady Sybil Crawley
Lady Sybil’s velvet maternity dress appeared in a nursery setting. The neutral velvet, at times grayish green, is enhanced by gold embroidered borders.
I learned that this formal cradle would be used to present baby to guests in the parlor rooms. I expect the nanny would hover and whisk baby away when the viewing ended.
Dressing Downton No More
Dressing Downton at the Lightner Museum has closed. In fact, St. Augustine marked the final leg of its American travels. Enthusiasts shouldn’t despair because the new Downton Abbey: The Exhibition, now in New York City, will travel to other cities. Have a look:
Thanks for stopping by.
Ann Marie & David
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