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The Threads Thread: Clothes from Downton Abbey

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Clothes are an important part of Downton Abbey, so why not give them their own thread? In the media thread, we began discussing the costume exhibit at Winterthur, and I took pictures of the exhibit that I thought people might want to see. They're low-quality iPhone shots but still! This can also be the place to discuss fashions from the show, from Lady Sybil's harem pants to Lady Edith's impressive collection of headscarves.


Clothes from the exhibit part one (I'll put them under a spoiler tag so they don't clog up the page):


















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So fun to see the pictures, after having just been there on Friday.


Andorra - you're right!  NO "Tom" livery.  That would have been a nice addition.


The top part of the harem outfit, Edith's AMAZING wedding dress, and a couple of other costumes were based on a piece of vintage fabric that the costumers then added to in order to create the finished garment.  Those were my favorites. 


The folks at Winterthur said they were surprised at the response to the exhibit . . . they didn't expect so many people to come to such an out-of-the-way place to look at the costumes from a TV show.  That speaks to the popularity of DA!  I flew from Arizona to see it!

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Yeah, the first time I went, like I said, there was practically no one there, so we talked to the woman running it for a little bit. Idk if she was the curator or not, but she knew so much about the clothes and the show itself. Rose's dress from S4 (the only costume piece from S4 that they had, actually) was vintage, but the DA costume people had added a lot of the beading. But the dress was so old that the beads kept falling off during filming, and even at the exhibit more fall off every day. I think another vintage piece was one of the dresses that Sybil wore while pregnant.


The cool thing about the exhibit is that, yes, the clothes are there, but there's a lot going on that really takes the whole thing up a notch. There's pictures, videos playing, quotes from the show on the wall, and information about how the costumes were made as well as cultural norms for fashions at the time. I learned a lot by going there (fun fact: the costume designers only have seven weeks to make all the clothes for an entire season), in addition to being so close to all the pretty clothes.


We also asked if this was a traveling exhibit, but the woman said that Wintherthur had made an exclusive deal with Cosprop (the company the houses all the costumes after the show is done using them; I assume a lot of other UK shows use Cosprop as well). The exhibit is staying until January 4 (the same day S5 premieres in the US, not sure if that was intentional or not) so there's plenty of time to get out there. Apparently the exhibit has been so overwhelmingly popular that they're trying to organize other DA-related programming in the future.

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Finally made it to the exhibit. Was there at 10 this morning when it opened and was the only one there for awhile.


Sybil's dress from the garden party is the other vintage dress.


A dress I didn't care for in the show but in person was really pretty was the one pregnant Sybil wears when she tells Mary what a wonderful man Tom is and Mary tells her Larry Grey is coming to dinner.  The camera didn't do the dress justice.


Surprised that Tom's chauffeur outfit wasn't there.  He was the only major character that didn't have an outfit.  There was even one of Rosamund's and 2 coats/hats of Martha's plus one dress.


Michelle dockery must look like a skeleton in real life - her dresses were amazingly small.


Surprised that O'Brien's dress was large in comparison to all the young actresses.


The train on Edith's wedding dress was absolutely stunning.


I was expecting more outfits than they had but glad I went.

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There was a special about the "Manners of Downton Abbey" on after S5E1 (for US) Sunday, and one of the bits was about women's dresses.  They were interviewing Elizabeth McGovern, who commented on how tight the corssettes were women, how they couldn't breath and as a result, couldn't think very well.  But with the 1920s, less gowns used corsetts and with the women now able to breath and think, they were letting their thoughts and opinions be more known.  I wonder if this is why she played Cora as being so dimwitted in the early seasons and if she's going to show more of a brain this season because she can breathe.

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I hope hair goes with clothes.


I have to talk about Edith's hair when she was ready for bed and her father came in to talk to her. Perfect ringlets?  I thought that looked so unreal.  I watch a lot of very old movies and the way those late 1920's hair styles look when down is waved to the ears and then straight-ish, frizzy hair the rest of the way down, because that's what being wrapped into a little bun all day does to curly hair.


I was just reminded of this while watching Gloria Swanson in 1931's  Indiscreet on Youtube.  Her hair looked just like Edith's in the first scenes, then, about ten minutes in, she takes it down and there it is, long frizz.  I have naturally curly hair and that's what it would do in that situation.


I'm also still curious about the Downton, upstairs women standing around with their arms hanging straight down their sides like  they're in front of a firing squad.  I thought "ladies," bent one or both arms at the elbow for a more feminine look. 


They did a lot of standing like Louise Brooks is here; hands on hips, shoulders forward.  This would be a good position for Mary to sigh over having to live with Edith.Lulu-louise-brooks-33449342-300-222.gif

Edited by JudyObscure
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My guess is that it's deliberate and meant to simplify shooting / continuity. You're right, it is conspicuous.  Very rarely someone is holding a book, I think Cora was once shown doing needlework, newpapers at the breakfast table. Laura Carmichael looked gorgeous -- continuity with that mousy little creature seen earlier be damned and I don't care!!

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That's great! I'm happy that people in other parts of the country are gonna get to see them! It looks from the pictures that you'll be getting some different ones, but I don't think that matters. I'm sure they're all beautiful up close.


Actually, you might be getting the ones that were at Winterthur and the additional ones pictured on that website. Kinda jealous.

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I got to see Dressing Downton at the Biltmore last week. I don't believe that it included nearly as many costumes as helenamonster posted above, but they were interspersed throughout the rooms in the house, usually connected to the room's function. So as we walked through the banquet hall there was Carson's white tie, with an explanation as to why it's different from Lord Grantham's dinner jackets. Cora and Edith's traveling clothing were displayed in the reception hall where the Vanderbilts' guests would have been served tea, and the men's country estate hunting clothes were near the smoking and game rooms. 


I was slightly disappointed not to see Edith's wedding dress, as pictured above, but they did have Freda Dudley Ward and Madeleine Allsop's costumes from the season 4 finale's coming out ball, complete with a short blurb about how the reproduction design was subtly different from the 1920s original beading. 

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I thoroughly enjoyed the costume exhibit when it was at Winterthur.  But . . .  


In just about 36 hours, we will be on the train headed to Highclere House.  Be still my heart!!!  (And a big "thanks" to my wonderful hubby who also loves Downton and was 100% supportive of a day trip to Newbury while we're vacationing in London.)

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Today's amazing adventure . . . visiting Highclere House (the REAL setting for "Downton Abbey"). Wow. Just wow.


Photos were not allowed inside the castle, but we see so much of the inside on the show that I wasn't upset about that. But the grounds! The show does NOT do the grounds justice. Wildflowers, trees, formal gardens, livestock (horses and sheep - didn't see any pigs). The trip out and back on the train was easy; the Brits are very friendly and helpful when you walk up to them and say, "I'm an American and I don't know anything about your transportation system . . . can you help me?" We have gotten pretty good on the subways and buses, so getting around London is easy.


Speaking of the rooms in the Castle.  They're smaller than they appear to be on TV . . . but just as beautiful.  I think my favorite room was called the "morning room."  You never see it on TV, but it serves as the "green room" for actors waiting to appear.  When I thought of how many times Brendan Coyle, Maggie Smith, etc., have been in that room, my heart skipped a few beats.  And the table in the dining room has 12 leaves!


We got to walk down that amazing oak staircase, saw "Mr. Pamuk's" room (and the hallway down which they carried his body) . . . and reminisced about some of the great lines Maggie Smith has delivered as we saw the actual spots where she stood to deliver them.  


We had tea there at the Castle.  I've now officially had scones with clotted cream (seems like sweet butter to me).  Bought a guide book and a mug.  And I caught a glimpse of Lady Carnarvon and her dog.


What a wonderful experience this has been! 

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