Exhibition Overview

©Carnival Films / Masterpiece. Costume courtesy of Cosprop.

Celebrate the sixth and final season of the beloved period drama Downton Abbey® at Chicago’s own American Palace, the Richard H. Driehaus Museum.

Opening February 9, 2016, Dressing Downton: Changing Fashion for Changing Times features more than 35 costumes from the popular British television series Downton Abbey. The award-winning costumes are produced by renowned London costume house Cosprop Ltd. Many use original fabrics and embellishments from the early 20th century, while others are re-created from old photographs, paintings, patterns, and magazine pictures. The exhibition offers an immersive new perspective on the show’s most memorable characters, both upstairs and down, while chronicling the great changes taking place in Britain during the tumultuous early 20th century.

The costumes are presented in an immersive context, surrounded by the lavish interiors of the Driehaus Museum—once the drawing rooms, living rooms, libraries, and bedrooms of the affluent Nickerson and Fisher families of Chicago. The stories of the Fishers in particular, an urban family of new industry wealth who lived in the house from 1901 to 1914, create a fascinating contrast to the British aristocratic lifestyle of the Crawley family in the countryside.

Downton Abbey introduces us to the aristocratic Crawley family and the servants who inhabit the fictional country estate of Downton Abbey in 1912, just after the sinking of Titanic. We then follow them through events that uprooted British society on the eve of World War I and ushered in the Roaring Twenties, the Jazz Age, and a new way of life. Lord and Lady Grantham; their daughters Mary, Edith, and Sibyl; the retinue of servants in their employ; and suitors, relatives, and neighbors represent the full spectrum of life during this period as they struggle to adapt to a rapidly transforming world.

Much of their time and attention are taken up with their wardrobe, and their clothing reflects the changing times. From country tweeds to footmen’s livery, lavish evening attire, and daring Bohemian fashions, the fashions of Downton Abbey illuminate a world torn between tradition and progress.

Dressing Downton: Changing Fashion for Changing Times is designed and produced by Exhibits Development Group in collaboration with Cosprop Ltd., London, NBCUniversal International Television Production, and Carnival Films/PBS Masterpiece’s Downton Abbey. © 2014 Carnival Film & Television Limited. All Rights Reserved. The special exhibition is touring North America through 2017.


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