What an exciting few hours spent in a building somewhere in NYC, feeling like I’d been transported to the middle of the English countryside and the grand house that is Highclere Castle – or I suppose, Downton Abbey!
My parents purchased “VIP” tickets which allowed us to enter the exhibition at any time and included a headset with additional information…I’ll be honest; I never used mine once. I suppose I’ll get the bad out of the way and let the rest unfurl as good – but it was in the teens outside and the greeter failed to mention that there was a coat check. Add on top of that…for the first floor at least…that it was SO crowded that it was hard to move, well I was a little worried about how the whole experience would go…
I never used my headset because I was also trying to hold on to my phone and eventually – my giant coat – because with that many people in a confined space; I warmed up quite quickly! Thankfully once the exhibition moved to the second floor, it spread out quite a bit and I finally felt a little less claustrophobic. When I realized; after it was all said and done, that there was a coat check – I just sort of threw my hands up. Oh well!
The first room allowed you to enter through the green baize door that separated the upstairs from the downstairs – my sister and I are in front of it in the middle picture – but it’s extremely hard to tell. I also bumped into Mrs. Hughes (I first named her as Mrs. Carson…I guess that’s technically also right…) at the bottom of the staircase, ha-ha!
The first exhibit past the green baize door and the staircase were costumes worn by Anna for both house work and her duty as a ladies maid, as well as the costumes worn by the under butler (Thomas) and second footman. All in front of really lovely stained glass windows…
And then it was on to Ms. Patmore’s kitchen – so very cool! If only I hadn’t felt like I needed to knock some people out of the way to get through the kitchen to look! I did manage to get some really cool pictures but I ended up contorting myself in a million different positions to do so…ha-ha!
The kitchen was extremely detailed and also contained costumes worn by Ms. Patmore and Daisy. Funnily enough, before heading to the upstairs portion of the exhibit I took a quiz to see what my position at Downton would be if I applied for a job – and I’d be a cook! I do like to spend time in the kitchen, but who knew?
A Downton Abbey must see is the board of bells that hangs in the servant’s dining quarters and around the corner from Ms. Patmore’s kitchen, there the board was. It was interesting to realize that the names under the bells are not the names of the people who occupy the rooms…but the names of the rooms themselves! Maybe other people already knew this – but I certainly didn’t and I thought it was pretty fascinating!
The final exhibit on the downstairs portion to the tour was Mr. Carson’s office – featuring costumes worn by Mr. Carson and Mrs. Hughes – all those keys hanging off the side of Mrs. Hughes hip must have gotten heavy after a while! After taking the quiz to determine what your position would be if you applied to work at Downton, it was up the “stairs” (an escalator) to the next floor and the world of the aristocrats of Downton!
The red tux was worn by Lord Grantham and the suit by Henry Talbot…the dresses; well I can’t promise you these are all accurate but I do believe the burnt orange dress was worn by Lady Edith, the red dress by Lady Mary, the cream dress by Lady Rose and I do know that the gorgeous blue silk and lace dress was worn by Lady Mary!
Some of the dresses were originals to the time period that were purchased for the actors to wear and some were created but they were all incredibly beautiful and had intricate bead work or lace designs. The blue silk dress almost looked too dainty for a person to wear, but that’s possibly the point? The woman who wore the dress is certainly not a dainty personality, so maybe she tried to bring out a softer side in her clothes? Ha!
Don’t even get me started on the gorgeous jewelry – each piece was so unique, crafted just so…it made me drool a little bit! My personal favorite are the blue gemstone necklace with matching blue drop earrings and the green gemstone necklace right beside it. What can I say – I like the bling!
Another look at some of the spectacular dresses worn by the ladies on the show – the blue and yellow dresses were worn by Lady Edith, the white dress was worn by Cora and the pink dress was worn by Lady Rose. I really loved the pink dress the most out of all of these – the neckline and the beading are my favorite.
Right past all the beautiful dresses and jewelry was the grand dining room – set for a feast! All the utensils (all NINE of them) laid out just so at each place, the china perfect and the silver glistening and elaborate floral arrangements lining the center of the table. I couldn’t resist doing a panoramic shot of the entire room…
Scandalous though it may seem – Lady Mary’s bedroom was the next stop on the tour. What you didn’t know though; there was only ever one bedroom set, it was redressed over and over again based on who would be in the bedroom for the scene that was being filmed! I feel like the bedroom was probably where most of the action happened – and I’m not meaning that in a pun-y way!
I’m incredibly jealous of that exquisite dressing gown that belongs to Mary – they had something similar on sale in the gift shop and I was oh so tempted… Also, how cute is Master George’s little bitty sailor suit?
The next portion of the exhibit was devoted to everyone’s favorite granny – the Dowager Countess of Grantham, Lady Violet! Two of her costumes were on display and the video that played with the costumes features some of Violet’s absolute best one-liners, comebacks and quips! This section was where all the laughter on the tour was coming from…
The exhibition then opened into a large room filled with various props, costumes and set pieces from characters large and small throughout the series – including letters, ribbons, handcuffs, jewelry, etc…
A few of the items showcased were – letters Lord Grantham received notifying him that the Titanic had sank and that England was at war with Germany, ribbons, letters and a watch belonging to Branson, Mrs. Hughes dress, the gramophone – one of those new fangled things Downton acquired along the way – letters from Thomas’ time in the service, the wire and one of Martha Levinson’s (Cora’s mother from America) many costumes.
My personal favorite section was devoted to Matthew Crawley – curse the inventor of the automobile! Matthew’s military uniform was on display as well as the telegraph that Lord Grantham received when Matthew was injured in the line of duty.
There were also special sections devoted to Lady Rose that included multiple pieces of her jewelry, including her engagement ring.
And another little section devoted to everyone’s favorite down on their luck couple – Mr. Bates and Anna! The case included Anna’s sewing kit as well as pictures and letters exchanged between the two. Beneath Anna’s picture were a necklace and earrings and Mr. Bates picture featured handcuffs…sigh…the course of true love never did run smooth…
Then it was off to the third and final floor – which was a giant showcase of multiple costumes. I’ve shared the pictures below but I don’t know if I could being to break down who wore each outfit…there were quite a few and they were all so fascinating to see. Some of them – like Lady Sybil’s pantsuit and Lady Rose’s coming out dress – stood out to me immediately and needed no plaque to explain.
A few of the outfits warranted being showcased here as larger pictures – like the dress Lady Mary was wearing when Matthew proposed and Lady Sybil’s glorious aqua pantsuit! Those are two of my favorite costumes from the show!
There were; of course, several different wedding day attire options on display – the dresses worn by Lady Mary and Lady Edith (on her first wedding attempt), the clothes worn by Mr. Carson and Mrs. Hughes for their wedding and Rose’s dress for her civil ceremony…as the dress Lady Edith wore for her second wedding, as well as all the floral arrangements and headpieces. So very fascinating!
After a quick “bong” of the gong…and a short video from Lord and Lady Grantham to thank us for coming to tour the house, the exhibition was over…
Everyone was funneled down the stairs and out to the gift shop…but not without being able to take in some of the best quotes from six seasons of Downton Abbey…and I’ll end this post with my personal favorite.
Did you ever watch Downton Abbey – whether while it was on air or after it finished?Have you thought about attending the Downton Abbey Exhibition?