Inspired by Downton Abbey
Over the past two weeks, it seems as if I’ve been living and breathing Downton Abbey. Not that I’m complaining. Since the first season of Downton, I’ve been mesmerized by the characters and the intrigues but also, more importantly, by the elegant costumes and history of the time period.
Last week, I had the opportunity to attend a special luncheon presented by WXXI featuring Alastair Bruce, OBE, historical advisor to Downton Abbey. It was an intimate gathering – just me, my friend Suzanne Lee, and 400 other fans of the show. What a time we had! This was Mr. Bruce’s only presentation in the United States and, I’m very proud to say, it was held in Rochester, New York. Captivating the audience with charm and wit, Mr. Bruce regaled us with stories about the making of the show. Who knew that Rob James-Collier, also known as the dastardly servant Thomas Barrows, is an amazingly nice guy in real life? Or that the actors sometimes get tired of being told to tilt their heads differently or to sit up straighter? If I came away with anything from the presentation, it was to watch for the little details going on in the background of the show. Did you ever notice the servants measuring how far each chair was from the table? Those are the details that go into creating a show of such high caliber.
This week, I have the pleasure of being a guest speaker at the Barnes & Noble in Webster, New York, for their Downton Abbey event, where I will display and discuss seven Downton Abbey inspired costumes from the collection of the Perinton Historical Society (PHS) which were recently exhibited at the Fairport Museum. The PHS has an impressive collection of over 1,000 costumes and accessories from the mid-1800s through modern times. My original plans were to create a different costume exhibit for the museum. However, once I saw the black gown, an inner voice that sounded much like the Dowager Countess said, “My dear, you must display Downton Abbey. Nothing else will do!” After that, the costumes nearly jumped out of the closet. There was an exquisite gown which would have been stunning on Lady Grantham. Sweet Sybil was represented in white and blue, while Edith’s no nonsense attitude manifested itself in a black sheath dress. Lady Mary wore a classic long, black gown complete a net jacket embellished with thousands of small beads. Even Mrs. Hughes and Lady Rose MacClare were represented in the exhibit.
Although the Downton Abbey exhibit at the Fairport Museum has ended, you still have the opportunity to see the fabulous costumes at this one time event at Barnes & Noble, located at 1070 Ridge Road in Webster, New York. It promises to be a fun evening. Our friends from the Rochester Historical Society, whose own Downton Abbey exhibit opens today, will also be there. So will Kristen Zory King of Writers & Books, who will give a short presentation about why the female characters of Downton Abbey draw us in. Stop by on Thursday evening, December 5, 2013, at 7:00 p.m. to gaze at these exquisite pieces of history that were once worn by women from our own community.