This past Saturday I piled into a car with my other MFA Costume first years as well as a few lovely BFAs and adventured to Winterthur Estate in Delaware. We were all very excited because our professor had arranged for us to tour not only part of the beautiful mansion on the estate, but also the Downton Abbey costume exhibit. That's right I was in the same room as costumes worn by Maggie Smith and Dan Stevens. Cue excited girl giggles.
(WARNING: If you choose to continue there may be some spoilers for those who have only seen the first season. Proceed at your own risk)
Armed with my DSLR I worked my way through the beautifully organized exhibit battling gentlemen waiting for their wives and ladies carelessly flinging their arms in front of my camera to point at the "pretty dresses". Despite this I got some great shots and was able to get up close to many of the garments to see how they were constructed as well as pieces of detail that are edited out of the television series.
The first part of the exhibit chronicled the servants of Downton. I thought this little information snippet was interesting. The footmen's livery had buttons with the family's coat of arms on them. A very tiny detail, but still important to the uniform. Above is the example of Thomas' livery and buttons.
Then we moved on to other characters' costumes, Cora, Edith, Mary, Isabelle Crawley, etc. Click on a photo below to learn a little more about each section of the exhibit.
There is no way for me to fit every little bit of the exhibit into this blog post, and nor would I want to. I believe these costumes need to be seen in person, not just in pictures. I highly suggest the exhibit at Winterthur as well as the other parts of the museum and gardens on the estate.
I will leave you for now with an explanation of how the costumes fit each character.
As I have stated many times, I am currently in the middle of designing my first show in my MFA program. I have learned a lot in the past three weeks and have enjoyed the insight from my professors and directors. The other day when I was hiking around the shops in NYC (How did I get so lucky that this is my life!?) shopping for my show with the director, he gave me a very nice compliment and insight into how directors and producers like to be talked with during the creative process.
He complimented me on my use of descriptive words when explaining my designs and thought process. It is important when presenting a design to a producer, artistic director, director, etc. to use descriptive words along with your renderings and research. Although a picture is worth 1000 words, a few choice descriptors also help paint a picture when there isn't a garment and actor standing in front of you.
Some examples of the descriptors I've used thus far in the process:
Putting an abstract thought into words is something I have been trying to get better at. The more specific you can paint a picture with your words, the easier it is for a director or someone else to give you the go ahead with your design. Learn how to speak their language.