Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Dressing Downton: Changing Fashion for Changing Times

The British period drama, Downton Abbey, has come to an end but don’t let that be the finale for you.  Currently at The Driehaus Museum on East Erie St. they are showcasing over 35 costumes from the series. As we all know the intricate wardrobe, along with the decorative locations, were integral parts of the show’s charm. Like most British period dramas of this quality, the production went to great pains to make sure the costumes were historically accurate. They recreated looks and also used original early 20th century fabrics and embellishments.
Robert Crawley, Earl of (Hugh Bonneville) and Cora Crawley, Countess of Grantham
(Elizabeth McGovern) 
The exhibit is a real coup for the Driehaus with Chicago History Museum’s Costume Collection being the obvious location choice. However, the venue is perfect; the items are housed in an elegant Gilded Age mansion. Once the home of banker Samuel M. Nickerson the mansion, at the time of completion in 1883, was reportedly one of the most expensive and elaborate private homes. More importantly, they are placed in context surrounded by European and American decorative and fine arts from the late 19th to early 20th century. With the exhibit spread over three floors, it allows you the space to also view the Driehaus Collection, which itself is impressive.

The exhibition showcases some of the most iconic pieces including Dowager Countess of Grantham’s purple silk dress and Martha Levinson's silk and fox fur coat.
Martha Levinson's silk and fox fur coat
Martha Levinson (Shirley MacLaine)

I was excited to see my favorite dress, worn by Cora Crawley for Lady Rose MacClare’s presentation at court to the King and Queen of England.
Cora Crawley, Countess of Grantham's lilac velvet and diamanté embellished dress

Cora Crawley, Countess of Grantham 
(Elizabeth McGovern) and Lady Rose MacClare (Lily James)
Advanced tickets have sold out, but you still can get them on the day. My recommendation is arrive early. I went on a Friday morning and I haven’t seen an exhibition so packed during the weekday since the Bowie exhibit at the Modern Contemporary Art.
Lady Edith Crawley evening dress (left) and Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess of Grantham evening dress
Violet Crawley (Maggie Smith) and Martha Levinson ( Shirley MacLaine)
Dressing Downton: Changing Fashion for Changing Times
When: now through May 29
Where: Driehaus Museum, 40 E. Erie St.
Tickets: $25; 312-482-8933 or driehausmuseum.org

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