Down­ton Abbey Vis­its the Bilt­more

Luxe Beat Magazine - - Front Page - By San­dra Cham­bers

Fans of the pop­u­lar PBS tele­vi­sion se­ries Down­ton Abbey don’t have to travel to High­clere Cas­tle to ex­pe­ri­ence first­hand what life was like at Down­ton Abbey or to view orig­i­nal cos­tumes of their fa­vorite char­ac­ters. The Bilt­more House, the grand 250-room Van­der­bilt es­tate in Asheville, North Carolina, is show­cas­ing 47 cos­tumes from the show dur­ing its ex­hi­bi­tion: Dress­ing Down­ton: Chang­ing Fash­ions for Chang­ing Times, which runs from Fe­bru­ary 5th through May 25th, 2015.

“The day-to-day run­ning of the (Van­der­bilt) house was sur­pris­ingly sim­i­lar to that of Down­ton Abbey,” ex­plains Bilt­more Di­rec­tor of Mu­seum Ser­vices, Ellen Rick­man. “Just like Down­ton has a Mr. Car­son and Mrs. Hughes, Bilt­more had its own cast of fas­ci­nat­ing char­ac­ters. Dis­play­ing these fab­u­lous cos­tumes from the show gives us an un­par­al­leled op­por­tu­nity to delve into Bilt­more’s sto­ries.”

The award-win­ning cos­tumes, cre­ated by Lon­don cos­tume house Cosprop, Ltd., were de­signed with in­spi­ra­tion from pho­to­graphs and his­toric pat­terns. Some are orig­i­nal pieces from the pe­riod while oth­ers in­cor­po­rate an­tique dec­o­ra­tive el­e­ments that in­spired the over­all cos­tume design.

Re­flect­ing an Era of Change

The post-ed­war­dian era in which Down­ton Abbey is set was a time of change both in the U.S. and abroad, and these pe­riod cos­tumes re­flect that his­tory. The cos­tume col­lec­tion be­gins in 1912 with the sink­ing of the Ti­tanic and moves into the years sur­round­ing World War I and then into the Jazz Age of the early 1920s. Themes in the ex­hibit in­clude: the evo­lu­tion of fash­ion, nu­ances of eti­quette and the chang­ing roles of women.

Be­fore vis­it­ing the Bilt­more ex­hibit my­self, I spoke with Les­lie Klingner, Cu­ra­tor of In­ter­pre­ta­tion at Bilt­more, about this fas­ci­nat­ing pair­ing of the lives of the fic­tional Craw­ley fam­ily and the real-life Van­der­bilt fam­ily. “The Down­ton Abbey cos­tumes we have on dis­play are so sim­i­lar to the one’s we have of Edith and Cor­nelia (Van­der­bilt) wear­ing at Bilt­more dur­ing this time pe­riod.” Klingner said. “America and Eng­land were look­ing to each other when it came to fash­ion. The fash­ions you see on Down­ton Abbey were very much in line with what Amer­i­cans were buy­ing in Paris, Lon­don and Wash­ing­ton, DC.

“Dowa­ger Count­ess of Gra­hams (Vi­o­let) out­fits are in keep­ing with the tra­di­tion of the 1880s and 1890s Ed­war­dian sil­hou­ette of a nipped-in waist and bus­tle. But Vi­o­let’s grand­daugh­ters have re­ally em­braced the mod­ern sil­hou­ette of the 1920s with the dropped waist dresses, slim busts and gen­er­ally more ath­letic-look­ing lines. As the se­ries pro­gresses, we see raised hem­lines and the char­ac­ters splash­ing out a bit more. Also, as women be­come more in­de­pen­dent,

we see tai­lor­ing that would be con­sid­ered more mas­cu­line.”

The in­door pic­nic scene (Sea­son 3) high­lights many of the so­cial, cul­tural and gen­er­a­tional dif­fer­ences of the era. We see Martha Levin­son, a rather brash Amer­i­can’s cos­tume in con­trast to Vi­o­let’s out­fir and also that of Edith's sleeve­less, sleeve­less, drop-waist mod­ern dress.

Denős chang­ing Fash­ion

Although there is a move to­wards more ca­sual at­tire, men’s fash­ions don’t change as much as women’s fash­ions do dur­ing this time pe­riod. The change from the re­quired white ties and tails to the more ca­sual tuxedo for din­ner is an ex­am­ple of a change that was too much for the tra­di­tional Vi­o­let. She snidely com­pared Lord Gran­tham’s ap­pear­ance at din­ner in a tuxedo to “com­ing down in pa­ja­mas.”

In the early 20s, “plus fours” be­came pop­u­lar for men’s sportswear. These short­ened trousers go down four inches be­low the knee for hunt­ing, Jiy­inj thhm morh Shyv­i­fao ᦑH[ieioity There were also changes in the tai­lor­ing of men’s suits. The more ca­sual “coun­try tweed” look was pop­u­lar on coun­try es­tates ver­sus what men were wear­ing in Lon­don.

“What sets the aris­to­cratic class apart, par­tic­u­larly in Eng­land, was the fact that both men and women hag Giffhrhnt ox­tᦐtv Ior Giffhrhnt ac­tiv­i­ties dur­ing the day,” Klingner Vaig ܢTHHRH ZAV an ox­tᦐt Ior break­fast, for go­ing into town, for af­ter­noon tea, for hunt­ing and for din­ner, so they ended up chang­ing ox­tᦐtv ᦐYH or Vi[ timhv a Gay $OVO the in­vest­ments they were mak­ing in their cloth­ing weren’t for longevity, but for fash­ion. Most were only Zhar­inj thhir ox­tᦐtv Ior a Vhavon and then it would be time to get the lat­est fash­ions from Lon­don or Paris.”

che ]erǝantső Jſt­fits

Ed­war­dian pe­riod foot­men were hired for their good looks and height, with the taller foot­men earn­ing a higher salary. Their uni­forms would be pro­vided by the house at great ex­pense. The maids were not so for­tu­nate. They had to cover the cost and make their own uni­forms of two dresses: a print dress with a plain apron for clean­ing in the morn­ing, chang­ing into a black dress with a more dec­o­ra­tive pinny for the af­ter­noons and evenings.

What’s unique about the ex­hibit at Bilt­more is that the house still has the orig­i­nal ser­vant’s quar­ters and kitchen. At High­clere Cas­tle the kitchen has been ren­o­vated, so the Gozn­vtairv VFHNHV arh ᦐOMHG in a stu­dio sep­a­rate from High­clere. 6omh oi thh Vhryantvܟ ox­tᦐtv on dis­play at The Bilt­more in­clude Mr. Car­son pre­sid­ing over the ban­quet hall; Mrs. Hughes; Mr. Bar­row; Mrs. Pat­more and Daisy in the kitchen and Anna and John Bates.

“What’s been fun for me is to see the cos­tumes close up in the cor­rect set­tings,” Klingner said. “They are so eye-pop­ping in per­son with their ex­quis­ite de­tails. The ex­hibit is bring­ing Bilt­more to life in a way we haven’t seen be­fore and also bring­ing Down­ton Abbey to life for our vis­i­tors.”

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A be­hind-the-scenes guided Up­stairs— Down­stairs Tour takes vis­i­tors to the do­mains of the but­ler, head house­keeper and the lady’s maid, and to a suite of up­stairs guest rooms not seen on the reg­u­lar house tour.

Guests can en­joy a spe­cial English Sun­day Brunch at Cedric’s Tav­ern. Also en­joy 20th cen­tury-themed cock­tails on the es­tate’s restau­rant menus and sweets at The Bake Shop.

Select week­end evenings in April and May, guests can book the Rooftop Sparkling Wine Re­cep­tion. A guided be­hind-the scenes rooftop tour will pro­vide stun­ning views of the es­tate from var­i­ous bal­conies. Fol­low­ing the tour, guests will en­joy canapés and Bilt­more wines.

Dress­ing Down­ton ho­tel pack­age at The Inn on Bilt­more Es­tate (Feb. 5— May 22). In­cludes ac­com­mo­da­tions, FHHIܟV ERHANIAVT Exffht Gaioy in THH Din­ing Room, af­ter­noon tea in the Li­brary Lounge, ad­mis­sion to the Bilt­more House and es­tate valid for length of stay, au­dio guide to Bilt­more House, Bilt­more sou­venir guide­book, valet park­ing at the Inn and com­pli­men­tary es­tate shut­tle ser­vice.

For more info on the ex­hibit see: www.bilt­more.com/events/ dress­ing-down­ton-1

The Bilt­more House in Asheville, NC. (Photo cour­tesy of The Bilt­more Com­pany).

Vi­o­let Craw­ley’s coat made of cot­ton rib­bon lace

RIGHT A foot­man’s uni­form made of wool and cot­ton (Photo cour­tesy of Ex­hibit De­vel­op­ment Corp.)

Cora and Robert Craw­ley (Photo cour­tesy Car­ni­val Films).

Cu­ra­tors at Bilt­more pre­pare Down­ton Abbey fash­ion ex­hibit (Photo cour­tesy of The Bilt­more Com­pany).

Rose’s silk vel­vet evening dress (Photo cour­tesy The Bilt­more Com­pany)

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