Yesterday I went to see the Downton Abbey costume exhibit currently being held at Winterthur (The old du Pont Estate in Delaware). Excuse the quality of the photos - they had poor lighting (and technically, pictures were banned... so I didn't dare break out my flash. But the guards absolutely saw me and didn't seem to care... so I just went with it.)
My overall impression is that the actors are REALLY short. (as in all the costumes were on platforms and they were all (even the men's outfits) still shorter that me - and according to a docent, the mannequins were made to the measurements of each of the actors.) (But then again, I went to comicon once, and "met" James Masters (who played Spike on Buffy, and he came up to my chin. So... there are a lot of short actors.)
(For reference, I am 5'9") (But I also just looked up Hugh Bonneville's height, which is listed at 6'2" .. so I'm not sure what manner of shenanigans was going on with the costumes and mannequins.) (Additionally, it has been pointed out on more than one occasion that I may not be completely sane. So, feel free to throw that one into the mix.)
Mary's white suit was one of my favorites -- I particularly liked the seaming, which I *think* is inside out french-seams.
The trim around the collar and cuffs looks from far away to be threaded through the fabric, but from closer up seems to be a ribbon with matching pale stripes.
Not surprisingly, a lot of the costume pieces were like that - visually stunning from far away, but with innumerable imperfections close up, that the cameras won't capture. (For example, one of the pockets on Lord Grantham's hacking jacket was sewn on with the wrong color thread)
On the other hand, there was a lot of fine details that I never noticed when watching the show - for example, all the beading on Edith's wedding dress.
And another favorite - the Egyptian print on Daisy's apron. (Fun fact: Highclere castle - the real name of the building where they filmed Downton - was the home of The Earl of Carnarvon, who funded Howard Carter's expedition which found Tutankhamen tomb and ignited eypytomania in England.)
This probably isn't a surprise, but Sybil's harem pants have a satiny looking lining under the chiffon.
All in all, I had a really good time there - but I will say the exhibit was a lot smaller than I'd anticipated. There about 27 costumes there and about half were set up so you could see their backs. Its also important to remember that these are costumes, not real historical garments, so they don't really stand up to a close inspection. (Not to say the aren't lovely -- but some things which look stunning on film are rather underwhelming in person) (The dress Mary wore to Sybil's wedding in particular -- there are a lot of weird pulls and the belt loops don't seem to have been sewn on correctly).
It took me about 40 minutes to go through the exhibit (The ticket window is for two hours) and afterwards we wandered around on the grounds of the estate for a while. Winterthur has lovely gardens - if you come from any significant distance, be sure to plan for the spring or summer when everything will be in bloom. The garden and house are worth a visit.
As for just seeing the costume exhibit, I'm close enough that we were able to go there an back in an afternoon, having both lunch and dinner in Philly on either side. I don't know that its worth coming from much further away if you aren't going to see anything else as well.
~More on all the fancy evening wear in another post. ~