I sometimes get weak at the knees watching Downton Abbey and it’s not because some gorgeous new gentleman has come calling on Lady Mary.   It’s less basic than that.  The Edwardian décor, perfected in glowing colours and warm light, the period details like the fine china and cutlery, the bed clothes and tasselled lamps and the stunning automobiles are just so lovely to look at.
But the real payoff comes on the backs of our beloved Crawleys – the costumes.  A Downton aficionado will have noted by now that the styles change a bit each season depending on character, circumstances and the passage of time.  Lady Mary and sisters Sybil and Edith were initially hidden behind glorious fabrics and jewels and corseted into next Tuesday.
downton-abbey-season-1-downton-abbey-31759167-640-430Downton Abbey, Season 1 Costumes.
In the second season, dress shapes had loosened and the neck, décolleté and arms were in evidence.  Lady Sybil dressed downmarket shoulder to shoulder with her socialist lover, Tom.  Now four seasons in, Lady Edith puts Lady Mary in the shade.  She’s positively sexy wearing revealing, body skimming silk gowns, usually in sensual flesh tones, offset with delicate jewels.
Lady Mary’s beloved Matthew also died and she has fallen into the dark style and stayed, perhaps too long.  But Edith is in love with a dashing newspaper man who loves her; she has crept in at all hours after sex.  Lady Sybil, who tragically died in childbirth, was wearing pale almost girlish nightclothes, a tribute to her sweet heart and goodness, now lost.  Only the Dowager Countess Grantham remains unchanged by time and tide. Her ladyship can be counted upon to cover herself entirely and add jewels, hats, furs and accessories that further obstruct any signs of – ahem – skin.
The American born Lady Crawley is somewhat more adventuresome than her mother-in-law but not much, after all, she is dedicated to upholding the status quo.  The downstairs staff, male and female, is also kitted out in beautiful things.  Fine quality, sturdy fabrics in figure flattering shapes, clothes handmade with exquisite needlework in soft, warm unobtrusive colors, they are things of practical beauty. Have you seen a translucent linen kitchen apron as the sun shines through it?
Well, diehards, someone had the bright idea of bringing these scrumptious goodies to us.  Forty costumes are coming to Toronto, plus photographs and audio visual presentations, and soon, March 11 – April 13.  The architectural gem Spadina House offers a timely backdrop, not so grand as Downton Abbey, but of the same period between the wars in which the Abbey action now runs.  Scheduled tickets are available online now at 30 dollars for the exhibit and another 30 for tea.
See for yourself just why the Crawleys needed servants to dress them three times a day:
Dressing for Downton:  Costumes from Downton Abbey
March 11 – April 13Tickets are on sale now.
And be sure to catch Season 4 of Downton Abbey on Vision starting May 28