Being a Downton Abbey lover, I was excited to find the Driehaus Museum in Chicago is presenting Dressing Downton – Changing Fashions for Changing Times February 9 through May 29, 2016. As the sixth and final season of Downton Abbey has concluded, PBS stations WTTW & WMFT have sponsored an exhibit of over 35 period costumes from the award winning show.
This exhibition explores fashions in Britain between 1912 (the year the Titanic sank) and the early 1920’s, the dawn of the Jazz Age. The impact of World War I greatly affected people’s lives and the way that they dressed. These changes are particularly highlighted.
The culturally and historically significant Driehaus Museum is located steps from the Magnificent Mile and the perfect setting for the Fashions of Downton. This grand and palatial mansion was the residence of Samuel M. Nickerson and is one of the few remaining examples of the 19th century Gilded Age-era in both design and architecture.
My first visit to this glorious mansion left me dreaming of years gone by, experienced only in old movies or British television series. After tickets and coatroom, obtaining a colored brochure of each exhibit and an audio presentation, I ascended one of the grand carpeted marble staircases to the first floor. There I joined the crowd of ladies who lunch in watching a short introductory film on the made for television show. The visitors on a Tuesday morning were 99% women with some serious Red Hat Society ladies. Today however, they were wearing white gloves and adorned with straw hats, feathers and such finery as to fit in at a proper tea party.
Promptly at 10am, the ticket taker appeared and we glided into the grand reception room from where the staircase ascended to upper floors and from which all the first floor rooms connected.
Tickets are purchased for every half hour admittance times. Quite well thought out. There never seemed to be people crowding in if you wanted to take a photo or in your way while you examined an exhibit. There is plenty of room to envision yourself a distant Crawley cousin, belonging in the priceless surroundings.
The library is furnished around an artistically significant fireplace and statuary which leads the gaze up to a stained glass ceiling. The ceiling is beyond words.
Each of the rooms on the three exhibit floors hold multiple costumes, informational directories, and photos from the television show.
The rooms themselves have directories as well that are part of the regular Driehaus Museum exhibition. There are no words I can use to describe the beauty and opulence of the mansion. It just requires a visit to absorb it all.
Traditional English tea is available by reservation in the Murphy Auditorium, served by properly costumed servants .
There must be a gift shop! Oh yes there is, just next to the tea. Many treasures abound.
Life after Downton…what will we see next? Luckily the Driehaus Museum is a must see on it’s own, holding many interesting programs and exhibitions. The Museum entrance is located at 40 East Erie Street, Chicago, IL, 60611.