New York: A Return to Downton Abbey

If I were to jot down some of my favorite things in my pop culture life, two items that would definitely make the cut are gorgeous costumes and period dramas. So, needless to say, I instantly became a fan of Downton Abbey, and stuck with the show throughout its entire run (even when it got a little bit . . . iffy at the end). When I heard a Downton Abbey exhibit was coming to New York, I knew it was an absolute must-visit for me.

My mom and I were lucky enough to visit the real life Downton Abbey, Highclere Castle, a few years back, so I made sure to book tickets for when she would be in town. On a Saturday morning, we made our way to midtown, bright and early (for me, at least). We had tickets for the first time slot of the day – which I chose with the misguided belief that it would allow us to beat the crowds – but were shocked to find a big line outside the exhibit. As it turns out, there are plenty of Downton aficionados in the New York area.

We made our way inside to the exhibit itself, which unfolds over three floors: the first floor, sets from the servants’ quarters; the second, sets from the family’s rooms; the third, a costume display. While I found the crowds to be somewhat oppressive on the first floor, they luckily thinned out as we continued on.

The ground floor began with an exhibit of various servant uniforms – which were slightly less glamorous than the fabulous gowns we’d see later – and continued with the sets from the servant’s dining room and kitchen. I’m not quite sure why, but it delighted me that they had the wall with all the bells corresponding to the family’s rooms. Such a fun detail from the set!

On the second floor, we were greeted by a beautiful dress exhibit. I loved these gowns, hued in colorful pastels and featuring the most exquisite beading. Ah, to be an aristocrat.

Next, we visited the sets from the formal dining room and Lady Mary’s bedroom. The display on the dining room table was beautiful!

Our tour ended with another floor of just costumes. It was pretty cool to see some of these outfits, many of which I immediately recognized from pivotal scenes. All of them are gorgeously detailed in person.

^ Lady Mary’s garden party costume, on the right, was one of my very favorites! Love the purple stripes.

^ Should we root for a cloche hat comeback? I think so.

^ Lady Sybil’s infamous pants ensemble on the left!

^ And, of course, the beautiful gown Mary was wearing when Matthew proposed. Iconic!

The last few costumes in the display were the wedding gowns. Ooh la la:

All in all, I enjoyed my return to Downton! I am always a sucker for costume exhibits, so naturally I loved those parts, but the entire thing was well done. I was impressed with the attention to detail throughout, and I loved that the show’s cast is still enthusiastic about it: they featured in various cheesy but cute videos sprinkled throughout the exhibit. For any fans in the New York area, the display runs through April 2nd – catch it if you can!


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