Thursday, September 18, 2014

Visiting the Downton Abbey Costume Exhibit at Winterthur Museum

Thursday, September 11th, [day #3 of our trip] was a beautiful day in Wilmington, Delaware, and we awoke early so we could be at Winterthur Museum by 10:00 a.m. for our allotted two hour self-guided tour of the Downton Abbey costume exhibit.  Our bargain $18 tickets had been purchased three weeks in advance, and we were excited the day had finally arrived. 

Winterthur is the 1,000 acre Country Estate and Museum of Henry [Harry] Francis du Pont [1880-1969]. The property opened to the public in October 1951 when Harry and his wife, Ruth, moved a few hundred yards away to another elegant house they had built called, The Cottage.

We rode a shuttle from the Visitor Center to the Gallery/Museum. The picture of the Crawley sisters [below] hung just above the driver's head in the interior of the vehicle. The dresses they're wearing were a part of the exhibit. The shuttle driver told us the exhibit was original and exclusive to Winterthur, and would not be traveling anywhere else. He said a staff person at Winterthur is a personal friend of Julian Fellowes [creator/writer of Downton Abbey], which enabled the museum to get the costume exhibit consisting of 40 outfits that will be displayed until January 4, 2015. Thankfully, photography is allowed, permitting me to share the exhibit on my blog.

~ Entrance to the Galleries ~

 Our foursome with the backdrop of Highclere Castle [if only it was the real castle!]. 

[L-R: Me, Lori, Linda, and Barb]

~ Downton Abbey Cast ~

Because I took so many photos I will only show tea scenes, and the 'below the stairs' residents in this post, and will share the remainder of photos in tomorrow's post.  I purchased a CD of the original music from the TV series in the museum gift shop, and it's playing as I type this post to provide a little Downton Abbey atmosphere and inspiration.  ;-)

Throughout the exhibit, comparisons were made between the du Pont's at Winterthur, and the Crawley's at Downton Abbey.  Below is a breakfast tray that would have been brought to Cora Crawley or Ruth du Pont.

~ Head Housemaid, Anna Smith Bates ~ 

A tea service [below] used by Mrs. du Pont when she served afternoon tea at Winterthur. The red box on the table is a wooden tea caddy. They also provided one outside the vignette where we could lift the lid and smell the tea. 

Informative explanations accompanied all vignettes. WASPS = White Anglo-Saxon Protestant.  It's an informal term used for a closed group of high-status White Americans of English Protestant ancestry.

The tea caddy with Mark T. Wendell tea company's blend of smoky Lapsang Souchong that we were allowed to open and smell.  [Apologies for blurry photo.]

They carried the tea in the gift shop, and I purchased a box.  The tea company has been supplying the delicately smoked Lapsang Souchong tea since 1904, and claim it's a one-of-a kind tea that you won't forget.

~ A Winterthur Footman, and an explanation about Afternoon Tea at the mansion. ~

The explanation of English Tea [below] was written by Mrs. Frank Learned for The Etiquette of New York Today in 1906.  It says:  "In England the afternoon cup of tea is as regular an institution as breakfast, luncheon or dinner.  Many years ago the present Queen Alexandra, when Princess of Wales [1863-1901] began the fashion of asking her friends to come in for a cup of tea and a chat in the afternoon.  Society in general soon adopted the idea, and it was quickly imported to America." Everything I've read attributes the 'invention' of Afternoon Tea [or at least the popularization of it] to Anna Maria Russell, the 7th Duchess of Bedford, friend and Lady-in-Waiting to Queen Victoria in the 1840's. Interesting comment, and I'm glad to learn of another prominent person who helped propagate the ritual of Afternoon Tea that I [and countless others] enjoy today!

Below is the board of bells in servants' hall [which is actually recreated in Ealing Studios, and not filmed at Highclere Castle].  One of those ringing bell signals a footman or ladies' maid to attend to a member of the Crawley family in one of the house's many rooms. It was the first display to be viewed upon entering the exhibit, which is divided into three sections/themes - morning, daytime, and evening.

Mrs. Hughes' Costume with Chatelaine. 

Thomas' Costume [the guy you love to hate!]

~ Anna's Daytime Costume ~

~ Mrs.Patmore's Costume ~

~ Daisy's Costume ~

Mrs. O'Brien's Costume [Sure glad she got written out of the script!]

 Mr. Bates' Costume  [Will he be charged with murder again in Season 5?]

~ And last but not least, Mr. Carson's Costume ~

To be continued tomorrow...


  1. This looks like a great exhibit. I'm so glad you and your friends could go enjoy it.

  2. Oooooooh! I really wish that exhibit would come to Texas. Period costumes have always held a fascination with me, especially the Victorian and Edwardian periods.

  3. Oh, I SO would love to see this! I've been re-watching my "Downton" DVDs in the evenings as I quilt ... I don't think I'll get tired of these for a VERY long time. I'll bet you were just beside yourself at getting to see these costumes in such a lovely setting!


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