Downton Abbey costume exhibition to open at Cheekwood

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Dressing Downton highlights fashion from one of the most widely watched television dramas in the world. (courtesy photo)

Cheekwood will host Dressing Downton: Changing Fashion for Changing Times June 17 through Sept. 10. The blockbuster exhibition, showcasing 36 period costumes from Downton Abbey, opens to the public on the same day as the debut of the newly refurnished Cheek Mansion. Dressing Downton at Cheekwood is presented by First Tennessee Foundation and Gullett Sanford Robinson & Martin PLLC.

“With the Cheek Mansion undergoing a major restoration to revive its 1930s style, the timing couldn’t be more perfect to host Dressing Downton this year,” said Leslie Jones, vice president, museum affairs and curator of decorative arts. “Visitors will travel back in time as they experience the designs and characteristics of the era, from the costumes to the candlesticks.”

Set in the early twentieth century, Downton Abbey traces the events that uprooted British society on the eve of World War I and ushered in the Roaring Twenties, the Jazz Age and a new way of life. The costumes were created for the show’s aristocratic Crawley family and their servants who inhabit the fictional English country estate of Downton Abbey. The costumes range from country tweeds and riding outfits; servants’ uniforms and footmen’s livery; to lavish evening attire crafted from sumptuous fabrics and decorated with intricate embroidery, lace and beading. Included are the gowns worn when Matthew first comes to Downton; the ostentatious outfits of the flamboyant American, Martha Levinson; military uniforms from World War I; and delicate afternoon dresses worn by the Ladies – Cora, Mary, Edith and Sybil.

At Cheekwood, the exhibition will be showcased in the second floor galleries of the Cheek Mansion, and in several of the newly refurnished rooms, including the Dining Room and Drawing Room.

“The incredibly detailed and accurate research that went into the creation of Downton Abbey highlights and important turn in British and world history,” said Jones. “In watching the series, hints and clues to the oncoming societal shifts are perfectly in-line with the origins of Cheekwood and activities of the Cheek family in the 1920s and 1930s.

Bringing the costumes of Dressing Downton to Cheekwood, at the exact moment we reveal the restoration project, will provide visitors a once-in-a-lifetime experience filled with remarkable objects all the while laying a context for the interpretation of Cheekwood history.”

To highlight the arrival of Downton, Cheekwood will host special programming throughout the summer, including classic cars on view weekends in July, afternoon teas, special summer camps, and evening hours every Thursday, with programming and speak-easy cocktails for guests.