I’ll admit, I was a somewhat late adapter when it came to Downton Abbey. The show had just ended its third season (yes, THAT finale with the accident) when I finally started watching.
I found out the first two seasons were on Amazon Prime and I quickly binge watched them, and before I knew it I was caught up and an official Downton maniac.
In 2015, my sister and I went with our friend Tom to see the Dressing Downton costume exhibit when it traveled to the Winterthur Estate in Delaware. The costumes were amazing and we really enjoyed the exhibition.
Little did we know the three of us would travel to England to see the real thing four years later!
If you read my Highclere Castle post, you know how exciting it was for me to be able to visit the place where they filmed Downton Abbey. Coming off that high, I didn’t really see a huge need to go to the new Downton Abbey Exhibition in NYC. (Mostly because I’m lazy and didn’t feel like making the 2-hour trek into the city to see an exhibit I’d already seen before.)
But my sister went and really wanted to go again, and told me they had a lot of new pieces in the exhibition that we hadn’t seen before, including the “downstairs” sets.
The kitchen scenes and anything that the servants did downstairs had all been filmed on a soundstage, so we weren’t able to see those locations at Highclere Castle. That part enticed me enough to go, so we booked tickets to go with our mom on a Thursday in August when my MIL was babysitting.
I went for a subtle replikate for a long day of traveling. I bought this lace dress from Amazon last year after Kate wore her white lace dress to Royal Ascot. It doesn’t wrinkle, which is key when you’re sitting in a car for hours. Plus it’s nice and light for a hot summer day!
When I first bought Meghan’s Everlane tote I thought I wouldn’t use it very much because it’s so big. (You can read my full review here). But it turns out, it’s the perfect bag for traveling and day excursions like this.
The Exhibition Begins: Downstairs
They show a short intro film with Mr. Carson when you walk into the exhibit, and then you see the familiar downstairs staircase. You really felt like you were right in the show. (Minus the holograms of Carson and Mrs. Hughes talking to you!)
Next, you turn the corner and see some of the costumes for the maids, butlers, and other downstairs characters.
Next on the tour: The kitchen. The pots had steam coming out of them and everything looked super realistic, even if they just pretended to cook on set. I half expected Mrs. Patmore to come and shoo me out!
Right across from the kitchen is the servants’ dining hall set. The lighting in here was really tricky, but I tried my best to snap some good shots.
How fun would it be to sit around this table and chat with Daisy, Anna, Mr. Bates, Carson, Thomas, and the rest of the crew?
You’re also invited to step into Mr. Carson’s office. Inside you’ll see costumes from Mr. Carson and Mrs. Hughes, his desk, and other props.
The exhibition is split amongst three floors with one-way escalators, so once you go upstairs you can’t go back down until the end!
On the second floor, they show a film that’s projected on three walls and has some cool special effects and different clips of the show.
Moving on, you get to the good stuff – costumes and jewelry!
All of the gorgeous beading and details on these dresses made me swoon!
This turquoise dress Lady Mary wore is one of my absolute favorites. If only I could try it on!
They had several cases full of jewelry from the show. A vintage jewelry lover’s dream!
Moving on, you enter the dining room. When I went to Highclere Castle we saw the real room they used, but it wasn’t set up for dinner like this.
Every utensil, napkin, plate, and glass was perfectly aligned and arranged for a proper meal.
Props and more
When you leave the dining room, you enter an area with loads of props and the set for Lady Mary’s bedroom. They did a great job with the informative panels, providing some great historical background and context for the show.
The third floor is the end of the exhibit and includes some of the best/most iconic of the costumes, including wedding dresses!
Three of my favorite outfits were lined up in a row: Edith’s stunning turquoise dress she wore out to dinner, Mary’s engagement gown, and the infamous pantsuit Sybil wore.
At the end of the exhibit, you can see the wedding dresses of Lady Mary, Lady Edith, and Lady Rose.
Of course, you exit through a gift shop. Look who made an appearance on one of the shelves!
I picked up some of this tea – you can actually buy most of the flavors on Amazon, too. I bought the English Rose herbal tea and it’s delicious, plus it comes in a gorgeous tin with Mary, Sybil, and Edith on the front.
What a fun day out in the city! I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait for the upcoming movie.
If you go
The exhibition runs through September 3, so hurry and book your tickets if you want to go! The tickets are timed but they let us in an hour early, so they definitely weren’t sticklers for the time slot (this might have been because there was almost no one there on a weekday, though).
Go during the week if you can. When my sister went on a weekend, she said it was insanely packed!
The exhibition will likely travel to other cities but nothing has been announced. You can sign up for emails on their website to get news on additional dates.
Have you been to the Downton Exhibition? What’s your favorite costume? Share with me in the comments!
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