Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Downton Abbey fashions coming to Oshkosh March 3, 2015

WHEN MY WISCONSIN RESIDENT daughter recently informed me that Dressing Downton: Changing Fashions for Changing Times will be on exhibit in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, beginning in late June, I got giddy with excitement. Oshkosh is only a 4 ½-hour drive from my southeastern Minnesota home and on the way to my daughter’s place in Appleton.

A film still of Maggie Smith's character, Violet Crawley. This costume will be featured in the exhibit. Photo credit: Carnival Films/Masterpiece and courtesy of the Paine Art Center and Gardens.

A film still of Maggie Smith’s character, Violet Crawley. This costume will be featured in the exhibit. Photo credit: Carnival Films/Masterpiece (courtesy of the Paine Art Center and Gardens).

If you’re a fan of the Public Broadcasting System Masterpiece series Downton Abbey, and especially the fashion showcased on this British drama, you understand my enthusiasm. The traveling exhibit wending its way through seven American cities from now into 2017 features 36 period costumes (including jewelry) and a fashion overview from the first four seasons of the show. That covers 1912 to the early 1920s.

From maid Anna Smith’s (Bates) apron-covered black dress to Robert Crawley’s light cream suit to Violet and Cora Crawley’s lovely dresses and more, you’ll see costumes up close. Bustle to flapper style. Simple servants’ attire to elegant attire of the rich.

This artwork comes from a Hamilton Garment Company ad published in the February 1925 issue of Needlework Magazine. I recently purchased the magazine at my local Salvation Army.

This artwork comes from a Hamilton Garment Company ad published in the February 1925 issue of Needlework Magazine. I recently purchased the magazine at my local Salvation Army. Fashion styles similar to these were featured in Season 5 of Downton Abbey. That season ended at Christmas 1924.

I’m no fashionista, preferring comfort (think jeans and a cotton shirt) to fashionable clothing. But the fashions of this time period intrigue me as does the aristocratic lifestyle. There’s always an appeal to seeing the other side, to imagining a life of wealth and privilege. I fit more with the downstairs servant standard of living.

The Paine Mansion. Photo by Eric Reischl and courtesy of the Paine Art Center and Gardens.

The Paine Mansion. Photo by Eric Reischl and courtesy of the Paine Art Center and Gardens.

That the Wisconsin exhibit will be held at the Paine Art Center and Gardens, a Tudor-Revival country estate style mansion and grounds, seems especially fitting. Nathan and Jessie (Kimberly) Paine of the wealthy Paine Lumber Company and Kimberly-Clark companies had the house built between 1927 – 1930. Their English ancestry influenced the architectural and interior designs and furnishings.

According to Laura Fiser, the Paine’s Curator of Collections and Exhibitions, staff first became aware of the proposed exhibit in early 2013. The Paine immediately contacted the organizer, Exhibits Development Group of St. Paul. A review and negotiation process followed. The setting, the beauty and artistry of the costumes, and the passion for the television series are cited as reasons for bringing the fashion exhibit to this historic Wisconsin location.

I agree. This should prove an ideal, elegant setting to display Downton Abbey costumes throughout the more than 24-room mansion. I expect I will be as impressed by the location as I am by the costumes.

“Fans of the series may feel as though they are actually walking on the set of the show and getting a behind-the-scenes look at the costumes,” Paine Executive Director Aaron Sherer said in a press release announcing the exhibit.

And then there are the 19 gardens from shade to rose to woodland and more that certainly will draw my botanical interest.

Touring Dressing Downton: Changing Fashions for Changing Times should reflect life at Downton Abbey from many facets. Fashion. Setting. History. Only the drama will be missing.

FYI: The Downton exhibit at the Paine runs June 20 – September 20. Hours are 10 AM – 5 PM Sunday – Thursday and from 10 AM – 7 PM Friday and Saturday. Admission is $14 for adults and $7 for youth. Click here for more information. Advance tickets are not available; visitors need simply show up to tour the exhibit.

Currently, the traveling exhibit is in Asheville, North Carolina. Other scheduled stops are in Richmond, Virginia; Chicago; Cincinnati; South Bend, Indiana; and Nashville. Click here for more information.

Exhibition produced by Exhibits Development Group in cooperation with Cosprop Ltd., London. Downton™ and Downton Abbey®. ©2015 Carnival Film & Television Limited. All Rights Reserved.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

The copyrighted mansion and Violet Crawley images are used here courtesy of the Paine Art Center and Gardens, sources attributed.



28 Responses to “Downton Abbey fashions coming to Oshkosh”

  1. treadlemusic Says:

    Wow!!! And it’s coming to Oshkosh!!! Impressive! Imagine the viewing at the Biltmore!!! We haven’t been able to tour that location but understand it’s definitely worth the $$$$! I, too, am in love with the fashions/lifestyle of that day. Watching “Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries” gives me that same ‘feel’. I haven’t watched any of the Downton Abbey series (I’m probably the ONLY one who hasn’t!!!! LOL!) but would definitely enjoy viewing this exhibit. Thanks so much for the info!!!!!! I’ll have to see what that time period brings for us—-maybe a bike trip?????

    • This would be an even shorter trip for you and DH than me. So, yes, I say a bike trip. I would check in advance, though, about admittance. I have a feeling this will draw a lot of visitors.

      I looked up the Biltmore, which I hadn’t done prior to writing this. Ah, that would be no opulent setting in which to view the Downton Abbey fashions.

      I only discovered Downton Abbey last year. So you aren’t the only one.

  2. Marneymae Says:

    That’s terrific
    Was considering a visit to Wisconsin in April, but perhaps June would be a better time…

  3. Almost Iowa Says:

    Sunday night is date night for my wife and I. We don’t go out, we stay in to watch “Britcoms” on PBS. The BBC does a fabulous job with scripts, sets and filming, and it is a joy to watch.

    It would be nice to journey to Oshkosh (I could see the airplane museum) but it is still too cold there. 🙂

  4. I know I was born in the wrong generation because I love the style of the 1920’s and 1930’s 🙂 I have not watched Downtown Abbey, however; I am a fan of HBO’s Boardwalk Empire series. I would love to see this and I know if you go you will do a post on it, so if you go please share with your readers. Happy Day!

  5. BradG Says:

    Exhibit is currently at the Biltmore House in Asheville, NC (20 miles from me). Last visited Biltmore in September. Would go back to see the exhibit, but they charge $70 per person to go into the place! Will pass this time. If you go see it in Oshkosh, will look forward to seeing your comments, and those of your bloggers.

    • Wow, $70 to tour the Biltmore House. I’m sorry, but that’s crazy. At that price, I can understand why you are not returning for the Downton fashion exhibit.

      When I tour the Paine, I will report back. However, there will be no photos of the Downton exhibit or the mansion interior. Photography is not allowed, which I’ve found to be common in historic mansions turned museums/art center. Not that I like that rule, but…

  6. I’ve been loving the flapper fashions this season in particular. I would love to attend a show like this. I hope there will be a follow-up post, Audrey.

  7. Jackie Says:

    Wow this place looks amazing, looks like a fun trip! Rick and I have never watched Downton Abbey, but have heard many good things about it. I wonder if we could watch it on Netflix….I’ll have to check it out.

  8. hotlyspiced Says:

    How exciting. The Paine mansion is gorgeous. That pool of water leading to the home is incredible. I just love Downton Abbey and how fabulous to be able to see the fashions – the story lines are amazing but the show absolutely is also about the fashions xx

  9. Beth Ann Says:

    Shoot—I think I am going to Oshkosh with Chris before Easter but it won’t be on then! I would LOVE to see this exhibit so I guess I will just have to wait for the post later on with your adventures there. Fun!

  10. Beth Ann Says:

    But guess what? This is the same exhibit that is at the Biltmore and guess where I am going in April with my friend, Ann??? I just noticed you had Asheville on the list and made the connection. Woot woot! So I will get to see it!!!!! YAYYYYYY! Notice the caps and exclamations that I am throwing in your comment section . 🙂

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