Bringing Downton Abbey to Life

When it comes to a critically acclaimed period drama like Downton Abbey, costumes and props account for the lion’s share of the visitor experience. They offer an in-depth insight into the time period in which the show is set – the post-Edwardian era, spanning World War 1 and the post-war years through to the Roaring Twenties. The costumes and props lead visitors through a journey and learning experience about society, culture, fashion, the historical events of that era and what shaped the world around the Crawleys and their servants.

Mather & Co worked closely with the Downton Abbey costume team as well as with mannequin specialist Proportion London to ensure that around 55 costumes from the show, including some of those worn by the cast members themselves, were displayed correctly. Unlike a lot of other costume installations, each Downton costume is installed on a bespoke mannequin sized exactly to each actor’s proportions.

There is a wide choice of costumes on display – everything from Lady Sybil’s fashion-forward hareem pants and Lady Mary’s engagement dress to the beautiful wedding dresses including the vintage lace train of Lady Edith’s second wedding gown. The gentlemen are not forgotten either. Branson’s structured estate suit, Robert’s traditional hunting pinks and his eveningwear with the black and white tie are all on show. Just as much detail has gone into the costumes for the downstairs cast too. These are on display in the exhibition lined up on parade, presenting the hierarchy of the Downton Abbey servants.

Downton Abbey The Exhibition

Beyond the costumes themselves, there are over 100 props to include within the designed sets that help bring Downton Abbey to life, although some are one-offs from the different episodes within the TV series. Things like letters and telegrams, telephones, Mary’s toy dog that she gave to Matthew, Mrs Hughes’ keys, Mrs Patmore’s pots and pans and numerous pictures. The props bring context to the rooms of the house, such as Lady Mary’s costume display in her bedroom or the evening dress delicately draped over the bed as though her ladies maid Anna had prepared it for the evening.

Interactives within the exhibition are styled on props from the show. With many of the real items on display in an adjacent display case, visitors are able to get closer than ever to the objects. There is an interactive telephone where visitors can lift the receiver to hear the caller on the other end of the line and a gramophone that visitors can wind to hear the music play. The attention to detail and authenticity means that many of the key props are beautiful objects in their own right and are presented on individual mounts allowing visitors to get up close.

Mather & Co designed the exhibition to provide each character with a key prop that reflects their stories from the show, such as Branson’s driving gloves, Matthew’s military uniform and Bates’ handcuffs. These props immediately bring the story to life for visitors reflecting the well-loved stories from the show. A picture paints a thousand words, but real objects say much more.

If you’d like further information please contact Samantha Withers at Mather & Co SamanthaW@matherandco.com