Biltmore announces a new exhibition, “Dressing Downton: Changing Fashion for Changing Times,” opening February 5 and continuing through Memorial Day, May 25, 2015. Designed by Exhibits Development Group in cooperation with Cosprop Ltd., London, the exhibition features more than 40 costumes from the popular PBS series “Downton Abbey.” The clothing will be showcased in rooms throughout Biltmore House in groupings inspired by the fictional show and by real life at Biltmore, the grand Vanderbilt estate of the same era.
Although “Downton Abbey” is fictional, the show depicts an era of great change. The period costumes in the exhibition act as a window into history beginning in 1912 with the sinking of the Titanic, moving into the tumultuous years of World War I, and finally through the dawn of the Jazz Age in the early 1920s. The waves of social change felt abroad also had lasting impact on the Vanderbilts, their servants, and Biltmore as a whole. New stories will be shared about George Vanderbilt, his wife Edith, and their daughter Cornelia, who lived in the 250-room Biltmore House.
The Vanderbilts’ home bears striking visual resemblance to the show’s setting at Highclere Castle, making it easy for visitors to blur storylines and experience for themselves a bit of life a hundred years ago. “The day-to-day running of the house was surprisingly similar to that of Downton Abbey,” says Biltmore’s Director of Museum Services Ellen Rickman. “Just like Downton has Mr. Carson and Mrs. Hughes, Biltmore had its own cast of fascinating characters. Displaying these fabulous costumes from the show gives us an unparalleled opportunity to delve into Biltmore’s stories.”
Themes in the exhibition include the evolution of fashion, nuances of etiquette and the changing roles of women. The life of service staff will also be explored, including the role of British citizens who worked at Biltmore. Costumes on display will range from country tweeds, to servants’ uniforms, to lavish gowns and evening attire cut from fine fabrics and decorated with intricate embroidery, lace and beading. The award-winning costumes, created by renowned London costume house Cosprop Ltd., were designed with inspiration from old photographs and historic patterns. Some are original pieces from the time period, while others incorporate antique decorative elements that inspired the overall costume design.
Admission to the exhibition is included in the price of regular estate ticket purchases. Complementing the exhibition will be a series of estate-wide special events at Biltmore to be announced at a later date.
ABOUT BILTMORE Located in Asheville, North Carolina, Biltmore was the vision of George W. Vanderbilt. Designed by Richard Morris Hunt, America’s largest home is a 250-room French Renaissance chateau, exhibiting the Vanderbilt family’s original collection of furnishings, art and antiques. Biltmore estate encompasses more than 8,000 acres including renowned gardens designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, the father of American landscape architecture. Today, Biltmore has grown to include Antler Hill Village, which features the award-winning Winery and Antler Hill Farm; the four-star Inn on Biltmore Estate; Equestrian Center; numerous restaurants; event and meeting venues; and Biltmore For Your Home, the company’s licensed products division. To learn more about Biltmore, go to Biltmore.com or call 877-BILTMORE.
ABOUT EXHIBITS DEVELOPMENT GROUP (EDG) EDG is dedicated to the development, production, marketing and distribution of traveling museum exhibitions and cultural projects. EDG also serves as a partner to other exhibition organizers, museums, foundations and collection owners in the U.S. and abroad, in the care and stewardship of their exhibitions and collections. EDG’s mission is to initiate and promote international cultural and intellectual exchange by bringing high-quality traveling exhibitions of art, science and history to broad and diverse audiences. For more information, please visit ExhibitsDevelopment.com.
ABOUT COSPROP The amazing costumes in this exhibition are custom made or come from a stock of more than 100,000 costumes and accessories made by the renowned British costumer, Cosprop Ltd. Founded in 1965 by John Bright, an award-winning costume designer in his own right, Cosprop specializes in creating costumes for film, television and theater pieces set from the 15th century to the swinging 60s. Cosprop has a staff of forty experts in designing, tailoring, cutting, fitting, millinery, jewelry making and repair, and dyeing and printing. Reference for their work comes from an extensive library and a collection of original garments — thus ensuring that any production undertaken by Cosprop is “correctly dressed”.