Categories: Day Tripping, Diva-Colored Glasses, Diva-liscious, Do As The Locals Do, Featured, Miscellaneous, Music Diva, Not-so-Vanilla Diva
Contributing Diva: Angela Rocco DeCarlo
Muzeo Museum and Cultural Center
By Angela Rocco DeCarlo
“Downton Abbey,” one of the most successful television shows, is set in a fictional Edwardian English castle, awash with nobles, paid-servants and enormous upheavals due to war, jealousy and financial ruin.
The Muzeo Museum and Cultural Center, Anaheim, CA, is presenting an exhibition of the lovely wardrobe of the show. Seeing the clothing up close is delightful.
In every detail the show’s six seasons evoked the volcanic disruptions brought on by World War I and its political, societal and financial changes. The Roaring Twenties and the Jazz Age took woman from their corseted floor-length dresses to loose shifts exposing naked shoulders and legs – shocking.
“In olden days a glimpse of stocking was looked on as something shocking, now God knows, anything goes.” From Noel Coward’s song, “Anything Goes.”
The Downton Abbey era is illuminated through the skillful Julian Fellows’ scripts and an array of outstanding good-looking actors who enchanted television viewers. The gorgeous period clothing charmed all.
“Dressing Downton – Changing Fashion for Changing Times” featuring nearly 40 of the original garments designed and fitted to the individual actors, can be seen at Muzeo Museum and Cultural Center, Anaheim, California, until May 11. It then moves on to Nashville and St. Augustine – and that’s it for North America.
Up close one is struck by the excellent skill in the construction of the clothing with the finest fabrics and embellishments of beading and lace. Then one notices the size – those actors were very slender…very. The garments are simply beautiful.
Nonetheless, the actors wore the clothes, the clothes didn’t wear the actors. While the garments are lavish in scope, in viewing the television show the actors carried every piece off with confidence and style.
The exhibit is timed, so the hall does not become crowded. The display features costumes for the Crawley family, their servants and village residents. There is some jewelry, as well. There are military uniforms, ball gowns, house staff uniforms, including footmen’s livery – designed to display the handsome men selected for that position – and lavish evening attire for the family. They “dressed” for dinner every night – complete with opera length gloves on the ladies and white tie for the gentlemen.
At that time ready-made was not easily available. Designers and seamstresses were in demand. A Singer treadle sewing machine is on display in the lobby of the museum – everyday life was labor intensive on every front, except for the aristocrats.
Small groups of patrons – some from as far away as Arizona – ventured into the dimly lighted exhibition hall under the direction of a docent. However, there were many who chose to wander about by themselves. The small gift shop – there is no cultural experience without a gift shop – features books, plaques, aprons and pillows, some imprinted with dialogue from the show. Most often Violet’s comments – “What is a weekend?” Most popular were T-shirts with “It is the job of a grandmother to interfere” – gone in minutes.
The setting for Downton Abbey is in England’s Highclere Castle, home to the Earl and Countess of Carnarvon. The earl’s grandfather, the 5th Earl of Carnarvon, was best known as financial backer and fellow explorer, to Howard Carter, who is credited with discovery of King Tutankhamun’s tomb in Egypt, in 1922. Perhaps the first world-wide media story.
While the castle is termed an abbey in the television show, it does not appear to have been one of the 900 religious houses/monasteries confiscated by King Henry VIII beginning in 1536, when he broke with the Roman Catholic Church. He made himself head of the English Church, in order to divorce his wife to marry Anne Boleyn, who became the mother of the future Queen Elizabeth I.
At that time religious orders were extremely wealthy, owning over one fourth of the land in the country. King Henry greatly enriched himself, in addition to throwing off restraints to future marriages in his desire for a son and heir to the throne. While all of England suffered from his perfidy he was thwarted and never had a son to be king.
Sadly, the magnificent monastery libraries and scriptoria, where Benedictine and other monks, copied ancient documents and books, were destroyed.
A terrible price for humanity to pay for King Henry’s dynastic ambitions.
Nonetheless, Downton Abbey is a good chapter in the ongoing saga of British Life.
Muzeo Museum and Cultural Center
214 S. Anaheim Blvd.
Anaheim, CA 92805
714-956-8936 – www.muzeo.org
Hours: Tuesday-Sunday 10 a.m – 5 p.m.
Admission: Adults: $20. Children 4-12, $10
Tea service is offered in a separate building. Reservations required
Cost: $45 – 11:30, 12:30/Sat. 11:30 & 2:30
Angela Rocco DeCarlo formerly covered travel, entertainment, culture for the Chicago Tribune and Las Vegas Review Journal.