Costumes of Downton Abbey Lecture Series

“Vintage Inspiration: The Brides of Downton Abbey” (Members Only)

Sunday, May 18, Copeland Lecture Hall

11:00 am (tickets still available; open to nonmembers)

2:30 pm (Members only, SOLD OUT)

What were the costume designer’s inspirations behind those 1920-styled, shimmering and romantic wedding gowns for Mary and Edith in Downton Abbey? What would Cora and Violet have worn as fashionable, aristocratic Victorian-era brides? Combining stories of wedding folklore, tiara legends, and royal brides as well as intriguing bits of fashion history (including what Vogue said about a bride’s décolletage), Cornelia Powell, wedding folklorist and bestselling author of The Bride’s Ritual Guide: Look Inside to Find Yourself, presents beautiful images and delightful commentary with behind-the-scenes anecdotes from the Downton Abbey costumers. Book signing to follow. Reservations required. Members free. The 11:00 am lecture is open to nonmembers for a $10 fee.

Downton Abbey. Carnival Film & Television Limited. All Rights Reserved.

"The Look of a Gentleman: Men’s Fashion in Downton Abbey"

Sunday, June 8

2:30 pm, Copeland Lecture Hall

This talk with Jeff Groff, director of public programs and co-curator of Costumes of Downton Abbey, will examine the costumes for the men of Downton Abbey from tweeds to evening clothes and servant livery. It will also look at the impact of English tailoring on Americans in that time period and the popularity of British country sports. Members free. $10 per nonmember.

Althorp, photo by Curt DiCamillo

Lecture: “Jewels of Scandal and Desire: British Jewelry Collections and Country Houses”

Tuesday, June 10

6:00 pm, Copeland Lecture Hall

Historian Curt DiCamillo explores how the 18th- and 19th-century British ruling classes, modeling themselves on the ancient Roman Empire, used dazzling jewels to reinforce their positions in society. $5 per Member. $15 per nonmember.

Staff Lecture Series

"Food Fights and School Lunch: Dining and 'Edible' Education in America"

Thursday, June 12
12:15–1:15 pm

Catharine Dann Roeber, Elizabeth and Robert Owens Curatorial Fellow, presents an object- and image-filled presentation examining the history of school dining in America. From the Harvard butter riots of the 1700s to reform school farms of the 19th century, the talk explores little-known moments in American school culture. Members free. Included with admission.


Gossard corset ad (detail), The New Ladies' Home Journal, April 15, 1916.


Lunchtime Lecture Series: Downton Within, Downton Beyond

12:15–1:15 pm,  Copeland Lecture Hall

Our series of lectures offers an opportunity to consider the artful presentation of television fiction as well as the varying histories, values, issues, and clothing of Downton Abbey's evolving eras.  Members free. Included with admission.

May 15
“Downton Undressed: Underwear and the Fashionable Ideal in the Teens and Twenties.”
H. Kristina Haugland, The Le Vine Associate Curator of Costume and Textiles and Supervising Curator for the Study Room, Dorrance H. Hamilton Center for Costume and Textiles, Philadelphia Museum of Art, explores feminine undergarments and attitudes behind the revolutionary shift from Edwardian to modern aesthetics.

June 19
"From Downton Ladies to Modern Flappers: Fashion and Women’s Liberation in the Roaring Twenties"

Einav Rabinovitch-Fox, Ph.D., New York University,  will examine the relationship between fashion and feminist ideas regarding women’s freedom and sexuality as they were reflected in the image of the flapper. Focusing on the characters of Lady Edith and Lady Rose, the talk explores how 1920s fashions became a means for both expressing and negotiating women’s new political, social, and sexual position in the interwar period.



Meg Lookens Noonan photo by Mark Bennington

July 17
"Uncloaking the Insular World of Bespoke"
Downton Abbey-era gentlemen wore bespoke (custom made) clothing, handcrafted by highly skilled tailors. Thanks in part to the show’s popularity, the centuries-old bespoke trade is alive and well on London's famed Savile Row and in other major cities. Meg Lukens Noonan, author of The Coat Route: Craft, Luxury and Obsession on the Trail of a $50,000 Coat, demystifies the clubby world of bespoke tailoring, provides a window into the culture that covets it and recounts her round-the-world quest to deconstruct the making of one fabulous—and fabulously expensive—hand-tailored vicuna overcoat.



Historic Autos Lectures

On select Saturdays in May, there will be a lecture and/or display of historic autos associated with a particular theme. Visit the Historic Autos Web page for information on displays. Members free. Included with admission. Lectures take place in the Brown Horticulture Learning Center.


May 17
1:00 pm, Brown Horticulture Learning Center
"The Early Years "Grand Motor Cars and Great Country Houses, 1905–41"

Gregory J. Landrey, director of academic affairs at Winterthur, explores the types of vehicles that were common to the great country houses of England as well as the United States during the era depicted by the Downton Abbey television series, including such historic marques as Rolls-Royce, Daimler, Vanden Plas, Cadillac, and Marmon.


May 31
1:00 pm, Brown Horticulture Learning Center
"An Overview of Wood-bodied Station Wagons and Shooting Breaks"

There was a time when the bodies of certain motor cars were made of highly polished woods such as ash and mahogany.  Gregory J. Landrey, director of academic affairs at Winterthur, will present examples of pre-war “woodies” and the firms that made them such as Cantrell and Murray. This lecture will coincide with a day-long exhibit of period wood-bodied sedans and work vehicles.


Other Lectures


"Heirloom Bulbs: Unique, Endangered, Amazing with Scott Kunst of Old House Gardens"

Saturday, April 26
10:30– 11:30 am, Rotunda

Unique, endangered, tough, and gorgeous, heirloom bulbs can enrich every garden. After a whirlwind history of bulbs from prehistory through the 1950s, this lively slide lecture will focus on a season-by-season encyclopedia of antique varieties that are still available to gardeners today, including wild lilies and hyacinths, Aztec tuberoses, colonial daffodils, Victorian tulips and cannas, Jazz Age dahlias, and more. Members free.  $20 per nonmember. Registration encouraged, space limited.

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