Sunday 8 March 2015

Style From the Small Screen

Confession time - I have only ever seen one episode of Downton Abbey (the first one). So when several of my friends told me that there was an exhibition of Downton costumes at the Lady Lever Art Gallery, I must admit that I didn’t rush to see it. I did finally visit just before the exhibition closed, and was glad that I did, as it was interesting for all sorts of reasons.

Exhibition poster

The Downton costumes on display showed how dress is used in the program to highlight the differences between the characters. The costume on the left for example could only belong to the Dowager Countess.

Costumes for the Dowager Countess, 1916-19, and Lady Painswick, 1912

Whereas the mother of the current Countess, although of the same generation, dresses completely differently.

Costume for Martha Levinson, 1923

It was interesting to see just how detailed the costumes are; for example the embroidery under a sheer panel on the dress above.

Costume detail

I was also intrigued to see just how much wear and tear the costumes suffer. For example, this dress had clearly been torn at the armhole, and subsequently patched.

Costume for Lady Mary, 1922

Close-up showing tear and mend

With this in mind, I was really surprised to discover that Cosprop, who provide the costumes, do on occasion use genuine period garments such as this heavily beaded dress from the early 1920s. It was hand sewn onto new net to make it wearable for filming.

Costume for Freda Dudley-Ward, 1923

Whereas that dress was so densely decorated that a few loose threads were unlikely to show, I did wonder if shots of this dress had to be carefully framed to avoid showing the wear on the centre front panel.

Costume for Lavinia Swire, 1916-19

Close-up showing missing and damaged beading

The exhibition wasn’t just Downton costumes; it also contained items from National Museum Liverpool’s own collection (including one from the Tinne Collection).

Teens and twenties garments from National Museums Liverpool's collection

These two early teens-era dresses were made by T & S Bacon, a firm based in Bold Street in Liverpool. The one in the background is from the wonderfully-named “Young Ladies Department”.

Evening dress 1910-12 (front) and 1911-13 (back)

Bodice close-up

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries Bold Street was known as the “Bond Street of the North”, and was home to a number of very grand shops offering a made-to-measure service. As well as T & S Bacon, these included De Jong et Cie, and Cripps.

Cripps, Bold Street, about 1941. Image © National Museums Liverpool

Cripps ceased trading in the 1970s, but the building is still recognizable today.

Bold Street, 2015

All of Bold Street's luxurious shops are long gone, but when I came to take photographs for this post I noticed that a few clues to its grand past still remain, if you care to look for them.

Halle Des Modes, Bold Street

1 comment:

  1. I was invited to dress up in a period gown with another gal from our HSF group and visit a nearby museum to see this collection. it didn't work out for me to go though.