Studio Brunstrum

Calling All Downton Abbey Fans

March 14, 2016

If you’re as much of a Downton Abbey fan as I am, you should go -no you NEED to go - to the “Dressing Downton” exhibit at the Driehaus Museum in Chicago.

If you’re as much of a Downton Abbey fan as I am, you should go -no you NEED to go - to the “Dressing Downton”exhibit at the Driehaus Museum in Chicago. The show features more than 35costumes – from upstairs and down - created by the renowned London costume house Cosprop Ltd.

Many are made with original fabrics and embellishments from the early 20th century and were re-created from old photographs, paintings, patterns and magazine photos.

I took a tour as a guest of WTTW and WCIU for an event they sponsored at the Driehaus, and it was absolutely captivating. The costumes span the post-Edwardian era from about 1913 to the flapper era of the 1920s.

You will be amazed at the amount of detail that goes into each of the women’s dresses – the bead work and appliques are exquisite - and then they layer the most beautiful jewelry on top of all that detailing, and it all works together perfectly. I tend to be a simple gal when it comes to clothing, so I never would have thought these elaborate ensembles would resonate with me so much.

My absolute favorite is Lady Grantham’s ivory silk dress, beaded in silver and black and worn with a full-length olive-colored velvet coat. She wore it for the first time at the hospital’s Charity Concert. It was designed as a “tea” dress –loose and comfortable for entertaining friends.

Photo Courtesy of

But if I lived during that time I would have swooned over this pair of ivory silk dresses, too.  I wouldn’t have thought to add jewelry to these dresses,but the necklaces are perfect and it would be fun to top everything off with a tiara or a feathered hat!

Photo Courtesy of Susan Brunstrum

It’s a special treat – and so appropriate - to see these beautiful costumes surrounded by the lavish interiors of the Driehaus Museum. Those late 19th century drawing rooms, living rooms, libraries and bedrooms were once the home of the affluent Nickerson and Fisher families of Chicago’s Gilded Age.

If you go,be sure to give yourself several hours to appreciate the exhibit and the museum. Tickets are timed and must be purchased in advance. For more information visit

Also take note - the museum is offering a one-hour afternoon tea service too! I think I may have to make a return visit.

Susan Brunstrum
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