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Review: _Dressing Downton:_ A fun little book that shows the changing fashions of the Great War and the roaring 20s

I confess that I am a nut about Downton Abbey. From the series to the ancillary books that go into the background of the television programme, it's a pretty good bet that I will pick up a copy for my personal collection. Recently, there was a tour here in the US that took a collection of the costumes worn in the series, and that is currently touring the US.

Starting with the Upstairs half of the cast -- Lord and Lady Gratham and the rest of the Crawleys, we look at the clothing that was worn by the very well-to-do in the 1910's and 1920's. While not everything is covered, some of the more memorable ones are, from Cora's dress at the Garden party, Lady Violet's half-mourning ensemble from the first season, and Lady Mary's spectacular gowns. The clothing of Lord Gratham and Matthew Crawley during the Great War is also covered, and showing both field dress and the more formal wear that is spotted several times. Even the outfits of Martha Levinson, the American in-law, get a chance.

Then there is Downstairs. While the servants look to be very drab compared to the people that they wait on. But the various divisions of who worked where and at what is also shown. Mrs Hughes, the housekeeper, has her bundle of keys that mark her dominion over Downton's maids, and the almost stylish lady's maids. Then there are the men, from Mr. Carson, the butler, who always in formal dress, and the footmen, wearing formal livery (in period, they were known as 'peacocks') and even Branson's chauffeur's rig.

The book is only 84 pages, and as most of it are photographs, it doesn't take long to read through it. In addition to the main section, the end has the schedule for the traveling exhibit through the US through 2017. Technically, this isn't a book, but rather the exhibition catalog. For those of us who are not able to go -- or live near a city that is hosting the exhibition -- it's really the only way to it, unfortunately.

I have to say that I really do like this book. Plenty of care is taken in the layout design and the photographs, whether they are of the clothing itself, or of stills from the series. Which costume was worn when, who designed it, and who wore it is given with each design. There are also little tidbits about the times of the period, and some of the difficulties that the cast and crew had with wearing or lighting a particular item.

This one gets full marks from me. Five out of five stars, and a must for Downton Abbey fans. Recommended.

Dressing Downton: Changing Fashion for Changing Times
by Exhibits Development Group
2015; Exhibits Development Group
ISBN 978-0-578-15837-2

Rebecca Huston asserts her rights as the sole owner of this review.

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