The Costume Gallery was revamped in Autumn 2011, featuring both a main exhibition and a smaller 'costume of the month' display.
For many, a warm glow descends on a Sunday evening as they enjoy the latest episode of the world-wide hit, Downton Abbey. For others the blood boils as they notice historical inaccuracies and then they tweet everyone about it. But the costumes receive very little comment. The reason being that the dress designers have looked at original sources held in museums to make sure they are right. Horsham District Council’s Horsham Museum & Art Gallery is now allowing the public to do just that as they display a range of costume from the period of Downton Abbey, from maids to cocktail dresses.
The exhibition, called ‘Downright Downton,’ displays for the first time costume rescued from 90 years ago at a time when some of the larger houses and estates in the District had maids, turned to electricity and indulged in the Jazz Age. If you thought rural Horsham wouldn’t have taken to the Jazz Age, well in its midst it had a British and Hollywood film producer. The exhibition displays a range of costume from different types of maids’ uniforms that show that maids were not uniformly dressed in black, but green or pink. As for their caps, the one on display shows they could be fashionable as well, with an art deco style of decoration.
While maids’ dresses were worn till they went thin, the more glamorous cocktail dresses, the ultimate in the giddy fashion of the period had a shorter life; after all, the knock-out dress would be remembered and comment would soon be made if you wore it too often at that social occasion – and not just by Dame Maggie Smith. On display at Horsham Museum & Art Gallery’s new six month long exhibition are some stunning cocktail dresses, some which look modern today with their floral motifs and decoration highlighted with sparkle.
The exhibition focuses on the 1920s and enables visitors to see items that for conservation reasons are hardly ever put on display. Fashion and costumiers have a chance through their research to inspect the clothing to re-create that look that has won Downton plaudits. Now Horsham Museum & Art Gallery has made its collections available for the public to see – without making a request. It is a brilliant opportunity for all Downton fans and those of other 1920’s dramas.
The exhibition runs until May 2014.