With my love of history, my love of England and my love of drama (ha), it’s no surprise Downton Abbey is one of my all-time favorite shows. I couldn’t wait to watch each week, even going so far as to have my British friends send me episodes since it aired there months before it aired in the U.S.
And while I’m sad Downton Abbey is no longer airing new episodes, luckily there’s a pop-up exhibit in Midtown where fans of the show can still get their fix.
I love the front of the building, and how each window has a different character looking out from it. It almost makes you want to stand outside with a boombox over your head (playing classical music of course)!
I didn’t visit the exhibition on just any day. Instead I attended an exclusive soirée where guests were given the upstairs, VIP treatment. We were encouraged to dress in our best Downton Abbey attire, with many of the men wearing white or black tie and many of the women wearing their classiest 1920s dresses.
And the best part? We were served unlimited cocktails and Edwardian-inspired hors d’oeuvres by staff in period costumes who provided a level of service that would make Mr. Carson proud!
We began the evening in the lobby of the exhibit, sipping on Downton Abbey inspired cocktails amid life-size pictures of the cast.
I fit in well with the family.
And Greg, well…
The general manager, Suchan, welcomed us to the event.
And then it was time to enter the exhibition!
Just like in the show, the entire staff lined up to welcome us to Downton Abbey.
As we toured the characters continued to guide us via hologram.
The first floor of the exhibit replicates much of Downton Abbey’s downstairs, where the servants toiled. Visitors are given free reign to explore and immerse themselves.
My favorite part? Mrs. Patmore’s kitchen!
There are screens where you can apply for a job and answer fun questions to find out what career would be best for your skillset (or lack thereof…)
I got cook, which made me laugh. Clearly they’ve never sampled my cooking! I’ll just interpret this to mean I’m more suited for an upstairs role!
Speaking of upstairs, the exhibit continues with guests moving to the second floor to see how the other (read: richer) half lived.
Here you’ll find an entire section dedicated to quotes by the series’ wittiest character, the Dowager Countess.
There’s a theater where clips from the show are projected onto the walls around you, truly surrounding you in the Downton Abbey world.
And, of course, the upstairs wouldn’t be complete without a formal dining table!
The second and third floors of the exhibition have costumes from the show, which I loved seeing. I also found it interesting to see the sizes of the actors and actresses, but maybe that’s just me?
One of the things I enjoyed watching in Downton Abbey was the progression of fashion. When the show began in 1912 the characters were dressed in formal Edwardian styles, with the ladies in corsets and floor-length dresses. Then as the show moved into the 1920s the younger characters stopped wearing corsets and started wearing garments that displayed their shoes and even (gasp!) their legs.
For the upperclass during that time period, outfits could be changed up to seven times each day. They would don white-tie attire for dinner… Every. Single. Evening.
Can you imagine?!
And it wasn’t just dinner that had a dress code. There was a clothing protocol for every activity. Walking around in the garden, for example, required a wool suit with the right thickness and colors, topped with coordinated accessories. And this wasn’t written in a guidebook. Rather, it was just “understood,” making it incredibly difficult, if not impossible, for someone not raised in that class to blend in.
I have to say, I loved touring the exhibition with a glass of champagne in my hand! Every exhibit should be like that!
And, of course, the exhibition ended with a gift shop filled with clever Downton Abbey inspired gifts and trinkets.
Greg and I took home this fun souvenir photo…
…and these funny souvenir photos!
Here we are in the kitchen!
Here we are behind Mr. Carson’s desk!
Here we are in Mary’s bedroom! Scandalous!
And here we are where we belong, at dinner with the Lord and Ladies.
Downton Abbey: The Exhibition is a must for everyone who enjoyed the series. The exhibit really immerses you in that world and makes you feel as if you’re part of the show. It brought back all of my fond memories of Downton, and made me want to re-watch the episodes!
You can find out more information on Downton Abbey: The Exhibition, and get tickets, here.
And, of course, I need to end with my favorite Dowager Countess quote:
“Principles are like prayers: noble, of course, but awkward at a party.”