Fans of “Downton Abbey” can commune with costumes from the beloved six-season show that re-created an era of early-20th-century British aristocracy.
ANAHEIM, Calif. — One wonders what the Dowager Countess might have thought of Disneyland.
Worlds are colliding at Anaheim’s Muzeo Museum and Cultural Center — just down the street from the Magic Kingdom — where about 40 costumes from “Downton Abbey” are on display through May 7.
It’s the latest stop (and the only one on the West Coast) for a three-year national tour called “Dressing Downton,” and it provides an elegant reminder of a beloved show (its six-season run ended last year) where the drama was sometimes uneven but the fashion was always stellar. A visit can easily be combined with a trip to the Queen Mary; Anaheim is about an hour’s drive, via freeway, from Long Beach.
Attending on a quiet weekday early this month, my goddaughter and I immediately set about oohing and aahing over the instantly familiar outfits, arranged in chronological order of the show’s six seasons. Look — here’s Cora’s cream-and-black garden-show ensemble, with matching (and perfectly tilted) hat! There’s Mary’s Red Suit of Sadness, worn to the train station to bid Matthew goodbye! Edith’s smartly Art Nouveau-ish black-and-rust coat! Cora’s lavender velvet gown worn to Rose’s coronation, complete with plume! (Yes, we did a lot of gasping.)
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In case it isn’t immediately obvious — who am I kidding? — I’ll confess to having an encyclopedic knowledge of “Downton” costumes. (As the Dowager might say, a lady should always have a hobby.) So of course, I wished the exhibit were bigger (you can easily go through it all in less than an hour) and included a few more favorites — such as, perhaps, Mary’s first wedding gown, or Edith’s daring sequined gown worn to dinner at the Criterion, or Sybil’s scandalous evening trousers. And it was disappointing that the exhibit didn’t include more detail on whether the garments were vintage, existing rental costumes, or created exclusively for the show; the sort of detail costume nerds like myself crave.
But it was a treat to slip back into the “Downton Abbey” world; the mannequins, in many cases grouped as they would be in a scene from the show (some of the displays had blown-up photographs behind them, showing the cast wearing the garments), could have been having conversations about the war, or that pesky entail, or who on Earth Mary was going to marry. And I spent a long time staring at an elaborately beaded and appliquéd dangling belt, worn by Edith with a simple sunset-coral shift — it looked agreeably, faintly tarnished, as if it might have attended a few parties nearly a century ago. You’d never notice its detail on a TV screen, but it had a quiet story of its own.
IF YOU GO: Muzeo Museum and Cultural Center, 241 S. Anaheim Blvd., Anaheim; muzeo.org or 714-956-8936. Tickets for “Dressing Downton” are $20 (seniors/students $15, children $10). Through May 7; closed Mondays.