Costume drama as TV frocks go on display in York

Heather Audin, curator at the York Quilt Museum
Heather Audin, curator at the York Quilt Museum
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THEY are some of TV’s most well-known characters and their wardrobes and pastimes often catch the eye of viewers.

Now some of the TV costumes from the nation’s favourite historical dramas both on TV and the big screen including Downton Abbey, Pride and Prejudice, Jayne Eyre, The Duchess and The Portrait of a Lady are set to go on display in York later this year. The exhibition will also showcase some of the quilting, appliqué and hand embroidery skills showcased by women from different walks of life.

Heather Audin with an 18th century quilted petticoat

Heather Audin with an 18th century quilted petticoat

It will take visitors on visual journey from the late eighteenth century starting with a polonaise style dress typical of the 1770s, looped up to show a quilted petticoat worn by the Duchess of Devonshire in the film The Duchess featuring Keira Knightley and finishing with a purple dress which epitomises the grandeur of the Edwardian period, worn by Maggie Smith in her role as the Dowager Countess of Grantham in Downton Abbey.

Heather Audin, curator at the Quilt Museum and Gallery says the public have always enjoyed a huge fascination with period dramas.

“Its probably a bit of escapism and a bit of nostalgia seeing how people used to live. They are great literary novels which are in themselves great stories,” she said.

Costumes worn by Jennifer Ehle, Nicole Kidman, Keira Knightley and Maggie Smith in some of our favourite historical TV dramas will be on display at The Quilt Museum and Gallery, in York, for three months this summer.

Visitors will also be able to see specially selected items from the museum’s heritage collection to complement these costumes giving a real flavour of life behind the scenes for some of TV’s most beloved characters including Elizabeth Bennet and Violet Grantham.

Spanning 1770 to 1925 the exhibition, which runs from May 16-August 30, includes a stunning quilted silk petticoat, a meticulously pieced mosaic patchwork coverlet made from a wide range of early printed cottons, and quilts and coverlets from all strata of society.

Mrs Audin says the exhibition aims to showcase the costumes worn by some of drama’s best-known characters and at the same time use items from the museum’s collections to show the kind of needlework and quilting they would have done at the time.

“It shows you what was in their houses at the time and what they would have been sat making in the evening because obviously sewing and patchwork was a lady’s pastime,” Mrs Audin said.

“This theme has allowed us to bring together a unique display of items from our heritage collection showing a rich variety of cotton prints, silks and linen in a myriad of quilting designs, appliqué and hand embroidery. By spanning such an expansive time period we can show how quilting and costume design evolved to reflect changing fashions and technological developments in printing and dyeing” said museum manager, Fiona Diaper.

Costumes which will also be included in the display include a cotton printed day dress with mustard coloured spencer jacket from BBC’s Pride and Prejudice, featuring Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth Bennet and a green cotton print maid’s dress and apron worn by characters including Anna, Ethel and Gwen in the first series of Downton Abbey.

Visitors to The Quilt Museum and Gallery, in York, will be able to purchase fabrics from the Downton Abbey exclusive collection from Andover Fabrics featuring designs chosen in collaboration with the award-winning Downton Abbey production team.