This winter and spring, Biltmore becomes the canvas for an exhibition of more than 40 costumes from the PBS Masterpiece series “Downton Abbey.” Opening February 5 and continuing through Memorial Day, May 25, “Dressing Downton: Changing Fashion for Changing Times” juxtaposes elements of the fictional TV series and the real lives of the Vanderbilts who lived at Biltmore during the same early 20th century era. Admission to the exhibition is included in the price of regular estate ticket purchases.
Themes explored include the evolution of fashion, nuances of etiquette, changing roles of women, and the life of service staff. Costumes on display will range from country tweeds, to servants’ uniforms, to lavish gowns and evening attire cut from fine fabrics and decorated with embroidery, lace and beading. The award-winning costumes, created by London costume house Cosprop Ltd., were designed with inspiration from photographs and historic patterns. Some are original pieces from the period, while others incorporate antique decorative elements that inspired the overall costume design.
Biltmore bears striking resemblance to the series’ setting at Highclere Castle, making it easy for visitors to blur storylines and experience for themselves a bit of life a hundred years ago. “The day-to-day running of Biltmore House was surprisingly similar to what’s depicted on ‘Downton Abbey,'” says Biltmore’s Director of Museum Services Ellen Rickman. “Just like Downton has Mr. Carson and Mrs. Hughes, Biltmore had its own cast of fascinating characters. Displaying these fabulous costumes from the show gives us an unparalleled opportunity to delve into Biltmore’s stories.”
“Dressing Downton: Changing Fashion for Changing Times” at Biltmore is presented by Belk.
Complementing the exhibition, visitors can take advantage of the following estate-wide special offerings:
New Biltmore historic audio and printed guides
New historic content is being featured on the Biltmore House audio guide and in the printed Estate and House Guide. New stories will be shared about George Vanderbilt, his wife Edith, their daughter Cornelia, and the servants who lived in the 250-room Biltmore House.
Behind-the-scenes guided “Upstairs – Downstairs Tour”
In this new 60-minute guided tour, descend the back stairs to explore servant life at Biltmore. Discover boilers in the sub-basement and other cutting-edge technologies that kept America’s largest home humming. Visit the domains of the butler, head housekeeper, and lady’s maid, and continue to a suite of guest rooms to learn about grand house parties hosted by the Vanderbilts.
Themed dining and a rooftop reception
Estate guests can enjoy a special English Sunday Brunch at Cedric’s Tavern. Look for early 20thcentury-themed cocktails on the estate’s restaurant menus and special sweets at The Bake Shop.
Select weekend evenings in April and May, book the “Rooftop Sparkling Wine Reception.” A guided behind-the-scenes rooftop tour will showcase unrestored areas of Biltmore House and provide stunning views of the estate from various balconies. Following the tour, enjoy passed canapes and Biltmore wines. Dates to be announced.
“Dressing Downton” hotel package | The Inn on Biltmore Estate
Feb. 5 – May 22
The Dressing Downton Package includes accommodations, chef’s breakfast buffet daily, Afternoon Tea in the Library Lounge, admission to Biltmore House valid for length of stay, audio guide to Biltmore House, Biltmore souvenir guidebook, valet parking at the Inn and complimentary estate shuttle service.