I am an unabashed fan of Downton Abbey, with its upstairs
and downstairs characters, sumptuous settings, period details
and constant cliffhangers. I especially enjoy the bons mots
from Maggie Smith, who plays the part of Violet, Dowager
Countess of Grantham. Of course, I am eagerly awaiting
the return of Downton Abbey, with the screening of
Season 4, starting on Sunday, January 5, 2014. I have even
circled that date on my Downton Abbey page-a-day 2014
I was very excited to read that costumes from the television
series may be coming to Toronto's own Spadina Museum.
According to the Toronto Star, Spadina Museum "could be
considered Toronto's Downton Abbey." You can visit Spadina
Museum with your family, for free, with Toronto Public
Library's Sun Life Financial Museum + Arts Pass program.
If you would like to look, now, at fashion illustrations dating
from the early period of Downton Abbey, you might enjoy
the free exhibition on at the TD Gallery at the Toronto
Reference Library. The exhibition, "The Gilded Age of
Fashion, 1890-1914," is on until January 4, 2014. It includes
an exquisite empire-waisted dress for Eliza Doolittle, from
the 2004 Shaw Festival production of George Bernard Shaw's
Pygmalion. There are some more lovely dresses, with
matching fans, on display just outside the exhibition, as well
as in the windows along Asquith Avenue. These stage costumes
for the Shaw Festival's 2013 production of Oscar Wilde's
Lady Windermere's Fan are from an era prior to Downton Abbey,
but the influence of these styles can still be seen in the dresses
of Violet, Dowager Countess of Grantham.
Julian Fellowes, the creator of Downton Abbey, is a friend
of the Carnarvon family, whose home is Highclere Castle
in England. When Julian Fellowes was writing the television
series, he had Highclere Castle in mind for the setting. Its
exterior, as well as its interior, has indeed been used for
filming the "upstairs" part of the story. The "downstairs"
part was filmed at a specially-constructed set at the oldest
continuously working film studio in the world, Ealing Studios
in West London. This posed continuity challenges since
Ealing Studios is some distance from Highclere Castle.
Over the holidays, you may even like to try some recipes
inspired by Downton Abbey's elegant meals, and treat
yourself and your guests as aristocrats. Best wishes for
happy holidays, and enjoy Season 4!