Over 20 dresses, gowns, and other clothing from The History Museum’s stellar historic clothing collection can be seen in the exhibit Clothing Copshaholm, on view in the 38-room Oliver Mansion July 9, 2016 through March 5, 2017. The historic garments are from the 1890s to the 1920s, reflecting the eras of Downton Abbey. Included is clothing worn by the Oliver family, who lived in the home they named Copshaholm from 1897 to 1972.
The articles of clothing are located in scenes throughout the 38-room mansion. On the stairway of the Main Hall stands a mannequin wearing the satin gown worn in 1918 by Ruth Ann Gowey on her wedding day. Nearby is the Navy dress uniform worn by the groom, Lt. William Dudley Bungert.
In the Library is the gold satin gown worn by Mary Stull Studebaker on the occasion of her 50th wedding anniversary. A silk dress worn by Gertrude Oliver, J.D. Oliver’s older daughter, shows the change that was taking place in women’s clothing in the early 1900s. The dress features a shorter hemline and Empire waist, which was very fashion-forward for the period. A cherry red velvet dress, seen in the Music Room, is another dress worn by Gertrude.
The Ballroom is arranged for a formal 1920s party and shows the early transition to the sleeker lines that would become fashionable in the 1930s. Seen here are a pink beaded gown with tulle accents and iridescent beads, a heavily sequined gown worn by Catherine Oliver, J.D. Oliver’s younger daughter, a sky blue silk organza worn by Lillian Lingle Studebaker, wife of J.M. Studebaker Jr., and a green organza dress worn by Lillian Bartlett Studebaker, wife of J.D. Studebaker III.
Tuxedos worn by men during the 1920s are also shown in the Ballroom scene. More men’s clothing can be found in Joseph Jr.’s Sitting Room, where a 1920s white linen suit worn by Dr. Robert Denham is on view, along with a circa 1900s men’s smoking jacket, which would have been used as loungewear for a man in the privacy of his home.
In the Morning Room are dresses that reflect the same traditional style that might have been worn by Downton Abbey’s Dowager Countess. Seen here is a circa 1905 dark green three-piece wood outfit with crochet and cording, and a silk gown by Donna Bell Eberhart.
The 1920s brought a craze of Asian-influenced designs, often observed on robes and jackets. In the Dressing Room is a silk embroidered kimono from Japan.
Outwear and undergarments, both necessary components of wardrobes, are part of the exhibit. On the Landing is a red velvet cloak, circa 1920, which was common for women of the period. In the Master Bedroom are pink silk undergarments worn by Catherine Oliver and a pink negligee worn by Gertrude Oliver, both in the 1920s.
The formality of servants’ clothing that is seen in Downton Abbey was part of local culture, to some extent. Butlers and footmen in the 1910s, for example, were often expected to wear attire such as the tuxedo and overcoat on view in the Servants Quarters.
The clothing of this outstanding exhibit provides a glimpse into the lifestyles of men and women, and is a masterful reminder of the significance of style and fashion in history.