Elizabeth McGovern, the lady of the (fictional) House, shows us around a dazzling new exhibition at the Driehaus Museum.
Downton Abbey star Elizabeth McGovern literally breathed a sigh of relief when the show’s early 20th century wardrobe no longer involved corsets.
“That was a happy day,” says the Evanston-born actress, who weathered plenty of costume changes as Lady Cora Crawley, Countess of Grantham, during a half-dozen seasons on the period drama. The sixth and final installment debuts Jan. 3 on PBS.
“When women became more active in the ’20s, we started throwing away these fashion obsessions that were really crippling us,” McGovern adds. “But these days, we’ve embraced Jimmy Choo shoes, so there’s always something.”
The evolving outfits featured on the transatlantic hit TV series are the focus of a new exhibit, Dressing Downton: Changing Fashion for Changing Times, which will open Feb. 9 at the Richard H. Driehaus Museum. Housed in a restored Gilded Age mansion known as the Marble Palace, the decorative arts institution provides the perfect setting for the meticulous designs—36 costumes worn by both upstairs and downstairs denizens of the aristocratic Crawley family’s fictional English-country estate.
Produced by London’s renowned Cosprop costume house, the outfits—many made of vintage material—trace a tumultuous time in early 20th century Britain. Corsets, high collars and other hallmarks of the Edwardian era gave way to the stripped-down, militaristic style of World War I and the Roaring Twenties’ freewheeling flappers.
For the upcoming final season that kicks off in 1925, McGovern says, “you’ll see a lot of that straight up-and-down shape, some shorter hemlines.”
The daughter of a former Northwestern University law professor, McGovern lived in Evanston until age 9, when her family moved to Los Angeles. These days, home is England, where she’s looking forward to a post-Downton life that includes more time to write and record music with her band, Sadie and the Hotheads.
“I feel ready for it to end,” McGovern says about the beloved Emmy-winning series. “These characters have told their story. It’s the right time to stop.” Feb. 9-May 8, tickets $25, 40 E. Erie St., 312.482.8933