The Vanderbilt Costume Ball

On this day back on March 26, 1883 the grand and rather fancy Vanderbilt Costume Ball took place.  Prior to the ball, the social life of New York City was dominated by one woman … Mrs. Caroline Schermerhorn Astor.  At that time Mrs. Astor determined which members were allowed into the exclusive upper class society of New York.   Then, after the Civil War and the subsequent Industrial Revolution, many of the nouveau rich shipping and railroad owners accumulated fortunes that surpassed those of the previously established “old money” families.  A result of these changes in society, Mrs. Astor and her social secretary Ward McAllister created a list of four hundred people that were considered acceptable members of New York’s high society.

Cornelius Vanderbilt, an ambitious entrepreneur, was one the nouveau rich but he was considered too crass to be allowed into the exclusive “List of 400”.  His grandson who eventually oversaw the family railroad investments was William Vanderbilt married Alva Smith, the daughter of a Southern cotton merchant, on April 20, 1875 in New York City.  The prosperous Smith family had moved from Alabama to New York in 1857.  Then during the Civil War, the Smith family moved to England where Mr. Smith continued to run his business while Mrs. Smith and her daughters moved to Paris, France where Alva attended a private boarding school.  After the Civil War the family returned to New York and Alva eventually meet and married William Vanderbilt, they had three children.  (Interesting Fact:  Alva famously arranged the marriage of her only daughter, Consuelo, to Charles Spencer-Churchill the 9th Duke of Marlborough.  At that time, the Churchill ancestral home of Blenheim Palace was in dire need of repairs and it was the large inheritance of Consuelo that funded the restoration.  Sadly it was a loveless marriage and eventually Consuelo divorced Churchill and remarried)

It was during the period known as the Gilded Age of New York society, a name given because of the opulent lifestyle of the nouveau rich, in which William and Alva Vanderbilt decided to build their large mansion in New York City.  The “Petit Chateau” was built between 1878 and 1882; it was located on Fifth Avenue and took up the entire city block between 51st and 52nd Streets.  The socially ambitious Alva was determined to mark her mark on New York society and the architect, Richard Morris Hunt, was commissioned to create the French Renaissance inspired building.  Due to the fact that Alva had gone to boarding school in France, she had developed a passion for French architecture, design and decorations.  Alva collaborated with Hunt to design the three and a half story mansion in a blend of French Gothic style architecture with Beaux Art elements.  The intricate and asymmetrical façade of the building was built with gray Indiana limestone topped by a roof made of blue-gray slate tiles trimmed with copper.  The grand entrance to the home was located on Fifth Avenue, after entering into a vestibule visitors would precede into the 60 foot long Grand Hall featuring Caen stone accented with carved wood decorations.  All the rooms on the first floor were accessed from the Grand Hall, located on the right side of the Grand Hall was a massive Caen stone staircase leading to the second floor and to the left side was a large and elaborately carved fireplace.  The largest and most impressive of the house was the 50 by 35 feet two-story high Gothic-styled Banquet Hall featuring 7 foot high oak wainscoting topped with Caen stone walls.  A massive double fireplace intricately carved by Kart Bitter in oak with marble caryatids (sculpted female figures which serve as an architectural support) was located on one end of the room and on the opposite end there was an area known as the musician’s gallery, the room also featured large stained glass windows by Eugene Oudinot.  (Interest Fact: Years later, the Vanderbilt Mansion was sold to real-estate developer Benjamin Winter, Sr. in 1926 and it was demolished and replaced by a commercial building which currently occupies the location known as 666 Fifth Avenue)

Vanderbilt mansion

Alva Vanderbilt was very frustrated that, although she and her husband were among the richest members of the Gilded Age, they were not fully accepted into the exclusive New York high society ruled by the powerful Mrs. Astor, Alva had yet to be formerly recognized by Mrs. Astor.  Alva had children that she wished to see make successful marriages and she needed to do something drastic to break into the elite “List of 400”.  Inspired by the completion of the Vanderbilt mansion and hoping to gain social acceptance, Alva decided to hold a fancy Costume Ball as an official housewarming party.  This European type of entertainment of a fancy dressed ball were guests wore elaborate costumes based on a variety of historical characters had recently become very popular in the United States during the Gilded Age.  The story goes that to force Mrs. Astor to formally acknowledge the Vanderbilt family, Alva refused to send her an invitation.  Alva put on further pressure by inviting the journalists from the local New York papers to preview the house and the elaborate decorations but still the poor daughter of Mrs. Astor was still anxiously waiting to be invited to one of the biggest events of the season.  Per the current social customs of the time, Alva claimed that she could not extend the invitation due to the fact that Mrs. Astor had never called on the Vanderbilt home.  Eventually, Mrs. Astor had no choice but to relent and she dropped her formal calling card at the Vanderbilts, thereby officially recognizing them into New York society.  The very next day Mrs. Astor and her daughter received their invitation!

Alva Vanderbilt was very frustrated that, although she and her husband were among the richest members of the Gilded Age, they were not fully accepted into the exclusive New York high society ruled by the powerful Mrs. Astor, Alva had yet to be formerly recognized by Mrs. Astor.  Alva had children that she wished to see make successful marriages and she needed to do something drastic to break into the elite “List of 400”.  Inspired by the completion of the Vanderbilt mansion and hoping to gain social acceptance, Alva decided to hold a fancy Costume Ball as an official housewarming party.  This European type of entertainment of a fancy dressed ball were guests wore elaborate costumes based on a variety of historical characters had recently become very popular in the United States during the Gilded Age.  The story goes that to force Mrs. Astor to formally acknowledge the Vanderbilt family, Alva refused to send her an invitation.  Alva put on further pressure by inviting the journalists from the local New York papers to preview the house and the elaborate decorations but still the poor daughter of Mrs. Astor was still anxiously waiting to be invited to one of the biggest events of the season.  Per the current social customs of the time, Alva claimed that she could not extend the invitation due to the fact that Mrs. Astor had never called on the Vanderbilt home.  Eventually, Mrs. Astor had no choice but to relent and she dropped her formal calling card at the Vanderbilts, thereby officially recognizing them into New York society.  The very next day Mrs. Astor and her daughter received their invitation!

So, finally the night of March 26th arrived and everything was set for the Vanderbilt Costume Ball.  The guests had costumes custom-made or rented from the local New York stores or specially delivered from European designers.  The young ladies had rehearsed the intricate quadrilles for several weeks.  The party decorations had been carefully planned and the workers had spent several hours setting everything up in the Vanderbilt home.  An awning had been placed over the entrance on Fifth Avenue and the rooms on the first floor were decorated with gilded vases filled with a colorful variety of roses and greenery.  On the second floor a spacious room had been transformed into an indoor tropical garden decorated with potted palms, ferns, bougainvillea vines that soared to the height of the dome ceiling and also an abundance of orchids that seemed to be fill the space which was illuminated by strings of Japanese-style lanterns.

Vanderbilt Costume Ball 1Vanderbilt Costume Ball 2

Shortly before the official start of the party, numerous police officers were called to the residence to control the crowds of people gathered to catch a glimpse of the costumed guests which would be arriving in their grand carriages.  By eleven o’clock most of the guests had made their way into the Vanderbilt home and the festivities began with the serving of a sumptuous meal and beverages.  Then several quadrilles were to be performed that evening starting with the “Mother Goose quadrille, followed by the “Hobby Horse, then the “Opera Bouffe” and finally the “Dresden” quadrille.  All the performers wore costumes corresponding to the theme of their specific dance.

Thanks to the images taken by the Cuban-born photographer, Jose Mora, which are held by the Museum of the City of New York, his vast portrait collection shows us what the costumed guests of the Vanderbilt Ball wore on that special night back in 1883.  In 1870 Mora had opened his own studio and quickly became the preferred photographer of the elite upper class of New York City.  His elaborate props and beautiful backdrops by painter Lafayette Seavey provided the perfect setting for Mora’s wonderful photographs that captured the fancy dressed parties of the Gilded Age.  (Interesting Fact:  In 1893, Mora without any explanation closed his studio.  For the next 30 years, Mora had seemingly disappeared and it wasn’t until 1911 that he was found living a life of poverty as a recluse in a local hotel.  Strangely when he died a few months later, after being declared incompetent and confined to a hospital, his bank account had $200,000)

The first of Mora photographs shown below is of Mrs. Alva Vanderbilt, the hostess of the party.  She is dressed in the costume of a Venetian Princess and the white and yellow brocade dress had a square neckline features embroidered flowers and leaves accented with gold, white and iridescent beads, the full long sleeves of the dress were made of transparent gold fabric, while the light blue satin train lined with red fabric was trimmed with golden embroidery was gathered to one side and at the waist there was a sash of blue satin also embellished with golden embroidery.  On her head, Alva wore a Venetian-style cap covered with beautiful jewels with a large center piece resembling a peacock decorated with more colorful jewels.  Not seen is Mr. William K. Vanderbilt, the host of the party.  Mr. Vanderbilt was dressed as the Duke de Guise and he is wore yellow silk tights with yellow and black trunks, a yellow doublet and a black velvet cloak embroidered in gold thread with the Order of St. Michael medal pinned on the front.  To complete the costume he wore a white wig and black velvet shoes with gold buckles. 

Mrs. Alva Vanderbilt

The next photograph shows Mrs. Alice Vanderbilt, the wife of Cornelius Vanderbilt, dressed as the “Electric Light”, at the time Edison’s invention of the light bulb had recently been developed.  The magnificent dress was designed by Charles Worth and was made a gold satin with a dark blue velvet underskirt, a bustle was formed in the back of the dress.  The entire dress was accented with golden thread embroidery and gold beading used to create lightning bolts and starburst shapes.  The dress was also featured shoulder embellishments of gold metallic tinsel and beaded tassels with golden fringe at the neckline and golden tulle attached at the shoulders that flowed down the back of the dress.  The dress cleverly featured hidden batteries so that Alice would be able to switch on to light up the dress like an electric light bulb.  (For more information on Charles Worth and the House of Worth, please click on the link)  Also shown in the photograph is Mr. Cornelius Vanderbilt, the brother of the host, dressed as King Louis XVI, his jacket is trimmed with real silver lace, he wears a shirt with a jabot and lace ruffles and his pants are made of ivory brocade embellished with silver trim.

Mr. and Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt II

Elizabeth Taylor’s Personal Jewelry Collection

In honor of Elizabeth Taylor’ birthday (born: February 27, 1932 died: March 23, 2011), in this post I will feature ten pieces from her personal jewelry collection which were sold after her death at an auction that raised approximately $115 million to benefit her AIDS foundation, ETAF.  Some of the pieces sold at the Christie’s auction in 2011 have some interesting stories, such as the Cartier Ruby and Diamond Necklace that was presented to Elizabeth by her third husband Mike Todd while she was swimming in the pool on vacation in the French Rivera.  Other pieces have historical significance, such as the La Peregrina Pearl which was once owned by Queen Mary I of England or the “Prince of Wales” brooch which was originally owned by Wallis Simpson the wife of the Duke of Windsor.  Perhaps one of the most stunning pieces was the Krupp Diamond Ring which sold at the auction for over $8 million and subsequently renamed the “Elizabeth Taylor Diamond”.  Special Note: The diamond necklace with the “Taylor/Burton” diamond mentioned in the list had previously sold in 1978 after she divorced Richard Burton)

Ten pieces of jewelry from the personal collection of Elizabeth Taylor:

1.  Cartier Ruby and Diamond Necklace

The Cartier Ruby and Diamond Necklace was a gift from Mike Todd, Elizabeth’s third husband.  The necklace featured seven oval rubies with round and baguette diamonds forming a lattice framework and finished with a ruby and diamond clasp.  In August 1957, while Mike Todd and Elizabeth were on vacation near Monte Carlo, they were swimming in the pool and relaxing and he suddenly surprised her with the stunning necklace.  Being Elizabeth, she quickly put on the necklace, along with the matching bracelet and earrings, and then returned to swimming wearing all the jewels!

Cartier Ruby necklace  Cartier ruby necklace 2

2.  Bulgari Emerald and Diamond Pendant Brooch and Necklace

On the occasion of their engagement, Richard Burton gifted Elizabeth with the Bulgari Brooch.  The brooch features an 18 carat rectangular-cut emerald surrounded by pear-shaped diamonds set in platinum.  Elizabeth wore the emerald brooch on March 15, 1964 when she and Burton were married the first time.  

The emerald and diamond necklace features sixteen graduated rectangular-cut emeralds surrounded by round diamond clusters and in between are pear-shaped and round diamonds forming a quatrefoil shape and the entire necklace is set in platinum.  Later, Elizabeth would frequently attach the brooch to the necklace as a pendant.

Bulgari Emerald Necklace
Bulgari Emerald brooch worn at wedding to RIchard Burton  Bulgari Emerald Necklace 1

3.  “Night of the Iguana” Brooch

The “Night of the Iguana” Brooch by Jean Schulumberger of Tiffany & Co. was purchased in 1964 by Richard Burton.  The reason for the name is that Elizabeth accompanied Burton to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico while he was filming the John Huston movie, “Night of the Iguana”.  The couple had such a fabulous time that to commemorate the film’s premiere Burton gave her the brooch as a special gift (hence the name!)  The design of the brooch is actually a dolphin with diamond and gold scales, the head features cabochon sapphire eye and an emerald mouth all set in platinum and gold.      

Night of the Iguana brooch  Night of the Iguana brooch 1

4.  Krupp Diamond

The large 33.19 carat diamond was previously owned by Vera Krupp, her family were German industrialists.  The type IIa-rated diamond (the most pure and flawless grade of diamonds) is cut in a deep emerald-style, sometimes referred to as an Asscher-cut indicating a style frequently cut prior to the 1920s.  When the diamond came up for auction by the Krupp estate in 1968 Burton paid a reported $305,000.  Elizabeth wore the Krupp Diamond ring frequently referring to it as her favorite piece of jewelry.  After Elizabeth’s death, the Krupp diamond was sold at auction for over $8 million and it has since been renamed the “Elizabeth Taylor Diamond”.

Krupp Diamond Krupp Diamond 1

5.  “Taylor / Burton” Diamond Necklace

The original rough 241 carat diamond was found in a South African mine in 1966.  Harry Winston bought the rough diamond and had it cut into a 69.42 carat pear shape and set into a platinum ring with two smaller diamonds on either side for Mrs. Harriet Ames, the sister of Walter Annenberg.  She sold the diamond ring in 1969 to Cartier Jewelers and the diamond was remained the “Cartier Diamond”.  Subsequently Cartier put it up for auction and it was bought for over $1 million by Richard Burton in 1969.  Elizabeth felt the ring was too heavy and had it redesigned into a necklace, she commissioned Cartier to create an $80,000 diamond necklace made of several graduated pear-shaped diamonds as a setting for the larger diamond now hung as a pendant.  Elizabeth wore the newly designed necklace for the first time at Princess Grace of Monaco’s fortieth birthday party held in Monte Carlo and then later to the Academy Awards in 1970.

After her second divorce from Burton in 1978 (yes, Elizabeth married him twice!) she sold the diamond to Henry Lambert, a New York jewelry and it was subsequently sold in December 1979 to Robert Mouawad of Mouawad jewelers and it is now known as the “Taylor-Burton” necklace.

Taylor Burton Diamond necklace  Taylor Burton diamond necklace 1

6.  La Peregrina Pearl / Cartier Diamond, Pearl and Ruby Necklace

The La Peregrina Pearl has a long history.  It was first discovered in the Gulf of Mexico and presented to the King Phillip II of Spain who in turn offered it as a wedding present when Mary Queen of Scots married.  After her death, the pearl was returned to Spain, many of the Queens of Spain can be seen wearing the La Peregrina Pearl in their official portraits.  Later, the pearl became the procession of the Bonaparte family of France but by the end of the 19th century there is no documentation to show what happened to the La Peregrina Pearl.

A century later, the La Peregrina Pearl was purchased from the Parke-Bernet Gallery in New York City by Richard Burton in 1969 for $37,000.  The pearl was on a gold chain but this was too simple for the taste of Elizabeth.  She commissioned Cartier to create a more elaborate necklace inspired by a portrait she had seen of Mary Queen of Scots wearing the La Peregrina Pearl.  Elizabeth collaborated with Al Durante of Cartier and they designed a necklace featuring two rows of pearls, twenty-three larger pearls and thirty-four larger pearls, intersected with eight separate clusters of diamonds centered by a cushion-cut ruby style to resemble flames all set in platinum and gold.  In the center of the necklace is the La Peregrina Pearl hangs from a diamond and silver bail which is attached to a large cluster of diamonds centered by a pear-shaped ruby which is attached to a large pearl and then another pear-shaped ruby and then finally attached to the necklace.  The La Pergrina Pearl Pendant can also be detached and worn as a brooch. 

After Elizabeth’s death, the La Peregrina Pearl Necklace sold for over $11 million at the Christie’s auction.            

La Peregina pearl necklace 2  La Peregina pearl necklace 1

7.  Bulgari Sapphire and Diamond Sautoir

Throughout their marriage Burton bought several Bulgari pieces of jewelry and in 1969 he gave Elizabeth a diamond and sapphire sautoir.  (a sautoir is a long necklace set with precious stones usually with a hanging pendant that can be worn either shortened or full length)  The necklace is a chain of pave-set diamonds and calibre-cut sapphire geometric-shaped links all set in platinum with a large pave-set diamond octagonal-shaped pendant with more caliber-cut sapphires and pave-set diamonds with a 50 carat cabochon sapphire in the center also set in platinum.  The pendant with the large sapphire can be detached from the necklace and worn separately as a brooch.     

Bulgari Sapphire Sautoir 2  Bulgari Sapphire Sautoir 1

8.   Taj Mahal Diamond Pendant and Cartier Gold and Ruby Chain

Richard gave her the Taj Mahal Diamond with a Cartier Gold and Ruby Chain to Elizabeth in 1972 on the occasion of her 40th birthday.  The large engraved heart shaped diamond is surrounded by a red stone and jade mount which is hung from a woven gold chain embellished with cabochon rubies. 

This unique piece of jewelry has a very interesting past and dates back to the 1600s.  The engraving on the diamond reads: Nur Jahan Baygume Padshah, 23 and 1037.  It means that Nur Jahan was the favored wife of Padshah and 23 refers to the year of the Shah Jahangir reign and 1037 which translates to the date 1627 A.D.  Later the pendant was given to the Shah’s son, Prince Khurram, who later became Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan after the death of his father.  He in turn presented the pendant as a gift to his most beloved wife, Mumtaz-I-Mahal but she unfortunately died in 1631.  The Shah was so overcome with grief that he commissioned a large ornate mausoleum in her honor and it became known as the famous Taj Mahal located in India.

In 2011, at the auction of Elizabeth Taylor’s jewelry collection, the Taj Mahal Diamond Pendant and Cartier Gold and Ruby Chain sold for $8,818,500.    

  Taj Mahal necklace  Taj Mahal necklace 1

9.  “Prince of Wales” Brooch

Elizabeth and Richard Burton were friends of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor and often visited them when they were in France.  The Duke had formerly been the Prince of Wales before he briefly became King Edward VIII but then abdicated the throne in 1936 for the “women that he loved, Wallis Simpson.  The “Prince of Wales” Brooch was commissioned by Edward especially for Wallis.  The brooch design depicts the symbol of the Prince of Wales with three pave-set diamond feathers accented with baguette-cut diamonds which are gathered together by a crown, the piece is set in platinum and 18k gold.

Although Elizabeth was born in a suburb of London, England, Richard Burton was born in Wales.  Maybe given this fact or perhaps because she felt that their love story was so  similar to that of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, every time she would visit them she would always tell the Duchess how much she like her Prince of Wales Brooch.  Then, in 1987 after the death of the Duchess her jewelry collection was auctioned by Sotheby with the proceeds going to the Pasteur Institute which was a leader in AIDS research.  Elizabeth knew she had to bid on the brooch and money was no object.  Ultimately, Elizabeth’s final bid was the highest (over $623,000) and she got the brooch, the first piece of jewelry she had ever bought for herself!

After Elizabeth’s death, the Prince of Wales Brooch sold for $1,314,500 at the Christie’s auction.        

Prince of Wales feather broochPrince of Wales feather brooch - Wallis  Prince of Wales feather brooch - Elizabeth

10.  Van Cleef & Arpels Daisy Necklace and Earrings set

In preparation for receiving the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian at the Academy Awards in 1993, Elizabeth borrowed a stunning Van Cleef & Arpels daisy necklace and earrings to wear with her beautiful yellow Valentino dress.  She loved the necklace and earring set so much that she later purchased it as her good luck charm.

The necklace was a series of graduated pave-set diamond daises each accented with a round yellow in the center, the daises were joined together by caliber-cut chrysoprase leaves accented with more diamonds which were all set in 18k gold.  The daisy earrings complimented the necklace perfectly and Elizabeth also purchased the matching brooch.      

Daisy necklace 2 Daisy necklace 1

Presidential Funerals

During the month of February we celebrate President’s Day and I thought I would take the opportunity to talk about Presidential Funerals.  In recent years, a sitting president (meaning a current president still in office) will start to plan his funeral.  I know it sounds a little morbid for a person to plan their funeral when they are still living, but in the case of a State funeral held in the nation’s capital advance planning is needed to coordinate the many details involved such as the lying in state, the funeral procession and service, followed by the interment or burial. 

So, let’s start by discussing the funeral of the first President of the United States, George Washington, and then move forward to more recent time.

When George Washington died in 1799 at his home at Mount Vernon, Virginia and it had only been two years since he had voluntarily left the office of President of the United States.  Four days after his death his immediate family held a funeral at a church near Mount Vernon with traditional Masonic funeral rites and he was interred in a vault located a short distance away closer to the Potomac River.  Since news traveled very slowly, by the time the people in Philadelphia (the U.S. Capital at that time) heard that Washington had died Congress immediately called for December 26 to be a day of official mourning.  That day started with a sixteen cannon salute, followed by a procession of the members of Congress, military units and others to the Zion Lutheran Church for a memorial service.  Initially Congress had requested that Washington remains be moved to the new national capital being built, which was renamed Washington, D.C. in his honor, and although the family this request Washington remains stayed at Mt. Vernon.  (Shown below in the first photo is the Washington procession in Philadelphia, the next photo shows the Washington grave site at Mt. Vernon. For more visitor information about planning a trip to Mount Vernon or information on the history of the Washington Monument and how it came to be built in Washington D.C. please click on the links)

Washington funeral 1a Washington gravesite today

As the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence was being planned two of the original founding fathers were on their deathbeds; John Adams in Quincy, Massachusetts and Thomas Jefferson at Monticello in Virginia.  After a falling out in their relationship over opposing political views, the two former Presidents of the United States had near the end of their lives renewed their friendship and correspondence.  On July 4, 1826, each knew the other was seriously ill and Jefferson died earlier in the day and then Adams just five hours later.  Per Jefferson’s request a small service was held the day after his death in Charlottesville, Virginia with a private burial at Monticello attended by only his immediate family and close friends; a granite obelisk marks the gravesite with a simple inscription according to Jefferson wishes.  (The two photos below show the Jefferson gravesite at Monticello.  For more information about Jefferson’s Monticello estate, please click on the link) 

Thomas-Jeffersons-grave  Thomas-Jeffersons-grave. 2

The funeral of Adams started with the firing of ceremonial cannons, a procession including the Governor of Massachusetts and other prominent political men, followed by a funeral service held at a church attended by over 4,000 people before Adams was interred in Hancock Cemetery.  Years later, a basement crypt was built in the basement of the United First Parish Church across from the cemetery and is the final resting place of John and Abigail Adams.  (Shown below are two photos of the grave site of Adams)  

John Adams gravesite at United First Parish Church in Quincy Massachusetts  John Adams gravesite at United First Parish Church in Quincy Massachusetts 1a

The first president to die while still in office was William Harrison on April 4, 1841.  President Harrison is known to have given the longest inaugural speech and to have served the shortest term as president, it was only 30 days.  It has been said that his two hour speech in the cold and wet weather led to his illness and subsequent death from pneumonia.  At the time of Harrison’s death there was still not a regulated procedure for dealing with the funerals of the presidents so the White House was draped in black and a religious service by invitation only that was held in the East Room, it was the first State funeral.  Later there was another service held back in Cincinnati, Ohio and Harrison was interred at the Congressional Cemetery in Washington, D.C. but then he was re-interred in North Bend, Ohio.

When Abraham Lincoln was assassinated on April 14, 1865, the news spread quickly throughout the country due to the telegraph system of communication and it was the first time there was an official national mourning period.  Lincoln’s body lay in state for several days with an honor guard keeping watch day and night while the general public was allowed to pay their respects.  In the East Room a special catafalque was built for the casket which was set on a raised platform with a canopy overhead supported by four pillars and covered with black cloth lined with white silk.  (Shown below is Lincoln’s catafalque in the East Room of the White House)

Lincoln funeral - East Room 2

A brief service was held in the Green Room on April 19 and then a funeral procession made its way from the White House slowly down Pennsylvania Ave. to the U.S. Capitol in a specially built hearse carriage drawn by a team of six gray horses.  Lincoln lay in state in the Capitol Rotunda until April 20 and on the morning of April 21 a final prayer service was held with Lincoln’s cabinet in attendance and afterwards the hearse carriage made its way to the train station, it moved slowly through the streets of Washington, D.C.  Once at the railway station Lincoln’s casket was loaded onto a special funeral train for a long journey to Springfield, Illinois.  The train would make the 1,700 mile journey through 7 states stopping in several major cities along the route, including New York, Indianapolis and Chicago.  This was the first time that a train was used to transfer a president’s casket for burial in another state.  With every stop there would be a funeral service before finally reaching Springfield 19 days later where he was finally interred at Oak Ridge Cemetery.  The Lincoln tomb features a 117 foot tall obelisk, a terrace and elaborate bronze statues at the base; Lincoln is actually buried in a cement vault 10 feet below the floor.  Special Note:  Mary Todd Lincoln, the president’s wife, remained in Washington D.C. at the White House because she was too distraught to make the trip for the burial and she returned to their Springfield home about a month later.  (Shown below in the first photo is the carriage which carried the body of Lincoln from the White House to the U.S. Capitol, the second photo shows the funeral train which carried Lincoln’s body back to Springfield and the final photo shows the train’s route across the country from Washington, D.C. to Springfield, Illinois)

Lincoln funeral - carriage White House to Capital
Lincoln funeral - train 1 crop  Lincoln funeral route

The photos below show the exterior and interior of the Lincoln Tomb in Springfield, IL. For more information on Lincoln’s Springfield home and the Lincoln Tomb, please click on the link.

Licoln's Tomb exterior  

Special Historical Fact:  Several years after the death of President Lincoln a historian was looking through photos of the funeral procession when it had passed through New York City on April 25, 1865.  In a strange coincidence, shown in the photo are a very young Teddy Roosevelt, the future President of the United States, and his brother Elliot in the window of the home of their grandfather, Cornelius Roosevelt, which was located on Broadway.  (Shown below in the upper left portion of the photo Teddy and Elliot Roosevelt can be seen in the window of the building)

Teddy Roosevelt watching Lincoln fneral procession in New York CityWhen Franklin Roosevelt, a distant cousin of Teddy Roosevelt, died on April 12, 1945 in Warm Springs, Georgia it had been only six weeks since his inauguration for an unprecedented fourth term.  Since World War II was still being fought overseas it was determined that the funeral plans should be subdued.  Franklin’s body was transferred by train to Washington, D.C. arriving on April 14 where it was set onto a caisson with a military guard as it traveled from Union Station to the White House where the casket was set on a catafalque in the East Room.  A private funeral service was held at the White House which was attended by immediate family, friends, members of Congress and other foreign dignitaries while flags were lowered at half-staff at both the White House and the Capitol.  Roosevelt’s casket was reloaded on to the caisson to be taken back to Union Station to travel to Hyde Park, New York for burial at the Roosevelt Estate, Springwood.  (Shown below are two photos of the funeral of FDR at Springwood in Hyde Park, NY.  For more information on the FDR National Historic Park which was Roosevelt’s childhood home and his final resting place, please click on the link)

FDR - funeral 1  FDR - funeral 2

John Kennedy was the most recent president to die while in office when he was assassinated on November 22, 1963 in Dallas, Texas.  Perhaps one of the most tragic passing of a president due to the fact that the country was witness to the event as it was broadcast on national television.  The body of Kennedy was transferred from Texas to Washington, D.C. aboard the presidential plane, Air Force One.  Jacqueline Kennedy, the president’s widow, sent instructions to the White House staff to begin preparations for a state funeral with many elements similar to Lincoln’s funeral which happened almost a century earlier, extensive research was done so as not to miss any details.  The East Room at the White House was draped in black material and a private service was held for the immediate family.

JFK funeral - White House interior draped in black  JFK funeral - White House interior draped in black 1

JFK funeral - White House interior draped in black 2JFK - East room 1Then, two days later the flag-draped coffin was loaded on a horse-drawn caisson, the same one used for FDR, and taken from the White House as rows of soldiers lined the driveway with the flags from the 50 states.  The procession continued down Pennsylvania Ave to the U.S. Capitol accompanied by the sound of muffled drums were Kennedy lay in state for several days in the Rotunda while several thousands of people lined up for the public viewing while a military honor guard stood watch, because of the amount of people waiting the time of the viewing extended well into the night.  Meanwhile, state and foreign dignitaries started to gather in Washington, D.C. for the funeral created major security problems for law enforcement officials.

The State Funeral for President Kennedy was held on November 25 and the day started with a procession from the U.S. Capitol back to the White House and then on to St. Matthew Catholic Church and a final burial at Arlington National Cemetery.  Approximately one million people lined the route and the entire nation watched the entire funeral broadcast on television.  (The assassination of President Kennedy is one of those moments in time that people of my generation will remember exactly where they were when they heard the news and who can forget the quiet dignity of Mrs. Kennedy, the young widow, holding the hand of her young daughter, Caroline or image of “John-John” saluting his father’s casket.)  

JFK - funeral

Presidential Funerals Traditions and Customs

Flag at half-staff –

At the death of the president an executive order is given to lower the United States flag to half-staff on all federal government buildings and offices, military bases and public schools as a sign of honor and respect, any other flags flying over the same buildings will also be lowered to half-staff.  The order usually indicates that the flags remain at half-staff for a period of thirty days.  The sitting president can also issue an executive order for all federal departments and their buildings to be closed on a national day of mourning for a state funeral.    

Ford funeral - flag at half mast

Lay in state –

President Abraham Lincoln was the first president lay in state in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda, since that time there have been 11 presidents accorded the same privilege.  A president who dies while in office customarily lies in repose in the East Room of the White House and then is moved in a solemn procession to the U.S. Capitol.  A former president can also lay in state at their home or, if one has been built, their presidential library before being given the optional honor of being moved to Washington, D.C. where they lay in lay in the Capitol rotunda.

Once the body of the president has arrived at the Capitol Rotunda the casket is placed on top of the Lincoln catafalque for a special memorial service attended by the president’s family, the members of the U.S. Congress and other dignitaries, floral wreaths are set near the catafalque in honor the deceased.  Soldiers comprised of each branch of the U.S. Armed Forces will stand guard while the room is then open to the general public for viewing.

Ford funeral - US Capitol

Special Note:  The Lincoln catafalque is the same one used in 1865 to hold the casket of Abraham Lincoln and since that time it has been used for anyone that is lies in state in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda.  When not in use, the catafalque is stored in a special vaulted chamber located at the Capitol Visitor Center as shown in the photo below.

Lincoln catafalque in the Washington'sTomb at the US Capitol

Funeral processions –

For a presidential state funeral a procession travels down either Pennsylvania or Constitution Avenue from the White House to the U.S. Capitol.  The flag draped casket is placed onto a military caisson pulled by a matching set of six horses accompanied by three riders with eight military soldiers marching alongside (four on each side) of the caisson.  For a funeral procession of a president who dies while in office, the casket/caisson will leave from the North Portico of the White House and proceed down Pennsylvania Ave. to the U.S. Capitol while a former president’s casket will be transferred from a hearse meet near the South Lawn of the White House, placed onto the caisson and then will proceed down Constitution Ave. 

In general, in front of the presidential casket and caisson in the funeral procession are usually three military units with members representing the five branches of the U.S. Armed Forces, accompanying each unit is a military band and a color guard.  Following the casket/caisson is a riderless horse and then a motorcade consisting of the deceased president’s family, government officials and foreign dignitaries.  Then, as the procession nears the halfway point between the White House and the U.S. Capitol there is a military flyover consisting of 21 aircraft from the U.S. Air Force.  The aircraft fly in formation and the third aircraft in the final unit will perform a maneuver known as the “missing man” by briefly veering away from the formation as a sign of honor and respect for the deceased president.  Upon reaching the U.S. Capitol, the funeral procession will traditionally stop at the east front of the building.  Special Note:  One exception to this custom was for Ronald Reagan who had requested that his casket be brought into the west front of the Capitol because this side of the building faces his beloved California where he had previously served as the Governor.   

Caisson –

As previously mentioned, in a state funeral procession of a president sometimes the casket is placed on a caisson.  A caisson is a two wheel horse drawn wagon which was originally used to transport ammunition during military battles, the caisson used in presidential funeral procession was built in 1918 to carry a 75mm cannon.  The caisson is attached to a limber which is a separate two-wheel horse drawn wagon; the original purpose of a limber was for moving two-wheel canons into position on a battlefield for firing at enemy targets. (Shown below is the caisson used at the funeral of John Kennedy)

JFK Funeral Procession

Riderless horse –

A riderless horse in a presidential funeral procession usually follows the casket/caisson and it is a distinct honor for U.S. presidents, it is also given to high ranking military officers of the U.S. Army or Marines.  A single military guard will lead the horse with a pair of riding boots customarily reversed in the stirrups; this is traditionally a symbol of a fallen soldier who will never ride again.  This custom was first used in 1799 for the funeral procession for George Washington which took place in Philadelphia, PA; Washington’s boots, saddle, holsters and pistols were also used.  In 1865 for the funeral procession of Abraham Lincoln in Springfield, IL a horse named “Old Bob” draped with a black mourning blanket with fringe.  For the funeral procession of John Kennedy in 1963 a horse named “Black Jack” was used, the famous horse was one of the last military horses to be branded with the Army’s US brand and he was also used for the state funerals of Presidents Herbert Hoover and Lyndon Johnson.  In 2004 for the funeral procession of Ronald Reagan a horse named “Sergeant York” was used along with personal saddle and riding boots of the former president reversed in the stirrups; a ceremonial sword was also attached to the saddle.  (The first photo shown below is the riderless horse used at Lincoln’s funeral, the second photo on the left is the horse used at Kennedy’s funeral and the third photo on the right is the horse used at Reagan’s funeral)      

riderless horse - Lincoln funeral 1 crop

riderless horse - JFK funeral - Black Jack 1  TF EAGLE EYE

Funeral service –

In general, a presidential funeral service is traditionally held at the Washington National Cathedral in Washington, D.C but this decision is up to the president as determined per his request or his family.  In the case of the only Catholic president to date, John Kennedy, the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle was selected.  Invited to the service are the president’s family and friends as well as former presidents and members of congress, various federal and state politicians and foreign heads of state and other dignitaries.  The president’s immediate family is seated in the first rows and then other seating is determined by protocol with federal government officials and then foreign heads of state usually seated in alphabetical order to avoid any pleasantries.  When the National Cathedral being used the president’s extended family sit on the south transept and military officers to the north. (Shown in the photo below is the funeral service for Ronald Reagan held at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. in 2004)

Immediately after the service, the casket is transported to the final resting place for burial.  Unlike Lincoln’s long drawn out journey by train from Washington D.C. to Springfield, IL which took 19 days, with modern and fast transportation by an airplane departing from Andrews Naval Base the burial can normally be done within the same day. The plane is usually meet at its destination with honor guards, a military band and a 21 gun salute as the casket is taken from the plane and put into a waiting hearse to be taken to the burial site.

Military honors –

Given the fact that the U.S. President of the United States is the Commander in Chief of the U.S. Armed Forces he is accorded full military honors.  During the service at the burial site there traditionally will be a 21 gun salute which is performed by seven military honor guards and they will fire their rifles simultaneously three times.  Another honor performed at the burial site during the interment will be a bugle call, traditionally known as Taps, played by a member of the United States Marine Band who is located a short distance away.  Another military honor is the aircraft flyby done by the United States Air Force for a final time with the missing man formation similar to the one performed during the funeral procession in Washington D.C.  (Shown below is the bugler from the Kennedy burial service at Arlington National Cemetery in 1963)

JFK funeral - bugler

One final honor at a presidential funeral is the folding of the flag of the United States and the presentation to the president’s spouse.  At the completion of the service at the grave site, the flag draped over the casket is ceremoniously folded twelve times by a military honor guard of eight soldiers, four stationed on each side of the casket.  The folded flag, now in the shape of a triangle is solemnly presented.  (Shown below in the photos are on the left the flag folding ceremony at John Kennedy’s grave site service and on the left is the flag presentation to Jaqueline Kennedy)   

  JFK funeral - flag folding Mrs Kennedy 1                 

Downton Abbey Fashions – Part Two

As previously mentioned in Part One of the Fashions of Downton Abbey two part series, the clothing worn by the characters of the television series tell the story and set the mood as much as Highcere Castle and the stage sets at Ealing Studios.  In Part One, I discussed the fashions of the six seasons of Downton Abbey including day and evening dresses as well as the accessories of the aristocratic Crawley family.  In Part Two, I will discuss the wedding dresses worn by the Crawley sisters at both their first and second weddings as highlighted in seasons three and six.  I will also discuss the wedding outfits of several of the servants of Downtown Abbey.

As season one and two unfolds Lady Sybil, the youngest Crawley daughter, and Tom Branson share a growing attraction to one another and the couple plans to secretly run away to Gretna Green to elope but they are found by Lady Mary and Lady Edith before the marriage takes place (season two episode 7).  Lord Grantham threatens to disinherit Lady Sybil, but eventually he gives his blessing and the couple is married and move to Ireland as season two comes to an end.  Unfortunately for viewers, the wedding takes place off camera and denied seeing Lady Sybil in her wedding dress.  (Shown below are Lady Sybil and Tom Branson)

Sybil and Tom Branston 1

In season two episode 5, William had returned from World War I severely injured and he is brought back to Downton.  William asks Daisy to marry him before he dies, this will provide her with hid pension.  Daisy is torn, because she is not truly in love with William but Mr. Mason, William’s father, and Mrs. Patmore, the cook, convince her to do this for William.  The wedding takes place in one of the upstairs bedrooms by the local vicar and the bed is decorated with floral swags and Daisy is wearing her best dress for the ceremony with her hair arranged in a pretty style.  Sadly, William dies a few hours later.  (Shown below is a two photos of the wedding ceremony, the one on the left shows a close-up photo of Daisy’s hairstyle)

Daisy wedding 1  Daisy and William wedding

There is another wedding that involves two of the Downton servants, Mr. Bates and Anna, which takes place during season two in episode 7 Mr. Bates is the personal valet to the Earl of Grantham and Anna is Lady Mary’s maid, the couple falls in love and after several troublesome obstacles they finally get married and the viewers are allowed a quick glimpse of the wedding ceremony but there is no wedding reception.  As Anna herself says, “I’d rather have the right man than the right wedding”.  As was customary for her station in society, for the ceremony at the registry office Anna wears her best outfit which is a starched white blouse, blue skirt, black hat and she carries a bouquet of wildflowers.  (Shown below are two photos of Mr. Bates and Anna on their wedding day)

Mr. Bates and Anna wedding 1a  Mr. Bates and Anna wedding 2

Then, during season three of the Downton Abbey television show there was the weddings of the two remaining Crawley sisters.  The first was the much anticipated wedding of Lady Mary to Matthew Crawley as shown in episode one to start the season.  The wedding ceremony took place at St. Michael and All Angels Church, the local church in the Downton.  Lady Mary’s wedding gown was in fitting with the time period, the third season is set between the years 1920 to 1921, and was custom made under the direction of the Downton Abbey television show’s costume designer, Caroline McCall.  Lady Mary’s gown is an ivory column dress with a dropped waistline, long sheer sleeves and a chapel-length train embellished with lace details, pearl beading and Swarovski crystals.  The Grantham family tiara, a beautiful 45-carat diamond tiara was used to secure a veil and, to complete her bridal ensemble, Lady Mary carried a simple bouquet of white Calla lilies.  (Shown below are several photos of Lady Mary in her wedding dress and with her handsome groom, Matthew)

Mary 1st wedding gown - front view  Mary 1st wedding gown - back view

Mary and Matthew wedding

Grantham tiara

Below are several more photos of the wedding.  The photo on the left shows Cora, the Countess of Grantham and the mother of the bride, flanked by her daughters, Lady Edith and Lady Sybil, all dressed in lovely pastel dresses with hats embellished with artificial flowers and satin ribbons.  The photo on the right shows both of Lady Mary’s grandmothers, the conservative Violet the Dowager Countess and the more flamboyant American-born Martha Levinson wearing her fur and feathers.

Wedding clothing 1  Wedding clothing 2

For episode three of season three, Lady Edith is finally the center of attention as she prepares for her wedding to Anthony Strallan.  Caroline McCall, the Downton Abbey television show’s costume designer, was inspired by a vintage silk train which was embellished with flowers and crystals which would be attached to the shoulders of the dress with embroidered flowers styled to match those on the train.  Based on a similar Lanvin design, the ivory silk dress is softly gathered at the hip with more embroidered flower accents and it is both simple and elegant.  Lady Edith, like her sister, also wore her veil attached with Grantham tiara which was a wonderful tradition commonly done with important pieces of jewelry by members of other aristocratic families.  Sadly, as beautiful she looked on her wedding day, Lady Edith was jilted at the altar by Strallan who did not want to burden her with a life married to an older invalid.  (Shown below are several photos of Lady Edith wearing her lovely wedding gown)

Edith 1st wedding - front view  Edith 1st wedding - front view 2

Edith 1st wedding - back view 1  Edith 1st wedding - train detail 2

Below is a photo of Lady Edith with her sisters, Lady Mary and Lady Sybil, before the ill-fated wedding.  Lady Mary is wearing a lovely pastel blue dress and Lady Sybil in a lavender dress, both are wearing hats.  

season 3 Edith's wedding

The next Downton wedding to take place was in season five episode 8 and it was the happy occasion of Lady Rose to Atticus Aldridge.  In this episode preparations are underway for the wedding and Lady Rose will be wearing two special bridal outfits, one for the registry office ceremony and another for the grand reception later that night.  The dress for the wedding ceremony was a pastel blue dress with embroidered embellishments inspired by a vintage collar that Caroline McCall, the Downton Abbey costume designer, had found in Paris.  The hat was decorated with preserved real roses done by the wardrobe department’s milliner.  The second dress for the reception was also a vintage find at a shop in London and it was a beautiful ivory silk tulle dress with gold beading and worn with matching silk opera-length gloves.  Two of the preserved roses were pinned behind Lady Rose’s ears and more of the roses were used to create a wedding bouquet with little vintage wax flowers, pearls and gilded ferns.  (Shown below are several photos of Lady Rose wearing her two wedding outfits)

Rose wedding outfits - season 5

  Rose wedding gown 1

SPOILER ALERT:  Please be aware that the following reveals season six plot details!

During season six there is a trio of special weddings during the final season of Downton Abbey.  The first takes place in episode 3 and it is the wedding of Mrs. Hughes and Mr. Carson, he is the head butler and she is the housekeeper at Downton Abbey.  While selecting her bridal outfit both Mrs. Patmore, the cook and Lady Mary are unhappy with Mrs. Hughes choice of what they think of as a drab mauve dress for the special occasion.  Lady Mary suggests Lady Grantham’s velvet coat with stunning lace and beaded embellishments and while they are trying it on Lady Grantham walks in on the women and she is very upset that they are in her bedroom trying on her personal clothes but in the end she calms down and kindly gives Mrs. Hughes the beautiful coat to wear on her wedding day.  (Shown below are several photos of Mrs. Hughes wearing her wedding outfit and another photo of the guests gathered for the ceremony)

Mr Carson and Mrs Hughes wedding 1  Mrs Hughes wedding outfit - coat detail

Mr Carson and Mrs Hughes wedding 2

Then, in episode 8 of season six, the fate of Lady Mary is quickly settled when she weds Henry Talbot.  Remember Lady Mary’s first husband Matthew died in a tragic car accident shortly after the birth of their son, and her choice of a bridal dress for her second wedding was almost, dare I say it, matronly!  The ivory dress features a deep V-front with embroidered detailing and long sleeves.  Lady Mary wears a simple pearl necklace and for the church ceremony she wears a hat embellished with artificial flowers and netting.  Instead of a bridal bouquet, Lady Mary wears a floral corsage pinned on the left side of her dress.  (The photos below show Lady Mary wearing her wedding outfit and another photo shows her with her new husband, Henry)

Mary 2nd wedding dress 2  Mary 2nd wedding 5

Finally, in the series finale (the 2015 Christmas special) of Downton Abbey, Lady Edith finds the love and happiness she deserves when she weds Bertie Pelham, the new Marchioness of Hexham.  Lady Edith looked absolutely beautiful in her lace short sleeved wedding dress and, since she was denied a conclusion to her first attempt at marriage, she wore a lace veil with a beaded headband instead of the Grantham tiara.  (Shown below are several photos of Lady Edith in her wedding dress and with her new husband, Bertie)

Edith 2nd wedding with her father 1  Edith 2nd wedding 1

(For more on the Downton Abbey television series, please click on the link.  Also, to see more costumes worn by the women of Downton Abbey throughout the years, please click on the link to Downton Abbey Fashions – Part One)

Downton Abbey Fashions – Part One

The Fashions of Downton Abbey have been truly an important part of the television series telling the story and setting the mood for the drama as much as Highclere Castle located in Hampshire, England and the interior sets located at Ealing Studios in London.  When the first season opens in 1912 the women of Downton Abbey are wearing the buttoned-up lace shirts and long skirts of the post Edwardian-era and as the last season closes in 1925 the fashions have changed to the more revealing beaded dresses of the “Roaring Twenties”.

In Part One of the two part series on the Fashions of Downton Abbey I will discuss the many changes in fashion throughout the six seasons of the television series.  In Part Two I will discuss the wedding dresses worn by the Crawley sisters for their weddings as shown in seasons three and six, also wedding clothes worn by several of the servants of Downtown Abbey.  

Season one of Downton Abbey opens with news of the sinking of the RMS Titanic, the viewers are introduced to the aristocratic Crawley family; Lord and Lady Grantham and their three daughters.  In the post Edwardian-era, a lady would customarily change their clothes several times during the course of a single day.  Their wardrobe started with a set of undergarments consisting of a chemise, drawers, corset, petticoat and cotton stockings.  Corsets were an important part of the undergarments because it was used to create the preferred shape of an ideal Edwardian women’s body; which was a silhouette showing slim hips, a tiny waist and an uplifted bosom.  (Shown below in the photo is Mary, the eldest daughter, being laced into her corset by her maid, Anna, as her sister Edith looks on)      

Undergarments 1

The first outfit of the day that a lady would wear would be the “morning dress” consisting of a tailored blouse and a long skirt.  All items of clothing would be made of sturdy and practical material, such as cotton or linen.  This outfit would be worn for breakfast by the Crawley daughters, unmarried ladies of the house were expected to come downstairs for breakfast while the married ladies would be allowed to eat their breakfast in bed.  Cora, Lady Grantham, would be upstairs in her bedroom wearing her nightgown with a robe as her personal maid would serve her the tray of food prepared and sent up by the kitchen cook. (The photo on the left shows Mary wearing a lovely shirt and shirt ensemble and the photo on the right shows the three Crawley sisters wearing their “morning dresses”.  The third photo shows Cora in bed still wearing her nightgown and robe waiting to be served breakfast in bed)

female - morning outfit 1  female - morning outfit 2

night gown 1

Later, the ladies of the house would change into their “afternoon dresses” which were made of softer fabric, generally in the summer months pastel colors would be worn.  (The photo below shows the three Crawley sisters dressed in lovely “afternoon dresses” outside at Downton Abbey)

female - day clothing 1910s

For afternoon tea, usually served between 4-5 pm, the ladies would change into “tea dresses” which would be trimmed with lace and maybe some embroidery.  Tea would be served in the drawing room of the house, sometimes guests would be there or perhaps the women would be out paying an afternoon call while visiting the home of a relative or friend located nearby.  If tea was being served in the house without any guests, the ladies would often remove their corsets to enjoy an unrestricted meal. (The photo below shows Cora at tea taken outside at Downton Abbey; this was sometimes done when there was good weather in the spring or summer)

female - tea dress 1

After a brief rest, and sometimes a nap, the ladies would then take their time dressing for dinner which was usually served at 8 pm.  A lady would change into a fresh set of lingerie which would now include a pair of silk stockings.  A maid would help them into an “evening dress” which would be made of a luxurious fabric, such as silk or satin, often embellished with beading, embroidery or other trimmings.  A more elaborate hairstyle would also be created by the maid, sometimes a jeweled hair comb or tiara would be worn depending on the occasion and of course a set of the lady’s finest jewelry.  (The photo on the left shows Lady Grantham dressed in an elegant evening gown dress with Lord Grantham dressed in his formal evening clothes consisting of a black cut-away coat with a white waistcoat and matching trousers.  The photo on the right shows the three Crawley sisters dressed for dinner in their evening gowns)

1910s evening clothes  female - evening wear 1910s

One unexpected outfit worn by Sybil, the youngest daughter, was the very stylish harem pants worn with a matching headpiece.  This choice of outfit was directly influenced by Paul Poiret, a designer that created eastern inspired evening clothes made in colorful silk and satin for his socially elite customers.  (Shown in the photo below is Sybil’s scandalous outfit which is quite a contrast to the more traditional evening dresses worn by her mother and sister)

female - harem pants worn by Sybil

At the start of season two World War I has started and the house has been converted into a hospital for the wounded soldiers returning home from the battlefields of Europe.  Sybil has taken on the role of a nurse while her mother and her two sisters are also helping with the wounded soldiers at Downton.  During the war, there were fewer restrictions on society in regards to clothing as many upper class women took on more voluntary work and mixed more often with the working class prompting the slow decline in the social barriers that divided the two classes.

The fashions of wartime England were reflected with military-style braiding, belts with buckles and skirts that were slightly shorter rising to mid-calf by 1915.  One of the most welcomed changes for women was the gradual elimination of the cumbersome stiff crinoline which result in more ease of movement as skirts became slimmer and more fluid.  (The photo on the left shows Lord Grantham with his three daughters, please note that Sybil is dressed in her nurse’s clothing.  The photo on the right shows Lord Grantham and Matthew wearing full dress uniforms for a formal dinner)

World War I fashions 2  World War I - male formal military 1

Season two ends with two wedding, the first is the scandalous wedding of Sybil and Tom Branson, the Downton chauffer (which was not shown as part of the series).  The second was the wedding of two Downton servants, Mr. Bates and Anna.  Season three begins with two more weddings, the much anticipated wedding of Mary to Matthew.  Sadly, the second wedding ended with Edith being jilted at the altar by Patrick Strallan.   (To find out more detailed information regarding the wedding dresses of these Downton brides and the Grantham tiara, which was born by both Crawley sisters on their wedding day, please click on the link to Downton Abbey Fashions – Part Two)

The third season of Downton Abbey is set during 1920 to 1921 with the fashions reflecting the very distinct changes that were happening during that time period.  The older members of the Crawley family, Violet the Dowager Countess of Grantham and Isobel Crawley the mother of Matthew, are very slow to change the conservative fashion style of the post Edwardian-era.  Meanwhile Cora will start to dress in more modern fashions as the season progresses.  (The first photo below shows Violet and Isobel with Rosamund, Violet’s daughter, at a local cricket match.  The second photo shows Cora at the same cricket match) 

season 3 Violet and Isobel and Rosamund  season 3 cora

The Crawley sisters, being of a younger generation, start to wear a very different style of clothing then their older relatives.   Gone are the confining undergarments previously worn with the corset is finally eliminated while being replaced with less restrictive brassiere, panties and slips.  Looser fitting dresses with dropped waistline and hemlines ranging from ankle to mid-calf length have become the current fashion.  (The photo on the left are shows the Crawley ladies dressing for Mary’s wedding and the photo on the right shows the Crawley sisters just before Edith’s disastrous wedding.  The other photo shows the Crawley ladies dressed for the christening of baby Sybbie, the daughter of the late Sybil and Tom Branson)

season 3 Mary's wedding  season 3 Edith's wedding

female -1920s dresses - season 3  Sybbie's christening

Other items of clothing for a modern women included tailored suits with a matching jacket and skirt worn with a pretty blouse.  These tailored suits were often required as women entered the work place after the Great War; the suits were also worn while the women were in the city or traveling.  Sometimes the more fashionable women wore their suits accented with fur collars or cuffs or a matching muff in the colder fall and winter months.  (The photos below show Mary, seen with Matthew, wearing two different styles of tailored suits, the first in tweed and the second in a burgundy wool one)

season 3 Mary tailored tweed suit  season 3 Mary tailored coat 1

As Downton Abbey moves forward into season four, we see Mary in mourning following the death of her husband in a car accident shortly after the birth of their son George.  It has been six months since Matthew’s death and she is still in a state of deep depression and wearing all black.  Midway through the first episode she suddenly arrives at dinner dressed in a lilac dress to the shock of everyone as she decides to move forward in her life for the sake of her son.  The rules for the wearing of proper mourning clothing had a definite set of rules in post-war England although the rules were not as strict those in the Victorian or Edwardian eras.  Widows in the 1920s would have had a period of eighteen months of mourning for a husband and during that time they would wear all black  followed by a few more months of half-mourning when they could wear shades of grey or purple.  (The first photo shows Mary dressed in a chic black dress with brocade detail on the collar and the second photo shows her in the lilac dress with a pleated bodice and embroidered collar)

mourning clothes - Lady Mary 1  mourning clothes - Lady Mary 2

Season four of Downton Abbey is set between 1922 and 1923 with England immersed in beginning of the “Jazz Age” marked by its modern music and provocative dances, such as the Charleston.  Rose, the high-spirited daughter of a Crawley family relative that we met at the end of season three has comes to live at Downton.  Rose frequently make excuses to go to London because she loves the excitement of the nightclubs and country life at Downton is just too boring.  The clothes worn during season four are becoming more daring, especially those worn by Rose when in out on the town in London.  Evening dresses of the 1920s were beaded sheaths worn with long necklaces and sometimes a beaded headband worn across the forehead.  (Shown below in the photos is the innocent Rose when she first arrived at Downton and the dramatic transformation at a London nightclub!)

season 4 Rose - before  season 4 Rose - after

Edith is also spending time in London working with Michael Gregson, the owner of a publishing company, and the couple begin a clandestine romance.  Since women of the 1920s had begun taking on employment  and a work wardrobe was needed in the workplace, tunic tops or hip-length sweaters with a skirt or dresses with dropped waistlines and cloche hats or tied scarves. In the evening women wore rather risqué “flapper” dresses, long necklaces and beaded headbands.  (Shown below in the photos are some of the daytime and evening fashions worn by the women of Downton)

season 4 - Edith work clothes brocade dress  
season 4 - Edith work clothes 1
evening clothing - 1920s  season 3 Edith  season 3 Mary evening dress 1

season 4 - evening wear - cast

During season four Rose makes her formal introduction into London society as a debutante and the highlight of the season is the Court presentation.  For centuries the etiquette and clothing worn to this event followed a very specific set of rules and regulations.  In regards to the court presentation dresses in the 1920s during the reign of King George VI, the dress would be traditionally white, although a pastel color would be acceptable.   A white veil measuring no longer than 45 inches was required and three white ostrich feathers would be attached to the veil; the center feather would be slightly longer than the other two smaller feathers worn to the left and right.  Gloves, fans and bouquets would be optional.  (Shown below is a photo of Rose dressed in her court presentation gown and the other photo shows the other members of the Crawley family dressed for the occasion) 

Rose - court presentation 1 season 4 - Court presentation - cast

In season five of Downton Abbey, which takes place in 1924, there are very few changes in regards to fashion styles.  Edith and Rose tend to wear more daring outfits than Mary who wears more conservative clothes, although Mary is the first one to cut her hair short into a fashionable chin-length bob.  (The photo below shows Mary as she débuts her new hairstyle to the family at Downton)

season 4 - Mary - new bob hairstyle 1

season 5 - London clothing - cast

season 6 - Mary and Edith

For the evening, a woman wore sheath-style dresses, often sleeveless with daring necklines, made of silk and satin.  The evening dresses were beautifully beaded or embellished with sequins.  Costume jewelry had replaced more expensive gemstones and women would often wear long strings of pearls or tasseled beaded necklaces.

season 4- Edith - evening wear 1 front  season 4 - Edith - evening wear 1 back 

season 5 - evening wear

season 6 - Edith

One highlight of the fifth season is the wedding of Rose and Atticus Aldridge, she actually wears two wedding outfits, one for the wedding at the registry office and a second gown for the grand wedding reception.  In season six there are a trio of special weddings taking place during the final season of Downton Abbey.  First there is the wedding of Mrs. Hughes to Mr. Carson; she wears a special coat previously worn by Lady Grantham.  Then, near the end of season six there is the weddings of the Crawley sisters, Mary to Henry Talbot and then Edith and Bertie Pelham, the Marchioness of Hexham.  (To find out more detailed information regarding the wedding dresses of these Downton brides, please click on the link to Downton Abbey Fashions – Part Two)

For more information on the Downton Abbey television series, including list of characters, season synopsis and film locations, please click on the link)