Sunday, December 21, 2014

A Very Crawley Christmas with the du Ponts – Part 3

At the end of Part 2, we left poor Lady Edith at the altar.  Sadly, we were not the first to do so.  Now, it’s time to take a look at Lady Mary’s most beautiful clothes (I've saved the best for last!) and relive one of her most beautiful moments, as we conclude our tour of the Costumes of Downton Abbey at the magnificent Winterthur Museum. 

Can we ever forget Lady Mary’s fabulous spider web dress? 

Well, here’s what it looks like up close.  Frankly, it’s even more spectacular in real life than on the screen.  Just look at the intricate beading, which sparkles like a thousand diamonds in the glow of the crystal chandelier hanging above it -- a truly brilliant way to showcase this stunner of an evening gown.  I’d be willing to bet that many a Hollywood actress of that glamorous era would gladly have gone horizontal for the thrill of wearing this gown while vertical on the silver screen.  Of all of Lady Mary’s fabulous frocks, this may just be my all-time favorite. 

I do, however, have a sentimental favorite. 

Do you remember this moment?  Matthew and Lady Mary are taking a stroll outside Downton Abbey on a lovely, starlit evening.  A light snow has just begun to fall, when Matthew drops down on one knee and pops the question we had all been waiting for, for what seemed like, forever. 

The dress Lady Mary was wearing for that scene was very carefully chosen.  The color of the silk is a deep russet that appears to change from deep rose to warm brown as the light hits it.  Embellishment was kept to a minimum – along the neckline and at the edge of each tier of the skirt – so as not to steal the spotlight from that magical moment.   Of course, we knew it all along, but what a joyous relief it was to hear them finally acknowledge their love for one another.

And what a fitting place for romance.  One of the Winterthur docents told us that, since the opening of the Exhibit, she has personally witnessed five or six proposals at this very site, one of which had been elaborately prepared.  The young lady in question came for a tour with several girlfriends, and when she got to this spot, her boyfriend suddenly appeared in full evening dress à la Matthew Crawley, followed by family and friends all dressed in period clothes.  Dropping down on one knee, he proposed.  The startled young lady managed to squeak out a “yes,” before she was totally overcome by emotion.  And who says there’s no romance left in the world? 

Of course, when not being proposed to, Lady Mary does adorn herself with the most marvelous jewelry. 

Our tour of the fabulous Costumes of Downton Abbey at an end, we headed straight for the gift shop, where we couldn’t resist trying on some of the period hats on display. 




 And, now, it’s time to leave Downton Abbey...
...and return to Winterthur for the Yuletide tour. 

Here is where the du Ponts’ servants gathered to celebrate their Christmas.  As we go along in the tour, keep in mind that every room (and sometimes even a corner in the hall) has its own Christmas tree, each decorated in a different style.  The du Ponts, who loved entertaining and did so in lavish style, went all out at Christmas time. 

On Christmas Eve, the family would gather in this room.  Gifts were placed in wicker baskets, one for each member of the family, and labeled.  So, what would one fabulously wealthy du Pont give to another?  Believe it or not the gifts were the simple things we not-so-fabulously-wealthy mortals give to each other at Christmas time – socks, ties, mufflers and holiday sweaters. 


Christmas dinner in the family dining room was always a grand occasion.  It was Mr. du Pont who oversaw the table settings and chose the color scheme and centerpiece.  Mrs. du Pont saw to the comfort and needs of their guests.  It was a very equitable arrangement for this high-profile couple, each one contributing his and her own strengths and talents to create Winterthur’s unrivaled reputation for hospitality. 

A close up of one of the place settlings shows a simple wooden Santa sitting on a folded napkin.  How perfect! 

After dinner, guests would join their hosts in the Chinese room to play bridge.  The du Ponts, particularly Mrs. du Pont, were avid bridge players, and whether or not a guest was invited back to Winterthur was largely based on their card-playing ability.  Non-bridge players were rarely extended a return invitation. 


The entire room was actually decorated around the silk Chinese wallpaper, which was one long, continuous roll.  So as not to disturb the continuity of the scene depicted, Mr. du Pont had the ceilings of the room raised to accommodate the height of the paper.  It's good to be rich, n'est-ce pas?

Since I mentioned that every room in Winterthur, and almost every nook and cranny, has its own Christmas tree, here are some of my favorites. 

This was in the main family dining room. 

This beautiful tree, adorned with dried flower ornaments, stands all by itself in a hallway niche.


This blue and silver tree sits in a tiny corner of an adjacent hallway.  I love the elaborate wallpaper behind it. 

And I particularly love the copper container beside it brimming with “good cheer.” 

The most magnificent Christmas tree of all, however, can be found in the Conservatory surrounded by a sea of red poinsettias.  If you look closely, you can just make out a huge eagle spreading its wings. 
Well, we’ve finally come to the end of our tour.  I hope you’ve enjoyed your Christmas with the Crawleys and the du Ponts at the wonderful Winterthur Museum as much as I have. 
I’m eternally grateful to Cosprop, the world’s leading costumier to film, television, and theater, who lent all these magnificent Downton Abbey costumes, and to the Winterthur curators and staff who did such a fantastic job of putting the entire Exhibit together. 
In addition, I would like to thank my dear friend, Earline Sanchez, for doing chauffeur duty on a cold and rainy day and for providing our essential survival kit of bottled water, trail mix and lots and lots of chocolate.  
Special thanks to my dear friend, Linda Posusney, who took almost all of these wonderful photos. 
And very special thanks to our superb tour guide, Addie Peyronin.  Addie is a graduate of the American Culture Winterthur Program, offered in conjunction with the University of Delaware.  Her degree is in American Material Culture (decorative arts), and her expertise and enthusiasm helped make our day at Winterthur Museum an unforgettable one. 

May your holidays be filled with all the grace of Downton Abbey and all the magic of Christmas at Winterthur.    
To (re)visit A Very Crawley Christmas with the du Ponts – Part 1, click here. 
To (re)visit A Very Crawley Christmas with the du Ponts – Part 2, click here


  1. Dear M-T - Thanks for the wonderful tours of Downton Abbey costumes. I love history - was my favorite subject growing up in Europe - Always looking forward to your next blog! Wishing you and yours a very blessed and peaceful Christmas - All the best from Florida -

    1. Dear Rose, I'm so glad you enjoyed the tour. Yes, history, particularly what we used to call Modern European History, has always been one of my favorite subjects. Biographies of the greats are my favorite things to read.

      Thank you so much for your lovely Christmas wishes. Have a wonderful Christmas in sunny Florida.

      Please stop by again.

      Warm regards, M-T

  2. Dearest Marie-Thérèse,
    Wow, that almost felt like a DREAM, reading this post... you kind of whisked me off to an other era in a very realistic way.
    Loved all of it and amazing that Mr. du Pont took care of the table settings... But of course, that is quite possible.
    I regret that I myself, would obviously not have been invited back as I never learned how to play bridge! But just one visit would last a long time as it was so out of reach for ordinary souls.
    Fascinating evening gown and what I love very much towards the end is that conservatory. I've always loved them but of course never got to have one... But we all can dream; can't we?!
    Hugs and wishing you both a Merry Christmas.

    1. Dearest Mariette,

      Delighted to be able to whisk you away, if only for a few minutes. I would not have had been invited back either. I don't play cards, except for the occasional solitary game of Solitaire.

      The Conservatory was truly fabulous. You would have loved it!

      Have a wonderful, healthy, happy and beautiful Christmas, ma chère amie,

      Big bisous, M-T

  3. Dear M-T,
    How magical and beautiful!! I adore the show. The costumes, the romance...everything. I do hope you bought that hat. You wear hats so well.
    Wishing you a very Merry Christmas my friend!!

    1. It was a very special day for us at Downton Abbey, courtesy of Winterthur. I did not buy the hat, as I have one very much like it. I probably should have, though, it did suit me.

      Wishing you and yours a very Merry, Healthy and Wonderful Christmas, my dear friend. We'll talk soon.

      xoxo, M-T

  4. Magical. I think our Christmas will be definitely different as I attempt to fit the family into our relatively small house in London, with only one tree.

    1. You may not be able to compete w/Winterthur's Christmas trees, but I'll bet your one tree will be just as beautiful. Besides, having family around us is what it's all about, whether you're a du Pont, a Crawley or a very chic Lady, named Josephine, who lives in the city the Father of Christmas (Charles Dickens) called home.

      Have a wonderful, magical Christmas.

      Cheers, M-T

  5. Merry Christmas to you and your loved ones!
    And a Safe and Healthy Coming New Year!!!

    1. The same to you and yours, Irene. I hope your Christmas is joyous and your New Year filled with wonderful surprises.

      Hugs to you, too (always lovely to hear from you),

      Cheers, M-T

  6. Dear M-T,
    thank you for such a charming post!
    I had to google Winthertur (because there is one in Switzerland. too).
    The pictures you show are stunning - and the spider dress: wow!
    One highlight of 2014 was my visit to Highclere (the real Downton Abbey in UK) - it was oh so lovely, and has great gardens too, but they show no costumes (nor the kitchen) - so thank you again!
    The newest thing is that one can rent a room now in the castle.
    You look very lovely in that hat! Hats, my big passion, are underrated - they do so much for giving a woman the 'je ne sais quoi' - mysterious and very becoming, as your photo shows. Have a Happy New Year!

    1. Dearest Brigitta,

      I'm not surprised that there's a Winterthur in Switzerland, too, as the Delaware Winterthur was named after it by the original owner of the house.

      Yes, I do love my hats, too. They always add something so special to any outfit, provided the outfit has been put together with the "chapeau" in mind. I did not buy that particular hat, as I already have one that's quite similar.

      Are you planning on renting a room at Highclere in the New Year? What fun that would be!! Please let us know if you do.

      Have a wonderful New Year and drink lots of "Veuve Clicquot." (I know I plan to do so!!)

      Warm hugs, M-T

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