Last weekend my Mum and I had the opportunity to view a showing of some of the most iconic costumes worn on the BBC show, Downton Abbey. The show was at Cheekwood Botanical Gardens and Estate in Nashville and was followed by a delightful afternoon tea sitting at the Pineapple Room. Tea time in my world is not an unusual occurrence (I have a cuppa every day!), but tea and Downton Abbey?! Now that is a treat worth commemorating! I’ve placed the photos of the event from beginning to end, so you can feel the whole story unfold just as we did when we drove through the grand gates of Cheekwood and began our ascent to the main Estate house.
The weather could not have been more perfect. Imagine the warm glow of a mid afternoon sun, not enough breeze to create a chill, but only enough to rustle your hair into the most becoming waves.
Pausing for a moment before going up the steps to the Estate was a must to capture this view overlooking the garden.
Turn to your right and there is the front entrance, shadowed by elegant trees and foliage so green it seemed unreal.
As you walk inside the front door there is a stunning marble staircase that twists up to the first floor. The lobby was quiet and the bronze handrail felt cool to the touch. The barely discernable thudding of our shoes into the plush red carpet elevated the feeling of anticipation as to what we would see at the top of the stairs with each step!
As we turned left into a large room with dark wood floors and soaring ceilings, there were the first three costumes. If you have seen at least the first episode of Downton Abbey you will recognize these costumes!
This smart biking costume was worn by Edith. I was struck by how tall she must have been to wear this ensemble. I always imagined her quite petite and frail in stature almost, in the show.
This dramatic coat was worn by the fabulous Shirley MacLaine. After seeing several of her costumes I definitely identified with her style most strongly out of all the dresses and suits presented at the showing. She had a flare for the theatrical, was lady like and elegant, while still being classic and on-trend. #majorstylegoals
I wish I had been able to capture a better image of this dress because it was truly stunning! This piece was apparently crafted from a vintage fabric from the early 1900s and was hand-sewn with hundreds of pearls, crystals and diamonds. The sides, sleeves and back are attached to the embellished front panel, giving it the appearance of a “coat” over a dress. This style of dress design was common practice for re-making and sizing up or down dresses made from fabrics that had intricate hand-work that could not be cut. The coat portion is made of deep Kelly green velvet.
This is another Shirley MacLaine piece and I almost had a fit over that gorgeous necklace! Talk about a statement piece!
I’m so happy the fashion of the times didn’t believe in ‘less is more.’ The beading, pearls, jewels and luxurious fabrics gave me so much inspiration and renewed my love for some of the more dramatic vintage pieces I own and do not wear enough!
This lovingly designed dress was worn by Cora’s character for Rose’s “Coming Out” and honestly I loved it more than Rose’s dress! The dove gray velvet even seemed to catch the light at different angles making it look blue, purple and silver at moments.
This is a hand painted portrait of THE Mrs. Cheek of Cheekwood Estates. One of the reasons the Downton show was held at Cheekwood is because of the startling parallel that can be drawn with the Cheek family that lived at the Estate at the same time the Downton Abbey story is taking place across the Pond!
There is nothing better than a properly set, beautifully presented dining room. Each perfectly placed item lends itself to an air of sophisticated elegance that immediately elevates ones mood and convinces one to stand up a bit straighter.
Ah yes. The Morning Room. This was probably mine and my Mum’s favorite room out of the entire Estate! The tall windows all around the room filtered golden light through powder blue curtains and cast a relaxing haze across the white walls. This room is perfect for enjoying tea, reading a book, or accepting visitors.
We liked the Morning Room so much we had to take a selfie! She’s the cutest thing ever, isn’t she? I love her so much!
You can see the dining room I showed you earlier through that door in the Green Room above. This room was probably full of plants at one time and could be used as a small dance hall I suppose as well. It wasn’t part of the show but we wandered in because it was so pretty!
There were two doors leading from the Green Room back out to the hallway that lead to the stair case I mentioned at the beginning. This photo was taken from one of those doorways. Following the long hallway back to the elegant entrance was such sweet sorrow! After having lifted the veil we felt even more fast in our liking for all things Downton and the only thing consoling us was the knowledge of tea at the end of the walk!
We walked outside and strolled leisurely back down the wide drive way, glancing back periodically at the house, and remarking to each other our favorite bits about the costumes and the beauty of everything we’d just seen. Once we arrived at the Pineapple Room we were seated within a few minutes with the other show goers and presented tea leaves to smell and select our first cup from. I chose a lavender flavored tea just because it sounded like the perfect end to an already relaxing day!
After about 30 minutes of sipping our tea we were presented with our nibbles and spent the rest of the evening chatting with other show goers at adjoining tables, generally gossiping as best girl friends do, and simply setting across from each other, exclaiming occasionally how delightful the whole experience had been! Of course we had to observe to one another with a series of knowing eye-brow raises at the proper moments that the tea was not quite what we were used to (both of us avid, daily tea drinks, and taken tea together in castles in Scotland, several times on The Avenue des Champs-Élysées, and many times in London!) but “for an American tea,” it would “do!”
When we had finished our tea time we chatted with the proprietor about upcoming events at the Estate and marked our calender’s for a few things we plan on attending later this year! If you have a chance to visit Nashville in the Fall months, Cheekwood has some absolutely enchanting gardens and paths to simply stroll about and enjoy being outside in the beautiful Southern sunshine. If you enjoy these types of excursions I would highly recommend Cheekwood and also Belle Meade plantation. Both are elegant reminders of a time long ago and an era of elegance and grace that has slowly faded into what seems like a vague dream, only remembered when one returns to the South.