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The “Downton Abbey” Era in Connecticut

24520df9-a96d-45cc-97c7-b047cc2d5f2bConnecticut Historical Society’s “High Collars to Bee’s Knees” Exhibit runs December 4January 30

Inspired by the popular PBS drama Downton Abbey,a new exhibit, “From High Collars to Bee’s Knees: The Downton Abbey Era in Connecticut” will open at the Connecticut Historical Society (CHS) on December 4. Of course this is the last season for “Downton Abbey,” it kicks off on January 3rd, 2016.

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Curated by the CHS’s volunteer Fashion and Textile Council from costumes in the museum’s collection, the exhibitexplores fashion trends that reflected the tumultuous social events occurring in the early 20th century. Styles changed dramatically in these decades, moving from the corseted silhouettes, long sleeves, floor-skimming skirts, and the high collars of pre-World War I to the daring, short, straight, and revealing looks of the flapper age. And if fabulous frocks weren’t enough, the exhibit will include accessories from turbans to cloches, giving visitors a full picture of a very fashionable era in Connecticut.

The exhibit will include 10 women’s and two men’s outfits, including a WWI-era women’s brown silk suit, a WWI man’s uniform, a 1914-1918 white lawn dress belonging to Helen Woodward Granberry (1868-1927) a 1910 beige and pink dress, a 1917 pink Swiss dot dress worn by Helena Gertrude Waterfall of Hartford; a 1910 purple & cream lace dress, a 1920 cream velvet evening dress with glass beads, a late 1920s red flapper evening dress, the favorite of Hartford resident Phyllis Fenn Cunningham, who may have worn it to dinner in the home of her godmother, Theodate Pope in Farmington, Connecticut; a 1932 man’s wedding suit and tuxedo shirt owned by Charles Coleman Sellers who married Helen E. Gilbert of Hebron; a 1930 shirt owned by the boxer Christopher “Bat” Battalino; a 1920s pink day dress; a 1920s floral day dress with belt and a 1925 green silk dress worn by Doris French Ward to the Governor’s ball.

In addition to choosing costumes for the exhibit, volunteer members of the CHS Fashion and Textile Council dressed mannequins, helped label the pieces and shared their insights on the fashions of the era. Council members are Melody Bernhardt, Susan Gaffney, Cynde Grogan, Margaret Myers, Terry Standish, Gail Tine, Susan Turner, Gail Yellen and Susan Alyson Young.

Admission to the Connecticut Historical Society, which includes the “High Collars to Bee’s Knees” exhibit and all other CHS exhibits, is $8 Adults, $6 Seniors (65 and over) $4 Students (with valid college ID) and Youth (6-17). The CHS is open TuesdayThursday: Noon–5 p.m.;Friday and Saturday 9 a.m.–5 p.m.

For more information, contact Connecticut Historical Society Chief Curator Ilene Frank at (860) 236-5621 x213, ilene_frank@chs.org

About the Connecticut Historical Society

A private, nonprofit, educational organization established in 1825, the Connecticut Historical Society is the state’s official historical society and one of the oldest in the nation. Located at 1 Elizabeth Street in Hartford, the CHS houses a museum, library, and the Edgar F. Waterman Research Center that are open to the public and funded by private contributions. The CHS’s collection includes more than 4 million manuscripts, graphics, books, artifacts, and other historical materials accessible at our campus and on loan at other organizations. The CHS collection, programs and exhibits help Connecticut residents connect with each other, have conversations that shape our communities, and make informed decisions based on our past and present.