Downton Abbey Era: Fashion in Transition

Downton Abbey Era: Fashion in TransitionLogo – NOW CLOSED!

The Downton Abbey exhibit is now closed. Please keep an eye on our website for information on our next exhibit, opening at the end of February 2015.

The Textile Committee of the Wayne County Historical Society is excited to present the exhibit Downton Abbey Era: Fashion in Transition. Fashions from the society’s collection (many of which have never been shown) as well as many items on loan from private individuals and public organizations will be on display in the Kister building’s exhibit hall from March – October 31, 2014. Named after the popular show on PBS, the exhibit features fashions of the well-to-do from the years 1912-1923. The Era was one of progressive reform, but also of political turmoil. From Women’s Rights to the Teapot Dome scandal, the era was marked by transition, which can be seen in no better place than in women’s fashion.


A Night Out in 1914

A Night Out in 1914

The exhibit starts just outside of the hall entrance with a display dedicated to local WWI veteran, Fred C. Redick. Fred was born in Wooster on 20 September 1881 and enlisted as a Private in D company, the local National Guard unit located in Wooster, on 26 November 1900. He was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant on 3 July 1911, and promoted to 1st Lieutenant on 30 June 1916. Company D was activated in October, 1917 as an element of the 146th Regiment, 37th Infantry Division, The unit was initially stationed at Camp Sheridan, Alabama, were Redick was promoted to Captain and appointed Commander of Company D. The Division arrived in France in June, 1918 and was engaged in the Meuse-Argonne offensive. On 26 September 1918 the 146th Regiment was engaged in heavy combat at Montfaucan were Captain Redick was wounded, but continued to lead his company in the battle, and remained in command of the unit until it was deactivated in 1919. For his actions at Montfaucan, Captain Redick was awarded The Distinguished Service Cross by the United States. The French government awarded him the French Legion Of Honor (Chevalier), and the French Croix de Guerre.


1920s paneling

1920s paneling

Just beyond the WWI display, the Downton Abbey Era: Fashion in Transition exhibit begins with 1912 and the sinking of the RMS Titanic. This case boasts reproduction dishes from the Titanic as well as an actual White Star Line music book and luggage tag. As one moves along the exhibit, you will notice several trends appearing in women’s fashion. Waist lines begin to lower around

1914, just as hemlines are on the rise. Around the 1914 case, there is a beautiful men’s jacket with tails popular at the time as well as a wedding gown from a Wayne County resident. By the end of the 1910 decade, sports became more popular, and fashion had to become sportier in order to keep up with its intended use.


By the 1920s, aprons and panels gained in popularity. Many dresses were much more elaborate to put on with many snaps and buttons; therefore, a higher class lady would have required the assistance of a maid to help her put on her attire. The 1922 discovery of King Tutankhamun’s tomb in Egypt by Howard Carter promoted a surge in Egyptian inspired fabrics and patterns which can be seen in several pieces in the exhibit.  The display case of 1923 boasts an authentic Arrow ad poster from Freedlander’s Department Store. In the middle of the exhibit, a beautiful tea service is on display showcasing the fine china and attire appropriate for a high tea of the era.

1912 High Tea Attire

1912 tea attire


In addition to the spectacular fashions, also on display are purses, fans, furs, gloves and other accessories worn by women of the time. Also on display in each case is a timeline of events from each year. Visitors will notice how events such as WWI, Women’s Suffrage, and Prohibition influenced the fashions of the day. Never before had there been (and not since) such a drastic change in fashion in such a short period of time. The era began with high, empire-waisted fashion which emphasized the womanly figure and ended with clothing that boasted no defined waist, and chests that were often banded to highlight gender equality.


If you have time, be sure to also visit the dress shop on the campus of the society. On display are lingerie fashions from the era as well as a collection of gingham dresses.


This exhibit is a fundraiser for the all-volunteer Wayne County Historical Society. After the March 2nd opening, the exhibit will be $5 per person (members included). We appreciate your understanding for this charge to members. There are many exciting projects currently and soon to be under way at the WCHS, and your $5 donation will go to ensuring the campus will remain the magnificent jewel piece it is for years to come.


Make sure to check out the article in The Wooster Weekly News!

For more information on another exciting exhibit featuring fashions of Downton Abbey, please see a Philadelphia Inquirer article here – Fashion Show, Downton-Style – 23 Feb 2014 – Page #2



  1. My granddaughter came from Oklahoma for the lecture. We were not disappointed. On Saturday we went to KSU Fashion Museum. We both enjoyed that very much. She is coming for the “Tea” also. Looking forward to that ! See you there! Wondering about tickets at the door? I have a friend that would like to come, but her plane California might be late. So she wondered if there would be tickets at the door?