'Setting the Scene'

  • Dowager Countess of Grantham, Courtesy Cosprop Ltd.


An exhibition of period quilts and costumes from our favourite TV historical dramas including Downton Abbey, Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre, The Duchess and The Portrait of a Lady

Costumes worn by Jennifer Ehle, Nicole Kidman, Keira Knightley and Maggie Smith in some of our favourite historical TV dramas will be on display at The Quilt Museum and Gallery in York for three months this summer.

Visitors will also be able to see specially selected items from the Museum’s heritage collection to complement these costumes giving a real flavour of life behind the scenes for some of our most beloved characters including Elizabeth Bennet and Violet Grantham.

Spanning 1770 to 1925 the exhibition includes a stunning quilted silk petticoat, a meticulously pieced mosaic patchwork coverlet made from a wide range of early printed cottons, and quilts and coverlets from all strata of society.

Setting the Scene will take visitors on a visually sumptuous journey from the late eighteenth century starting with a polonaise style dress typical of the 1770s, looped up to show a quilted petticoat worn by the Duchess of Devonshire in the film The Duchess featuring Keira Knightley and finishing with a purple dress which epitomises the grandeur of the Edwardian period, worn by Maggie Smith in her role as the Dowager Countess of Grantham in Downton Abbey.

“This theme has allowed us to bring together a unique display of items from our heritage collection showing a rich variety of cotton prints, silks and linen in a myriad of quilting designs, appliqué and hand embroidery. By spanning such an expansive time period we can show how quilting and costume design evolved to reflect changing fashions and technological developments in printing and dyeing” said Museum Manager, Fiona Diaper.

Visitors to The Quilt Museum and Gallery will be able to purchase fabrics from the Downton Abbey exclusive collection from Andover Fabrics featuring designs chosen in collaboration with the award-winning Downton Abbey production team.

Museum Curator, Heather Audin will lead a Gallery Talk on 26 July giving visitors the chance to discover more about items on display from The Quilters’ Guild Collection and what made them the perfect choice to complement the beautiful costumes at this Exhibition.

Image Caption: Outfit worn by Maggie Smith as the Dowager Countess of Grantham. Courtesy of Cosprop Ltd.