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"Changing Fashion for Changing Times"—Downton Abbey costume exhibit in a Gilded Age settin

Dressing Downton at the Lightner Museum, St. Augustine, Florida

In recent years, heritage tourism has received a big boost from the popularity of historical dramas on television; shows such as Downton Abbey, set at Highclere Castle in England, and Outlander, which utilizes to great effect historic sites across Scotland, have led to dramatic increases in tourism (see “Ancestral Tourism and the Outlander Effect”). But if you are not able to travel to these historic—pop culture—heritage sites, you might be able to experience some of the grandeur of Downton Abbey through an on-going exhibit titled “Dressing Downton: Changing Fashion for Changing Times.

The exhibit gathers nearly 40 period costumes and jewelry from the popular show, presenting authentic designs for both upstairs and downstairs denizens of Downton Abbey. Currently on view at the Lightner Museum in St. Augustine, Florida, the exhibit there is displayed among the museum’s own collection of period furniture in what was once a Gilded Age hotel and casino—the Alcazar. Henry Flagler opened the Ponce de Leon Hotel in 1887 and the following year, due to demand, opened a sister hotel—the Alcazar—across the street. The Alcazar contained a large casino, with facilities for exercising, Russian and Turkish baths, and a large indoor swimming pool. The Ponce de Leon is now Flagler College and the Alcazar’s Casino is now the Lightner Museum.

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