Sneak Peek at History Museum of Mobile’s “Dressing the Abbey” exhibit

Published: Jan. 25, 2023 at 9:48 PM CST
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MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) - It may be just another windy Wednesday in the Port City, but inside the History Museum of Mobile -- there’s a flurry of activity ahead of one of the most talked about exhibits.

“Dressing the Abbey” is set to open Saturday, January 28th. As History Museum of Mobile Curator of Exhibits Taylor Cox explains -- it’s crunch time.

“First we started by building sets... that was seven months ago,” explained Cox.

From building the elaborate sets to furnishing them with stuff the museum owns to other items loaned by local antique collectors -- the exhibit slowly took shape.

“The most interesting part to me was when we finally got all of the rugs and the furniture in here and brought these sets to life so that the costumes could shine,” said Cox.

35 costumes worn by the actors in “Downton Abbey” are now in place depicting scenes from the beloved series.

“I feel like cameras don’t do it justice... You really do have to come see it in person to see the beauty of these costumes,” said Cox.

Cox also gave us a look at their companion exhibit: “Dressing Mobile.”

“All of these dresses are from our collection and they start in the early 1900s and go through the 1920s,” said Cox. “And as you can see the ideal silhouette in the early 20th century was the pouter pigeon - so you wanted your chest pooffed out and your rear poofed as well.”

The fashion not only reflected social changes -- but created them.

“So these undergarments just kind of shows how many layers women wore in the early 20th Century and when you move into the 20s people started dropping these undergarments. Lee: So this is where the party starts? Cox: This is where the party starts -- women get the right to vote, they decide they want shorter hair, they want to wear shorter dresses. And these dresses evoke that.”

We also got a rare behind the scenes tour of where the History Museum of Mobile stores its most prized possessions.

“Of the History Museum’s 117,000 items -- only 1% are on permanent display. We’re just in the hallway -- I’ll take you back into the vault,” said Dr. Meg McCrummen Fowler, History Museum of Mobile Director. “So these rolling racks house lots and lots of objects. It’s a cultural repository of our city.”

From dolls to paintings, pictures and much more -- they’re historical treasures from Mobile and beyond.

“Oh, this actually is from the same collection -- ‘Dressing Mobile’ will be showing -- this is one of the Hamel dresses but it was not in the best condition so therefore we couldn’t show it,” explained Cox.

Trust me -- we could have stayed in here for hours looking around. Thursday night -- we’ll take a deeper dive into the Museum’s vault at some of the more interesting items -- and a few surprises!

Meanwhile -- the exhibit “Dressing the Abbey” also includes how to set a table -- Downton style -- plus, social experiences throughout its 12 week run.

For more information on how to purchase tickets click here.


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