The Decorologist Does Downton Abbey

When hosting a dinner party or get-together, developing a theme is a great way to help guide you through the planning and preparation.  Even Christmas parties can benefit from a theme beyond the expected, like the Downton Abbey dinner party I hosted last week.

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The  Emmy-winning PBS series is set in early 1900′s England and focuses on the family and servants that occupy the Crawley’s home, Downton Abbey. In order to emulate the Downton Abbey experience, I strove to set a period-appropriate scene with the decor and tablescape set for my guests. 

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My friends and I dressed the part with dresses and hairstyles in keeping with the 1910-1920s.  I don’t care your age – what girl doesn’t LOVE to play dress-up?

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THIS is how you dress for dinner! 

 

I found a couple of Downton Abbey hairstyle tutorials via Pinterest when I was putting together ideas on a Pinboard dedicated to the party planning.  Here are a few pictures of how my Lady Sybil hairstyle turned out:

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I loved my hairstyle so much, I feel sure I will have to wear it again in the near future! 

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Of course, a Crawley family dinner wouldn’t be possible without a slew of house servants.  I worked with a skeleton crew of very dedicated servants, including maids Daisy and Anna (my daughters), footman Thomas (Mr. Man), and head butler Carson (Mr. Man’s best buddy).  

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My House Servants 

 

As the guests arrived, they were greeted by a projection of the real Downton servants.  Mr. Man rigged this up, and had a good time making this happen on the front of our house (he can also make the house look likes it’s on fire – it’s completely terrifying!).

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The evening started out with English tea, tea biscuits and cookies, shortbread, and bacon-wrapped scallops.

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We sat around the tea table, discussing our beaus, the war (World War I), and the parties we would be attending through the Christmas season.

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When dinner was announced, our butler Carson helped us to our seats and began serving the guests.

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There is nothing more delightful than dinner by candlelight.  It makes the complexion glow!

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We started with the soup, cream of tomato and basil, followed by the fish course of poached salmon with picatta sauce and asparagus with shallot caper vinaigrette.

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fish course

 

Next up was mustard tarragon chicken with duchess potatoes.

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meat course 

 

A girl could get used to being served dish after dish of sumptious food by a staff of faithful servants.

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 The dessert course included Madeira cake and jellied cranberry sauce with Fuji apple.  

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dessert course 

 

How nice to have your food brought in and your dishes taken away as you continue to enjoy your guests!

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Cutest scullery maid eh-ver 

 

Here is the menu for Christmas at Downton Abbey.

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Christmas at Downton Abbey

 

My talented friend, Jennifer, agreed to entertain us with a lovely rendition of “If You Were the Only Girl in the World.”   Lady Mary Crawley was singing this to the recouperating soldiers when Matthew returned from the war.

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This dinner was so much fun, I would have loved this night to have gone on forever.  

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Alas, all good things and all great dinner parties must come to an end.  Don’t you know we are already trying to figure out how we can find a way to wear these costumes again?

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I can’t say enough about the servants, who dutifully stayed in character thoughout the entire night.  It was as if they were born to play their parts!

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The next time you plan to host a party, just remember that developing a theme can make your special evening even more memorable.  If you haven’t been watching Downton Abbey, there’s still time to catch up on Seasons 1 & 2 before Season 3 begins in the states the second week of January 2013.

If you’d like to see additional photos from the party, I will be posting more on The Decorologist Facebook Page.  There were just too many to include in this post!

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Comments

  1. I absolutely love the way your hair turned out. And the party looks delightful!

  2. Oh my goodness, how fun! I only wish I could have been there. Merry Christmas to one of my favorite blog friends.

    Warmly, Michelle
    PS – Your hair looks EVEN BETTER than Lady Sybil’s!

  3. Kristie:

    I had a WONDERFUL time being Carson! Very elegant party.

    Thanks for asking!

    Tedd

  4. That is awesome! And the image of the servants on the front of the house? Holy cow. Amazing.

    My son brought his date here for dinner on prom night last year and we worked our tails off getting everything ready–the decorating, the menus, the food, the music, everything. I have to tell you though, when our 5 year-old son came out to the dining room in a white shirt and bow tie with a tea towel over his arm, offering freshly ground pepper to his big brother and his date, it was worth every minute.

    • That is just too precious. I’m impressed that your son wanted to bring his date home and have you guys serve them. Way to go!

  5. What a fun party! So elegant and I love how your hair turned out!!!

  6. KB, it was truly a blessing to attend this soiree! You have hosted some pretty amazing parties and cooking clubs, but this one absolutely topped them all. It was unreal…the whole thing just kinda left me giddy and speechless! What an honor to be able to take part in it. Thank you for an evening I will never forget!

  7. LOVE it!!

  8. Michelle L. says:

    Unbelievable, Kristie! I agree with all the lovely comments about your hair… can’t believe you did it yourself. And your tablescape is fabulous!! I think Lady Violet would approve!

  9. Michelle Burke says:

    Everything looks amazing! Love, love the hair!

  10. Irene keeps telling me I need to start watching this show, rent them all and get through them at Christmas! Love all the photos, awesome theme party Kristi!
    x
    Maria

  11. Completely enchanting. Yes, you must wear your hair like that again.

    May the peace, joy and beauty of the season be yours.

  12. Looks like it was a great time! I had fun reading about it and seeing so many familiar faces! Your “staff” was the best!!!

  13. How fabulous! Your servants look so somber and appropriate, it is pretty funny. What a great idea and so much work you put into it. Great job Christie!

  14. How amazing! I love every photo. Your attention to detail is unbelievable. What a fun party!

  15. Kristie,
    Absolutely fabulous! I loved every detail! And the projection on the house was too awesome! The husband wants to see the house on fire, too. ;) You know you will have to do this again so your girls can sit at the table and have their hair done. You and the staff were darling. What wonderful memories you are making! xx, Julie

  16. Absolutely love the series, the era, the accents, the clothing and your very clever ideas in recreating this marvelous elegance. As everyone has mentioned, your attention to the detail is amazing. I’m sure a wonderful time was had by all! Hope your holiday season continues to be merry and bright!

  17. What a fun dinner party! How great that everyone played along. And your servants–may I say they were so in character–not a giggle or smile!~ Being waited on is great ~ but let me guess, you still had to make the meal and clean up afterwards? What an amazing job you did, Christie!

    • Gabi,
      How did you know?? Actually, all the ladies in my Cooking Club brought one dish each (recipes assigned by me) but yes, I had to clean up all the dishes myself!!! The servants were fast asleep by that point :)

  18. This looks like a lot of fun. I would love to attend something like this here in Nashville. Thanks for sharing.

  19. This is over the top delightful — makes me want to start watching the show!

  20. How fun!

  21. I agree with all of the above – over the top delightful, inspired, enchanting absolutely. Good for you Kristie for having such fun with it and including your family and friends. Mostly though sharing it with the rest of us, thank you.
    Love, peace, joy to you and yours this Christmas season and a blessed New Year.

  22. The D.A. dinner party looks awesome! How ambitious, clever and fun. The supporting cast looked equally authentic. Your hair looks really nice…classy but relaxed. I thought it was pretty when you were here last week and meant to comment on it.

  23. How much fun!! I love the way the ‘staff’ was so serious in all the pictures. So adorable the girls are. I think I could get used to being served and cleaned up after. Getting season 2 to catch up.!

  24. O M G!!!! If I didn’t know about Downtown Abbey, I would think this was the REAL thing!! How perfect everything looks, the room, setting, servants, hair, costumes, you name it—PERFECT!!!
    Maybe you should be a party planner for this era and do parties!!! I know the time consumed in the planning paid off because all appears so perfect. Your servants picture is so precious and just having the family involved is the BEST part of being able to enjoy the dinner and not having to rush to end the fun.
    You did an outstanding job!!!!
    So excited that all turned out so perfect. What a memorable night for years to come:) Be sure and put this in your daughters albums.
    The outside is AWESOME!!!! There is no way I would have the wrong house with that posted on my house:))))
    CONGRATS!!!

  25. Sharon Justice says:

    Kristie-
    Jamie sent me this page. I knew before I opened it that it would be something special. What a creative mind you have! I can’t believe that Audra has grown so much. You are the Martha Stewart of
    Nashville! Have a wonderful Christmas.

    • Sharon,
      Thank you so much – I remember bringing Audrey to your farm all those years ago and how she was fascinated by your chickens! It’s wonderful to have both of your precious daughters in Cooking Club with me!!!

  26. Your dinner party looks like so much fun! I just started watching Downton Abbey this week, and I love the color on the walls in Lord Grantham’s dressing room. It’s wonderful with the mustard yellow drapes and gilded frames. It looks like a dark grey to me, what do you think?

  27. Kristie that is such a great idea. Now I want to have a themed dinner party. And how precious that you hubby and kids and friends were so willing to serve. The picture on the house is pretty awesome too.

  28. That party was soooooooooooooooooooo FABULOUS! BRAVO to YOU for all of your creative ideas! Everything looked so beautiful and the costumes and hair-dos amazing!!!! What memories!!!! What FUN! I want to be one of your friends! LOL! I HAVE to do something like this! It will have to be on a smaller scale, but it will be magical! My friends and I always act like English Ladies when we go to “Tea” here in New Orleans, with the accents and all. You are AMAZING!!!!!!! Just joined your website today!!!
    Merry Christmas!
    Betty
    XOXOXO

  29. Lovely! I would love to be in your next Downton Abbey party! Nice detail, even down to the service crew. Wouldn't it be nice to have our own Carson?

    Stumbled upon your blog because I'm planning for our church ladies' tea party. I wanted to use the Downton Abbey theme but can't figure out how to do that in a church setting.

    • I think you could totally do that – the right background music helps a lot, and maybe you could ask a few of the husbands to serve as footmen?  What church lady doesn’t LOVE a good tea party ;)

  30. Ooooh what fun! I majored in music and theatre when in college so I would loved to have come to this dinner. I would have probably come dressed in a costume closer to the 1910′s than the 20′s because I find those far more interesting to get accurate….so I love the challenge. :-) I’ve done tons of all kinds of costumes and am always looking for a costume event.

    Costumes, good food, proper table settings, period music! Great! I hosted an outdoor afternoon ladies tea event last year. My hubby served as our waiter. The guests LOVED it! :-)

  31. Beth Lester says:

    Best party theme ever!

    My 18-year-old daughter and I were privileged to attend a Downton Abbey opening party last season on the Queen Mary (sponsored by PBS). Many were in period costume, they served us delightful food and showed us the first hour of the 3rd season. The ambiance was incredible, of course. But I think your party might have us beat….

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