Monday, January 07, 2013
Foundation's party has 'Downton Abbey' fans dress the part
The Roanoke Valley Preservation Foundation held a watch party fundraiser for the third season premiere of PBS' hit television show.
Photos by Matt Gentry | The Roanoke Times
Whitney Duff (left) and Kristin Sheets wave at a friend on the banister above them in the Patrick Henry ballroom on Sunday. The sisters-in-law had just arrived in 1920s period dress to attend the "Downton Abbey" premiere party.
Whitney Leeson, of Salem, models a homemade 1920s-style Turkish pants outfit in the Patrick Henry building's ballroom on Sunday. Leeson used an old bridesmaid dress to make her outfit.
Jazz music played while women in long dresses and men in tuxedos stepped back into the 1920s as they walked into the Patrick Henry building's ballroom on Sunday night.
They gathered in their finest furs and best vintage jewels to watch the premiere of the third season of PBS' popular television show "Downton Abbey."
The Roanoke Valley Preservation Foundation hosted a fundraiser watch party Sunday night that included a photo booth, raffle, and trivia and costume contests.
About 100 people came to show off their best outfits. "Downton Abbey" revolves around a British family and covers the time period between the sinking of the Titanic and the aftermath of World War I. Many Patrick Henry visitors chose to sport 1920s period dress.
Betty Hahn of Blacksburg was excited to have a reason to dig her mother's old dress out of storage. The turquoise frock was embroidered with small rhinestones.
Hahn said the dress was from the '70s, but had been styled to look retro in the '20s style.
She and a friend, Doug Chancey, also of Blacksburg, said they chose to attend the event because they like watching "Downton Abbey" and because they enjoy dressing up. Chancey was sporting a tuxedo with a white scarf.
But Hahn said they're also big on preservation, so they were happy to support the Preservation Foundation as well.
Preservation Foundation coordinator Maribeth Mills said she liked the idea of incorporating "Downton Abbey" in the fundraising event because the show is about the Crawley family trying to preserve their family home, which Mills said ties in with the mission of preservation.
"We also knew we'd have a good crowd," Mills said, because of the show's popularity.
Mills said the Preservation Foundation is working on projects such as installing a walk of plaques with historical information in the Gainsboro neighborhood; installing plaques around downtown Roanoke with information about historical buildings; installing greenway markers with information about historical sites; and creating a curriculum for the fall of 2013 called Around the Little House, inspired by Virginia Lee Burton's book "The Little House," to teach second-graders about preservation.
Mills said the watch party was the group's first fundraiser. She said the Preservation Foundation typically receives grant money for projects, so the majority of the money raised from the party would go toward operational expenses.
Sisters-in-law Kristin Sheets and Whitney Duff, both of Roanoke, took extra time to learn from a YouTube video how to put 1920s-inspired finger waves in their hair along with feathered headbands.
Sheets borrowed some of her grandmother's jewelry, while Duff sported her grandmother's mink wrap from the 1930s.
Sheets and Duff said they saw a flier for the party in Mill Mountain Coffee and knew they wanted to attend. They said they love the show and the period fashion that the characters wear.
Charlie and Chris Vestal of Blacksburg brought four of their friends to the party.
"I haven't seen it," Charlie Vestal said, but he was happy to get his tuxedo shirt dry cleaned and take his wife, Chris, who said she loves the show, to the party. Chris Vestal said one of the things she was most interested in for the show's third season was the impending wedding.
"I saw the announcement for the party in the paper on Thursday, and I knew she'd want to go, so I took my shirt straight to the cleaner," Charlie Vestal joked.
Whitney Leeson of Salem, a history professor at Roanoke College, went all-out with her costume, imitating the blue Turkish pants that Lady Sybil wears in season one, episode four. Leeson said she bought an old bridesmaid dress from Goodwill and cut the dress up to make her own Turkish pants.
"I love 'Downton Abbey,'" Leeson said. "The more the public can become engaged with the past, that's great."
Virginia Draper of Roanoke not only came because she loves the television show, but said she also loves dressing up. Draper's signature piece was a rhinestone-studded white fox fur wrap she got from furrier Craig Knapp of Floyd. She said he gave it to her at a great discount because it had been a sample.
"I just love costumes," Draper said. "My thing is costumes."
Draper said she was anticipating season three of the show because actress Shirley MacLaine would be joining the cast. Draper said she enjoyed the watch party because "it's so dignified."
"It looks like a page from the past," Draper said, gazing at the people gathered in the Patrick Henry ballroom, waiting for the show to start. "I like to see Roanoke do things like this. It gives us some dignity."