Travel Nashville: Side-saddle Fashion at Cheekwood and beyond

Downton Abbey Equine Costume“It’s all about the gear,” someone said as I shopped for, well … riding clothing at The Royal Winter Fair in Toronto last fall.

Granted, I can’t get enough horse embossed hoodies, jackets, coats, bags and boots. There’s something classic about equestrian style and, thanks to the tights-as-pants trend, it’s easy to pull off in public.

No surprise I loved the equestrian costumes in the “Dressing Downton: Changing Fashions for Changing Times” exhibit tour when I saw it in Nashville, Tennessee. ‘Dressing Downton,’ is the tour of actual outfits worn by Downton Abbey actors. The characters, like all good upper class Victorian English sods, rode horses.

And they rode in long A-lined shirts, fitted tweed jackets and Royal Wedding worthy chapeaus. No wonder they had to sit sideways…

Downton Abbey Costume horsetrotting.netThis exhibition of 36 historically-inspired Abbey costumes – some recreations, some actual vintage dresses, and a couple equestrian – is oddly compelling. The show spans the transition between 19th and 20th century, and the styles document changes in social attitude while revealing character traits of those wearing them.

I saw it at Cheekwood’s Museum of Art in Nashville, Tennessee.

One thing I do like is Cheekwood’s Museum of Art and surrounding acres of botanical gardens. The central historic stone house, now remodelled as more museum than residence, introduces visitors to the American economic heyday of the late 19th century.

Cheekwood’s Museum is really the former private house of the Cheek family of Maxwell House coffee fame. The house encapsulates the Victorian to 20th century period when American families were making their mark by creating grand estates full of decorative art, china, silverware and furniture, much imported from Britain. The Cheek estate is a document of this time – hence the Downton Abbey connection.



‘Dressing Downton,’ started its rounds at the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina in February 2015. With stops throughout the U.S for two years, including Chicago and Nashville, the exhibit recently found a resting spot at the Grand Ballroom Gallery in The Lightener Museum, St. Augustine, Florida until February 2018.

Did I ever tell you about that time I nearly got to ride sides-saddle? Nearly. Up next: a riding school in the middle of Amsterdam’s suburbs.

Check out our adventure riding in Nashville and visiting Belle Mead, home of racehorse history.

Miss Downton Abbey on TV? Find the entire collection of all seasons on (affiliate link)


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