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Upstairs and downstairs: 8 steps to living like Downton Abbey

Written by
Jessica Berson

For most people, the holidays are done and gone, but for Anglophiles like me, they're just getting started. Our celebrations actually began on December 25th with the Doctor Who Christmas Special, followed by last weekend's Downton Abbey Season 5 premier, and will culminate in April with the start of the new Game of Thrones. In other words, it's a great time to get your British on.

To get in the mood for Downton Abbey's all new crop of scandals and sassy Maggie Smith quips, there's two ways one could go: upstairs and downstairs.


A proper British cuppaMiranda Tegtmeier for

Step 1: Get yourself some period clothing. There's a few vintage shops around town that might have something that fits the bill, but if they can't deliver a full length tea gown dripping in pearls in your size, go full on cos-play and have one custom made for you.

Step 2: Decorate your living quarters appropriately. Hildt Gallery in the Drake Hotel specializes in American and British art from the 19th and 20th centuries, which means by Lord Grantham's standards, these pieces are positively modern. One single sea-scape or Impressionist portrait might set you back all of your Christmas cash from Grandmama, but honestly, isn't it worth it?

Step 3: Hire some staff. I'm not just talking your run of the mill house maids, you can actually hire your own butler, complete with formal attire and snooty attitude, to cater to your guests and organize your household (though technically most "butlers" for hire are actually doing the job of a valet...but I digress).

Step 4: Tea Time. Now that you and your home are adorned properly, you can leave everything in the hands of your trusty butler and head out for some posh nosh. The Langham Hotel has recently started up a high tea service, which is conveniently Downton Abbey inspired. It features such delights as cucumber sandwiches, roast beef, and a rainbow of proper British scones, all severed appropriately on Wedgwood china between 3:00 and 4:00 PM daily.


Full English breakfast at Owen and EngineMiranda Tegtmeier for

Step 1: Slum it at the pub. Chicago has some of the most authentic British style pub food this side of the pond. Duke of Perth in Lakeview has hearty Scottish slanted fair like Scotch egg burgers, haggis wings, and fish pie while Mrs. Murphy and Sons in North Center gives you a more Irish experience with corned beef and cabbage, Guinness stew, and baked rarebit. For the ultimate English pub food, Owen and Engine is usually on point with farm to table renditions of classics like bangers and mash, fish and chips, and bubble and squeak (yes, those are all real names of food).

Step 2: Slum it at home with authentic British goodies. If I could live in the basement of Spencer's Jolly Posh Foods, I probably would, but since they seemed to be creeped out every time I suggest it, I usually settle for having them fix me a basket of provisions straight from the UK. They've got every British candy imaginable, from Flake bars to Jelly Babies, as well as an excellent selection of specialties like HB Brown Sauce, clotted cream, and even authentically British washing up supplies for scrubbing down your boss's mansion. You can also stay for an excellent tea service, which while not quite as fancy as The Langham, still makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

Step 3: Slum it for Tea Time. The concoctions coming out of Chicago based Rare Tea Cellar are all the rage in local restaurants right now, with some even crafting their delicious teas into even more delicious cocktails. Their blends can be purchased through their online store, along with all the accessories you could want to make a good old fashioned cuppa. Or, you know, Jewel carries Twining's if you want to really want to act like a commoner.

Step 4: Tired of slumming it? Learn how to talk good. If you're tired of living the downstairs life, hire someone to teach you how to be all proper like and reintroduce yourself to society as someone's long lost cousin so that you can marry into money and start living the upstairs life.

Downton Abbey airs Sunday nights at 8:00pm on PBS.

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