The scene at Anna Marie’s Teas was all early 20th-century posh one recent morning.
Dozens of women, many of them dressed in post-Edwardian finery, sat at tables covered in snow-white linen, sipping tea and noshing cucumber tea sandwiches.
Rich velvet drapes, antique furnishings and silver tea services perched here and there added to the once-upon-a-time vibe.
Jamie Simpson, 35, of Kansas City sat at a table in a blue-fringed flapper dress with a pearl necklace draped across her forehead and woven through her wavy hair. She chatted with friends Karen Lewis and Kathy Russell, both of Kansas City, and Rachel White of Gladstone. Lewis, 63, was wearing a brimmed hat with a satin bow that looked like it had been shipped straight from a Yorkshire estate.
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“It’s very Cora,” White said.
She was, of course, referring to Cora Crawley, fictional Countess of Grantham. The foursome was among more than 40 women and a couple of girls who had come for the “Downton Abbey” Farewell Tea Party. The show’s finale episode airs at 8 p.m. Sunday on PBS.
Russell, 63, wearing a pink hat and suit, noted how they loved the show’s contrasting storylines of the aristocrats and their servants, as well as its stylishness and femininity.
“Edith is my favorite character,” said Simpson of the Crawley family’s second daughter. “I like how she’s evolved and is taking charge of her life.”
“ ‘Downton Abbey’ is what brought us here. We thought it would be fun to have a tea party ourselves, and then we found this,” Lewis said.
After the show began airing six seasons ago, White, 28, put her grandmother’s china tea service on permanent display in her home.
“I painted my dining room yellow and now it has a bed-and-breakfast feel,” she said.
Brenda Hedrick owns Anna Marie’s Teas, which comprises a tea shop and the Terrace Avenue Inn in a home near historic downtown Liberty. A second house, where she and her husband, Al, live, sits diagonally across the street and is an event space for weddings, showers and the monthly themed tea parties that Hedrick hosts.
From an architectural standpoint, Hedrick’s 1913 home is more arts and crafts than the Jacobethan style of Highclere Castle, where “Downton” is staged. Nevertheless, it’s elaborately decorated with lace, rich colors, luxe fabrics, fringes and tassels.
An interior designer by trade, Hedrick says hosting the teas and events in her home allows her to constantly redecorate.
“This home will look totally different for next month’s tea party,” she said, explaining that she’ll use different table linens and swap out some of the more wintry accessories and heavy draperies for lighter spring ones.
At the “Downton” party, Hedrick, along with her shop manager Selena Speaks and a doll-faced Molly Mathews in scullery maid’s attire, moved among the tables delivering finger treats on tiered dessert stands and pouring steaming tea from clear glass pots. The blueberry mint tea was blended specifically for the event and is for sale in the shop in special “Downton Abbey” canisters.
The only signs of modern times were some of the women’s clothing and the occasional cellphone.
A few tables over, five women sat laughing and chatting like old friends. When asked how old they were — to lend perspective to their thoughts — Sandra Lane of Kansas City declined to answer.
“At my age, you need to ration one’s excitement,” she said, quoting Violet Crawley, the sharp-tongued Dowager Countess of Grantham. Lane was older than 60, she said.
Cate Bachwirtz of Kansas City, dressed in a burgundy velvet dress and matching headband that harkened to the 1920s, also declined to give her age, stating that she’s “the same as Cora.”
They all love all manner of British period films, and several are members of the Jane Austen Society, said Gayle VanAuken, 72, of Overland Park.
The women met in 2007 at tea classes at the Crestwood Shops’ Tea Market.
VanAuken started a tea club after they ran out of classes to take together. Now they meet at one another’s homes and Anne Marie’s several times a year.
They plan to hold a tea party for the show’s finale.
The women marveled at how life in the Crawley household evolved during the run of the show, what with the end of World War I and the advent of telephones, electricity and other technologies.
“We take it for granted now, but it was fascinating to see how it changed their lives,” said Kimberlea Rauzi, 50, of Kansas City.
“You understand this goes on everywhere,” said Mary Lewis, 60, of Lenexa, referring to their love for the show.
And though there weren’t any men in attendance that day, the women insisted that plenty of them watch “Downton Abbey.”
Rauzi’s rough-and-tumble police officer husband gave up Monday night football to watch “Downton” with her.
“Now I’m afraid that when it’s over, he’s going back to football, and I’ll hear screaming and cursing from the bedroom again,” she said.
‘Downton Abbey’ finale
The show’s final episode airs at 8 p.m. Sunday on PBS.