Is anyone really surprised that Shonda Rhimes, prolific creator of highly (and toxically) addicting shows and highest paid showrunner in Hollywood, has created what is now the most watched Netflix series ever? Nope. Seeing that the Regency train is as unyielding as Shondaland’s hypnotizing output—season 2 was announced just earlier this month—we found it more than fitting to include Bridgerton, whose costume department produced a whopping 7500 individual pieces in just 5 months, in our exploration of Regency-core motifs.
This is part of a series dissecting 4 shows that have been defining the recent interest in “Regency-core”, this particular article will focus on stylistic motifs and concepts found within Netflix’s Bridgerton. (We’ll try to keep the spoilers to a minimum.)
Pastel is Prologue
The Regency era itself is characterized by incredibly soft and dreamy looks for women. This includes the widespread use of pastels—which were donned predominantly by younger women (much like Daphne Bridgerton) whereas older women wore deeper, full-bodied hues such as burgundy and violet (like Lady Dansbury). At the time, color was incredibly strategic; it indicated where a person was in terms of maturity and class. Today, we see pastels almost exclusively during the spring (although millennials have made quite a sport of wearing them during colder months), however, the Regency era’s commitment to this light color scheme and romantic aesthetic was so steadfast that they wore pastels year-round, often crafting shawls and redingotes to warm themselves since these pastels were typically fashioned in sheer and non-insulating fabrics.
Above Left: The Bridgertons in their family color of blue, note that all the women are in pastel shades. Above Right: Lady Dansbury and The Duke of Hastings, she is wearing deep eggplant and burgundy tones and he is doing a great job of mixing textures (and looking handsome as always).
The Wheels Are In Notion
As Emily Farra said in her Vogue article covering Bridgerton looks: “An impractical accessory, be it a feathered hair clip or opera-length gloves, is practically an act of resistance,” which rings especially true today. There was no shortage of trimmings and frills in this show, most daytime dresses were delightfully adorned with a silk ribbon at the waistline or an artistic embellishment of rubies or diamonds—and all of those bright tulle gloves (embedded with pearls or flowers) at the picnic? I’m (desperately) hoping those make their way into the mainstream because they’re just dripping with the best kind of campiness and excess. My personal favorites, however, were the many accessories worked into Queen Charlotte’s wigs—which, don’t get me started, because these wigs deserve a dissertation of their own—outfitted with jewelry, bows, birdcages, flowers, ribbons, and gems, Marie Antoinette must be eating her heart out.
Left: One of Queen Charlotte’s many show-stopping wigs, this one, in particular, is outfitted with jewel-encrusted bows. Above: The Featheringtons, being extra (as per ushe) and donning sheer gloves, satin chokers, and flowers both on their garments and in their hair.
The Empire (Dress) On Which The Sun Never Sets
It seems that the ladies of Bridgerton know no other silhouette than that of the empire line—and we’re big fans of this choice. You can spot the signature high-waisted, cap-sleeve form in nearly every scene, and with an ingenious flamboyant twist. Ellen Mirojnick, the show’s costume designer, commented that the Regency staple was modified with tulle, organza, and embellishments to create a sense of fluidity. These details were heightened, of course, in The Feathringtons’ wardrobe which was… surreal to say the least (like Rodarte on steroids). In their many iterations of the empire silhouette, one could find satin ribbons, bright and sheer chemisettes, pearls on pearls on pearls, flowers scattered throughout, and, sometimes, a busy combination of all of the above. While embroidery can seem intimidating, here we have an easy tutorial to add some over-the-top glamour to your pieces.
Above: A double whammy; pastels and empire line dresses (Eloise is wearing a frilled sheer chemisette with a bow, which was customary of Regency women to wear during the day). Below: the Featheringtons’ interpretation of the empire line which, of course, comes with more prints, brighter colors, and embellishments.
Satin, Chemise and Brocade, Oh My!
If we can take away anything from Nigel Berbrooke’s petulant grievance—”I can’t believe I wore my satin knee breeches for this!”—it’s that fabrics matter. There were so many varying fabrics on the set, it’s unsurprising that folks today are looking to emulate these highly-textured looks (I mean, they’re so gloriously extra). The Duke, for example, well, who was he without his tasteful textile mixing? Consistent in his use of a dark brocade vest under a velvet spencer jacket, his look was very on theme for Regency-core—and moody a la Heathcliff. The Featheringtons, similarly, had a flair for certain fabrics (and all things sensationally gaudy) which we saw in their lilac chemise decolletages, puffy organza sleeves, and heavily detailed satin and brocade gowns. One fabric we didn’t see that was very typical of this epoch was muslin. In fact, Mirojnick said muslin was ultimately banned on set despite its historical validity. Instead, they opted for chemise and organza to create more movement and to expand upon their theme of all things fantastical.
Left: the Featheringtons wearing all the fabrics and incredible gloves (here for it). Below: the Duke wearing his typical brocade vest and velvet coat combo and Daphne Bridgerton in a periwinkle, you guessed it, satin empire dress with pearls scattered throughout.
There is an element of camp that pairs well with the scandalous plotline of this show. It’s chaotic harmony at its finest. Stay tuned for our next article on The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.