While it’s no secret that shows like Bridgerton and The Gilded Age have inspired mainstream fashion trends in huge ways for several seasons now, it didn’t stop there. This over-the-top, grander and better style of dressing also made an appearance at the 2022 Met Gala, where invited celebrities were given the dress code of “Gilded Glamour”. After so many takes on Gilded Age fashion, the lines have become a bit blurry. With a little help from history and a touch of modernism, it’s time to figure out what Gilded Age Fashion is all about in 2022, and how it relates to Regencycore fashion.
In 1873, Mark Twain coined the term “The Gilded Age” to refer to the period of 1870-1900, marked by economic and industrial prosperity in the country and great political corruption. This age saw the rise of powerhouse American families like the Vanderbilts, famous for the Vanderbilt Mansion that still stands today in Hyde Park, New York. Meanwhile, this was also a period of change in the country, as other, lower-class families were forced to immigrate to Ellis Island in hopes for a better life.
As times changed, so did fashion. Extravagant dressing reflected societal changes that contributed to great advances in the textile industry, where the production of silk, tulle, and lace saw a major influx in production. Gilded Age fashion generally meant layers of clothing, with men wearing different versions of suits and women wearing floor-length gowns accompanied by restrictive corsets to help achieve desired shapes. Generally, the more often someone was able to change their ensemble a day, the more wealthy they were.
For the upper-class, fashion was as follows:
In 1870, bustles, which are skirts that are fuller in the back, were popular, along with color mixing. Before this decade, matching bright colors with dark colors was uncommon. In 1876, the princess line combined bodices and corsets with vertical seams, long sleeves and high necklines. In 1880, the princess-style dress and bustles continued and got even more elaborate. Both day and evening wear included lace, frills, bows and other over-the-top details. In terms of menswear, the traditional tuxedo made its way from Europe to the States during this time period, coupled with a rise in men’s sportswear for leisure activities. In 1890, interests shifted, especially for women, who began to engage in more activities outside the home for leisure and work. Sportswear began to gain popularity during this time for women and maintained popularity for men, too. With that, the bustles of the past two decades disappeared.
While fashion designers have always taken inspiration from historical garments, more and more of today’s designers seem to be looking towards the beginning and end of the 19th century for inspiration. This can be traced back to the popularity of Bridgerton, which takes place in the Regency period of roughly 1800-1820, as well as The Gilded Age on HBO. As seen in The Gilded Age, the costume designer is recreating the looks of high-society New Yorkers, taking inspiration from historical silhouettes. Characters embrace corsets, long-lined bodices, gloves, and necklines that expose the decolletage, to name just a few key references. While from two different eras, Regencycore fashion and Gilded Age glamour have a lot in common. I consider the Gilded Age fashion inspiration to be a continuation of the Regencycore styles that have been popular recently. Regencycore fashion has made its way into designer collections, and research has proven that consumers are in the market for gloves, empire waist silhouettes, babydoll dresses, cotton poplin dresses, and corsets, to name a few.
The extravagant styles of regencycore and historically-inspired dressing make for fun fashion trends, and it looks like they are here to stay, at least for a little while. For more on Regencycore fashion and, what it is, check out the post here. For Regencycore-inspired sewing patterns, check out the Bridgerton Dress Free Sewing Pattern.