Everyone’s talking about how “Bridgerton,” Netflix’s new drama series that centers on high society in Britain’s Regency era, is the perfect antidote to the post-holiday, pandemic winter doldrums, with its sex, scandal and ornate scenery.
But it’s also proving to be a balm for the dreary wardrobe patterns that the pandemic has brought forth. Sweatpants, slippers and hoodies are all very comfortable (and they can even be made of luxe materials, like cashmere), but they can only go so far in transmitting that spark of excitement that only a real, dressed-up look, with all its detailed accoutrements, can elicit.
The show’s costume designer, Ellen Mirojnick, did a deep dive on her research of England’s Regency era (1811-1820), a subset of the Georgian era (approximately 1714-1830). It was a period of time that heralded lush, ostentatious fashion from the upper crust of society, thanks in large part to the Prince Regent himself, George IV, who has been described as the “First Gentleman of England” for his stylish wardrobe and manners. (He was named the Prince Regent in 1811 after his father George III fell ill and became king in 1820.)
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Mirojnick and her team of 238 created more than 6,200 costumes for the show (an effort that required its own costume house on set). It’s like a big ice cream sundae with all the toppings,” she told WWD in a preview in mid-December. “It’s frothy and delicious, and total escapism.” The costume designer assigned specific colors to the families: The old-moneyed Bridgertons wore muted pastel blues and greens, while the new-moneyed Featheringtons wear more garish hues, specifically a bright yellow. What tied the family’s wardrobes (and the rest of the casts’) together was the silhouette — the period’s notable empire waist, in contrast to the Victorian wasp waist — as well as an attention to embellishment and accessories in the forms of jewelry, head pieces and hairstyles.
The costumes aren’t entirely historical, though, and Mirojnick looked to more modern inspiration to keep things fresh. “We were breaking all barriers,” she told WWD. “There was nothing that we had to include, but we respected what it was and then broke with tradition and made it our own.”
As it turns out, there is plenty of “Bridgerton” fashion already out there, and Mirojnick needed to only look to current seasons for some modern inspiration to the antique look.
For the past few seasons, designers like Cecilie Bahnsen and Azeeza have encouraged the return of the empire waist (also known as the babydoll dress). The silhouette last held the spotlight in the aughts, around 2004 to 2006, when trapeze dresses paired billowy shapes with short hemlines Now, the style feels most modern when it’s done in floaty, ethereal fabrics like tulle and satin, with more modest knee- or ankle-length hemlines and a definitive bust line — all details more in line with the Regency look.
And who can forget summer 2020’s biggest trend, the nap dress? The nightgown-as-daywear look takes a page from the dressing gowns of the 1800s such as the Victorian smock.
Fashion has long had a fixation on Victorian times, the era that immediately followed the Regency period, in the mid-1800s. Silhouettes and footwear styles differed a bit, but an attention to the ornate, the embellished and the intricate, did not. Lately, designers like Erdem Moralioglu and Laura Vassar Brock and Kristopher Brock have pushed the fantasy of period dress for modern times, working with rich brocades, vintage shapes and lush embellishments.
For his resort ’21 collection, Morialioglu pointed specifically to the Regency era, mixing it with influences from the more modern and mod ’60s. And for spring ’21, the Brocks also went further back in time with Regency-influenced empire waists.
The look may seem completely frivolous in real life, especially in contrast with the sporty-utilitarian loungewear everyone is currently wearing at home in front of their laptops. But in the midst of pandemic — and sweatpants —fatigue, it’s entirely possible that “Bridgerton” and its ornate fashion could be a bellwether for fancier times ahead. At the least, it will make for fun at-home cosplay to pass the time this winter.
13 Pieces That Scream “Bridgerton”
1. Cecilie Bahnsen organza dress
2. Gigi Burris feather head piece
3. Azeeza babydoll dress
To buy: Azeeza Kam raw silk dress, $895.
4. Larkspur & Hawk Georgian-inspired earrings
5. The Hill House Home Nap dress
6. Jennifer Behr crystal headwrap
7. Alice + Olivia babydoll dress
8. Manolo Blahnik brocade flat
9. Kiki Vargas babydoll dress
10. Tory Burch brocade heeled loafer
11. Erdem empire waist gown
12. Dries Van Noten brocade boots
13. Brock Collection floral silk organza gown
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