Are you batty for Bridgerton too? Would you like more juicy details on the Bridgerton costumes? Like did they really wear these luxurious outfits back then? Could these be authentic?
The Netflix series Bridgerton has unleashed our romantic fantasies in a way no one could have imagined. With my background in theatre, I’m so fascinated I found a webinar with costume designer Ellen M where she attempted to describe the process of how the costumes were developed, from color palette to silhouettes. Let me share a few of her tidbits.
First of all, this series is an adaptation of Julia Quinn’s book, a fictional and magical world full of fantasy that’s also sexy. It’s not a documentary or a biopic so the costumes are not perfectly period-correct. It takes place in the Regency Period (1813), so for believability, the silhouettes for the women’s clothes are the Empire style. That means the top is fitted under the bust, then drops straight to the floor. This style evolved after women became tired of the overly corseted garments of an earlier age (Queen Charlotte wears the earlier style). Ellen said Queen Charlotte never changed that look her entire life.
Now here’s where the changes start. While the book gave some guidance (like the ‘ugly’ yellow dress of Penelope) Mirojnick started with an inspirational Lookbook illustrating a color palette, silhouettes, and accessories for the families that was both modern yet period. The characters’ costumes were to have an aspirational feel balancing fanciful with serious. And amazing textured fabrics were made more delicious with MORE hand-stitched embellishments like feathers and pearls and Swarovski crystals. Plus, fabrics were layered, like layering organza over an embellished fabric to add dimension. And these fabrics were heavy with great body, no limp muslins here.
The Bridgerton’s color palette was powdery and soft - upperclass tasteful
The Feateringtons’ entire wardrobe was audacious in color and pattern and embellishments.
Plus, in that period women wore bonnets (look at the new Emma series) but in this world, they were bonnetless giving opportunity for all the fabulous headpieces, tiaras, and flowers. So you’ll know, on a film or TV set, the lighting people despise hats because they cast shadows across actor’s faces and every time the actor moves, the shot has to be re-lit. And who wants to look at the back of a hat?
And the wigs and hairpieces – you knew these weren’t true to the period, didn’t you? And yes, Queen Charlotte’s were heavy, but weren’t they fabulous?
So let me share with you what I found so audacious and wildly outrageous and somewhat visually confusing.
The vivid, acid colors of the Featherington’s could not have been produced at that time, nor could the huge patterns in Portia Featherington’s dresses. Did you notice her dresses were a different silhouette? This was chosen to accommodate the actress’s figure. The Empire style was there, but they fitted the garment to her waistline to give her a sleeker look. (As you have probably learned by now, not every shape looks good on every body!)
In case you were wondering, Daphne had 104 costumes, 5,000 costumes in total were created specifically for this show.
Now, go watch Bridgerton again with new eyes on those juicy costumes! And if you’re looking for a modern reference, the 1960’s had its own empire style too!