A fresh period drama named “Bridgerton” came out at the very end of 2020. It’s been a while since we watched a good movie with rather historically-accurate stage costumes. So, let’s look at them in Bridgerton and see which of 7 500 pieces of clothes made for this series were beautiful and accurate and which not-so-great. We’ll analyze the costumes of Bridgertons, Featheringtons, Simon Basset and his mentor Lady Danbury, and a few other outfits.
This material is based on the video from YouTube channel “Costume CO”.
Bridgerton, a fun and frothy frock flick, is a new Netflix period drama based upon the Regency romance book series by American author Julia Quinn. Netflix reported that Bridgerton is the fifth-largest season premiere for an original series.
The costumes, a veritable cornucopia of confectionary delight, were designed by multiple Costume Designers Guild Award winner Ellen Mirojnick. In her portfolio, are The Chronicles of Riddick, Starship Troopers, The Greatest Showman, Behind the Candelabra, Maleficent, and many others.
With 5 months of prep, a staggering number of costumes were created for the series by a team of 238 people. None of the costumes in the series were rented or purchased, which is more typical with historical costume series. In all, close to 7 500 pieces of wardrobe were created – enough to fill an entire costume warehouse. That amounts to approximately 5 000 bespoke costumes.
While the costumes themselves are bespoke, many of the tiaras were supplied by Austrian crystal and jewelry maker Swarovski, from their archives. Although, the wardrobe team took it a step further and embellished the pieces with added crystals. And from the look of these jewelry pieces, it appears that many of them were purchased as well.
Because of her vast knowledge and expertise, costume designer Ellen Mirojnick was originally brought to consult on how to bring to life such a mammoth wardrobe design, but when they inevitably asked her to stay on, she stated that she was up to the challenge.
Inspiration for Bridgerton costumes
Ellen Mirojnick describes the costume design for Bridgerton that, while set in 1813 London, it is mixed with modern elements or Regency with a twist.
From Julia Quinn’s Facebook page
With this, Ellen Mirojnick says that the look is more luxurious and sumptuous, with a modern color palette, but still with the basic foundation of the 1813 silhouette.
Silk dress, about 1810
Muslin dress, 1810-1814. Images are from The McCord Museum
The formula can be broken down as,
Ellen Mirojnick told The Cut in an interview that the single artist that was the inspiration for Bridgerton was an Irish painter named Genieve Figgis. She said, “I looked at her paintings and they just knocked me out”.
Family by Genieve Figgis, 2018
Ellen Mirojnick tells Vogue that she also took color and fabric inspiration from the “Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams” exhibition at The V&A in London.
Historical accuracy of Bridgerton movie costumes
As always with historical movies, the question arises, if the costumes in this show are historically accurate.
Heidi Loney, Canadian costume designer and owner of YouTube channel “Costume CO” says that,
“I think the more important question should be, not is it historically accurate but is it good design?”
Here are a few smaller questions and let’s see if we check all the boxes.
Does it tell you something about the setting, time of year, and location? Yes.
Does it show you the economic status of the characters? Yes.
Does it tell us anything about the specific characters? Absolutely.
Does it offer up some needed distraction and entertain us, following what was one of the worst years in many of our lifetimes? Yes.
So, are the costumes accurate and good enough? Sure. But also, are there some anachronisms that occasionally pull us out of the story, that happens, too. We’ll talk about accurate and not-so-accurate Bridgerton stage costumes in detail a bit later.
General analysis of Bridgerton movie costumes
A place that is always a great place to start is with the silhouette. So, despite the color palettes and the choices of fabrics and trims, there is indeed a cohesive silhouette that carries throughout the show.
Bridgerton takes place during the 1813 London social scene and during this time, with the exception of a few characters, the women dress in the neoclassical columnar silhouette and the men – in waistcoats, tailcoats, front flap pants, scoop neck shirts that are finished off with cravats.
As to the color, it’s like the whole thing is an alternative reality – everything was heightened, the colors are that much bolder, the patterns that much larger, the lace and trim, again, a boatload of Swarovski crystals, that much more over-the-top.
This also creates some contrast between the two families – the Bridgertons and the Featheringtons.
The Bridgertons are like old money – very subdued and a muted color palette of blues, greens, silvers, and whites, while the Featheringtons are like new money – dressed like peacocks in super-bold shades and colors.
Ellen Mirojnick said in an interview that the Bridgertons are the bees, while the Featheringtons are the butterflies.
The Bridgerton sons dress in cooler tones, often in shades of blue. But you do see Anthony as he dons this gorgeous deep purple as well.
Daphne Bridgerton, who’s played by Phoebe Dynevor, is the most elegant of all the daughters. She loves all the pretty frocks. She wore so many in the show, something like 104 dresses in total, according to the production. But after a while, all of those plain blue ones just started to look like one another.
Image courtesy of Netflix
Later on, however, as Daphne's story arcs, her colors become duskier, as explained by Ellen Mirojnick. She tells Vogue that Daphne's palette does change as time goes on, saying, the pinks and blues are richer and the silvers deepen as she grows and matures.
The stand-out one, of course, was her gold-embroidered ivory silk debutante gown with the train. The gown is likely all the more dramatic because of the scooped neckline.
Ellen Mirojnick tells Vogue, “This show is sexy, fun and far more accessible than your average restrained period drama and it's important for the openness of the neckline to reflect that. When you go into a close-up, there's so much skin. It exudes beauty”.
In direct contrast to the two families, the Duke of Hastings Simon Basset often favors darker colors and a lot of black. This might suggest his reputation as a rake or it could be an indication of his ongoing inner turmoil or both. But more simply, it might just be because actor Regé-Jean Page looks great in this palette. He is the only character to wear a black shirt, so it also makes him stand out.
His mentor Lady Danbury is often dressed in jewel-tone colors, especially purples.
You do see Simon in the occasional jewel tone, which possibly is influenced by his association with Lady Danbury.
Anachronisms in Bridgerton’s costumes
As far as the British monarchy is concerned, there are quite a bit of artistic dresses taken there, especially with the queen and her ladies in waiting dressed in an 18th-century silhouette well into the 1800s.
This gown in ermine cape, for instance, appeared to be inspired by this portrait of Queen Charlotte, the real-life queen consort to King George III.
Queen Charlotte in Robes of State by Joshua Reynolds, 1779
Queen Charlotte actor Golda Rosheuvel explains that, intentionally, the queen has no continuity in her costumes, reflecting a kind of gaudiness about the society.
Ellen Mirojnick says that the real Queen Charlotte was known for never changing her silhouette for when she became queen in the 18th century. But there are many portraits of Queen Charlotte later in her life that showed that she did indeed alter her silhouette.
Queen Charlotte by Thomas Ryder, published 1804
The Princess Royal of England Wedding, 1797
Here are some additional anachronisms in Bridgerton.
Lady Featherington has her own unique silhouette. In fact, she rarely strays from it. She always wears a bodice with a slightly lower waistline that includes a built-in waistband, a sweetheart neckline, and 3/4 length fitted sleeves, and the skirt is body-skimming. It definitely isn't of the era and doesn't really fit in either before or after 1813. This might be inspired by the 1950s or 60s or perhaps Christian Dior.
Speaking of the 60s, this sleeveless dress worn by the Featheringtons' distant cousin Marina Thompson, in combination with the hair, looks like something out of that era.
And while there were hats of plenty for the men, we rarely see a bonnet on any of the women.
Ellen Mirojnick explains, “There were no bonnets, but we do nod to them with our hair accessories”.
It doesn’t really take away from the story, which is a good thing, but at the same time, the lack of hats is often a missed opportunity to do something fabulous.
Speaking of a lack of hats, one thing that does pull us out of the story often is the bangs. Especially when they are in the same scene with a character that is clearly wigged.
But one fail that we tend to see not only in Bridgerton but in almost all historical dramas is the lack of shift seen under the stays. In case you don't know why this is important – as an item of clothing worn against the skin, shifts protect from chafing, which can result in marks on the body. The shift also absorbs the sweat and oils from the body and, since it was changed after every wear, it protects the stays from a buildup of dirt and grime. You wouldn't wear the same bra every day without washing it, would you?
So, it was so weird because the stays themselves were actually pretty accurate. All of them were made by corsetmaker Mr Pearl. And they were also tight-laced, which wasn't really the fashion during this time. This must have been awful for the cast to have to endure wearing them day in and out without the shift underneath.
But other than that, most costumes are pretty good and a lot of them are accurate. Also, this series wasn’t created to follow all of the rules and period-accurate fashion trends. It was meant to entertain us, which it does well.