Fashion

The ‘Bridgerton’ Effect: Regency Fashion Makes Its Way To the 21st Century

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“Bridgerton,” Netflix’s biggest hit series, was released Dec. 25 and has swept up 82 million households in the span of only one month

Created by relative newcomer Chris Van Dusen and produced by the legendary Shonda Rhimes (“Greys Anatomy,” “Scandal”), the show is based off Julia Quinn’s popular novels about the eight Bridgerton siblings — the children of an elite aristocratic family.

The drama is set in Regency England (1811-1820) — it’s “Gossip Girl” meets Jane Austen. While “Bridgerton” is similar to the CW’s show “Reign,” it doesn’t share the show’s setting in time or historical accuracy. “Bridgerton” is filled with drama, scandal, action, romance and plotlines that will have viewers finishing it within a couple days.

One of the most appealing parts of the show is the costume design, inspired by popular styles of the time. Costume designer Ellen Mirojnick (“Fatal Attraction,” “The Greatest Showman”), takes the silhouettes of Regency England and embellishes them with a modern flair as part of the 7,500 costume pieces created for the eight-episode saga.

Unlike the recent adaptation of Austen’s novel “Emma” where virtually all of the garments were historically accurate, Mirojnick didn’t follow suit. Instead of using the traditional muslin (a plain, cotton weave), Mirojnick incorporated more modern materials such as organza (a thin, sheer fabric traditionally made from silk), and also banned the use of bonnets — a staple of the period — in order to establish a more contemporary-looking wardrobe. Mirojnick did pay homage to the bonnet by creating more updated hairpieces that have a half-moon shape.

Regardless of historical accuracy, the costume design of “Bridgerton” has inspired many to incorporate trends seen on the show — dubbed “Regency Core” — into a more modern, everyday wardrobe. 

Corsets

One of the most iconic garments of the era was the corset, an undergarment worn by women (and by some men) for support and to achieve the ideal body shape. Various types of corsets are seen throughout “Bridgerton,” including the typical longer-waisted variants with lace in the back. After all, there is usually a dramatic corset-tightening scene for at least one female character in any historical drama. However, shorter, cropped corsets were the more common style to be worn under the empire silhouette at the time for younger women. Both versions of these corsets are seen in “Bridgerton.”

Since the show premiered, women have been seen incorporating corsets into stylish modern outfits on apps such as TikTok, a popular video-based social media app. Some pair the corset with jeans and a leather jacket, while others go more classic and match it with a frilly dress or skirt.

Empire Silhouette

One of the biggest trends during the Regency era for women was the empire silhouette, meaning the bodice of a floor-length dress ends just below the bust with a long and loose-fitting skirt. This design is worn by almost all of “Bridgerton’s” female characters, with the exception of Queen Charlotte, who wore gowns with silhouettes popular later in the 18th century.

The empire silhouette has come in and out of style since its peak during the Regency period. The 1960s and the early 2000s saw the re-emergence of such styles for women in the more contemporary forms of mini dresses and blouses. After “Bridgerton’s” premiere, it seems more people are again embracing the empire silhouette. 

Puffy Sleeves

Another major trend to come out of “Bridgerton” is puff sleeves. For the show, Mirojnick created many of these sleeves with a sheer organza material to emulate more of a romantic, multidimensional look. Since “Bridgerton’s” release, it’s been easy to find a plethora of sheer and puff sleeves on popular online shopping sites, such as ASOS and Princess Polly. A great way to incorporate this dreamy trend into one’s everyday wardrobe is by pairing a bodysuit with sheer puff sleeves, wide-leg jeans and high-heeled boots. This will make for a modern, yet fairytale-inspired look that even Lady Whistledown would approve of.

Accessories

Of course, no look is complete without accessories. Mirojnick incorporates lots of lace, pearls and feathered headbands into her costume design, which could be added to any contemporary look today for extra flair. In one particular scene where young debutantes are presented to Queen Charlotte, all the young women wear feathers in their hair. Adding a feathered headband to polish off an outfit can elevate and formalize any casual look. Pearls, another staple in “Bridgerton,” also appear to be making a comeback, especially with the popularity of the Vivienne Westwood Saturn Pearl necklace, which is all over TikTok and Instagram. Pearls are a great way to take a look to the next level and look great layered with other necklaces, such as silver or gold chains.

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