Like many of my fellow Janeites, I recently indulged in season 2 of the series Bridgerton.
Although Bridgerton does a marginally better job to follow Regency customs and etiquette than other shows (Sanditon, I’m looking at you), it does little more than find inspiration in the era.
Instead, Bridgerton builds a fantasy world based on the Regency period with the purpose of providing its viewers with sheer escapism and little regard for actual reality.
The worst culprit is the costume design department. Because, beyond the general Regency flavour of high-waisted silhouettes, many of the sartorial choices of the series are far from historically accurate.
Let me explain.
Bridgerton Costumes: a Splash of Colour – and Fantasy
I will not deny that Bridgerton is a feast for the eyes. The rich fabrics, the frills, the flounces, the ribbons are delightful, not to mention the beautifully curated colour palette.
There is serious consideration to the wardrobe of each of the characters’ stories and personalities. You can see that clearly in the colour themes for each of the families in the series, as in the example below of the Featherington sisters.
But the truth is that the vivid colours would have been impossible to reproduce during the Regency. Although many fashion plates of the era show brightly coloured gowns, in reality the shades would have been much fainter.
There is only so far you can go with natural tints and fabrics. Not even the wealthy Miss Darcy would have been able to sport a dress in the deep purple favoured by the elder Miss Sharma.
In the fantastical London of Bridgerton, accessories abound. Jewels and brooches dripping with precious stones and pearls are everywhere, as are embellished shawls and glamorous opera gloves.
However, while some ladies are partial to hats, and many use parasols, particularly on a sunny day, bonnets are a big no-no in Bridgerton-land. Not even the formidable matrons in the series wear them.
Perhaps bonnets were considered by the costume designers as too dowdy or traditional for the intended visual magnificence of the series.
It’s a pity, because they would have come very handy for certain scenes. For example, there is nothing better than a fashionable poke bonnet for ladies who don’t wish to be recognised in the street – just ask the many caricature artist of the era!
Underneath those wonderful dresses, nobody in Bridgerton seems to bother with chemises. Instead, they wear their stays on bare skin – a practice that in real life would have been uncomfortable and unhygienic.
The short corsets are historically accurate, as is the high bust-line, but the amount of flesh on display would have been much less during the era. Very low-cut gowns were acceptable as formal evening wear, but respectable women often wore scarves, neckerchiefs, fichus or other bits of fabric designed to cover the chest in the daytime (as shown in Austen’s most famous portrait).
Bridgerton Costumes -and their Zips
The thing that has most annoyed me when watching Bridgerton, even interfering in my enjoyment of the storylines: the abundance of zips on display in the series.
In the Regency, zips were obviously not an option. Dresses were adjusted to the wearer using a convoluted combination of buttons and ribbons, and the process of dressing and undressing oneself using those methods was difficult, tedious and time-consuming (hence the need for servants to help with the task).
But was there really no other way for the Bridgerton designers than to plant long zips on the back of most gowns on display? They really were everywhere…
If you have watched the Bridgerton series, is there some other element that particularly struck you when it comes to the costume design?
And on the topic of colour themes, which ones would you pick for your favourite fictional Austen families? For some reason, I think the Bennets would suit blue…