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Bridgerton: blunders amidst beauty

Three writers explore Bridgerton's fashion: from it's failures to their favourite moments.

The portrayal of corsets within Bridgerton is, unquestionably, historically inaccurate. The empire-line dresses worn throughout the series would not necessitate the smaller waist that a tight-laced corset would create, as the dress falls from the bust, almost completely obscuring the shape of one’s figure. Yet, just because they are historically inaccurate, does not mean that they don’t have a valuable role to play within the series. Tight corsets have come to be a shorthand within period programming – they are there to emphasise the tight restrictions placed on women’s lives during these periods, the ridiculous societal expectations thrust upon them, the lack of control they truly had over their own lives. In this, when we watch Lady Featherington demand that her daughter’s corset be tightened beyond reason, the scene is not about the corset, but rather acts as an introduction to the character dynamics that we will be seeing throughout the series: Lady Featherington is a woman who cares about what people think, often to the detriment of her own children; she cares about appearance beyond reason (in fact, the fact the corsets are seemingly useless only further contributes to this, as she is needlessly hurting her daughter); and she wants to ensure her daughters are perfectly moulded to fit in with cultural expectations.

Written by Lily Kershaw

Shonda Rhimes’ and Netflix’s new baby in leading strings Bridgerton had all the ingredients to become a viral sensation, the romantic romp being delightfully easy-viewing with the added bonus of debonair dukes and jaw-droppingly gorgeous sets and costumes. The show was quickly consumed worldwide, amassing viewing figures of over 63 million in a fortnight and shaking the fashion world right down to their breeches.

 It is not unusual for a popular television show or film to have an effect on fashion and beauty trends; Jennifer Aniston’s hair on Friends prompted over 11 million women to chop their locks into ‘The Rachel’ cut, and headbands were no longer only primary-school cool after Gossip Girl’s Blair wore them as her signature accessory. The only difference is, we are not talking about a revival of headbands here. The characters of Bridgerton wear (mostly) era-appropriate empire-waist gowns, corsets and bonnets, items you are unlikely to see on the Zara website or wear on your trip to Tesco’s.

How 19th century and 21st century fashion came together somewhat mirrors the music of the show itself.  Pop songs by the likes of Ariana Grande and Taylor Swift were ‘Austenised’ with a string quartet makeover and surreptitiously slotted into scenes, marrying the classical and the modern. The 2021 fashion equivalent is ‘Regencycore’, a trend which combines elements of Regency and 21st century fashion into a wearable version of the dreamy clothes seen on the show.

For this lockdown corsets have made a comeback, although not as the debutantes of Queen Charlotte’s court knew them. Corsets are now being styled over crisp white shirts, paired with jeans or layered over a t-shirt dress, making for cool and savvy outfits not too out of place for a walk down the high street. Swirling floral designs, romantic flowing skirts and capped sleeves will no doubt be popular in Spring too, a wistful departure from the comfort of lockdown-chic trackies and old freshers week t-shirts. A Victoria’s Secret corset top has gone viral on Tiktok because its delicate floral pattern, fussy lace and sweet satin ribbons practically scream Bridgerton, without being a full-blown ballgown. If a singular clothing item encapsulates the essence of Regencycore, this top is just that: a piece of lingerie that is somehow also demure and rather elegant.

Even the colours of Bridgerton are coinciding with the predicted shade trends for 2021. Every December Pantone™ declare their new ‘it’ colour for the new year, setting the tone for fashion and home design trends to follow. The 2021 colour is a cheery, buttercup shade of yellow named ‘illuminating’ which Lady Featherington could only be proud of. Bridgerton’s costume designer Ellen Mirojnick pre-empted the need for visual vivacity and cheerfulness in the gloom of 2020/21. She used anachronistic hues of fuchsia, cornflower blue and of course bright, bright, yellow to do some illuminating of her own.

Tiktok and other social media sites undoubtedly fuelled part of the virality of both Bridgerton and Regencycore fashion. The platform was flooded with hundreds of women wearing the same olive-green corset from Amazon, flitting and floating around the room like a princess at Disneyland, the video overlayed with the Bridgerton soundtrack. Vogue, Cosmopolitan and Harper’s Bazaar among others have written articles about the show’s glorious costumes and outrageously fun hairstyles, showing the hold the costumes alone have on the fashion industry.

Bridgerton is neither ground-breaking nor deeply thought-provoking but nevertheless charming and oh-so pretty to watch. The show temporarily transports the viewer to a world stuffed with dances, picnics and nights at the opera, the kind of thing we can only yearn for in the midst of a lockdown. The characters look consistently stunning, primped and preened in case a suitor might show up at any minute. Sitting on the sofa in our pjs you cannot help but want to go to the ball with them draped in feathers and satin, if not just for the chance to wear real clothes and not loungewear for once. Since this is not obviously possible, imitation is the next best thing. After all, if we dress like Daphne, maybe a hunky duke will land in our laps too?

Written by Hannah Goode

Dear reader, I shall hope that you did not miss the most remarkable coup of the season – the first series of Netflix’s Bridgerton.

Lady Whistledown impersonations aside, the Netflix-hit Bridgerton certainly made a remarkable debut! The show created by Chris van Dusen and based on Julia Quinn’s novel has been binged-watched by many (and, dear Oxford student, yes, you are allowed to catch a break and watch a show on Netflix) and is set to make the best launch ever for a show on the platform.

Bridgerton is indeed the perfect combination of Jane Austen novels and Gossip Girl, “Regency with a modern twist”. It is a period drama like never seen before. The show is a joyful painting of the 1813 society – exit dull beiges and welcome to a colourful debutante season! Bridgerton’s costumes were the creation of designer Ellen Mirojnick, who had worked with Shondaland (the show’s production company) in the past. Part of her philosophy was to stick to historical foundations and silhouettes, while offering a modern colour palette. The styles are more luxurious, more sumptuous and reflect the fashion of our current time. The colours provide a fresh outlook on the Regency period; historical accuracy mattered, but there needed to be a modern shift. Who would have expected garish yellows and pinks amongst the Ton? Now, who wishes for a Bridgerton-inspired ball once the pandemic ends? Quite a ravishing idea indeed!

Colours carry an important meaning for the shows characters. They hide clues about their stories and personalities. Let’s start with an outlook on the Bridgertons. Their wardrobe is dominated by pale hues of blue, purple and pink. The muted pastel palette is a symbol for the older, classically upper class family that the Bridgertons are. The more traditional and delicate gowns of Daphne, Eloise and Lady Bridgerton radiate elegance and grace. The family is mostly defined by Wedgwood blue. It is a nod to the fine china porcelain founded in 1759 and illustrates the level of status and luxury held by the family. The pastels are juxtaposed with the Featherington’s bright, almost gaudy colour scheme. The Featherington’s are new money, and thus seek stature and attention. Lady Featherington wishes her daughters to be seen and courted by the most noble men of Mayfair. The family is loud and proud, although the vivid hues are verging on the vulgar. The colour scheme also cover up a deeper secret. Lord Featherington is severely indebted – a scandal that would have destroyed any family’s reputation. The bright colours are an effort to hide the stain covering the family. And what better way to distract the town’s, and, crucially, Lady Whistledown’s attention than wearing bold colours?

The families illustrate the importance of colours in Bridgerton, but individual characters also wear distinct colour schemes.

Daphne Bridgerton, the diamond of the first water, wears white, baby blue and pale colourful hues. It is indeed an indicator of the stature and nobility. The pale colours will be associated to innocence – she enters the marriage market having never been in love or having had a relationship with a man. Gradually, she will discover herself, the world and become a woman. White may even further symbolize her strong wish of being married and her pursuit of an ideal family life. Over the course of the episodes, her clothing will become more mature.

Our dear Penelope Featherington almost exclusively wears yellow. At first, it symbolizes her joyful, perhaps sometimes childish nature. It was an incredibly fashionable colour of the Regency Era, often considered the most popular of those worn by marriage-seeking young women. But yellow is also the colour of lust and jealousy, which reflects her infatuation with Colin Bridgerton, whom she witnesses forming an attachment with Marina Thompson. Most interestingly, it is the colour of deceit and hints at the interesting secrets that Penelope has to hide.

And then, of course, we have the Duke of Hastings (you really thought that we could write an entire article on Bridgerton without mentioning His Grace?). Simon first appears wearing solely dark colours, that emerged from his complicated past and overall reluctance to participate in the bravado that is social season in London. As the series progresses, and so do his feelings for Daphne Bridgerton, he is seen with more and more red. Red is the colour of love, of passion and hence adequately reflect the Duke’s gradual attraction to her.

There we are with our analysis about the importance of colours in Bridgerton. The show is a refreshing outtake on period dramas that will certainly influence modern fashion.

Now in the words of the mysterious Lady Whistledown: “The illustrious words that come to this author’s mind the morning after any good party are shock and delight”.

Yours truly.

Written by Larissa Koerber

Artwork by Alessia Daniel

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