Close your eyes and try to think of a fashion trend most unlike the current mode for luxurious loungewear. It’s hard to beat a corset, yes?
And yet, given that some 63 million households have now watched the Shonda Rhimes-produced Netflix series Bridgerton, which is set amid the social season of Regency-era London (1811-20), it makes perfect sense that interest in the tight-fitting garment has soared.
The series – which has officially been renewed for a second season, according to recent news – follows the travails of Daphne Bridgerton, a daughter from the prominent Bridgerton family and the “unparalleled” debutante of the season, as she strives to find a perfect marriage match.
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The candyfloss escapism of the series has certainly struck nerves. For one thing, the series challenges the stereotypes of a typical period bonnet-com with its diverse casting (also, the series has done away with bonnets). For another, there’s the fashion.
The global fashion shopping platform Lyst reported this month that so-called “regency-core”, that is, fashion inspired by the trends of the Regency era, has soared. Searches for corsets were up 123 per cent, pearl and feather headbands up 49 per cent, long gloves up 23 per cent and empire line dresses up 93 per cent.
Dresses from dreamily feminine and romantic brands like Brock Collection and Erdem were the most viewed, as were Australian fashion designer Dion Lee’s signature corsets and headpieces from Simone Rocha.
The show has even sparked a social media trend, with TikTok users showing how to recreate Regency-era gowns and its elaborate hairstyles from scratch.
It’s easy to see the appeal of the show’s costumes. For one, in a palette of sugared almonds, they were entirely lush, and as Vogue reports, abundant, with some 7,500 pieces created (104 alone for Daphne Bridgerton).
Masterminded by 71-year-old costume designer Eileen Mirojnick, known for her work on films such as Fatal Attraction, Behind the Candelabra and The Greatest Showman, the costumes in the series are a beguiling souffle of sparkling gowns with sweet puff sleeves, twinkling hairpieces and punchy florals. Daphne Bridgerton is rarely not spotted in her signature shade of Wedgwood blue.
Minimalism has no place in this world of dance cards, diamonds and pearls nestled in one’s clavicle, afternoon tea in the drawing room to greet suitors, scandalising society gossip and, erm, extremely sexy romance.
Perhaps most appealing, the costumes nod to the era, but do not adhere strictly to the time. Mirojnick’s mood board for the series included photos from the 1950s and ’60s – the “Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams” exhibition at London’s Victoria & Albert Museum was a particular source of inspiration.
The silhouettes of the era were updated, too, to make the costumes look more in-sync with modern aesthetics. As Mirojnick told Vogue: “We paid a lot of attention to the scooped necklines and how they fit the bust, as opposed to having a (straight) line that doesn’t allow you to see the body. This show is sexy, fun and far more accessible than your average restrained period drama and it’s important for the openness of the necklines to reflect that.”
Even still, should you arrive at your next social occasion in a look from Bridgerton, there is a very real risk of resembling a lost attendee from a Jane Austen re-enactment society meeting. Even the trend for statement Zoom accessories might find Regency-era tiaras and gems a little much. But there are certainly ways to play with the feminine and opulent fashions of the era in ways that don’t feel at all like costuming.
From the powder blue dresses at Miu Miu spring/summer 2021 (Daphne Bridgerton would approve) to pretty florals and frills at Rodarte, sumptuous fabrics at Dolce & Gabbana, puff sleeves at Danish brand Cecilie Bahnsen and the pearl-encrusted handbags and accessories at Simone Rocha, recent collections have provided ample inspiration.
Celenie Seidel, senior womenswear editor at online retailer Farfetch, says the fashion in the series has relevancy right now.
“Thanks to a timely cross-pollination between culture and fashion, those of us inspired by the drama’s Regency-era chic can look to new season styles from designers creating modern interpretations of old world femininity, from Simone Rocha’s textured jacquards to Khaite’s very modern use of tulle and Cecilie Bahnsen’s puff sleeves and scoop-neck mimicking seams,” she says. “Combining these elements with modern elements like denim or leather fast-forwards the Regency mood to 2021.”
A key takeaway? Don’t try too much at once (keep the full Regency look for TikTok) and find balance by pairing more elaborate and delicate pieces with sleek tailoring or more casual separates. And don’t be afraid to play with proportions, textures and materials lest you take the trend too literally.
It’s not just women who might take inspiration from the frothy fashions of Bridgerton. The show’s somewhat tortured and impossibly handsome romantic lead, the Duke of Hastings (played by Rege-Jean Page), also tapped into the elevated mood of the season with his sumptuous brocade vests and perfectly dandy-fied coats in burgundy-hued velvet. He and his fellow gentlemen were never too far from a jaunty cravat.
Thom Scherdel, menswear buyer at Browns Fashion, says there has been a desire for the menswear market to move to a more formal space for some time now.
“Shows like Bridgerton always strengthen this feeling,” he says. “I think a literal interpretation of how Page is dressed in the show is unlikely, although there’s a lot of evergreen formal trends that can certainly flourish from the costumes in terms of velvet adaptations and trouser, boot combinations. We’re starting to see some of those rich colours coming through in more commercial guises and in autumn/winter 2021 shows from the likes of Prada and Fendi, among others.”
Prepare to promenade.
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This article originally appeared on the South China Morning Post (www.scmp.com), the leading news media reporting on China and Asia.
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