Where can I find a decadent romp in the London of the Regency Period, known for lavish parties, the mixture of highbrow and lowbrow combined with romance + sensual pleasures in great clothes? Bridgerton, the new series on Netflix complete with a beautifully integrated cast is currently in the top 10 on Netflix this week. Shonda Rimes of Shondaland Productions based on a series of romance novels by Julia Quinn.
This is not a Jane Austin story where we are waiting for a first kiss. This is a trousers down, knickers around the ankles romp with a cast of handsome ‘swoon-worthy’ men wearing tight britches. The only thing that outshines them is the wonderful cast of women (of all ages) wearing gowns bursting at the seams with bejeweled cleavage topped with sky-high hairdos. Its opening of the social season in London where young women search for husbands, the young men try to avoid marriage and the elders look on while gossiping.
A word about the Regency Period: Fashions were set by the Prince of Wales who is said to have left upon his death over 1000 pairs of gloves behind. His flagrant waste of money on decorations, and fashion excesses were well known. Their reign as a royal couple set the tone for the period.
Costumes are part of the overall production design, and the backdrops for the characters had a certain exaggeration to it. The locations in the great homes of England and the ballrooms and gardens set the tone for the show. The costumes help the audience navigate the storylines: The bright wigs and gowns worn by Queen Charlotte and her comic cohorts were one element as she towers over the social set. The Featherton family is also dressed in an explosion of color, that separates them into an almost garish clown act. This idea threatens to overbalance their role in the story and in some scenes, simply doesn’t work. They are in direct contrast with the gorgeous simplicity of the heroine and her family which is the point. The servants, including the footman and house staff were impeccable with special note to the liveried footman and butlers. There is a modern spin to all the clothes, but the lines and proportions of the period are well maintained to frame the colors, patterns and embroideries that are giving each outfit surface interest. The endless parties and balls give the costume department plenty to create for the principals. A special note for the extras who are literally perfectly dressed for each scene.
The romantic lead, “Simon the Duke” wore gorgeous waistcoats, elegant period shirts (usually open) tied with cravats or scarves. Formal events he is wearing a period cut-away coat cut to the bone on his handsome frame. And emerald pin was always pictured on his vest, for tying down a cravat and worn with every outfit. A pair of riding boots worn with his well cut high waisted breeches completes his dashing figure. Our heroine, Ms. Daphne Bridgerton begins her story at the Queen’s court in a presentation gown that sets the tone for the series. Her family colors are subtle and mostly shades of blue with silver accents including the array of diamonds that she wears. Her day dresses are beautifully simple and demure. She fools the romantic lead into thinking she just another socialite, not the woman of depth, grit and courage she later displays.
Audiences have come to know from the typical BBC drama that tends to be lacking in racial diversity. This production is fully committed to the idea. Racial diversity was not a fantasy as the wealth from the colonies produced many heiresses who mixed and married into British society. The author of the book took this idea into the storyline with a decided viewpoint into the times. The production design combined with the costumes make for a delicious romp that clearly has struck a chord with audiences, eager for entertainment dessert. We’re in,