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Fashion Fantasy: How Bridgerton’s Costumes Embrace Artistic Liberties

Discover the Regency Era influences on fashion, storyline, and character development in Netflix’s popular series Bridgerton.

Regency-era Fashion - Maryam Salim
Trill Mag/Maryam Salim

Despite the debate over historical accuracy regarding the Regency era, Bridgerton‘s costume designer, John Glaser, unapologetically emphasizes beauty and glamour. In an interview with InStyle Magazine, Glaser explains, “This is not a history; this is a show about beauty and glamour.” However, for many Regency fashion fans, the show’s artistic liberties with Regency-era clothes, etiquette, and politics have been a source of disagreement. Bridgerton is often criticized for its unrealistic representation of Regency-era London and inaccurate depictions of ballgowns and social structures.

Glaser’s vision is recognized for its breathtaking visuals and attention to detail. In an interview with VanityFair, he explained that he prioritized creating a sense of “opulence and luxury” in the costumes above historical accuracy. He aspired to create a “fantastical” Regency London with “eye-catching” and “Instagrammable” outfits. According to Glaser, the costume design process involved studying details of the Regency era but also allowed for creative freedom. The end result is a show that, although not completely historically accurate, is undoubtedly visually appealing.

While Glaser emphasized the significance of grandeur and luxury in his designs, he also acknowledged that certain artistic liberties were used to create a more visually stunning show. For instance, the character of Penelope Featherington’s makeover is not entirely faithful to the Regency era.

Symbolism within Bridgerton fashion

In Julia Quinn’s original book, An Offer from a Gentleman, Penelope’s gowns are described as an overripe citrus fruit, symbolizing her struggle to fit in with the upper classes. In Season 3 of Bridgerton, Penelope’s gown choices are more bold and exquisite, representing her increased confidence.

Similarly, Cressida Cowper’s costumes are not strictly accurate to the Regency era. While her character’s sharp tongue and sarcastic remarks are influenced by the dynamics of the Regency era, her elaborate attire is a more imaginative interpretation.

Glaser regarded Cressida’s costumes as an “armour” of opulence, emphasizing her fragility. These creative liberties enable the show to explore themes of identity, social class, and emotional turmoil visually strikingly.

Penelope’s Regency era makeover

When Penelope decides to overhaul her wardrobe, she has two requests. First, she desperately wants to avoid citrus colors: “I do not wish to see a citrus color ever again,” she says. The second step is to draw on the styles that Colin has observed during his travels. “Perhaps something like what they are wearing in Paris,” Penelope says.

However, Penelope’s newfound fashion sense is not without obstacles. In the inaugural episode, Penelope enters the Four Seasons ball, standing at the top of the stairs in a dark teal gown with delicate flower beading and iridescent shine. “There’s copper in it, which goes along with her hair, black gloves, things that she’s never worn that are different from the old Penelope,” says designer Glasser. In classical rom-com fashion, introducing a new appearance is challenging.

Penelope's new look
Still from Netflix Philippines Penelope’s Glow Up | Bridgerton | Netflix Philippines/YouTube

In contrast to her book counterpart, Penelope’s Season 3 gowns exude confidence. Gone are the days of ugly gowns; now, we see a lady who knows what she wants and isn’t afraid of the risks. Whether she’s wearing statement pieces or opting for more subtle yet stunning ensembles, Penelope’s fashion sense reflects her newfound sense of self.

Bridgerton fashion as an armour of opulence

In the latest season of Bridgerton, Cressida Cowper’s fashion choices have become a hot topic of discussion. As a character known for her sharp tongue and catty remarks, her outfits reflect her personality and are a key aspect of her narrative.

According to Bridgerton’s costume designer, the Regency Era influenced Cressida’s style, including large sleeves, emphasizing her frail and birdlike appearance. Her clothes served as her “armour” in the realm of high societal pressures.

@catquinn on TikTok quotes Bridgerton’s costume designer John Glaser: “One of my favorite details is the oversized sleeves that are meant to make her look like a caged bird.” The design team sought to emphasize her frailty and fragility, and the costumes effectively convey that.

Behind Cressida’s attire

Glaser explained that the team wanted to present vulnerability by contrasting Cressida’s elaborate attire with her home environment. Glaser looks deeper into Cressida’s character by describing how “We see her in these over-the-top sleeves, juxtaposed with her home, making her look incredibly vulnerable like a caged bird inside a mausoleum.”

Cressida’s exuberance, heavily inspired by Regency era fashion, is exemplified by the abundance of iconic pom-poms, ruffles, and puffed sleeves. Her appearance at the Queen’s ball, inspired by Grecian columns, is particularly memorable. This Regency era-inspired look reflects Cressida’s extravagant flair and inner anguish.

Bridgerton Fashion - Cressida Cowper
Still from WithAdina Cressida Cowper Dresses from Bridgerton Season 3/YouTube

Cressida’s outfits reflect her insecurities and vulnerabilities, making her fashion choices a window into her inner turmoil. Her mean-spirited remarks about Penelope’s dress are just a glimpse into her casual cruelty. Cressida’s backstory reveals her insecurities and vulnerability as a woman during the Regency era, humanizing her mean-spirited character.

The Regency era presented in Bridgerton fashion is not just a backdrop for performance but an essential part of the narrative. Cressida’s large sleeves and pom-poms meticulously highlight the opulence and extravagance of the Regency era.

Bridgerton’s portrayal of women in the Regency era

In Bridgerton fashion, Regency-era fashion is more than simply a setting for the characters’ storylines. It provides a glimpse into the past, illustrating the period’s social structure, etiquette, and cultural standards.

The outfits communicate the tale rather than just dressing the characters. This attention to detail lets viewers see the deep connections between clothes, characters, and narrative. Cressida, for example, wears expensive outfits that express her inner conflicts and fear. Meanwhile, Penelope’s transformation symbolizes her developing self-esteem and acceptance.

Bridgerton’s portrayal of women in the Regency era is a sophisticated analysis of the limitations women faced at the time. By examining the show’s clothing design and character development, we may better grasp the era’s social conventions and cultural values.

The show’s use of Regency fashion as a narrative enables delicate character development and thematic investigation. Cressida, for example, wears expensive outfits that express her inner turmoil and fears. This attention to detail shows the complexity of her character and sheds light on her emotional condition.

In contrast, Penelope’s transformation represents her increasing confidence and self-acceptance. Regency-era fashion expresses social standing, identity, and even emotions. Bridgerton’s use of fashion as a literary technique reveals the complex links between clothes, character, and story.

Examining the show’s costume design and character development through Bridgerton fashion allows us to better grasp the conveyed ideas and messages. The show’s attention to detail in costume design exemplifies fashion’s ability to communicate stories.

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