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No Bonnets, Bold Gowns: The Costumes of Shondaland’s Period Drama ‘Bridgerton’ Are “the Opposite of Jane Austen”


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Move over, Jane Austen. Fresh and filled with lots of eye candy, Bridgerton is not your run-of-the-mill period drama.

Shondaland’s latest entry at Netflix is based on romance author Julia Quinn’s best-selling novels. Set in England’s early 19th century Regency period, the inclusively cast eight-episode series tells the tale of two contrasting families in London’s high society, the aristocratic Bridgertons and the nouveau riche Featheringtons, as their daughters navigate the blood sport known as the marriage market.

(Below, from left) Dynevor, assistant costume designer Sophie Canale and Mirojnick on set.

Showrunner Chris Van Dusen looked to costume designer Ellen Mirojnick to reinterpret the period’s frocks with a number of twists. “Our intention was to make quite the opposite of Jane Austen, as the costumes needed to have an aspirational layer,” says the Emmy-award-winning designer (Behind the Candelabra, The Greatest Showman), who oversaw a staggering 7,000-plus items designed from scratch, so many that they warranted their own costume house.

Polly Walker as matriarch Portia Featherington, whose new-money tastes are reflected in dresses in showy citrus hues.For love interest and committed bachelor Simon Basset (played by Regé-Jean Page, of 'For the People'), costume designer Ellen Mirojnick referenced the Romantic poet Lord Byron. “Simon is a well-traveled dandy, and there is a sophistication about him, so he wore a neckline that [frames] his neck and makes him appear regal in the close-ups. We mixed elements that weren’t necessarily of the norm.”

Mirojnick began with a slight reinterpretation of the Regency period’s classic hallmark, the empire silhouette, making it very slim, which accentuates the cleavage. A color palette centered on a serene and soft pastry blue dictated the wardrobe for the Bridgertons, particularly daughter Daphne (Phoebe Dynevor). By contrast, the Featheringtons are clad in acidic green, yellow and orange in bold patterns. And no bona fide costume drama would be without a corset; the ones in Bridgerton are designed by none other than the legendary Mr. Pearl, who has designed for Thierry Mugler and Jean Paul Gaultier and created a corset for Kim Kardashian West at the 2019 Met Gala. One big departure is the omission of a staple — and fusty — accessory. “You’ll notice,” says Van Dusen, “Bridgerton is a bonnet-free world.”

Phoebe Dynevor as Daphne Bridgerton in a youthful, elegant dress inspired by this sketch.

This story first appeared in the Dec. 16 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.

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