On Christmas Day, Netflix dropped the new series Bridgerton (2020), based on the Regency romance novel series by Julia Quinn. Produced by Shonda Rhimes, this six-part show is set in 1813 London during the high social scene when all the most prominent families are trying to find the best marriages for their eligible daughters. Since the previews were released, there’s been much consternation from the historical costuming crowd, and when the series itself became available, we were inundated with requests to review it, for good or ill.
Well, dear readers, we like it (and by we, that means, Trystan and Kendra; Sarah hasn’t gotten around to it yet)! So sit back and deal because this review is NOT going to be blasting the show into oblivion, sorrynotsorry.
Reasons why we like Bridgerton:
- It’s fun! It’s a frothy historical confection to watch, and that is balm to the soul when you’ve been quarantined in your house for 10 months without travel, events, or even seeing friends and family.
- A romance-novel soap-opera plot is not all that different from any other 19th-century story about women (because every gal needed a husband in the period). At least now, thanks to Netflix and Shondaland, we get sex too!
- Did we mention sex? Aww yeah!
- We’re sick of the same-old little white dresses in Regency flicks, so YAY for color! Still mostly on the “bad” girls, but not exclusively.
- Diverse casting because, hello, people of color did exist in 1810s England. Not as queen or a duke, but Jesus wouldn’t be blond and blue-eyed either yet that’s been going around for too long, so turnabout is fair play.
- It’s a new adaption, not just the same old Austen, Dickens, Bronte, et. al. They’re classics, they’re great, but we’ve had plenty of them on screen. It’s far past time to show some different historical fiction on TV and film, and there’s plenty to choose from.
Reasons why people have been bitching about Bridgerton:
- The costumes aren’t strictly historically accurate.
- Racism and gate-keeping (see this excellent video for more on this, but also, it’s not perfectly inclusive because, duh, what is — see this excellent video for more on that).
- Folks only want serious boring drama?
Now, of course, Frock Flicks’ raison d’etre is to look at what is and is not historically accurate in movie and TV costumes. But because we watch a metric fuckton of historical costume dramas around here, perhaps we have a better sense of scale than some folks. Just within the Regency England timeframe and just the past year, we can compare Bridgerton with Sanditon (2019) and see a vast improvement with the former in attention to detail, budget, and, yes, a sense of historical designs. The latter merely dialed it in, recycling some garments from previous productions, with barely more thought than ‘let’s make sure they’re wearing clothes.’ Did not help that the acting and plotlines of Sanditon were tedious. That’s just one example, but there are plenty others.
Before getting into the Bridgerton costumes, let’s remind ourselves that BBC-style Jane Austen TV productions are not the whole of 1800-1820s fashion. For one thing, Austen’s novels mostly take place in country houses, not London during the high social season, and many of Austen’s main characters are genteel but with questionable economic statuses. The Bennets have too many daughters, and their small estate is entailed to the smarmy Mr. Collins. The Dashwood sisters have been downsized to a dinky cottage by their half-brother and his wife. Fanny Price and Catherine Morland come from basically poor families, Anne Elliot’s family loses their money, and only Emma Woodhouse is rich of her own account (even then, she’s small-town rich, not London high-society rich).
Also, while the little white muslin dress was a popular fashion for this time period, it was not the only thing that was worn or that was fashionable. People wore bright or dark colors too. For example:
Brighter colors become a bit more common in the late 1810s and definitely in the 1820s. That’s also when gauzy layers come in on skirts and sleeves. But there are pops of elaborate decoration all through these decades, especially on evening gowns.
The costume designer for Bridgerton is Ellen Mirojnick and she’s done a ton of press about the show. In an interview with The Cut, she said:
“Our show is a fictionalized version of 1813 and the Regency era. I can’t emphasize fictionalized enough because that allowed me to really step out of the box and look at inspiration from many different areas. The single artist that was the inspiration for Bridgerton was an Irish painter named Genieve Figgis. I looked at her paintings and they just knocked me out.”
She also told Slate, when asked if she’s seen any of the fashion historian reactions to the Bridgerton costumes:
“No, but I’m sure they’re going to kill me. They could. We could get ripped from pillar to post. But you know, that’s what it is. If you’re able to go into a romantic love story as if you were reading it, are you going to be a historian? Or are you going to use your imagination? So, that’s the point of view that we basically take, that we’re not historians. And we’re telling a luscious story, and we’re hoping that you use your imagination as we tell it, and you get sucked in, and you love the story that you’re watching. The historians — and I would say it’s not only the costume historians, I would say my peers who are costume designers — are going to look at me and go, ‘What did you do now?'”
“But you know what? I serve the director and the creative vision. And that’s what’s most important to me. Being 100 percent historically correct was not on our agenda at all. I’m ready to get ripped over the coals if somebody wants to do it. But that’s what it is. You birth it, then you let it out in the air and somebody will either not like it or they’ll like it.”
Which is basically what we’ve said before — we know that historical accuracy is not the Number One goal of making movies and TV shows. And Mirojnick does know her history and how she’s deviating from it for this production. Something we’ve complained about frequently is TV shows and films messing with historical fashion with no apparent rhyme nor reason or just to make it “relatable.” The costumes in Bridgerton work within and help create a very specific version of Regency England — one that is, yes, more colorful (and that includes clothing and people) and has a more heightened sense of everything.
Even more, this production is an adaptation of a romance novel. Going frilly and frothy and colorful makes perfect sense when costuming a romance novel. As we’ve always said, go big or go home, and when you go off from historical, make sure that your tweaks make sense to the story. Making the costumes more sweet, more ridiculous, and more modern makes perfect sense for this subject matter.
In Vogue, Mirojnick said:
“I looked at the Regency period in London through drawings and paintings. We got a flavour of it and then it was about looking at the different silhouettes and shapes while knowing that this had to be aspirational, as opposed to historically accurate. We knew that we had to shift the colour palette and the fabrications, so from the 19th century, I immediately went to the 1950s and 1960s. The Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams exhibition at [London’s] Victoria & Albert Museum provided a wealth of inspiration. We looked at Dior dresses, from the New Look  to present day.”
She also based her designs on a Regency foundation, according to an interview with Harper’s Bazaar :
“Although we have fictionalized the Regency period, 1813, there’s still there basic truth. Meaning the girls changed their clothes a lot. They wore a different dress to every ball, aside from the amount of dresses that would take place from morning ‘til dinner. So we knew just roughly that this was going to be a large, large endeavor. We have increased the amount of glitter, increased the amount of color, increased the over embellishing. We have done things that actually can relate a little bit more to today’s point of view.”
Let’s look at how this plays out. The series revolves around the wealthy and respectable Bridgerton family and the nouveau rich, social-climbing Featheringtons. Both have debutante daughters in search of husbands, and costumes highlight the differences between the families.
The Bridgertons are all dressed in subdued colors, with the ladies perennially in pastels — what one thinks of as “historically accurate” for 1810s. The men are in smart coats and waistcoats with cravats tied.
In contrast, the Featheringtons wear bright, bold colors, often in citrus tones, with lots of decorations. The mother, Portia, even remarks that these are the ‘family colors,’ and Mr. Featherington sometimes wears a feather-print brocade waistcoat.
Other key characters that influence the visual world of Bridgerton are Cressida Cowper and her mother Lady Cowper, who are also on the attention-grabbing side of things:
Lady Danbury’s style rides the line between the overwrought folks and the old-guard’s refined elegance — which suits her status as a now well-established gentlewoman but also a person of color newly raised up (which is discussed in one episode).
Then there’s Queen Charlotte, the only real historical figure in the series. There have been rumors of Queen Charlotte having biracial ancestry, which obviously influenced the casting. But her costumes in Bridgerton are more important here — she’s always dressed in gowns and wigs circa 1770s, as are her ladies in waiting. The costume designer claims that the queen stuck to this style of dress at court until her death in 1818. The English court was notoriously old-fashioned at the period, but there are also portraits, medals, and caricatures of Queen Charlotte from 1800-10s showing her in empire-waist gowns. So it’s a debatable historical point.
But for the TV show, it makes a grand statement of power and majesty, especially with a Black woman, to have the Queen in formal hooped gowns and towering wigs, dripping with jewels. She is undoubtedly a force to be reckoned with, and she will get her way!
The main derivations from historical fashions here are the use of so many colors at once, the modern fabrics choices, and the over-embellishment. The silhouettes and shapes are taken right from the 1810s (or 1770s for the Queen and her court) — except for Polly Walker as Mrs. Featherington, who’s gowns are weirdly fitted down to the waist.
There is a distinct lack of period headgear on principal characters — background figures have plenty of top hats, for example, but the main men hardly ever wear them. And the ladies might wear tiaras, ribbons, bows, and such in their hair but not bonnets. This was from the director, which Ellen Mirojnick explained in Vogue:
“There were no bonnets, but we do nod to them with our hair accessories. We took that half-moon shape and created these straw [pieces] accented with flowers or feathers that sit on top of the head. Another no-no was muslin dresses. There’s a limpness to them that we didn’t want.”
And everyone is super blinged out, especially in the tiara department. According to Mirojnick in The Cut,
“Swarovski lent us tiaras from their archives, which we put on principle cast members. The amount of Swarovski stones used throughout the show was pretty massive. There were some fabrics that came pre-beaded and a lot of them did have Swarovski crystals, but it was always easy to add something. If there was a beaded fabric, we did more. If it was a stone headpiece, we built more. Nothing was left untouched.”
Apparently there’s been discussion online about whether married ladies should wear tiaras. In a fantasy historical production, we don’t really care, but for those who do, check out Tiara Mania‘s post in which she dings the tiaras for attractiveness, but debunks the idea of tiaras being only married ladies’ or royals-only province.
Then there’s the Duke of Hastings and his cravat-less-ness. Sure, he’s still hot, but y’all know how much we love a man in a big Regency collar and cravat!
Here’s Colin Bridgerton showing how it’s done:
Apparently the Bridgerton boys have a thing about their collars:
Let’s wrap up with a few words on underwear. Ellen Mirojnick made a point of telling Harper’s Bazaar about the corsets made by Mr. Pearl for the series:
“[There are] no two bodies that are alike. And so if there is a bosom or a shape, even at the top part of the body that has to be adjusted for the costume, he knows how to create that structure to be able to give you that. The gowns would not fall over the body if there was no structure underneath that.”
HOWEVER, we were sad to see no smocks / chemises underneath any of these corsets:
And, of course, there was the ridiculous scene when Daphne is shown to have literal bloody chafed skin from wearing her corset, which never happened in real life, because women weren’t idiots and wore chemises under their corsets:
But at least they avoided the bane of metal grommets in a non-metal grommet era:
OK, fine, have at it with your bitching, haters!
Did you see Karolina’s piece on this? It’s hilarious.
Yes! Great summary by our Meme Mom. “It’s a mess, but it kinda works?”
It was less a roast and more a modest browning. I liked her measured response.
Pleased to see this review! I liked it, too, and knew what I was getting into from that first corset scene, thanks to years of your snark. I did hate the weird fluffy decorations on the bodices in some scenes, it felt cheap by today’s standards to me. But I agree the costumes were effective for their purpose, and lovely to see.
I do not care if the costumes are as historically accurate.
JUST FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS GOOD. GIVE THOSE WOMEN A CHEMISE!
It does not even have to be a Regency era chemise. It can be a f****ing T-SHIRT for all I care.
Not only because of the lack of chemises made the actress who played Daphne , hate corsets now’ cause she was chafed so badly that there is practically blood!
I can also imagine the poor costuming assistant having to wash all those corsets because of all of the perspiration they are getting
God, yes. A corset/stays were expensive and an investment — why wouldn’t you wear a relatively inexpensive chemise underneath to keep from getting sweaty, not to mention the chafing? I rolled my eyes repeatedly at this.
When I look at Daphne’s chafed skin from stays and no chemise, I just picture a sports movie where the hero doesn’t wear socks with his sneakers to convince me jogging is oppressive.
Also I am also not very familiar with Regency era stays but from what I have heard
If you even try to tightlace in one. The stays are not built for such tension and will just rip the eyelets and the seam.
( Correct me if I am wrong).
Pretty sure you’re correct. I tried one on at a Jane Austen event and they’re quite comfortable.
That’s true. Really tight-lacing only became feasible with the manufacture of Bessemer steel grommets in the late 1850s.
I just found the whole thing boring. Yawn. But then, I don’t really like the glossy Shondaland approach. She’s produced shows that I should, in theory, love. I suck up medical dramas, but I couldn’t stand Grey’s Anatomy. I love murder stuff but I gave that one up after two episodes. This is just more of the same. I actually prefer serious, but it doesn’t have to be boring – take the new David Copperfield for example.
Most of the costumes were of the “my eyes!” variety.
There were plenty of POCs back then, more than conventional history gave credence to, but not in the upper echelons. So drop down a tier. Go for it. Have fun.
Yup, and the costuming… Some of the colours are definitely post-aniline dyes. Might work for the garish novelty factor in 1860s, when everyone went mad with the new dyes, but this just looks wrong.
Yes, some of the colors were just INSANE — there was one in the last episode (I think) for Penelope that was just hideous, a sort of orangey pink and yellow with all these little fuzzy bits. It was so hideous and almost neon-colored. Pretty sure these were not found in natural dyes.
I agree wholeheartedly, some of the costumes and hairstyles were woefully bad and a complete eyesore, especially the Featheringtons’. I think it was gratuitous to dress them like a fashion car crash simply because they are supposed to be arrivistes. The narrative does that on its own and is a trope if you ask me. Frankly, I found it distracting and I needed to rewatch the first episode in order to follow what was actually going on. Never good, IMO!
It’s an alternative history.
Also one last comment,
To me Polly Walker as Mrs. Featherington’ s dresses and hair is reminding me more of the Natural Form era.
I think it is the hair that is pushing me more to that conclusion . That being said I think if the show was set in the 1880s, her hair would be PERFECT!
I was thinking Natural Form, too.
Apparently the cast refered to the Featheringtons as the “Regency Kardashian’s” knowing that makes their costumes make total sense!
Love your review, as always! I’m going sit this one out. It is not my style. I am also not a fan of sex in movies. I would rather vidangel and skip those parts.
Do NOT Want!
Formal court dress had hoops until 1820, although bizarrely the upper part of dress-design did move with times. Court dress of 1800s is really odd as a result – high waist with hoops jutting out immediately below.
I kind of disliked the show overall. Too many little plot lines. Really did not like the militant younger sister at all, so annoying. She was portrayed very unrealistically. Yes she might have existed in those times but would not have been coddled and encouraged. She came off as silly, bordering on ridiculous when she started chasing carriages in the night. I guess I am not able to appreciate so much modern in a period show. I really like period drama as an escape from modern life, not to see modern behaviors in sort of period clothing…oh well. I felt like I was not at all the audience they wanted and this is likely true.
Yeah, modern behaviors in period dramas rub me the wrong way. I’m not in the target audience.
I loved it, it’s definitely a fantasy version of the regency period, and it’s fun. I also think a reason why I like it is because even if it’s not accurate fabrics or embellishments or colours, the silhouette is so good. It shows that the costume designer knew the period, just decided to emphasize other things. And I actually liked Mr. Featherington’s gowns the best, even if they were strangely tight, that shape of the neckline though to me is very similar to the half-robe from PoF1.
I love the costumes in this! Plus, there is going to be a second season!
I loved the costumes but really really hated the story. For Mrs. Featherington, I sort of thought the reason why she was wearing a sort of weird gown was because she was dated. That’s why she was trying to tight lace into the 1800s, the garish prints, and it looks like her dresses are a kind of a française or anglaise that got redone as a 1800s silhouette from the back, but she wanted more waist because that’s what she was into. That’s my head cannon though, I could be wrong!
I couldn’t care less about the costumes in this fantasy setup,but the garish colours gave me headache in some scenes.
The costumes were so wacky,I was expecting at least one court dress with raised waistlines and hoops(considering Queen Charlotte loved those)but maybe no production would ever into that direction.
This series feels like “Jane Austen on LSD”.
This is one of my favorite comments, in addition to Kendras dislike of the blue hat (or whatever it is) on Daphne. I have named that headpiece “Little Cup O’ Flowers.” I’m enjoying the show for what it is, and like a friend of mine whom some here may know but will remain anonymous, I can just imagine in which shops in the L.A. Fabric District some of those floaty, gauzy, rhinestone-dripping fabrics were procured. Or might have been.
Thank you :-). This show is so wrong on all levels, unless we treat it not as a period piece, but a fantasy movie.
Are we going to talk about Daphne’s baby bangs though?
I keep seeing fashion bloggers give Bridgerton points for having characters wear their hair up, but the lead’s bangs were just ridiculous. They looked almost passable when curled. But for most of the series, she was running around with straight, short, blunt bangs that looked more Audrey Hepburn-ish than Regency Era. Realistically, straight bangs only showed up on the artsy, eccentric women who cropped their hair into pixies, and even then, they were way longer and wispier. I feel like it didn’t suit the era or the character at all.
As we noted, we’ll get more into the hair in another post!
I can’t get near this thing. I’m tired of having “purist” flung at me when all I’m objecting to is the use of so much fluorescent orange, neon flamingo pink, giant florals, and clothes that looked as though they were made of flocked wallpaper. It makes sixties and seventies clothing look restrained. I have TRIED to look at it and my eyeballs just noped out. And if there’s as much sex as there’s supposed to be, well…I find that boring. But it’s possible that I would try it if it didn’t hurt my eyes.
Yeah I am not here for more sex scenes either…not in my period drama. Call me whatever you like.
While I get everyone’s stance on sex scenes is personal, I am curious as to why the hangup on them being in period dramas? They’re no less appropriate there than anywhere else. I could understand (though I don’t agree with) finding sex scenes in general gratuitous or having no problem with them, but the double standard is a bit baffling to me. Sources at the time certainly indicate people had no less of a sexual appetite than today. To me that’s like saying you don’t mind seeing people drink alcohol in a contemporary setting but you wouldn’t want to see it in a period drama.
I never really like seeing anyone having sex. It makes me feel like a voyeur I guess. In any genre. Not into porn either, what can I say…
Same. I don’t want to see it in any movie set I’m any era. I’d rather have the door shut and you get the idea of what happens.
Same. I found Bridgerton pretty, but it had so much sex, I doubt I’ll ever re-watch it. Though I disagree with the person above who hated Eloise — I thought she was the only character with an iota of personality.
She was my favorite, too! The actress had so much presence, and made the character make sense.
I was just going to type the same thing! I feel embarrassed watching sex scenes, although for some reason I have no trouble reading (or even writing) absolutely filth. Somehow, if it’s only happening inside my head instead of in front of my eyes, I don’t feel like I’m invading someone’s privacy. Ha ha!
When I watch a show on HBO, my main thought is “aren’t you cold?” It just gets really tedious, and from what I can understand, it’s a Plot Point, and I just don’t see flat out sexual contact with a debutante all that likely. One thing Jane Austen is good at is the crushing lack of privacy. The characters have to go to such lengths even to have a private conversation. But it wouldn’t matter anyway. I would still find it boring.
I loved the beautiful green dress with flowers of the Featherington daughter but I am horrified that Daphne got 104 costumes. It seems a huge and deliberate waste when they could have easily been repeated without any notice. Even if the figure is an exaggeration she had too many. In an era of environmental concerns it looks offensive.
I really enjoyed this series — it was the fluffy entertainment I needed for my holiday break!
And I very much enjoyed the historically approximate costumes for what they were: shiny and pretty and sometimes silly and did I mention shiny?
The only thing that bugged me was Lady Featherington’s waistline — so thank you for including a mention of that. I have not personally managed to come up with any head canon that makes it feel reasonable to me that she wouldn’t be following the latest fashionable style, which she is clearly aware of since she is micro-managing her daughters’ wardrobes!
In the books, actually, it’s a long-running joke that Mrs. Featherington has horrible tacky taste, and dresses her daughters in ugly dresses in unflattering colors. She frequently tells Penelope that she needs to wear yellow because “yellow is a happy color, and happy girls attract husbands!” So I think they were trying to show that her taste is nothing like anyone else’s, and it was supposed to be a bit jarring to the eyes.
Yes, her dresses seemed very mid-20th century to me. I get that Polly Walker is a curvier actress and the Regency empire waist might not be as flattering, but it’s not just the nipped-in waist I found distracting, it was the whole neckline — she’s more than a century off!
I much prefer the gleeful full-steam-ahead anachronism of bridgerton, which no viewer would think is trying to provide an accurate replica of 1813, to the many period dramas that have an air of Serious History about them and might be taken so by viewers but clearly were poorly researched
I really enjoyed this series! I was a little nervous about it because the books have long been a happy comfort read for me, but I thought they did a good job with the original material (although they embellished both the plot and the clothes lol). I really am enjoying reading the designer’s interviews because you can tell that her approach to the costume design was very thoughtful. And where there are differences from historical accuracy, it’s for a real resign besides “teen girls want to look at coutoure dresses!” I’m excited for the next season – it’s a good book so I’m hoping it will translate well to screen :)
Been waiting for Frock Flicks take on Bridgerton and I’m so glad to see you all liked it! I read all eight of the books this past year after I found out Shonda was adapting it for Netflix–Shondaland plus romance novels? It’s never going to be historically accurate but it’s bound to be a hell of a lot of fun! Also such a fan of Ellen Mirojnick’s work since Rogers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella. I remember just loving the gowns when I was a little girl, particularly Bernadette Peters’s ballgown as the Wicked Stepmother. Those costumes had a similar glammed up version of the typical historical wear (though obviously with a little more liberty for fantasy)
I promise you…we did not get addicted to the corsets and ascots in Bridgerton. There was …um…a certain Duke….and Eloise was my favorite female character. My goodness, there was so much character development in each of those roles; I loved it !
I have adored the books, except for Daphne’s choices as a newlywed, for years. I have had to set that love aside because they deviate from the books SO much and basically watch this as loosely inspired by Quinn, rather than canon. That being said, Regency is my least favorite time period for clothes because empire waists make me look pregnant and the guys looking elels in the eye with their shirts… but I liked this. The awful empire waists are still there, but I kinda really want to steal a LOT of Portia Featherington’s wardrobe. Lady Danbury is not who I would have cast (early 00s Maggie Smith will always reign), but the actress who plays her is phenomenal and my best vote for someone I’d love to have as a mentor. (And my personal Simon is and always will be Charlie from Center Stage, but I’m not quibbling over Netflix casting there, either.) On its own the Netflix series is good… although how dare they reveal Whistledown when the loyal readers had to wait 4 books to find out who it was!!!! I’m still peeved about that. Hmph.
And hooray for excellent, Regency appropriate, minimal makeup except for the occasional lip on a Featherington!!
Let me see if I’ve got this straight, having possibly had an African ancestor who lived in the 13the century makes Queen Charlotte ‘black’ seriously????
I have African ancestry a lot more recent than that but nobody could call me black with a straight face and it would be rank imposture for me to claim to claim I’m African American
On the other hand I have no problem with colorblind casting, especially of fictional characters.
I don’t think ‘colorblind’ is the term here. ‘Colorblind’ would be Brandy’s ‘Cinderella’ where a white king and black queen have an Asian son. Basically what they do on broadway. According to Shonda, casting was very intentional and characters families are the same race/ethnicity as they are (the Featherington’s charge is mixed race and a ‘distant cousin’ so she could easily be related). I don’t think Charlotte was black but there is an oral tradition that they went with.
The weird thing is that many European royals were descended from the same ‘Moorish’ woman…including Charlotte’s husband George III!
So why fixate on Charlotte? Because she had very full lips? Queen Charlotte was quite an odd looking woman but claiming she inherited those traits from a thirteenth century NORTH African ancestor? Give me a break! And please, please try to grasp that NORTH Africans are phenotypically different from sub-Saharan ancestors!
sub-Saharan Africans. I have no idea what happened there.
Seriously it was a distinction drawn by the people of the era themselves. North Africans were Moors, derived from the name Morocco. Sub-Saharan Africans were called Ethiopians.
What makes it even sillier is that this 15-generations-back African ancestress wasn’t even a black African. Not only are the Berbers, the indigenous people of NW Africa, not black (they’re typically fairly light brown) – the lady in question was actually from a Jewish Moorish family!
So, I watched it and it left me uneasy on a couple of points. Probably the most disturbing was Phoebe raping the Duke to get impregnated. The casting was also weirdly troubling, since it wasn’t race blind but purposefully targeted people of color to an alternate universe where they were threatened in a way that white people were not (indeed, tragic backstories only happened to BIPOCs). Privilege was not dealt with–leading to the homophobic treatment of one side character and the fat shaming of another. I kind of enjoyed the silly costumes, but in the end, it all left me with a gross feeling for enjoying the episodic lurid story. Oddly, most of the problems probably could have been avoided if they hadn’t made it into a weird alternative history and we could have just enjoyed it as a fun trashy sex fantasy. Then I could have felt good about enjoying Portia Featherington’s wacky outfits for their glorious nutty excessiveness.
“Probably the most disturbing was Phoebe raping the Duke to get impregnated.”
Gah, I had hoped that they would leave THAT out… it’s my biggest peeve in that book, but then every Julia Quinn book I ever read had something that made either not finish it or want me throw it at the wall… And Regency romance novels have been my catnip for the last 25 years. Just not JQ. Yes, her trademark “sparkling dialogue” is great, but else… So I am still on the fence if I want to watch it or not.
I haven’t read the book buuuuut apparently in the scene was originally even worse :/
*apparently the scene was originally even worse – I swear that I proofread this, gah
I vehemently disagree that Daphne “raped” Simon — if you actually watch the show, the character knows nothing of how sex works nor anything about male ejaculation. She learns a little something & then decides to test a theory. He has consented to sex, he never revokes consent, never says no, reacts only with surprise but does not pull away at any point (which he’s been shown to do multiple times before). He regrets it later, but that does not mean he was raped.
Also, as a queer person, I thought the speech that the artist Sir Henry Granville gives about loving but having to hide his love for another man was moving, poignant, & perhaps one of the most historically accurate things in the whole series, in spirit anyway (bec. if he said that to another man in the 1810s, he’d be thrown in jail). And that Benedict nodded & accepted it, even if he didn’t understand, & he didn’t blow their cover, was also quite sensitive.
That’s how I viewed that scene as well. I thought they tried to show throughout the season how ill-informed and unprepared women were at the time for the realities of sex once they got married, and how they basically just had to trust their husbands. Both Simon and Daphne behave badly by not talking through these things, but they learn and they grow.
I haven’t watched it yet… in the book, he’s totally drunk and in no shape to consent. Not good.
He’s totally sober in the TV show & initiates sex with her.
the show warns for the rape scene so they filmed it knowing what it was. if you saw the show you’d see he was PANICKED and it’s not like he is going to SHOVE her off the bed while he’s in that panicked state of mind. not knowing sex ed doesnt mean its okay to not know what consent is. if someone tells you to WAIT multiple times they’re revoking their consent in that moment. it is what it is. the show didn’t execute her apologizing/them talking about what happened very well but it DID happen. i hope you can see why people are upset and empathic towards that scene and why it IS rape.
I’ve watched the scene several times & saw zero panic from Simon. This was a man who has picked up Daphne & moved her over & around in bed & on the ground (such as picnic, rain, & desk sex scenes) several times, so clearly he has not compunction about doing so. If he wanted to withdraw consent, he had ample opportunity. He did not. I do understand that some ppl are touchy about the concept (& obviously that’s why Netflix is covering it’s butt with a “trigger warning,” a concept I find hugely problematic on it’s own), but I really think folks are taking it too far. Consent must be given, & consent can be taken away at any point — but not afterwards. That’s called regret.
So, beyond Daphne knowing that Simon did not want to have children, he cried out twice before ejaculation. That’s pretty much a lack of consent–and what’s crazy is that after this, the rest of the series focuses on her feelings of betrayal and rage. In that, it ignores Daphne’s responsibility for breaching Simon’s consent and instead focuses on the need for Simon to express regret, in spite of being violated and victimized. Given that black men are typically blamed for sexual abuse generated by white people (in the real world), the gaslighting way the plot forces a black man to apologize to his white abuser in order to be saved is really troubling. That feeds into the white savior trope which is equally problematic.
I am less disturbed by Benedict’s cold shouldering of Henry. Since writing this, I have heard from others (who have read the book) that he eventually experiences remorse and regret. it’s a shame that didn’t make the series and hopefully it will be addressed in future epilogue series.
Do you mean that you believe that Benedict and Henry’s friendship is addressed in the book? If so you have unfortunately been misinformed. Henry’s character does not exist in the books, and that entire subplot was invented, except for the fact that Benedict is an artist.
I haven’t read the book, so I don’t know–I guess you must be more correct than what I’ve been told.
The consequence-free repudiation/ostracization of the single gay character was disappointing, but could be corrected by some future plot development.
That said, the rape and the racial implications of that rape (as well as the discriminatory fragile state of POCs, the lack of general diversity and the horrific POC backstories) are increasingly appalling. I still like the wacky costumes. But I’m probably not going to ever read or watch this series or book again–I just don’t stick with rape glorification or veiled racial bias.
I just can’t get past the way they did the marital assault. It poisoned whatever good was there for me.
He needs a cravat and a shave. But whatever makes it easier for him to take his shirt off is fine with me.
I love the costumes, but the hats and hair drive me crazy!! Why couldn’t they just do a “modern spin” on real bonnets (instead of whatever the heck those weird headpieces are)? And why does EVERY costume designer seem to hate bonnets? They’re not that bad!
Chances are it’s in part the lighting folx. Even in film, it’s hard to light the faces of women in bonnets.
For the stage, the bonnet brims are much narrower/shallower or they flare out like a sunflower instead of being the closer-fitting tunnel and coal-scuttle shapes they were in fashion plates. This is because the lighting designer can’t get light on the actors’ faces with the accurate hat shapes.
The reviews are not very objective, that’s true. Shows, in which the principle of colour-blind casting is applied or which have LGBT protagonists, get a higher rating, despite inaccuracies of the costumes. BUT: It’s the site of Frockflicks and they can rate movies and series according to their own criteria.
Yeeessss, the recap I’ve been waiting for! Thank you all! <3 <3
They pretty much had me at Shondraland! Even though it was filmed in Vivid, I loved it!
No comment on the horrible fit of the dresses?
I absolutely loved the show (and the books) but I lost my mind looking at all those Empire waists cutting directly through the middle of the bust instead of ending just below it. The worst offenders were Daphne’s dresses. Or maybe since she was the romantic heroine we just saw the most of her and her army of ill-fitting dresses. They kept distracting me from Simon, who is beyond gorgeous, so that is saying something.
It wasn’t just Daphne, though–the Featherington sisters also had Empire waists which hit straight across their busts. Actually, from memory, I don’t think there was a single Empire waist which fit correctly, which means the costume designer and their team thought the Empire line was supposed to land across the bust? Hopefully for season two this is fixed. It would be nice to see the diverse actors on this show in properly fitting Empire gowns.
I noticed the ill-fitting empire waists too and thought it was strange, since the gowns were gorgeous otherwise. It made me wonder, with Daphne, if they made the gown for the actress and then forgot to fit it over the corset, which changed the fit… but IMO, you are probably right and they just assumed the waistline ended halfway down the bust.
The fit of the dresses bugged me too. Maybe if they had the correct stays on, the bust would have been positioned better. That and the awful bangs, did her lady’s maid not know how to use tongs.
Agree, I have no issue with doing a fantasy interpretation of historical, but the bad bust fit really puts me off. Also, they mention in the interview that women had multiple dresses throughout the day but then they have them in ballgowns all day? So confused.
Normally I’m a huge purist, but if a creative team is like- “this is a frothy romance novel and we want to have fun in pretty princess dresses, yes we know it’s not accurate but we did do our research and we know where we’re deviating and why” I. do not. care. It’s fun and OTT and yeah I’d probably be harsher another year but we need some fun nonsense.
Mary Queen of Scots went into the history and tried to use denim for unclear reasons (relatable? Big Important Story? Themes? Crazy alienating historical fashion?). Bridgerton is like “let’s tell this OTT love story with some colorblind casting and crazy outfits because the Regency is a set piece and no we’re not trying to reflect real history” and hopefully people will know the difference but I cannot be summoned to care that they weren’t going for verisimilitude. Let people have their silly frothy love stories with silly princess dresses. Let us also have our Big Important stories and our subdued realistic ones, but seriously I am not going to be upset that people liked this one. I have stronger feelings about, say The Tudors since they’re talking about real people who were super complicated and are stripping them down (hah) to “they did the sex and then Catherine of Aragon was a shrew”). Yes Queen Charlotte is kind of in this but nah not really.
Bridgerton’s not my comfort object but people need comfort objects right now so let ’em.
Ok I haven’t watched the show and now I know more about it I know they’re not(?) colorblind casted and are claiming to be making statements about race and sexuality but without really saying much and now I’m gonna walk back my statement from before since I have realized that I had some misconceptions but I still haven’t watched the show so…
I still stand by the need for frothy romance but that doesn’t mean we can’t think critically about how that manifests, but I’m going to step back from the conversation until I’ve actually watched the dang show.
I haven’t watched the show as it’s not my thing but is it just me or are all of Daphne’s dresses horribly unflattering and ill-fitting? As a fellow small-busted woman I feel like her clothing is not doing her any favours
On Queen Charlotte: the show seemed to imply that her husband’s mental illness had some dementia-like aspects. I thought she sacrificed keeping up with fashion and wore her out-of-date wardrobe to ease her husband’s suffering by surrounding him with what was most familiar.
But I don’t think she ever wore them ‘at home’: there are several portraits of her in absolutely mainstream (not fashion-forward, just mainstream) 1790s clothes. It was only for formal court occasions that she insisted on them, and I think that was more a case of feeling that ‘proper standards need to be kept up’. NB that Marie Antoinette, the great pioneer of the muslin chemise gown and casual hairstyles, always wore full hoops and huge powdered wigs in full dress. You can see that there might be a feeling that abandoning hoops would signify The End of Civilisation As We Know It, an admission that the revolutionaries and Romantics had won.
It’s a fictional story, loosely based on how people dressed in a certain frame of time, so who cares about accuracy?
The colorblind casting actually adds to the modern vibe of the production, just as the vibrant use of colors make it more “pop”.
Do I wish that a fictional costume story was, for once, set outside England and moved to, let’s say, Greece, or Croatia or everywhere else? Yes.
But still, no problem with this show other than the writing quality, as I find soap operas dreadful, so it is not my cup of tea.
However, I think we should have a conversation on forced diversity and reverse cultural appropriation/ blackwashing regarding the upcoming project on Anne Boleyn being played by black actress Jodi Turner-Smith, becuase that is a whole other matter.
I do agree with you about the other countries thing. I mean, the Prisoner of Zenda, right? We need more of those.
And how about a series based in New York’s Gilded Age, where women have the vote, and mix freely with men? And where they all throw away their corsets and fight for liberation? Or one where native Americans are accepted and wealthy members of New York society? Could be fun, don’t you think?
Or one where the aristocrats actually triumphed in the French Revolution? That would make an interesting story.
All of those sound fun.
There is no colour-blind casting. We are explicitly told that Charlotte’s marriage to George III
has somehow made possible the existence of a Black aristocracy. I have to wonder about what’s happening in the West Indian colonies ruled by this fantasy Britain – who’s working on the sugar plantations? Because if the answer is ‘slaves’ you’d think that a bi-racial royal family would use their influence to make some changes…
We didn’t say it was color-blind casting. The recent David Copperfield would be an example of ‘color-blind’ or nontraditional casting bec. people of color are in a variety of roles & with no changes to the role & no explanation (such as Agnes Wickfield being Black & her father being Asian). In Bridgerton, the plot explains why people of color are in the roles they are (& in ways that are different from the book, where the same characters are white).
This show isn’t even that progressive?? There are four principal POC characters in the entire show and they are largely disserviced. Marina Thompson, a young black woman is villianised and punished in the narrative. Simon Basset is essentially r*ped in the show but the narrative focuses on the pain Daphne a white woman goes through. This is especially egregious considering the history of black men being accused of assaulting or ‘stealing’ white women away. This was discussed in review of North and South(1985) which also has terrible costumes. Another commenter mentioned this but why does this show get a pass when this publication has teared into so many other movies with inaccurate costumes. Is this a misguided attempt to seem ‘woke’. Queen Charlotte is used for comic relief, the only empowered POC character to me was Lady Danbury. As a POC, I felt pandered to not represented.
We noted that it’s diverse but not perfectly inclusive, & you may want to watch the video we linked that goes into that more. But what we wanted to write about was the costumes, since that’s the focus of our site & what folks had been asking us to address.
It is hard not to judge a historic period piece from a modern ethical standpoint. However disservice to their stories, I must point out that as a result, it gave their characters more depth and development.
Did you read this post? Or any of our links within it? The costume choices made here are deliberate, world-building, & show who the characters are. That’s what good costume design for film / TV / theater is supposed to do. Most of the shitty 1980s historical productions are just “trying” to be historically accurate & fail in multiple ways. Big difference!
Also, anything during Snark Week is fair game, hence ‘North & South.’
Honestly, I got exactly what I expected and loved it! It’s a shondaland production of a series of bodice ripper novels, and we saw that in the trailer. It wasn’t based on any exact history, aside from the occasional Queen Charlotte appearance, and the use of 18th century gowns on her was purposeful and she got delightful wigs!
Is there any project that Polly Walker doesn’t add value to?
Gods, I live that saucy, va-va voomy broad.
I too, am very smitten with Polly Walker.
The Polly Walker dress looks like an acquiescence to the demands of the talent. Performers at a certain level can have contractual input into the costume, and that looks like the kind of thing an actor specifies about the fit of their clothes. There’s nothing you can do about it as the costume team, except change the design in the way that they ask and shruggie.
(If you’ve ever seen the initial design concept renderings for Jack Sparrow vs what the character became by Johnny Depp’s specifications, that’s an example of how far this kind of thing can go from the designer’s original concept.)
I couldn’t agree more! Was asked many times about how apalled I must have been, but I liked their approach! Creating their own universe is more honest than many of the serious but badly researched productions.
So much could have bothered me but I let go. (One thing did, though: placing the waist mid-bosom, it’s extremely unbecoming, esp on Penelope Featherington)
I enjoyed it and plan to rewatch. I was not expecting historic accuracy in costume. It was pretty, flashy and sassy. For my sins I watched Sense and Sensibility twice (both 1981 and 2008 versions.
One problem I feel with shows like this is when the rules of the created universe are not explained. Eloise’s mentions of going to university would in reality be like me complaining that it’s unfair I’m not allowed to grow an ivory horn on my head.
It was not a thing you even thought about then. But maybe in the show it is possible. They always have plot holes to build drama, like why Daphne’s brother, Hastings best friend failed to tell her about his parents, surely she would have known either from her brother or from a woman in this gossip based world that duke hated duchess. If we understand the rules it’s easier to understand what the intention is of the production.
Calling Mary Woolstonecraft a “feminist” is somewhat anachronistic. While there are many women considered the “mothers” of feminism, that doesn’t mean they were feminists themselves.
For instance, women of better-off families did not consider working outside their family for a salary before the late 19th century. They worked for no salary, like Florence Nightingale, or they wrote books. Other women who did so either did it because they had no choice. The exceptions barely reach double figures.
The change started to come in the mid-nineteenth century, but it wasn’t until 1870 that women were allowed some freedom of their own. Working women only became the norm during and after World War 1, although they had started to make inroads before then.
She did advocate for better education for women, but that did not include university education, nor was that thought appropriate for women for decades to come. A young woman of the Regency would not think of university as a place for women.
Abigail Adams was, I believe, American? A continent and months of travel away.
However, the series here barely gives a nod to reality, so this is only one of the many anachronisms it contains. It doesn’t pretend to be reality. My only concern is that some people will take it to be historical in truth, and will take it as such. But then, Shonda Rimes’s other series barely give reality a nod. They are glossy, bland escapist vehicles.
So in this context, meh.
My main problem is the why the mom is fat shaming her daughter in this because it makes no sense especially for the time period since the fashionable silhouette at the time was being plump since it shows that your family had enough money to be able to afford large amounts of food the commons couldn’t
That’s a myth that gets horribly exaggerated and oversimplified nowadays (it’s only really true if somebody calls everything except very thin, Supermodel ideal of the 1990s “plump”).
Look at the (idealized) fashion plates and (generally idealized) paintings of that era, the women weren’t drawn or painted as overweight. They were trying to emulate a romanticized ideal of Ancient Greek style. They are only ever drawn as overweight in caricatures and satires making fun of them.
And even during the times when “plump” was modern,”overweight” was NOT. There’s a lot of bodyshapes between rail thin and overweight.
Not trying to “body shame” anybody, I don’t have an ideal body either. I’m just sick of people perpetuating the myth that people of the past from Medieval Times to the 19th century held overweight bodies as a societal “idea of beautyl”. They never did.
Yes, the ideal of the Regency seems to be mostly lithe, with some slight roundness. That being said, there are eras when a MORE plump ideal was fashionable (say, 16th c. Venice). But you’re right, it’s definitely more “plump” than “overweight.” And, I’m an overweight woman myself, so I say all this dispassionately/as an historian, not as a judgement call. (Lots more discussion here: https://www.frockflicks.com/historical-female-body-size-screen/ )
And the “being overweight showed that you had money” is wrong as well. Not only were poor people frequently overweight due to poor diet, but rich people were expected to show restraint, including in their eating habits (they not always did, just like today when people overeat when they know its unhealthy) and being overweight was associated with Gluttony. Again this was made fun of in caricatures showing overweight aristocrats, while the paintings showed them as not overweight.
The overweight = wealth equation did work in some situations, but not all. In poor, rural communities in Europe, particularly the less developed areas – absolutely. Only the well-off could afford to be fat. (The diet in those communities wasn’t much, people rarely ate meat and mostly ate what they could grow, so they didn’t have much sugar either). Also, a sturdy figure was more desirable that a delicate, willowy one, because there was a lot of back-breaking work for everyone. A man looking for a wife might prefer one who looked like she could do her share of it.
I can’t speak for communities in, say, America, but I imagine it might have been similar – in similar circumstances.
Nobility all over the world figured out centuries before that there were better ways to show off your wealth than eating. Like, say, draping yourself in expensive fabrics and throwing a bunch of jewels on top.
That might be more a Julia Quinn issue and not an adaptation issue- it is a part of the plot of the books that Mrs. Featherington does not value Penelope as much as her older daughters because she doesn’t think she’s pretty or thin enough. (In the books Penelope loses a significant amount of weight over the course of 2 books, but doesn’t really start to be considered improved in looks until she’s declared a spinster at 25 and her mother gives up on her and lets her go to the modiste and pick her own clothes). Once she starts dressing herself in flattering clothes, other people remark on the improvement, but Mrs. Featherington never really sees Penelope as worthy of attention no matter her weight. This culminates in the proposal scene in Penelope’s book when her mother is incapable of understanding that the daughter whose hand is being asked for IS, in fact, Penelope.
My husband and son laughed at me throughout the series as I first pointed out that you could tell the Duke was a bad boy because he DIDN’T WEAR A CRAVAT! gasp and then I issued regular reports on what was likely to happen next based entirely on the Duke’s neckwear. He very, VERY sparingly wears a cravat when it is really, REALLY important, to the point of being low-key spoilerish!
There will be a second season, which I am looking forward to.
Dear Frock flicks team! Did Netflix pay you to write this review, or am I simply missing out on your sarcasm? My mother always taught me to stay clear of bloody road kills. Therefore, I decided not to waste my valuable time on this atrocity of a period drama.There are many intelligent BBC shows from the 70ies that deserve your attention. Most of them where made on a shoestring budget, but seem a hundred times more authentic — e.g. Henry VIII, Elisabeth R, Edward VII, Emma and The Voyages of Charles Darwin
… Not to mention Napoleon and Love
Honestly, the only things that really bother me are the no chemises under corsets, and the “Let’s clear out a Sam Moon” jewelry choices.