The costume designer behind the Netflix hit shares her inspiration for the colorful designs.
By Emma Kahmann.
Bridgerton, Netflix’s latest costume drama, has derived much of its appeal from its imaginative take on historical attire. Created by Chris Van Dusen and executive produced by Shonda Rhimes, the eight-part series is a modern take on Julia Quinn’s best-selling romance series of the same name. At its core, the show features upper-class families searching for love and status in early 19th-century England. Besides the dramatic story line, Bridgerton depicts the showboating nature of Regency England through the characters’ puffed sleeves, feathered headpieces, and corsets so tight the women might question if there’s room for any love butterflies.
Though they feature the era’s distinct empire waist silhouette, the costumes worn in Bridgerton offer a playful, modern layer over the Regency look. As the sewing machine had yet to be invented in the early 1800s, women typically sewed complex pleats by hand, and even for glamorous balls they often favored more neutral-colored gowns. In the show, however, the Featherington family wears easter-egg pinks and tawdry jewels that would simply not have been possible to create during this time period, with looks more closely resembling a 2020 high school prom over something in Jane Austen’s closet.
But the modern, candy-colored costumes are exactly what Ellen Mirojnick, the lead costume designer of the show, was going for. As Mirojnick told Mission, her design approach was an adaptation of the time period. She said that despite the historical inaccuracies, “the reception has been extraordinary. Everyone cannot get enough.”
Empire silhouettes feature in almost every female character’s costume, but the modified versions of the corset worn underneath were what sparked the biggest controversy. Bridgerton’s corsets featured a lower neckline, binding, and no undergarment underneath, which women typically wore during this era. Mirojnick says her inspiration for the Regency adaptations came from decades other than the 1810s, which allowed her to have multiple influences. “I shifted the palette to be fresh and vibrant and opened up the fabric choices to include everything I liked,” she said.
But Mirojnick was not alone in designing the corsets, which had everyone biting their cheek in the first episode when Phoebe Dynevor, who plays protagonist Daphne Bridgerton, ends up with open lesions on her back due to the tight lacing. Beauty may have been worth the pain in this case, however, as Mirojnick commissioned Mr. Pearl, corset designer for Kim Kardashian West and contributor to Alexander McQueen and Jean Paul Gaultier, to create the show’s corsets. “Mr. Pearl is the world’s finest corset maker, he works with costume teams occasionally. Luckily he was available and became a member of our team,” she explained. “I wanted to have the best, and he is the best.”
Mirojnick’s fantasy costume work on Netflix’s visually arresting period piece has driven much of Bridgerton’s popularity. And the show’s Regency styles have proved to be contagious. Bridgerton fashion TikTok trends have already emerged featuring high school prom gowns and reworked vintage corsets with users looking to normalize the style. For Mirojnick it’s an exciting development. “Fashion trends have emerged from it already! Most importantly, everyone wants to dress up!”