Color, Form, and Fashion: Glimpsing History in BRIDGERTON Season 2
Color, Form, and Fashion: Glimpsing History in BRIDGERTON Season 2

Color, Form, and Fashion: Glimpsing History in BRIDGERTON Season 2

1 – It's time for #Threadtalk, & we're tackling #bridgertonS2. Yes, there will be historical musing & gown swooning, a warning, dear reader: it isn't all pretty.

Why? Because the Regency period is steeped in Imperialism & appropriation by way of fashion.

It's complicated.

Jonathan Bailey and Simone Ashley as Anthony Bridgerton and Kate Sharma in season 2 of Bridgerton. Ashley wears a pink embroidered gown, beautiful necklace, white gloves, and a tiara; Bailey is in dark velvet. © Netflix

2 – I adore Regency fashion & enjoy Bridgerton. But I have a lot of questions about S2. I wish I had more answers, truly.

Given the frothy, wild vibe of Season 1, I consider the show a kind of alternate history. But where do we draw the line? And what role does fashion play?

Jonathan Bailey, Simone Ashley, and Charithra Chandran playing on the Pall Mall Field in Season 2, croquet sticks in hand, against a verdant green background. © Netflix

3 – I'm not here to talk costume authenticity. But, if you've tuned in before, you know the impact of the British East India Company on India, both in fabric and culture.

This is made more complex with this season's prominent stunning Sharma sisters.

Charithra Chandran as Edwina and Simone Ashley as Kate Sharma, dressed in evening gowns of pale blue and pale pink, jeweled and stunning. © Netflix

4 – Frankly, we wouldn't have Western Regency fashion if not for the terrors of the 18th & 19thC.

So, I guess my first question is, within the logic of the Bridgerton world: did Robert Clive not happen? Was the East India Company just NBD?😕

An East India Company official rides in an Indian procession, 1825-30

5 – Because, by watching the fashion of the season–which goes much closer toward history than S1–there are signs of India everywhere.

In some places, it feels beautiful, like the blue pashima that Kate wears in her quiet moments. That sacred garment *is* her inheritance.

Simone Ashley as Kate Sharma, wearing a blue paisley pashmina. And presumably, a muslin undergarment. Her hair is down in a long braid, and there are two candles lit beside her. © Netflix

6 – On the one hand, I love that this space exists in a fantasy where Imperialism isn't a consideration.

On the other hand, as a fashion historian, these are real materials that still mean a great deal to people who are still living.

Like I said, I don't know the answer here.

Charithra Chandran and Simone Ashley together, with the corgi between them. © Netflix

7 – I am all for joy for *everyone* in these stories. Heaven knows, we need more of it, in historical fiction and beyond.

And it's ultimately not for me to decide how it "should" be told. Where the line is drawn between reality & fantasy is a decision the writers make.

Simone Ashley and Jonathan Bailey in Bridgerton Season 2. © Netflix

8 – So, now I'm going to talk about the costume themes & historical precedents in #BridgertonS2. Not historical *accuracy*.

First: Kate & TEAL. Lest you think her signature color is a modern invention, I'd like you to feast your eyes upon this 1818 gown, in Clarence blue silk.

Via Cora Harrington: This American dress of Clarence-blue silk twill (known as “levantine” in the early nineteenth century) demonstrates the international scope of fashion, not only for its color but also
for its incorporation of details that were at the height of British fashion in the late 1810s: a high-waisted bodice with a low square neckline, short puffed oversleeves or mancherons accented with loops of coordinating blue satin rouleaux, long undersleeves with cuffs
extending over the back of the hands, and a long skirt flat in front but with fullness from two gores at the sides, held out by a padded hem.

9 – Kate's wardrobe was my absolute favorite, starting with that stunning deep deal velvet cape.

I mean, stars above. Taking off the hood and that LOOK is as iconic as Mr. Darcy waking through the mist.

Simone Ashley as Kate Sharma, face at 3/4, smirking, shoulders covered in deep blue velvet. © Netflix

10 – The embellishments of her dresses hearkened to the costumes of India (and Bollywood, certainly).

But *this* ensemble has my heart. It's a more European Empire style, but the combo of deep aubergine velvet, satin w/gold belt & jewels… I pretty much fell out of my seat.

Simone Ashley wearing a purple, Empire-waisted gown, hands folded on each other, looking sideways. © Netflix

11 – The dress, and quite a few in this season, are a slightly older style–but it makes for lovely contrast. This example, with gorgeous fichu and sleeves, is from the very tail end of the 18thC, via the Met.

The Empire dress owes its name, physical emancipation, popularity, and even its sexiness to France. In this English example, French style is slavishly followed in the gown's high waist and modish stripes. But for all its classicizing details and shape, the gown retains vestiges of the ancien régime in its open-robe construction. In striped yellow silk.

12 – Now, Benedict. I really appreciated the expansion of colors & textures in S2 for the lads. Especially using more velvet (a big theme!) and vivid COLOR combo.

I really could have a fan account just for Benedict's waistcoats. The romantic artist even had a bee-patterned one.

13 – Which is interesting, because by this period, there is a bit of toning down in menswear. I appreciate the pops of color for Benedict, especially given Anthony's very somber wardrobe.

Jonathan Bailey in a velvet coat, silk tie, and charcoal waistcoat. © Netflix

14 – Penelope may not like the yellow dresses her mother makes her wear, but yellow Regency gowns are some of my favorites.

This one, ca. 1815, is just so bubbly and vibrant! Those sleeves, my gosh.

15 – Here's another saffron (and chartreuse) number from the same period that looks right out of Lady Featherington's book, down to those rosettes.

Empire waisted yellow gown with chartreuse ribbon on the bodice and arms. The bottom has three rows of rosettes and more green ribbon. From the National Museum of Finland.

16 – Now, let's talk Adjoa Andoh'sLady Danbury and her incredible Redingotes. This woman also sported a ton of velvet this season, absolutely drawing attention to herself in deep jewel tones. A departure from S1 which had lots of paler hues.

17 – This stunning example is from Sweden, and looks right out f Lady Danbury's wardrobe. Not just anyone's redigote: it belonged to Josephine of Leuchtenberg, Queen of Sweden and Norway & dates from the 1810s.

Cherry red redingote with a high neck collar and embroidery down the center and cuffs, hem and collar. Swedish Armoury.

18 – One criticism I do have, however, is that our characters seem to wear evening gowns everywhere. Even on the Pall Mall field. Which is a shame, because there's so many gorgeous cotton gowns of the era–perfect for running in.

This example from the V&A is quite Daphne.

©Victoria & Albert Museum, London - Evening gown made from white muslin embroidered with rows of small white glass tubular bugle beads. With a low round neck, short sleeves, gauged at the shoulder, and gathered under the arm, and a very high waist. The skirt is straight, with gores at the side, slightly gathered into the waist at the front and more tightly gathered at the back. The opening neck to the waist at the centre back and there is a drawstring through the neck to fasten at the centre front and the centre back. The bodice and skirt join at the waist where it is faced with white cotton twill.

19 – Another historical example of beadwork and metallic thread is actually this dress, one of my favorite evening gowns at the Met. The train gives me palpitations. The way the leaf motif shimmers is just remarkable. 1805-1810.

A high-waisted empire gown with a leaf motif in silver thread, and a long, scalloped tail. It has puffed sleeves and is made of cotton. Via the Met.

20 – And let's not forget color! This spencer jacket is from 1810, and it's still stunning. It may have faded a little to a bit of pink, but you can imagine what it must have looked like. The costume designers didn't have to make up the vibrant world of Bridgerton. It was there.

A spencer coat with embroidery and a V of buttons, and a very high-necked collar. From antique-gowns.com

21 – Another gown I think would fit in with any bright character — perhaps Edwina — is this stunning example from 1810. The netting, in this case, is machine made, and the silhouette is rather narrow. Striking!

© Victoria & Albert -- Dress of red silk machine-made net, with high waist, low neck and short, slightly gathered sleeves. The bodice is cut with side panels used on the cross, and fastens at the centre back with a narrow red silk ribbon at the waistline. The skirt is cut straight with additional fullness gathered at the centre back. It is hand stitched.

The neckband and sleeves and a v-shaped insertion in the bodice front are embroidered with a design of rosebud garlands worked in pink, red and green chenille. This embroidery is repeated at the hem, with a wider trail of roses and rosebuds.

22 – And orange, you say? Was orange period? OH YES. This number is from 1807. Simple, but wow

This example is actually raw silk! And look at that lustre. Yes, she needs an iron. But what a remarkable hue.

Raw sienna silk satin day dress w/ square flat neckline, high W gathered over B, one piece full length sleeve, cuff edged w/ woven patterned silk ribbon, CB opening w/ wire eyelets for lacing, back bodice lined w/ linen, hem edged w/ glazed cotton ribbon & heavy corded edge,  - VIA Augusta Auctions

23 – The one character I can't quite wrap my head around when it comes to costuming is Lady Featherington.

All I can think of are the costumes from the 1965 Cinderella film TV series I watched over and over as a kid.

I mean, it's uncanny!

24 – And how about some jewelry worthy of the Sharma sisters, and their dear (gorgeous) mama.

These date from the 19th century and are made of gilt brass. The filigree work here is lovely, and the little dangles would catch the light so beautifully.

A pair of earrings, gilt brass, the crimped shape composed of tiny pyramids with flattened tops. foil. © V&A

25 – This necklace is likely a reproduction for sale to Britain, but it's a stunning one and dates from the 18th or 19th century. It's made of composed of diamonds, rubies, pearls, and imitation emeralds set in gold. Fit for a viscountess, perhaps?

A marvelously jeweled necklace with squares set with circles, then a large circle at the bottom. It is a riot of brightly colored jewels.

26 – I could go on, of course.

S2 of Bridgerton definitely went up a notch in terms of costuming.

Heart eyes go to velvet, jewel tones, actual jewels, and the hints of history we glimpse in this fantasy Regency.

And this scene and Benedict's waistcoats.

27 – Some relevant links:
https://fashionhistory.fitnyc.edu/1810-1819/
https://ew.com/tv/bridgerton-season-2-new-characters/
https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/the-relentless-rise-of-the-east-india-company-by-william-dalrymple-review-how-one-corporation-conquered-an-entire-continent-t3d7fx7tr
https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/the-relentless-rise-of-the-east-india-company-by-william-dalrymple-review-how-one-corporation-conquered-an-entire-continent-t3d7fx7tr
https://www.vogue.co.uk/arts-and-lifestyle/article/bridgerton-season-2

28 – I hope you enjoyed this look into #bridgerton2. If you liked what you read, I do have a Patreon, where I share extra stuff about my research, book sneak peeks, and monthly classes on fashion and worldbuilding (and more!).

>>>

http://Patreon.com/nataniabooks

Originally tweeted by Natania Barron (@NataniaBarron) on March 28, 2022.

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