Like many out there, I spent the better part of last weekend binging season 2 of Bridgerton. At just eight episodes, it was a quick watch. And given the terrible cold I had last week, I was glad to have an excuse to lounge about and recover a bit more. I had a good time, but I also have… opinions about the costumes.
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This is one show where authenticity and historical accuracy simply don’t matter. Yes, I will fight anyone who complains about the costumes on this show based only on accuracy. The costume designer has created an alternate reality that is brighter and more playful than historical regency fashion, which fits in with the tone of the show its self. So, when I make judgements about the success of the clothes I put reality mostly aside.
However, the few places I do mention historical accuracy it’s for one of two reasons: a lost opportunity or a perpetuated myth. There have been a few times in both seasons that a deeper connection to history would have made the costumes more interesting.
A good, nearly unseen, exception was the corsets. In an interview with Glamour the lead actress for the season, Simone Ashley, describes how painful her undergarments for the show were. This is a problem for several reasons, not the least of which is that the empire waist dresses worn by the actress didn’t require her to be in significantly restrictive undergarments. I could go on, but fashion historian Hillary Davidson has already done a great job tackling this in an article for Slate.
What is important, however, is consistency within the world the costume designer has built. And overall, this the second season of Bridgerton was more consistent than the first. In season 1, I often felt that the Bridgerton family existed in a different show than the rest of the cast. Their clothing skewed towards the realistic end while everyone else was more fantastical. This season, however, everyone seemed to be in the same universe, which was an improvement.
However, Lady Featherington’s dresses continue to feel out of place. Their tightly sculpted bodices with fitted waists are totally unlike anything anyone else wears! I think I would be less bothered by it if the occasional side character or extra was walking by the in same silhouette. But as it is, she seems to be the only one in this style of dress and it feels off.
There also was a missed opportunity to explain the dress of the Queen and her courtiers. The late 18th century inspired style is very different than the early 19th century silhouette that nearly everyone else is wearing. Even if you don’t know fashion history, it’s clear that something is very different about the way the royals dress. When *****mild spoiler***** the King shows up, clearly confused about what year it is, it would have been a perfect time to address the issue. Something about the court keeping to old styles so as not to stress out the king? But maybe this will be addressed in the upcoming spinoff about Queen Charlotte.
The quality of the costumes was more consistent this season, but overall things still had a bit of a cheap look. Fabrics were a little too shiny, embroidery had that flat machine-made look. It was clear a lot of work had gone into everything, but with such a large cast it would have been a truly mountainous amount of work to get done.
One thing that did really work was the bead and sequin work that showed up on several of the characters costumes over the course of the season. That always felt whimsical but in a couture way, which is just the note I, personally, want the show to hit. I especially loved Penelope’s yellow ball dress in the first episode (even though the character claimed to hate it!).
Costumes in this new season continued to use color as a way to differentiate family groups. On the one hand, it did at times make it easier to remember who was related to who. I also found it easy to orient myself between all the fancy houses by looking at the color of the servants livery.
But after a while it got kind of boring. And combined with a rather set color pallet (mostly jewel tones and clear, bright pastels) I felt like it was limiting the costumers ability to show character through clothes. Though I have to confess, I have been scouring Etsy for things with the same vibe, like the tea and teacup set below.
My biggest complaint about the costumes this season is that they didn’t do a great job of telling me about the characters. Our heroine Kate’s dresses were a bit more reserved and darker than her sister Edwina’s, but I couldn’t quite get what they were trying to say. I also felt like there was room to bring the Sharm families Indian background into their dress that was missed. I must admit, however, that the color shift for the whole Sharma family in the last episode was effective.
From the dialogue, I gather that we’re supposed to think that Penelope is dressed badly, but honestly I think she’s often one of the best dressed on there. I just don’t get neglected wallflower from her clothes and hair.
Eloise is still sporting those fussy chiffon collars and sleeves which I cannot stand. They look awkward and uncomfortable. Given Eloise’s personally, I just don’t see her wearing something so restricting and delicate. They sort of made sense last season, before she was out. Like, they wanted to give her child like vibes. This season, however, with Eloise out, they just don’t fit.
Day to Night
I think the biggest thing I’d like to see is more of a difference between daytime and nighttime fashion. The show would look richer if, during the day more matte fabrics, like cotton and wool were used. I think changing the texture would also give more space to play with characterization without having to sacrifice the established vibe.
So, I know I have a lot of complaints, but overall I had a very good time watching this show! I also need to acknowledge again how big of an undertaking this production was. Because the designer is trying to create such a complete world, the number of costumes they could hire would have been very limited. This means that a truly enormous portion of the costumes need to be created specifically for this show. That includes not just principals, but side characters and extras who just stroll through the background.
Luckily, Bridgerton has been renewed for two more seasons. By now, there should be a decent back stock of costumes that can be tweaked for extras and bit players, leaving the designer more time and budget to focus on the principles.
Have you finished watching Bridgerton Season 2 yet? What did you think about the costumes? Let me know in the comments below or on Instagram!