'This is the biggest show I’ve ever done' - Dressing the Bridgerton cast
- Credit: LIAM DANIEL/NETFLIX
Bridgerton is on course to become one of Netflix's most successful original series and one of its major talking points is the exquisite costumes.
As befits a sumptuous period drama of its scale, the series created by Shondaland features hundreds of lavish costumes for the cast.
From the dresses worn by Phoebe Dynevor as Daphne Bridgerton to Regé‑Jean Page's dandy look as Simon Basset, the show hasn't skimped in the costume department.
The first six episodes alone required more than 350 cut costumes for the female characters.
Costume designer Ellen Mirojnick said: "This is the biggest show I’ve ever done. It is the equivalent of three exceptionally large films.
"The amount of costumes is exorbitant so it had to be somewhat broken down.
"It is always difficult until a series is cast and you can make the associations, because Daphne will not really mean anything until Phoebe walks into the room.
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"I’m a designer who really focuses on what the silhouette is, so that when you close your eyes and you think of Daphne, you are not thinking about a little bow that could be on a neckline, but you’re thinking of Daphne as the entire character."
The eight-part series features numerous society balls, including scenes filmed at Hatfield House in Hertfordshire.
"It definitely offered us a great challenge, but it also offered us great delight at the same time," said Ellen.
"The size of the show – I cannot emphasise enough – was mammoth.
"To create dress after dress after dress, and evening suit after evening suit after evening suit, takes hours and hours and hours.
"It’s initially about finding the fabric. Do we have to make the fabric? Do we have to embellish the fabric? Do we have to design a piece of fabric?
"What do we have to do to get the most variety and the best quality out of what we want to portray?
"How do we want to portray these young girls coming out into society for the first time?
"It was all a balance, but it was an endless job and an enormous undertaking.
"It’s a different way to think about designing, manufacturing, cutting, embroidering, finding hats, finding shapes, finding different types of embellishments, and deciding what to include."
Ellen added: "For the first six episodes, for female characters only, there were 359 cut costumes!
"It was daunting when we first looked at it. We subsequently figured out a way in which to do it and that was by employing different cutters to do different things, but it was a daunting number.
"For episode one alone there were 100 female principal costumes to be made.
"I’ve never seen numbers like this in all the years I’ve been doing this, but I am very proud to say that this team is like no other and it rose so far above any expectation.
"The bar is so high that I don’t think anyone can surpass this."
Explaining how she got involved in the Netflix series, Ellen said: "I first came to be involved in Bridgerton because of a relationship that I had with Shondaland. I have done a couple of projects with them.
"They come to me understanding that I have a sense of how to interpret a period, give it a look that is accessible to a modern eye, while keeping it authentic to the time period that the story takes place in."
As for the styling, the silhouette of Regency England is similar to a Grecian silhouette, explained Ellen.
"For the women, it’s an empire line, it’s very slim and it accentuates the cleavage.
"The men are dandies and that’s always fun to do because of the colour combinations, the fabric combinations and the textures which are very bold. They’re roguish and handsome at the same time."
As for her starting point, Ellen said: "First, I looked at paintings, fashion and other images online and any other place I could get them from the period.
"I also looked at what resembles the period best in a modern sense.
"Then you have an image in your head of what it feels like. I do a lot of work based on intuition and feeling.
"In the case of Bridgerton, the series starts in 1813. We don’t really mix in later decades of the 1800s, we stay below 1820 and keep within that feel of what Regency really is."
The two main families – the Bridgertons and the Featheringtons – both have their own distinct colour palettes in the series.
"It came about through the initial look book, the research and what we were drawn to," said Ellen.
"I think that in one of the conversations I had with producer Betsy Beers and showrunner Chris Van Dusen we were thinking about colours like a sorbet, and also French macaron colours.
"That in itself is just words, but then when you put images to those colours it is so exhilarating.
"That kind of coloration brings a life to a show that is unexpected and we made the leap from there.
"When Chris wrote about the Featheringtons, he used acid colors – acid green, acid yellow, acid orange – and so that was a very clear indication of what we needed to do. Then we broke it down to shapes, wildness and tameness.
"With the Bridgertons, it was about the Bridgerton blue and we found Wedgwood colours, carved ceilings that looked like French pastry, and French wedding cakes and that just felt like the Bridgerton world and the world of aristocracy.
"There’s so much contradiction between these two families, so we looked at how we could bring them together and how we could separate them.
"It’s always by colour, shape and adornment. The Bridgertons are sublime, clean, classic and beautiful.
"The writing itself gave us clear instruction of what was necessary to design."
Many of the characters are struggling with their identities and wrestling with what society wants from them. This was highlighted in the way they were dressed.
"Eloise is a character who from the get-go has rebellion as a second name," said Ellen.
"The one thing we all hit upon at the same time was to add a bit of masculinity to the shapes.
"We thought if you gave her a frock coat and a large black bow, we would make her more monochromatic and we wouldn’t give her soft colours.
"She hated the fussiness of the frills and the very small little details. You give her the shape of a man’s frock coat, and a hint of black and white, and it says it all."
As for her favourite costumes from the series, Ellen said: "They’re all like our children and they’re all pretty special.
"Every time I think I love something the most, then I like something else even more.
"I love the Queen’s costumes. I love the boys’ costumes. I love the velvets, the fabrics and the richness of it all.
"I also love the wild prints that Mrs Featherington wears, and the boldness of that character. So you can see that I don’t know what I really love best!"