Who knew that all it would take to unite this crazy world would be a steamy, swoon-worthy historical romance produced by Shonda Rhimes? Equal parts Scandal, Gossip Girl and Jane Austen, Netflix’s Bridgerton, based on a series of novels by Julia Quinn, is an engrossing confection chock full of drama and excellent outfits. And while we’re as heart-eyed over the Duke of Hastings as much as the next red-blooded human, we were truly captivated by the effervescent dresses and glittering accessories.
Bridgerton costume designer Ellen Mirojnick began with historical accuracy, referencing paintings and text from the Regency era to best capture the look of 1813 England, and then… added a little spice. She amplified the colors, glitter and designs to create a lush and immersive world. Of course, we’re obsessed with the jewels: from everyday looks to the glamorous ball fashions to the Queen’s diamond hair pieces, the adornments are absolutely perfect. But let’s start with the canvas. The best part about dresses of that era were the open necklines that highlighted the bosom and clavicle. As Mirojnick told The Cut, “In the Regency period, with an empire silhouette, the focus is the beauty of the bosom. I call it the mounds and the blossoming of the bosom. It’s just the prettiness of that shape.” Necklaces and earrings were used to great effect, drawing the eye to the sensual curve of the neck.
There were several factors that played into the reigning styles of Regency era jewelry. As any modern day influencer would tell you, it’s all about the lighting, baby, and since candles were the sole light source back then — Ben Franklin had started his dalliance with electricity experiments, but it was nothing more than a topic of intrigue — every item was carefully chosen to best suit the flickering glow of the flame. Though diamonds were as desirable as they are today, the gem-cutting techniques of the era were more rudimentary, and it was much more difficult to get the vibrant sparkle that modern lapidaries produce. Nobody wants to stand next to a candle with a heaving bosom of stones and not have it sparkle. Mirojnick outfitted the cast with Swarovski to achieve the necessary glitter, but ladies in the early 19th century often turned to paste — a type of cut glass adhered to foil — which was meant to conjure the feeling of diamond, but was not meant to masquerade as the gem. Paste pieces were of value in their own right, worn by even the wealthiest society women.
As with modern day adornments, sentimentality also played a significant factor in jewelry of the time. The character of Marina Thompson is seen wearing a lover’s eye, which is pretty much exactly what it sounds like: a piece of jewelry that features the eye of one’s lover. The lover’s eye can be traced back to 1785, when lovesick Prince George of Wales sent a small painting of his eye to his paramour. The style caught on — both because it was utterly romantic and titillating; as it is very difficult to identify a tiny painting of a disembodied eye, folks could wear the ocular ornamentation of people they maybe shouldn’t be cavorting with. Very saucy! But in Bridgerton, Marina is on the up-and-up: she’s come to town with her heart already given away, and she wears his eye as a reminder.
Jewelry is an eternal signifier of sentiment, social class, and style. The fashions may change, but the reasons we wear them remain the same.
Bridgerton is a show that begs you to insert yourself into the heady atmosphere, and that is by design: as Mirojnick worked on the aesthetic, she wanted to combine history, high fashion and pop culture to create something aspirational. She tells Harper’s Bazaar, “I visualised the costumes as a reimagined, fictional portrayal of Regency London. My inspirations were everything from portraiture of the late 18th Century and early 19th Century to the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s.” The goal? “Would a modern girl wear it today?”
We’re all for this renaissance of Regency vibes! Bring on the decadent dances, chaste flirtations, passion-filled montages (but seriously, do not watch this with your parents), string covers of Taylor Swift songs, and extraordinary looks with a contemporary edge.
Charlotte AllisonSpeck Seed Pearl Necklace
We could go into a whole thing about how pearls were especially popular in the Regency era, and how they symbolized innocence (this is true), but we really just care about one thing: this Charlotte Allison necklace screams (daintily): “hey! look how hot my clavicle is!!”
Mandy ReidDylan Gold Ring
We hate using the word timeless to describe jewelry, so we will instead say that signet-style rings are not bound by the limitations of time (see what we did there?) and will literally always look good. Any year, any outfit, any finger: this ring will look good.
Chrissy LiuFordite Cuff Bracelet
Bridgerton mainly focuses on two families: the prim & proper Bridgertons, who follow the rules and wear pastels, and the colorful & ambitious Featheringtons, who break the rules and dress like exotic birds. The Featheringtons are portrayed as the pseudo-villains, but… wouldn’t you rather be bold and bright? You won’t blend into the pastel frippery with this excellent, eye-catching Chrissy Liu cuff.