Netflix’s worldwide streaming success “Bridgerton” was envisioned from the start as a massive project. Ultimately viewed by 82 million households worldwide, the eight-part series is adapted from the hugely popular romance novels by Julia Quinn and tells the story of the social aspirations of a British family in the early 1800s. Veteran costume designer Ellen Mirojnick jumped at the challenge of working on such a daring series.
“I had worked with Shondaland before, so I knew it would be a mix of fantasy and history and that we would have the budget to do it right,” says the New York native. Ultimately, around 7,500 bespoke costume pieces (with 104 dress changes for lead actress Phoebe Dynevor as single Daphne Bridgerton) are stored in a London warehouse.
The luxurious “Bridgerton” designs blend the Regency period with modern colors, drapes, patterns and style in a confluence of historical accuracy and the imaginary. “It’s the biggest show I’ve ever done, and I’ve done some big shows,” says Mirojnick. “I have to say it was a once in a lifetime experience.”
Would you describe the “Bridgerton” costumes as historical with a fancy overlay or fancy with a historical overlay?
It is a fantasy that takes place in a historical period. I knew this project was going to be a very expensive endeavor, and knowing Shondaland it’s a different perception of how you create a period of time; it’s never a history lesson. It’s an adaptation of the story just as the costumes are an adaptation of the London Regency of 1813 focused primarily on the upper strata of society. The only thing we figured out at first was how it was going to be a hoodless universe, so that’s the biggest clue you can get that it’s a fantasy over a period of time. He wanted to be ambitious and accessible to a modern audience.
I understand that each piece was custom made and nothing was rented. Is it correct ?
Yes, everything was made and nothing was rented except the clothes of the modest people of the Duke and Duchess’s town.
Let’s talk about color. How did Daphne’s silver-blue bow come about?
The Bridgerton family were sophisticated, well-educated, wealthy, and fairly low-key. The whole family got a little inspiration from French macaroons. There was a beautiful version of a Tiffany blue that I once saw saddled against a white inlaid watermark, and when I saw that, I knew, “It’s Daphne.” From Daphne, the whole colored circle has arrived for the rest of the family.
What can you tell us about Daphne’s gorgeous wedding dress?
I love this room; this is one of my absolute favorites. We went to Paris looking for some fabric, we bought it, and what’s beautiful about this dress is the way it is sewn together as a single piece of fabric that has been draped around her body. It’s so virgin.
Lady Featherington’s (Polly Walker’s) clothing choices are incredible…
Did you like them?
I loved them!
The Featherington’s colors were first marked by the way they were written. [Showrunner] Chris Van Dusen interpreted from the book that they wore “acid” colors. Penelope (Nicola Coughlan) and the Featheringtons are new rich, lack pedigree, want to be seen as part of society and their interpretation is a bit stronger. No insult wanted, because I love this designer, but it is a bit the Versace of the time. For Lady Featherington, we stumbled across these fabrics in a London boutique in very vibrant colors with gold patterns – and they matched her personality perfectly. A few times she wears solid dresses, but when we looked at a solid wardrobe with a few reverse prints, it didn’t work.
Queen Charlotte, simply at the top!
The color combinations are gorgeous. When [Golda Rosheuvel] walked into the room, it was clear and we have never tried it in another figure. They weren’t easy to wear dresses, but she was able to wear everything with elegance, grace and strength. And then the shine of the wig designer [Adam James Phillips] took him beyond. Once he put on the oversized wigs, you were like, “Well, there she is.” It then became an extraordinary adventure because you never knew what was going to happen. And God bless Golda, she had a lot to carry.
All of the characters – down to the background players – seemed to like the costumes.
It was the beauty that all of these characters brought into our lives. This does not always happen. But in this show, it was so glorious that whatever you imagined getting started as a designer, when the actors walked into the room there was no disappointment. They suited all colors, all combinations. The Featherington girls looked perfect and felt like the Kardashians of the day. And was proud of it. And Polly, she was just in Heaven because everything was so unexpected. The actors thought they were going to be beige and it was going to be like Jane Austen.
Are you aware of all the opinions, controversies and general discussions surrounding mixed-age worlds such as “Bridgerton”? All the cosplay?
I thought we were going to get slammed. When we first got on air, I thought, “Oh, no, they’re going to criticize this, they’re going to criticize that – ‘It’s not real, it’s not real.'” I am always aware of every review. amidst the applause. I know everything. The cosplay was absolutely a lot of fun. But it was the one I was really scared to do.
This story originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.