Bridgerton’s Costume Designer Ellen Mirojnick Talks To ELLE About The Period Drama's Opulent Fashion Advertisement
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Bridgerton’s Costume Designer Ellen Mirojnick Talks To ELLE About The Period Drama’s Opulent Fashion

Disclaimer: If you've watched the show you may read this in a British accent!

By Ruman Baig  January 13th, 2021

Netflix’s Bridgerton is a love-child between Jane Austin’s period drama Pride and Prejudice and modern-day pop-culture phenomenon Gossip Girl. If you like romance, scandal, regency style, and soirees, this show is tailor-made for you. Adapted from Julia Quin’s best-selling Bridgerton novels, the show is created by Chris Van Dusen and Grey’s Anatomy famed Shonda Rhimes. Owing to this collaboration, it was refreshing to see a period show with a diverse cast and a hint of queer romance.

Bridgerton‘s story blooms out of 19th Century London, where the crème de la crème of the society comes together each season to introduce their eligible daughters and make them compete for their suitable matches. What follows is an eight-episode long riot of old-school-chaperon-shadowed wooing, 98,56,432 balls/parties, evening high-teas, rugged testosterone moments in the wrestling ring, and almost duel, topped with some forbidden sex in the garden maze.

 

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The ensemble cast is led by Daphne (Phoebe Dynevor), the eldest daughter of the Bridgerton family, and her complicated knight in the shining armour, the Duke of Hastings (Regé-Jean Page). Followed by a powerful pack of actors, playing strong yet layered characters. This show’s grandiose has been depicted perfectly through its strong sartorial representation of that century by Emmy-winning costume designer Ellen Mirojnick. The dream sequences on the screen were carefully woven by this genius who has previously worked on projects like The Greatest Showman and Maleficient.

Gowns in a wide-ranging palette of sorbet hues, pale pastels, and jewel tones dripping in heavy bijoux, feathers and exaggerated head-gear. Not just each character, but every family had a signature style, based on their personality traits and socio-economic backgrounds. While the Featheringtons dressed ostentatiously in bright and popping hues with statement jewellery, the Bridgertons on the other side, redefined understated elegance in soft-hued silhouettes, elevated with fine jewellery.

Lady Danbury had a consistent colour wheel of different shades of wine, and Queen Charlotte was dressed in contrary combinations of teal and oxblood, sunny yellow and ivory. In an exclusive conversation with ELLE India, Bridgerton’s costume designer Ellen Mirojnick talks about creating 7,500 silhouettes, re-imagining history, and juxtaposing functional fashion elements in a corset-cinched era.

 

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How did you come on-board for Bridgerton’s costumes?

I became a part of Bridgerton because of my previous association with Shondaland (TV production company founded by Shonda Rhimes). I have done a couple of projects with them. They know I have a sense of understanding of how to interpret a period, give it a look that is accessible to a modern eye, while retaining the authenticity of the time period that the story is based in.

How difficult was it to depict the style of Regency England in a different way, since everyone from that era had a common parallel in their sense of style?

The silhouette is similar to a Grecian silhouette. For Bridgerton’s women, it’s an empire line, which is very slim and it accentuates the cleavage. Bridgerton’s 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. It’s all in the detail, the more you research, the better distinctions you’re able to create.

 

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Where did you draw your inspiration from while starting this project?

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. This way, 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.

 

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Each family is styled in contrasting palettes and silhouettes, tell us a little about that?

It came about through the initial look book, the research, and what we were drawn to. 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 are just words, but then when you put images to those colours, it is so exhilarating. That kind of colouration brings life to a show, and we made the leap from there. When Chris wrote about the Featheringtons, he used acid colours – acid green, acid yellow, acid orange – 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 Bridgerton’s, 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’s 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.

How challenging was it for you and your team to create garments for such a large ensemble cast?

This is the biggest project that I have ever been a part of. It is the equivalent of three exceptionally large films. The number of costumes was exorbitant, so it had to be somewhat broken down. It is always tricky until a series is cast and you can make the associations because Daphne will not really mean anything until Phoebe walks into the room. 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.

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The show circles around many high-society events like balls, parties and other fancy soirees, what was the approach towards designing for these events?

It definitely offered us a great challenge, but it also offered us great delight at the same time. 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.

 

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How many costumes were created for this show?

There were 359 costumes just for the female characters in Bridgerton’s first six episodes itself! It was overwhelming 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 the best I have worked with,  and it rose above and beyond my expectation. The bar is so high that I don’t think anyone can surpass this.

 

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These large number of costumes were created on set in an impromptu factory, tell us about that?

To have as much as we could have in-house has been a great way to begin. What we learned going forward is that we always have to ask people we hire, “How many dresses can you do? Can you do ten ball dresses? Can you do ten day dresses? Can you do 20 walking suits?”. With our cutters in house, everybody really gravitated to a character that they were best suited for, which is a great luxury, and it yields a great result. So, everybody found their own niche in Bridgerton’s costume department.

 

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How did you bring out the personalities of the characters that are struggling with their identities through the way they’re dressed?

Eloise is a character who gets rebellion as a second name from the get-go. The one thing we all hit upon at the same time was to add a bit of masculinity to the shapes. She hated the fussiness of the frills and the very small little details. You give her the shape of a man’s frock coat with minimal colour, and it says it all.

 

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Which was your favourite character to design for?

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!

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