Bridgerton, the historical romance-drama that captured audience's hearts in 2020, has just had a prequel spinoff release May 4th. The series, which streams on Netflix, has since garnered around 22 million views in its first week. The story follows a young Queen Charlotte in her pursuit to find love in her arranged marriage to King George III of England, and the difficulties that follow. Not only does this story continue plot lines of already beloved characters from the first two seasons of Bridgerton, but introduces new roles and provides backstory to many undeveloped side characters.
One of the most interesting aspects of this television series is the design of the garments worn by Charlotte and her ladies-in-waiting. The show seamlessly ties together modern trends with classic sillhouttes, while still keeping the looks appropriate for the time period.
Queen Charlotte was born in 1744, and was a member of a Black branch of the Portuguese Royal family. Charlotte was not welcomed by her community upon becoming queen. It was known that Royal painters would subdue certain features of her face that did not meet typical beauty standards. Her story is not a widely known one, and she can often be diminished to simply being "mad" King George's wife. However, she can be credited for founding Kew Gardens and possibly helping discover Mozart. She became Queen during the Rococo Period, which heavily influenced the styling of the gowns.
In the first episode of the series, viewers got to experience one of the most gorgeous gowns on the show: Charlotte's wedding dress. Designers Lyn Paolo and Laura Frecon were tasked with creating and styling the soon-to-be-Queen's garment. The show characterizes the 17-year old royal to be outspoken and bold, and thus the dress had to match accordingly. Bejeweled with patterned lining down the front and side of the gown, the dress has details visible from a mile away. Paired with a shimmering silver cape and ornate tiara, Charlotte had viewers awed by the beauty of both the gown and the queen herself. Although not completely accurate for the time period, designers Paolo and Frecon wanted the dress to become more of an iconic fashion moment, rather than being historically correct. Despite the wedding dress not fitting into the time period, the embellishments and attention to detail alone can be tied to the Rococo Period, which emphasized elegance and glamour in fashion.
Queen Charlotte was not the only woman serving looks this season, beloved character Lady Danbury made her first appearance this season in an intricate gold gown. While not entirely accurate, Danbury is featured wearing a Sacque dress. Characterized by large hoopskirts under the garment, fine lace sleeves called Engageantes, and an opening in the center of the dress. This dress may provide a closer look into what fashion many have looked like in the 1700's.
Additionally, Lady Danbury's wigs add another layer to her character, keeping her fashionable, but accurate with modern hair trends. Hairstylists for the show read diaries and wig making instructions from the time period, and combined this knowledge with new practices to create the beautiful hair viewers see on the show. Hair and makeup designer Nic Collins wanted to celebrate the beauty of natural Black hair, while still keeping the style authentic to the 1700's.
Queen Charlotte's gowns and wigs are always the most decadent in the room, and at her ball is no exception. As Charlotte's character develops as the series goes on, her hair grows with it. Designers and writers used Queen Charlotte's hair as an extension of herself, giving it a life of its own. Her gown is studded with glittering embellishments, with sheer ruffled sleeves to add to the grandiosity of it all. By adding simple makeup and jewelry, costumers let the young Charlotte's beauty and charm take center stage.
Creators of "Bridgerton" understand the historical significance Charlotte and King George had on modern society. However, taking by taking the creative liberties in altering fashion styles and dialogue, viewers get to experience a modern retelling of an under-acknowledged figure. Every liberty taken is "quite intentional", and used to show off ornate gowns and provide interesting dialogue for audience members. The "Bridgerton" universe has an enormous fanbase, and by using this platform to show black hairstyles on prominent figures in history, the creators provide jaw-dropping looks that tell a great story and promote creative freedom.