From the 1800s to the ’80s: How the Costumes of ‘Bridgerton,’ ‘The Crown’ and More Take Viewers Through Time

1813

BRIDGERTON (Netflix)

At the opulent Danbury Ball, the debut season’s most promising young lady, Daphne Bridgerton (Phoebe Dynevor) — clad in a romantic, floral-embroidered cap-sleeve gown — literally bumps into society’s prodigal son, the steamy Duke of Hastings, Simon Basset (Regé-Jean Page). “[Her blue gown] best represents what you would eventually see throughout Bridgerton,” says costume designer Ellen Mirojnick.

Blessed with creative license and a generous budget, the costume department of more than 230 members worked tirelessly as a bespoke factory, custom-building every piece in authentic early 19th century silhouettes, from undergarments to gowns to shoes. Mirojnick and fellow designer John Glaser mined other centuries, from Victorian details to ’20s and ’60s fabrics to 3D and laser-cutting techniques from Karl Lagerfeld’s Chanel Spring 2018 runway.

Their anachronistic treasure trove featured what Mirojnick calls “Daphne’s blue.” Multiple contrasting layers augmented the gown’s arresting hue and shimmering flow to enhance the intense attraction that sparks during Daphne and Simon’s first dance. The gown was also specially cut and tailored at the empire waistline to create a “particular sweep” to gather at a billowing train at the back, like “softly pleated waterfalls down to the ground.”

Daphne’s dress also represents how women were viewed and offered limited options at the time. “It was to bring everything to its best possible presentation, because everything in that world was so presentational,” explains Mirojnick. But, at its heart, Bridgerton is a bodice-ripping romance meant to immerse viewers in its decadent, candy-colored world. “This was a dress to fall in love with,” adds Mirojnick, “the setup to hopefully what would be the love affair of that century.”

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Bridgerton
Courtesy of Netflix

1947

RATCHED (Netflix)

Ryan Murphy had a clear directive for his color- (and blood-) saturated origin story for Mildred Ratched (Sarah Paulson): The series must not look anything like Milos Forman’s 1975 film One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, which introduced the sadistic character in starched whites. Therefore, Mildred’s nurse uniform was key. “It was such an integral design and aesthetic to what Ryan was trying to achieve with this first season of the show,” says Rebecca Guzzi, who co-designed the series with Lou Eyrich, who’s also a producer.

Coordinating with Judy Becker’s sweeping production design and eye-popping palette, the duo spent two weeks swatching, dyeing and testing. They landed on the perfect shade of “surgical green,” which aligned with the deceivingly idyllic oceanside setting of the spa-like rehabilitation center, while symbolizing violence, greed and lust. Then Guzzi and Eyrich searched for an ideal fabric, as hospital cotton proved too rigid for Murphy’s vision. “He wanted a silky finish to catch the light and move when they’re walking down the hallway,” says Eyrich.

Simultaneously, the two meticulously researched World War II and postwar nurses’ uniforms and essential fashion of the period, when hemlines and skirt circumferences evolved from the late ’40s into the ’50s. “Ryan did emphasize that he wanted this to be chic,” says Guzzi, adding, ” ‘Precision tailoring’ was one phrase he used a lot.” The design was precise down to every detail, with 3D-printed and specially painted buckles and custom-dyed fabric-covered buttons.

To differentiate the nursing staff, Eyrich and Guzzi then created iterations of Mildred’s dress, which had three-quarter-length sleeves, preferred by Paulson. Suspicious head nurse Betsy Bucket (Judy Davis) clashes with Mildred in long puff sleeves, while the junior staff scamper about in short sleeves and light blue aprons — all of which wouldn’t look out of place in a fashion editorial. “The dress allowed them to have the femininity, but be very strong, powerful characters,” says Eyrich, emphasizing that the nursing jobs did offer authority. “It carried both in one dress.”

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Ratched 
Courtesy of Netflix

1960s

THE QUEEN’S GAMBIT (Netflix)

In the final scene of the coming-of-age chess odyssey, Beth Harmon (Anya Taylor-Joy) almost literally embodies a triumphant checkmate — in her all-alabaster “White Queen” ensemble by Gabriele Binder. After defeating the Russian grandmaster, she takes a victory stroll through a park lined with tables of men immersed in the game: the reigning piece walking through a living chessboard. “The costume should tell us that she’s now arrived with herself, that she is self-secure,” says Binder. “That the security that she has with the chessboard, she has now in life.”

To portray Beth’s path of self-discovery through the limited series, Binder looked to various fashion inspirations of the late ’50s and ’60s, including midcentury Balenciaga and Pierre Cardin, plus style icons Jean Seberg, Audrey Hepburn and Edie Sedgwick. “There were so many inspirations floating together, we had really big, big, big mood boards,” says Binder. But Beth’s determination to be valued purely for her skills remained the common thread. “She knew that it would be easy to show more leg or to show more cleavage, but she didn’t do it because she wanted to be the winner,” says Binder. “She didn’t care [about being] male or female — she wanted to be the best. This was her special strength and emancipation.”

The challenge in custom-designing the White Queen ensemble was to make an impact while remaining consistent with Beth’s “effortless” motif. Binder first looked to the literal inspiration: the shape of the chess piece culminating in the pom-pom-topped sculptural beret. She also looked to a pair of ’60s Courrèges pants for Beth’s streamlined white trousers, but custom-built them in a stiff fabric more suited for upholstery. “It’s unpleasant to sit down in pants like this,” says Binder, crediting Taylor-Joy’s commitment. “But for this look — and for this walk — they were perfect pants.”

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The Queen’s Gambit 
Courtesy of Netflix

1973

HALSTON (Netflix)

In a stacked episode portraying the high-fashion runways and backstage drama during the “Battle of Versailles,” it’s hard to pinpoint just one costume to represent a sea change in attitudes and style at the time. “Everything carries so much weight in a show about the clothes, essentially,” says Jeriana San Juan, who homes in on the patent leather trench worn by Roy Halston (Ewan McGregor).Flanked by his muses, the Halstonettes, the designer strides into the illustrious palace to prepare for the epic competition between the cutting-edge American designers and old-guard French couturiers. “That coat is meant to represent his sleek, sexy, modern sensibilities in contrast to a traditional couture, stuffy fashion environment,” says San Juan.

Along with austere black turtlenecks and no-side-seam trousers, the duster trench is a well-documented Halston personal style signature. San Juan became intrigued by a mention of a patent version during a conversation with Halstonette Chris Royer. San Juan designed and tested — or “auditioned,” she jokes — various textures to land on the most sensational yet elegant sheen, and also to contrast with the staid setting of Versailles. “He’s the centerpiece of the ensemble — the star of his Halstonettes. He is the lead singer and they’re the backup,” says San Juan, who dressed the entourage, including Liza Minnelli (Krysta Rodriguez) in neutral, matte textures and opulent furs. “I wanted them to look like the cool clique — the New York clique.”

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Halston
Courtesy of Netflix

1983

THE CROWN (Netflix)

“We all know it’s going to happen. We’re looking at history, aren’t we?” says Amy Roberts, who won last year’s period honor for the season that introduced Prince Charles (Josh O’Connor), now unhappily married to a 21-year-old Diana (Emma Corrin). Season four dramatizes the couple’s first official overseas trip: an exhaustive royal tour of Australia, which brings viewers on an emotional roller coaster along with the new couple. Dancing with Charles, Diana glows in an interpretation of the real princess’ blue ruffled Bruce Oldfield ball gown.

Along with custom-designing the vast majority of pieces for the series, costuming the royal tour segment proved an endeavor in itself. “Australia alone was like designing and making an ’80s fashion collection,” says Roberts, who credits assistant Sidonie Roberts for her keen eye for fabric buying. “She found original mid-’80s fabrics from markets and fabric shops and the top of shelves that everybody’s too lazy to go and dig around for.”

Amy Roberts’ interpretation captures the essence and silhouette of Diana’s original dress, but with a deeper, evocative jewel tone. She embellished the gown with exquisite, almost lightning bolt-patterned silver sequins and embroidery to catch the magic of the lights and movement during the couple’s exhilarating dance. She enjoyed creative license to reimagine and incorporate the real royals’ recognizable ensembles into pivotal scripted points, not necessarily mirroring the real-life timeline. “Let’s have that memory in there, and why not?” she asks. “It’s not a documentary.”

The gown helps capture a moment of lightness and hope before Charles becomes consumed with jealousy in the shadow of Diana’s growing popularity, and as her mental health continues to decline. “It’s romantic and it’s sexy all at the same time, and you think they’re going to be OK,” says Roberts. “I always think of [Diana on the] Australia tour as a bit like a little doll. Suddenly, she seems to be her own person and you think there’s a romance there, but then it all goes wrong again.”

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The Crown
Courtesy of Netflix

This story first appeared in a August stand-alone issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

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