From 'Boleyn bands' to Regencycore, what's your period drama style tribe?

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
Emily Cronin
·6 min read
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
Phoebe Dynevor as Daphne Bridgerton (L) and Jodie Turner-Smith as Anne Boleyn
Phoebe Dynevor as Daphne Bridgerton (L) and Jodie Turner-Smith as Anne Boleyn

There’s a period-drama battle royale brewing. In one corner: Daphne Bridgerton and her macaron-hued sisters. In the other: Anne Boleyn and the whole Tudor court – not to mention the hordes of Romantic heroines, Victorians, Flappers and postwar New Look fans on the sidelines.

This ‘battle’, of course, is playing out online, between fans of different eras of historical dress, armed with the new film and TV productions they admire. The most recent wave of period-drama dressers has gained momentum since the rise of Bridgerton.

Shonda Rhimes’s Regency romance has attracted more than 82 million viewers (that’s as of the end of January), making it Netflix’s most-watched series ever. Reports suggest that the show has inspired a good number of those viewers to emulate the “incomparable” debutante Daphne Bridgerton in their dress.

Rege-Jean Page as Simon Basset and Phoebe Dynevor as Daphne Bridgerton in Bridgerton - Netflix
Rege-Jean Page as Simon Basset and Phoebe Dynevor as Daphne Bridgerton in Bridgerton - Netflix

Retailers credit Bridgerton with launching Regencycore as a pandemic micro-trend. Searches for ‘pearl jewellery’ and ‘pearls’ spiked on 27th December, two days after Bridgerton debuted. Phoebe Dynevor, who plays Daphne, has been embraced by the fashion world, attending Christian Dior’s virtual SS21 haute couture show and modelling as the face of Self-Portrait’s autumn-winter 2021 collection.

It helps that so many hallmarks of Regency style are on the WFH-friendly side: Empire waists, cap-sleeve dresses, pearl hair embellishments, satin slippers. And then there are the corsets. Despite some quibbling about whether the Bridgertons and Featheringtons would have worn corsets or stays, fashion search engine Lyst reported that searches for corsets rose 123% in the weeks after the show premiered.

Prudence Featherington gets laced into a corset in Bridgerton - Netflix
Prudence Featherington gets laced into a corset in Bridgerton - Netflix

Just when it looked like Regencycore had reached fever pitch, a new (well, old) period-drama style icon emerged: Anne Boleyn. The doomed Tudor queen is the subject of a forthcoming Channel 5 series starring Queen and Slim star Jodie Turner-Smith. In the first stills from the series, Turner wears costumes that tick all the Tudor style boxes. Boleyn’s square-neck dresses, major sleeves, pearly initial necklace and French hoods all appear, subtly modernised to the point that it’s easy – even tempting – to consider wearing them today.

After all, Turner-as-Boleyn’s French hoods aren’t far off from Prada’s cult padded headbands; her squared-off necklines would work well on Zoom. And the famous gold B necklace has inspired similar designs by Simone Rocha, Dilara Findikoglu and Alighieri.

This content is not available due to your privacy preferences.
Update your settings here to see it.

Both Bridgerton and Anne Boleyn have attracted criticism along with the adulation – usually concerning accusations of historical inaccuracy. In Bridgerton’s case, detractors complained about gaudy designs and the choice of corsets instead of stays. Anne Boleyn, before a single episode has aired, for overly modernising thoroughly documented garments.

“There’s no such thing as historically accurate costuming,” says Jenny Tiramini, the award-winning costume designer and director of London’s School of Historical Dress. “You’d have to have a time machine. It’s the job of costume designers to interpret – then the story should take over. The costumes, the lighting, the environment, should never distract you from the people and the story being told.”

So are you on Team Tudor or Team Regency? Read on and decide...

Tudorcore

When: The Tudor period lasted from 1485 to 1603

Ringleader: Anne Boleyn

Anne Boleyn - Hutton Archive
Anne Boleyn - Hutton Archive

As seen in: Elizabeth, Shakespeare in Love, The Other Boleyn Girl, The Tudors (sexier than the real thing, but with many costumes based on paintings), Wolf Hall, Anne Boleyn

What they said: Privy Purse records of Anne Boleyn’s expenses for shoes and clothes for herself and her daughter, the future Queen Elizabeth, in spring 1536, described:

“...gowns in tawny velvet with black lambs’ fur, in velvet without fur, in damask, and in satin furred with miniver; a russet gown in caffa (heavy silk), two in black velvet, one in black damask, one in white satin and a second with crimson sleeves; a gown in purple cloth of gold lined with silver, and new carnation satin from Bruges to insert into the sleeves of a gown of tissue... There were eight nightgowns, two embroidered and another in russet trimmed with miniver; and three cloaks – of black Bruges satin, of embroidered tawny satin and of black cloth lined with black sarcenet – while Arnold the shoemaker had eight lots of black velvet to make shoes and slippers...”

On the catwalk: Simone Rocha, Alexander McQueen, Dilara Findikoglu, Bora Aksu, Dion Lee (for corsetry)

How to wear it now: square necklines, statement sleeves, initial necklaces, velvet, padded headbands

Tudor style
Tudor style

Clockwise from top left: Reformation + NET SUSTAIN Luce organic cotton-blend poplin midi dress, £265, Net-a-porter.com; House of Lafayette headband, £79, Matchesfashion.com; Self-Portrait black midi-dress, £360, Net-a-porter.com; Boleyn necklace, £135, Dilara Findikoglu; Dion Lee sheer jersey corset, £370, Farfetch; Tudor Rose bustier, £95, Meadows

Regencycore

When: The Regency era lasted less than a decade, from 1811 to 1820

Ringleader: Jane Austen

Jane Austen circa 1790
Jane Austen circa 1790

As seen in: Bridgerton, Emma, Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Great Expectations, Bright Star, and many more...

What they said: In 1811, A Lady of Distinction (a real Whistledown), advised young women how to dress:

“In the spring of youth, when all is lovely and gay, then, as the soft green, sparkling in freshness, bedecks the earth; so, light and transparent robes, of tender colours, should adorn the limbs of the young beauty…Her summer evening dress may be of a gossamer texture; but it must still preserve the same simplicity, though its gracefully-diverging folds may fall like the mantle of Juno…In this dress, her arms, and part of her neck and bosom may be unveiled: but only part. The eye of maternal decorum should draw the virgin zone to the limit where modesty would bid it rest.”

On the catwalk: Erdem, Rodarte, Brock Collection, Moschino, Markarian, Alexachung

How to wear it now: Empire waists, puff sleeves, pearls, opera gloves, capes, ruffles, pastel colours, embroidery

regency 
regency

Clockwise from top left: Miaou lace-trimmed denim bustier top, £96, Net-a-porter.com; Regency garden jacket, £250, Needle & Thread; Mila earrings, £85, Shrimps; Pleat ruffle button detail blouse, £74.25, Karen Millen; Francoise slippers, £249, A Piedi; Headband, £39.99, Simone Rocha x H&M (from 11 March); Longbourn dress, £116, Alexachung; Blue Skies dress, £92, Sister Jane

Read more: The story behind Bridgerton's decadent Regency-inspired costumes

For more news, analysis and advice from The Telegraph's fashion desk, click here to sign up to get our weekly newsletter, straight to your inbox every Friday. Follow our Instagram @Telegraphfashion