When season two of Netflix’s hit period drama “Bridgerton” debuted last month, the show — particularly its costumes — had an immediate effect on viewers, with searches for “floral dresses” increasing by 146 percent and searches for “Regency dresses” jumping by 84 percent just three days after its premiere, according to fashion e-commerce aggregator Love the Sales.
“Bridgerton” is one of the many influences behind one of the spring’s biggest fashion trends, dubbed Regencycore. The look champions a hyper-feminine style, with hallmarks being Empire-waist dresses, baby-doll dresses, pearl-embellishments, floral prints, opera-length gloves and other regal-inspired designs, many of which were popularized during the Regency Era. The trend is expected to pop up at Monday’s Met Gala, as this year’s dress code is “Gilded Glamour.”
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“A part of Regencycore comes from the popularity of [‘Bridgerton’],” said Hussain Ul-Haq, fashion analyst at Love the Sales. “A part of the popularity I think of ‘Bridgerton’ — in terms of this season — is it’s a diverse cast. I think oftentimes in terms of historical, period dramas, they lend themselves to more Eurocentric-looking casts, which may be why you feel like you can’t be a part of this look and aesthetic. The diversity of the cast and more types of ethnicities [in the show] I think made it more popular because it’s more open to people.”
“Bridgerton” is set in the actual Regency Era, which took place in Great Britain and Ireland roughly from 1811 to 1820 and was defined as such because King George III was deemed too sick to rule, so his son ruled as his proxy until the king’s death in 1820, when the Prince Regent ultimately became King George IV.
This was a time when rigid corsets and bustle skirts were swapped out for more casual and romantic womenswear of the Empire-waist dresses, more flowing silhouettes and bright colors.
“The rise of the Empire dress comes out of many themes,” explained Valerie Steele, director of the museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology. “It comes out of Caribbean dressing, it comes out of a lot of ideas of Grecian and Roman dressing and is in line with ideas about liberty. There was a mixture of middle class and aristocratic leadership [in the Regency Era], so that less formal looking, more kind of country aristocracy or urban bourgeoisie look was more important and more trendsetting than a more old fashioned French court sort of aristocratic look.”
Steele explained that while the Regency Era is defined as taking place within its nine-year period, the argument can be made that Regency Era fashion trends were popularized as early as the late 1700s and extended to 1830.
While both seasons of “Bridgerton” offer a more modernized take on Regency Era fashion styles, the show’s costumes have helped spur the Regencycore fashion trend for their fantastical nature.
“It’s unlike any show,” said Sophie Canale, the costume designer for “Bridgerton” season two. “Every scene you’re seeing something new. It’s such a visual delight and it’s really colorful — it’s really unusual to have such a colorful show, especially with a period drama as well. The use of contemporary fabrics has really captured the hearts of everyone.”
In terms of recent period dramas, “Bridgerton” is without a doubt leading the influence behind Regencycore fashion. However, shows like Hulu’s “The Great” and HBO’s “The Gilded Age,” while both set in different time periods — “The Great” is set in the mid- to late- 18th century in Russia and “The Gilded Age” is set in 1882 New York City during the actual Gilded Age — are still contributing to the trend by popularizing regal-inspired styles that fit into Regencycore, namely corsets, pearl and jewel-embellishments, and at times, voluminous skirts.
Photographer: Alison Cohen Rosa
“The biggest predictors of the corset coming back into fashion — which it does every few years — is the influence of TV shows and movies,” Steele said of the impact of these period dramas. “The corsets that are part of fashion today are corset-like. They are usually not laced up and they certainly don’t have whalebone bones. They’re more like bustiers or even sometimes wide belts or little hints of it.”
Data from ShopStyle, a fashion discovery platform, echoes the influence of these period dramas on Regencycore. A recent report stated that searches for “babydoll dress” increased by 48 percent, “Empire-waist dress” increased by 36 percent, “opera gloves” increased by 67 percent and “corsets” increased by 18 percent thanks to “Bridgerton” and “The Gilded Age.”
“Regencycore is something that we’ve seen for a few years now,” said Alison Stiefel, general manager at ShopStyle. “It actually probably started back in 2020 or so if you remember when people were starting to be at home and still wanted some sort of fashion element. There were a lot of puffy sleeves on T-shirts and more embroidered sweaters, so those little pieces started to come in a more casual way. Toward the end of last year, it started to be a little bit more refined and more focused on outfits you can wear day-to-night — things like dresses: more Empire-waist dresses and puffy sleeve dresses.”
For the last two spring fashion week collections, many major fashion brands have leaned into Regencycore, whether because the style was already ingrained in their aesthetics or it was a natural progression. Regencycore has popped up in collections from the likes of Markarian, Loveshackfancy, Hill House Home, Zimmermann, Simone Rocha, Badgley Mischka, Richard Quinn and others.
“I do hyper-feminine, kind of more maximalist pieces,” said Markarian designer Alexandra O’Neill on how her line fits in with the trend. “I focus on beautiful classic brocades and silks, embroidery and things like that, which I think are core to period dressing. That’s always felt natural to me and something I’ve always been interested in and played with.”
Courtesy of Markarian
Regencycore’s proliferation in the spring feels natural given the trend’s emphasis on romantic and flowing silhouettes and brighter colors.
“Springtime is this emergence of warmth and the sun after so long,” said Loveshackfancy founder and designer Rebecca Hessel Cohen. “I think this makes people gravitate toward wearing beautiful, flowy, dreaming dresses after bundling up for so long. It’s almost like an expression of freedom and enjoying all the bliss that spring brings.”
Brands like Markarian and Loveshackfancy have incorporated Regencycore into their spring collections with more wearable styles, such as floral-print dresses, puff sleeves, brocade and others, while designer labels like Louis Vuitton, Alexander McQueen and Simone Rocha are giving a nod to the unconventional styles seen more in “The Great” and “The Gilded Age” with pieces like bustle skirts and rigid corsets.
The popularity of the recent period dramas has contributed immensely to Regencycore’s resonance but it also continues the pandemic-era trend of consumers looking for escapism through fashion.
“People are ready to come and celebrate and Regencycore is a lot about experience and festivities,” Stiefel said. “We’re seeing these trends come up and people buy them because the world is ready to get out there and see each other and celebrate. They want to do that in ways where they can express themselves in a new trend and style versus the last few years, which have been more casual and not a lot of new styles coming to fruition in the market.”
On the future of Regencycore, analysts had contrasting views on its longevity, with some viewing it as a fleeting fad and others seeing specific style elements, like pearl-embellishments or puff sleeves, sticking around in both casual and formal garments.
“There’s been a big rise in demand for anything that is associated with glamour and opulence,” Ul-Haq said. “That’s part of why it makes sense why Regencycore is so popular. Essentially, it’s a form of escapism from present turmoil. That’s part of why you see the Y2K movement — it’s a form of nostalgia and looking to the past. Regencycore is essentially a hyper extension of that.”
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