Bridgerton: Life lessons from the Regency era

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Hands up who watched Bridgerton on Netflix over the Christmas break? I devoured the entire series in one sitting on Boxing Day and loved it. Whether you’re a fan of a bonnet-heavy drama or not, there’s no denying Bridgerton brought some much-needed colour and fun to what has been a pretty miserable winter.

For anyone who may have missed it (apparently 63 million households have seen it), Bridgerton is a period drama set in Regency-era London. The central plot revolves around the female youth of the lordly Bridgerton family, and the female youth of the equally lordly Featherington family, who are variously trying out-lord one another by securing the most advantageous marriage. To a lord. In the background, an anonymous author known only as “Lady Whistledown” writes a weekly scurrilous newsletter, and if you’re unfortunate enough to be mentioned unfavourably in it, then you’re cast out from society, any dreams of marriage to a hot, young duke dashed, and only the aged, gout-ridden, port-addled old puffins to betroth yourself to, in order to avoid ruin.

It’s a preposterous storyline, but completely enjoyable. What I particularly loved about it was the styling. The costumes didn’t stay true to the Regency period, the costume designer introduced more modern colours and cuts; a more subdued, powdery palette for the Bridgertons and a bright, bold one for the Featheringtons. Obviously, I was all over the interior styling too, and filming took place in some of the grandest stately homes in the country. I have seen various references to “Regencycore” popping up in the press, and fashion brands trying to flog us corsets and whimsical ballgowns on the back of Bridgerton. Quite where these brands think we’re going to be wearing such finery whilst we’re only allowed out of the house to go to Tesco, I do not know.

I was initially thinking of writing a blog about Regency interiors and how we might take inspiration from them. However, there’s a lot of emphasis on swagged curtains, gilt-trimmed everything and damask wallpaper, and it all just gives me flashbacks to Laurence Llewellyn-Bowen in the ‘90s. Frankly, it would have been a bit of a struggle. Instead, I thought about how we could take inspiration from the best bits of the Regency era in general. And this is what I came up with:

Add Ceremony Back into Mealtimes

The Georgians loved a fancy meal. From breakfast, to afternoon tea, to the many-coursed evening feast, they dressed up, descended en-masse to the formal dining room and, quite literally, made a meal of it. In my house, especially at the moment, it’s more akin to a drop-in café, where everyone eats different things at different times, balanced on knees in front of the telly, tapping away on a laptop or generally on the hop. And sometimes that’s just the way it has to be. There’s definitely a case to be made, however, for carving out the odd mealtime to gather everyone in the family together, sit down around an actual table, put the phones out of reach and maybe, you know, have a conversation? Even if it is a lengthy monologue from the 9 year old about Roblox.

And why not bring out the fancy serveware and glasses? They’re no good to anyone gathering dust. It’s the equivalent of getting up during lockdown, doing your hair, and putting on a nice top (if I ever do this, my children look at me incredulously and say, “But where are you going, Mummy?”). I might be doing the same tedious work/homeschool routine as I have for the last 3409467 days but I’ll feel a bit cheerier about it. It doesn’t have to be every day, but what about making time for a Saturday breakfast, or a Sunday dinner? Or just a particularly great cup of tea with a slice of cake, presented beautifully, as opposed to scoffed straight from the packet? This doesn’t only apply to families. There’s a huge benefit to being a bit fancy all by yourself. Self care, innit?

Here are a few things to add a little joy back into mealtimes:

Top row L-R: Cups and saucers which wouldn’t look out of place in Bridgerton, pretty lilypad plates, and an amber decanter for the wonderful spirits which blur the edges of home-schooling so nicely.

Middle row L-R: Pretty wine glasses (Zara Home do excellent, reasonable glassware), the fanciest plates for your beans on toast, cabbageware bowl (I find these so ugly yet so compelling).

Bottom row L-R: Antique style cutlery (I have these and think they’re great, for the price), a very lovely mug, and a tablecloth to enhance the proceedings.

Diverting pastimes

There was absolutely nothing to do in the Regency era for a young maiden. No internet, no Netflix, no Instagram, no Tinder (actually, this also applies to my youth). What on earth did young ladies do to pass the time (n.b. this does not apply to young men, who could do whatever they pleased, shooting grouse, carousing around the gentleman’s club, the world was theirs for the taking)? Well, it probably took a couple of hours to get dressed and have the lady’s maid do your hair for you. Then maybe a chaperoned perambulate around the square (eyes peeled for eligible suitors, naturally) before formal lunch is served. Then an afternoon attending to your needlework, or perhaps painting a still life of the fruit bowl, hoping for a gentleman caller. Change into another elaborate gown for dinner and round off the evening with a game of cards.

Actually, it sounds all rather brilliant, apart from the moping around hoping for a dashing duke to cross your path. I spend far too much time scrolling aimlessly on my phone. Far, far too much. The internet is a wonderful thing, but it’s taken over. I’m feeling a strong urge to bring back The Pastime. Something non-digital to lose yourself in for an hour or two. Here are some suggestions for the modern woman (or, indeed, gentleman; we are thankfully no longer in Georgian Britain), all of which are things I would like to have a go at in 2021:

Top row L-R: Tunnocks cross stitch kit, subversive embroidery template book (try not to swoon), embroidery hoop kit.

Middle row L-R: They won’t improve your chances of winning, but they will look lovely: Christian Lacroix playing cards, Liberty print playing cards, Jonathan Adler playing cards.

Bottom row L-R: I love and miss drawing. This book could be a good way back into the habit, watercolour set, DIY hand-tied bouquet (materials and how-to video included, available posted countrywide from a lovely local, The Allotment Florist.

A Lady of Letters

Imagine if the speediest way to tell your mate some gossip, or send a romantic message to your chosen duke, was to grab a pen and ink, write it down, let it dry, fold, wax seal, summon your servant, have them give it to a small boy (there always seems to be one hanging about in period dramas, ready to scoot across town for a penny), have said small boy leg it to the address with the note and pass to the other household’s servant, etc etc. Exhausting. That said, I think the thrill of receiving a handwritten card or letter is pretty hard to beat, especially now it almost never happens, what with social media leaving us all permanently and instantly contactable. In the past couple of weeks, two friends have sent me a card through the post, just because. And it’s such a thoughtful thing to do. It shows love. It shows you’re in someone’s thoughts. And that’s a wonderful thing, especially now, when we can’t see our friends in person. I’m resolved to send more mail, just to say hi, in 2021.

I’ve chosen some cards I’d be delighted to receive, along with some journals and notebooks, for recording your innermost thoughts (e.g. “January 24: stayed in again. Considering a sandwich”).

Top row L-R: A box of thank you cards (thank you for the gift, thank you for being a friend (cue Golden Girls theme tune), thank you for existing), a daily journal, and an extremely pretty notebook (top tip: Christian Lacroix stationery is often extremely discounted in TKMaxx/Homesense).

Middle row L-R: David Bowie postcard set (delightful!), CFA Voysey notecard set (also delightful!) Dutch Garden wellness journal (and, once again, delightful!).

Bottom row L-R: Illustrated wooden postcard (wooden postcards! Whatever next!), scallop spine notebook, and David Shrigley card (never not brilliant).

So what do you think? Is there something to be said for going back to basics and reclaiming some of the better elements of the Georgian lifestyle? Or are you just here for the pics of the Duke of Hastings? I won’t hold it against you.

[Bridgerton publicity shots taken from Liam Daniel/Netflix and Nick Briggs/Netflix. I don’t own the copyright in any of them]

3 Comments

  1. 24 January 2021 / 9:40 am

    Loved reading this Sandra! Brilliant. Tamara x

    • 24 January 2021 / 6:21 pm

      Thanks so much for reading Tamara! 🙂 xx

  2. 25 January 2021 / 9:07 am

    Fabulous post Sandra, the point I couldn’t agree more with is the sending of a little something in the post to let someone know they’re in your thoughts. I’ve done this throughout lockdown and have experienced the pleasure of receiving post myself. Such a lift to know you are in someone’s thoughts x

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