It’s a gloomy autumn day as I drive through torrential rain to Slough in the desolate suburb of London. My destination, however, a wisteria-covered corner of Georgian London, will be bathed in sunshine. It’s midsummer here and the place is awash in brightly colored sequins and beads. Silks and tulles are stacked, tangy orange and yellow empire waist dresses shimmer with 10,000 crystals, lime and raspberry jewel trays line long tables. Bridgerton is back, and one thing is clear: the second season, which arrives March 25 on Netflix, will be more of everything: bedazzled, bejeweled, and embellished to the extreme.
Between fittings, costume designer Sophie Canale has a moment to show me her vision for season two. “We call it the shop,” she says, walking me past rolls of fabric, feathers, ribbons, silk threads and vintage trimmings in every color and pattern – paradise for haberdashery enthusiasts. “Luxury is having everything that goes with it.” If she can’t find the right shade of fabric, it’s specially woven or the team on site will dye it. With military precision, the sewing department finishes a set of tulle ball gowns, the millinery finishes a batch of wide-brimmed striped silk jockey caps for a stage at the races, and a crew member embellishment sewed a psychedelic floral border for a single dress for over 10 days.
While the fashion and jewelry contest is Canale’s vision, and neither the clothes nor the gemstones are produced to be historically accurate, beneath the candy-colored ruffles are the occasional nod to the era. where the show takes place. She introduced the spencer, for example, a type of cropped jacket that helped prevent muslin sickness, a real thing in Georgian London when women in skimpy dresses froze, got sick, and died. This season, too, you’ll notice reticules, or little bags, which were all the rage – the forerunners of today’s purses – in which a woman could stow her handkerchief, smelling of salts, and, that being Bridgertona sweet note or two.
In BridgertonI find in the jewelry department vast palettes of pearls, brass, old cut crystal stones, turquoises and bezel settings, with a gold plating machine in the corner presided over by the head of Lorenzo Mancianti jewelry. To date, he has created nearly 400 sets of gemstones, including necklaces, earrings, bracelets and matching tiaras.
Buying jewelry was a popular pastime in Georgian times. Extreme devotion to social activities and the endless whirlwind of high-society events demanded appropriate sequins for the balls, masquerades and dances held every night of the season. White jewelry was particularly fashionable; newly discovered mines in Brazil meant that diamonds were more widely available, and finer methods of cutting them meant that they glistened beautifully at night, especially if they shook, casting dazzling beams around the ballroom at the candlelight. For Edwina Sharma, the new debutante to be presented to the Queen, Mancianti frantically produced tiaras, hairpins, combs and aigrettes to hold feathers and plumes, all in keeping with the white trend of the time. He also paid homage to the girandole earring, inspired by 18th-century candelabras, and the pendeloque arches, which swayed with large drops of diamonds to shimmer and twinkle like a fairyland after dark.
The use of the paste, one might say, is historically accurate. Imitation diamonds were popular at court, made with a new form of leaded glass that had a gemstone luster, which had the advantage of foiling thieves. And at that time, Napoleon was funding excavations at Pompeii, sparking a fashion for ancient cameos and intaglios. Mancianti took notice and made faux cameos while upping the color to satisfy the Bridgerton aesthetic. He also hand paints resin stones to sparkle like opals – it’s all about intensifying the color of the gemstones to make them appear richer amongst gold filigree lace patterns. Plus, they need to have some practicality for the most passionate moments of the show. A shiny ruby necklace has been created with a quick release magnetic clasp, so in the scene it will come off quickly, easily ripped from a neck.
I notice a gold crown adorned with pink enamel roses that looks like it might have featured in the recent Dolce & Gabbana show. “Yes, I draw contemporary inspiration from the brand for young girls,” says Canale. She sketches the costumes, then skims through books and artwork for insight into the jewelry, and adds contemporary ideas to give each piece a fresh, modern feel. “It’s not a period show,” she says. “And that’s the fun.”
This story appears in the March 2022 issue of City & Country. SUBSCRIBE NOW
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