Why are Bridgerton Fans Buying Corsets?
*This article contains spoilers.*
Bridgerton, the latest addition to Shondaland, is the sexiest Jane Austen novel I have ever watched. The story follows Daphne Bridgerton and her romance with The Duke; they face many obstacles, including meddling mothers, society’s expectations, and the gossip Lady Whistledown. It made its Netflix debut Christmas day, making it the best holiday present period-piece junkies, TV critics, and romance fans received this year.
This author has made her way over to Bridgerton TikTok, and she has one question: Why are Bridgerton fans buying corsets?
Bridgerton takes place in 1813, during the height of the Regency period. Empire waists reigned supreme. These simple dresses accentuated women’s busts and flowed plainly down the rest of the figure. Fashion designers purposely chose these draping outlines to look like Ancient Greek and Roman robes.
This reflects the Romantic-era nostalgia for classical times. Much like the giants of the Renaissance, nineteenth-century writers, leaders, and artists alike turned away from rigid styles and embraced classical myths, philosophy, and style. It’s only natural that fashion — the most versatile and only wearable artform — reflects this trend.
Empire waist dresses were, ironically, waistless. They were loose. It’s this author’s personal opinion that empire waistlines make the wearer look pregnant. Corsets were worn merely as undergarments. They are never explicitly seen in Bridgerton and only referenced as being tight and uncomfortable.
Why are die-hard Bridgerton fans scouring the internet for corsets? To answer this question, this author turned towards her most reliable, pop-culture resource: her younger sister. She responded:
“It’s for the effect of feeling like you’re in that time.”
Bridgerton fans are buying corsets from Amazon, Victoria’s Secret, and other retailers so that they can feel like the diamond of the social season. People love escapism. People love immersing themselves in someone else’s reality. That’s why Taylor Swift’s latest two albums feature almost no stories about herself. That’s why we love to gossip. That’s why modern women have abandoned “free the nipple” for corsets.
The popular success of Bridgerton reflects a heightened need for escapism– though not escapism like one traditionally imagines.
Considering the current Covid-19 circumstances, the period piece may no longer be a period piece in the traditional sense. With the freedom to go outside and enjoy the company of friends, the world of Regency London provides the comforts of real life.
If one cannot go to brunch with their friends, then they need to watch Penelope and Eloise have tea. If one can not go dancing, they must watch Lady Danbury’s soiree. If one does not have to squeeze into their jeans, then there is familiar solace in watching Lady Featherington squeeze her daughters into their corsets.
Bridgerton fans have latched onto corsets because they represent the structure of society. They are uncomfortable, tight, and opulent in all ways but aesthetically.
It’s not the effect of feeling like they are in the nineteenth century that people are after, it is the effect of feeling like they are apart of a world with meaning, rules, and social obligations again. With its defined gender, social, and class roles, Regency England offers one of the most extreme examples of a structured society. After months and months of virtual social time, people are yearning for the pressure, heat, and excitement that comes with real life.
People do not want escapism. People want real life back. With its amusing banter, romantic misunderstandings, and blaring pop-music, Bridgerton reminds us of the world we have not been able to live in for almost a year. It seems so much like our past, that the only thing unfamiliar about it is the corset. But, in today’s world, we’re lucky enough to be able to buy it and bring it into ours too.
As of mid-January, Netflix renewed Bridgerton for a second season. Assuming that life returns to “normal,” full of individual’s social obligations and romantic blunders, it will be interesting to see if society receives Bridgerton’s second season with as much enthusiasm as the first.