Shopping Cart

Call us toll free: +1 789 2000

Free worldwide shipping on all orders over $50.00

How to get the most out of the ‘Bridgerton Experience’ in San Francisco – SF Chronicle Datebook

When Netflix’s “Bridgerton” premiered on Christmas Day 2020, its lavish costumes and sets were the only escape or treat that many isolated, homebound viewers around the world got to enjoy.
It spun a confection of candy-colored empire-waist dresses with blossoming sleeves, of trunk-hugging double-breasted waistcoats and collars as veritable towers of power. All those architectural updos and snappy top hats swirled about in soapy love plots made all the fizzier by fiendish gossip and seemingly unlimited wealth and leisure.
At a time when the pandemic had shrunk our lives and starved our imaginations, “Bridgerton” offered expanse and luxury.
Now, with the San Francisco premiere of “The Queen’s Ball: A Bridgerton Experience” — which begins previews Thursday, July 7, opens Wednesday, July 13, and runs through Sept. 11 at SVN West — fans can walk around inside the Regency England of producer Shonda Rhimes’ and creator Chris Van Dusen’s reimagining.
In order for all our early-pandemic fantasies to become reality, The Chronicle spoke to local experts in fashion, dance and history to help you get the most out of Netflix’s latest immersive experience.
What all these Netflix-inspired immersive experiences mean for S.F. theater
In a fictionalized Regency England, the Queen (Golda Rosheuvel) is a woman of color whose court and nobility represent a range of races and ethnicities. Each season, she selects a “diamond” from among the debutantes based on each marriageable young woman’s posture, stride, curtsy, beauty, fashion and mien; the diamond instantly becomes the most desirable woman to all the eligible bachelors in “the ton,” to use a favorite phrase from the show.
But a gossip broadsheet, written by an anonymous author known only as Lady Whistledown (voiced by Julie Andrews), threatens the queen’s social power by way of thinly veiled allegations and intimations, droll observations and incisive suppositions.
Shondaland’s ‘Bridgerton’ peeks at the racy side of London’s early-1800s aristocracy
‘Bridgerton’ season two a breath of fresh air after gloomy ‘Gilded Age’
Visitors don’t have to dress up or know anything about the show or the era to attend. “The Queen’s Ball” is emphatically not like the decorous Netherfield Ball dance scene in the 1995 adaptation of Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice” — another fan favorite set in the same era. But putting some effort into dress (more on that below) will help you get the most out of the experience’s many Instagram-ready photo opportunities. Be prepared to parade your appearance and manners before an actor playing the queen for her snarky comment. You might get a chance to play croquet. You’ll get a dance lesson and the queen will pick a “diamond” from the crowd.
If you pay for VIP tickets, you’ll get early entry, one glass of Champagne, a merchandise discount and access to an exclusive area.
The queen’s contested social power in “Bridgerton” speaks to actual historical trends, according to Julia Fawcett, an assistant professor in UC Berkeley’s Department of Theater, Dance and Performance Studies who specializes in 17th and 18th century England. Regency England is narrowly defined as 1811 to 1820, when George, Prince of Wales, became regent to perform all kingly functions while his father, George III, was mentally ill. But it can more broadly refer to 1795 to 1837, the final third of the Georgian era.
The power of the monarchy started to decline much earlier, as a result of the English Civil War, Fawcett told The Chronicle. Previously, just an elite few were understood as living their lives entirely in public — the extramarital affairs of royalty could affect the line of succession, after all — and everyone else’s lives were entirely private. But after the 1660 Restoration, public and private were reconfigured once ordinary citizens were allowed to participate in government. No longer were individuals entirely public or private, but some spaces, roles and times of day were public. With that came a gender role division: Men were in charge of the public sphere, women the private sphere. (Previously, men and women might have worked side by side on the family business at home.)
It wasn’t just war and politics reordering society, Fawcett noted; it was also economics. The rise of international trade meant inherited property wasn’t the only means of generating wealth, bringing forth a new middle class with its own aristocratic aspirations.
“One of the reasons we know so much about how dances were performed, and what people thought about the dances, is that there were all of these dancing manuals and conduct manuals,” Fawcett said. “It has to do with the rising importance of the middle class. If you were a member of the aristocracy, you wouldn’t need a manual; you would just hire a tutor. Also, you wouldn’t want it to be seen that you had a manual, because it was supposed to be your birthright, that you were just born knowing these dances.” But if middle classes wanted “to perform the values of the aristocracy,” as Fawcett put it, they might not be able to afford a tutor — hence the manuals.
For Alan P. Winston, founder of the Bay Area English Regency Society and chair of the Bay Area Country Dance Society, the typical dance of the era has many virtues: First being that it’s easy to learn because a caller gives simple instructions — “turn right,” etc. — throughout the dance. “Even if you’re not, from an outsider’s point of view, doing it beautifully or well, you can succeed right away,” he said. It’s also communal, rather than focused on a single showoff. Finally, “because it’s a kind of dance form that you can’t do without a partner, and there’s the expectation that you’ll change partners every dance, it doesn’t carry the same kind of weight as going to a club and asking strange people of the appropriate sex to dance.”
“Watching Regency movies is the worst way to get an idea of what their dance is like, because everything is made for serving the drama rather than for accuracy or accessibility,” Winston added. Think of the joyful feeling of participating in a square dance or contra dance rather than the stiff, icy facade you’d have to feign not to be fazed by Mr. Darcy or Simon Basset, Duke of Hastings.
Traditionally, women took turns, in order of their rank, selecting and leading the dances, reflecting how, as Winston put it, “it really is the kind of society where women are in charge of everything except what’s important.”
Local costume designer Fumiko Bielefeldt has designed six shows at TheatreWorks Silicon Valley set in the Regency Era — two productions of “Sense and Sensibility,” “Arcadia,” “Pride and Prejudice,” “Emma” and “Jane Eyre” (though the novel is set in a later era, TheatreWorks moved it earlier for budgetary reasons) — as well as “Georgiana and Kitty: Christmas at Pemberley” at Marin Theatre Company.
Men’s clothing was heavy, she said: a frock coat, a waistcoat (a.k.a. vest) and a white shirt with a very high collar, crowned with a top hat to be worn outdoors at all times. Women’s dresses of the period, with their empire waistlines just below the bust, unfitted bodices and long vertical lines, were a reaction against the opulent fashion of France before the Revolution, Bielefeldt said.
Bianca Hernandez-Knight, historical fashion enthusiast in San Francisco who administrates the Facebook group the Jane Austen Universe, concurred, saying the looks came from the French First Republic harking back to the ancient republics and democracies of Greece and Rome. Even Regency England’s fondness for white and off-white dresses, she noted, derives from an interest in Greco-Roman statues (which unbeknownst to those in the Regency era would have been painted bright colors). Day-to-day fabrics, too, Bielefeldt said, would have been cotton or muslin, with the egalitarian idea that anybody could make these dresses.
For men’s fashion, Winston recommends Wild West Mercantile (which is not at all Regency-specific, but it’s passable for many items) and James Townsend & Son, both of which have online shops.
If you don’t want to buy or rent a new dress (“The Queen’s Ball” is offering a discount on Rent the Runway), Hernandez-Knight says you can modify an existing one simply by adding a ribbon or belt below the bust line — instant empire waist. Use safety pins if you don’t know how to sew. Prom, bridesmaid and A-line dresses are good candidates — even prairie dresses at Target.
“If you find a dress with a spaghetti strap, I added basic sleeves to mine, but folks can just get a shrug. Shawls were very popular at the time,” she said.
Another Hernandez-Knight tip is to go basic on the dress and concentrate on accessories: gloves (even fingerless or netted), sequins, headbands, feathers, ribbons, flowers, tiaras. “Shoe flowers were a thing of that time,” she said. She recalled finding one fashion plate (an illustration demonstrating what’s hip) from the period where the woman’s hair was styled as a unicorn’s horn.
For inspiration, in addition to Googling Regency fashion plates, Bielefeldt recommends perusing the paintings of Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres and Jacque-Louis David.
“Bridgerton” has been praised for its color-conscious casting, but some critics have taken the show to task for dealing too haphazardly with the racism and colonialism that would have predominated in the actual Regency Era; others have particularly found fault with its representation of Indian characters, as if the many cultures that make up the region were one.
If these criticisms give you pause about cosplaying in a historical time, even with the show’s copious artistic license, you’re not alone.
“It’s the same criticism that people have with ‘Hamilton,’ ” Fawcett said. “It erases all of the ways that the people who have the most in common historically with the characters portrayed in ‘Bridgerton’ were not people of color. They were, in fact, exploiting people of color.” At the same time, she said, the spirit of those casting choices get at something historically accurate: “So many of these racial identities and categories are in flux and are kind of emerging at this very time,” not wholly unlike the very incomplete racial reckoning of our own era.
With “Bridgerton,” she said, “rather than looking at the present or the future, to think about a different outcome, we can fantasize about the past and how maybe the violence that we’re all dealing with today might not have been inevitable.”
Hernandez-Knight said that educating yourself, even if it’s just turning on a history podcast while you get dressed to go to “The Queen’s Ball,” is a place to start. If after that you still feel qualms, don’t go. On the other hand, she said, “I have friends of color, especially Black friends, who found empowerment through being able to dress in the clothes that maybe their family wouldn’t have been able to wear, to kind of say ‘F— you’ to the colonizers,” she said. “You don’t have to be beholden to other people who are upset about (the show’s) shaky relationship with its own internal canon of racism.”
For her own part, Hernandez-Knight, who identifies as Latinx, “I come down to the side of, ‘Man, it’s really f—ing good to see people exist in history.’ ”
“The Queen’s Ball: A Bridgerton Experience”: Thursday, July 7. Through Sept. 11. General admission $45-$99; VIP tickets $85-$149. SVN West, 10 Van Ness Ave., S.F. bridgertonexperience.com/san-francisco/

Your weekly guide to Bay Area arts & entertainment.
©Copyright 2022 Hearst Communications, Inc.

source

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Free Worldwide shipping

On all orders above $50

Easy 30 days returns

30 days money back guarantee

International Warranty

Offered in the country of usage

100% Secure Checkout

PayPal / MasterCard / Visa

×
preloader