These Women Are Living Their Best Bridgerton Lives
Bridgerton dropped on Netflix just as the UK was plunged into another lockdown, with the pastel-hued romp providing the perfect antidote to the bleak outside world.
And with 63 million households finding themselves sucked into the drama, it's little wonder Bridgerton has already been renewed for a second season.
The success of Bridgerton has led to a newfound appreciation to all things Regency, with eBay reporting a 65 per cent increase in searches for embroidery hoops, while Google searches for 'Bridgerton bedroom' seeing an 81 per cent surge as people embrace 19th century traditions.
But our fascination with this particularly niche part of history isn't anything new. Sophie Andrews, 25, was introduced to the Regency period at school, when studying Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice.
Having been hospitalised with glandular fever later in year, Sophie came to use Austen's work as a source of comfort, escaping the glaring lights of her ward and sinking into a world of britches, ballgowns and biting commentary.
After meeting a group of like-minded individuals at a festival, in 2015, she set up the Jane Austen Pineapple Appreciation Society (JAPAS).
"We do things you'd think we'd do, like sit around sewing for the afternoon or we'll have a soiree," Sophie explains. "We've got loads of musical people in the group so we'd have someone who play the harp, have someone play the piano, have an afternoon tea, we'd take a turn around the garden - all the sorts of things a Jane Austen fan would do.
"We put our own twist on things, like we made Regency Cards Against Humanity that we play and we use our phones and things like that. We're not naïve. We're certainly not as camp as Bridgerton but we do get that vibe they're getting at. We do just want to have fun."
They also throw Regency-style balls which could rival a scene out of Bridgerton. The group hire out stately homes for a night of revelry, each kitted out in their Regency finery.
"A lot of us make our own costumes," Sophie says. "You can't exactly nip into H&M and buy a Regency ballgown."
The costume design is something Laurie is most interested in. The 29-year-old from Canada got into Jane Austen as a teenager after watching the 2005 version of Pride and Prejudice, and has been designing her own Regency costumes since the age of 15.
"I'm entirely self-taught," she says. "My grandmother briefly showed me how to use the sewing machine, and I leaned to sew with online tutorials, and starting with easy patterns and trying to figure it out as I go with the written instructions.
"I started very easy with a Princess Leia tunic, and chose more and more complicated projects as I got comfortable with the different techniques, slowly making my way to historical garments."
More Like ThisMore Like This
It can be a particularly expensive habit to keep up, with fabrics and equipment not always being cheap.
"I try to be as thrifty as possible with my costumes, so most of my day dresses were made for under $20-$25 (£11-£14.30) with upcycled fabrics," Laurie explains.
"For my evening silk gowns I was lucky to find some good deals so I manage to make most of them for under $30-$40 (£17-£23). I'm lucky to be very petite so I don't need that much fabric."
She continues: "I loved the balls we'd have! We'd all stay in the same apartment and get ready together, it was so much fun. As I'm based in Canada I can't always come. I was meant to come back but then - lockdown happened."
As with pretty much everything else, the first lockdown put a halt to all planned get-togethers, with the ball season, which usually takes place between March to October, entirely cancelled.
But JAPAS have still been appreciating the Regency era, with the group using the highly modern medium of Zoom to keep in contact.
"We have a group chat where we're constantly moaning and talking about everything," Sophie says. "We've had regular group Zoom chats. Sometimes we'll be like - Zoom tonight, wear a bonnet. Or, wear a ball tiara. Just to add a bit of fun.
"We did a Regency Bake Off. We pitched a regency recipe and a regency technical challenge, like regency macaroon. That was good fun.
"When restrictions eased a little bit we had a few socially distanced meet ups in the summer when it was a little bit better. We had some picnics and trips to national trust houses, which was nice. But we're all longing for a ball!"
Thankfully, JAPAS has been partying vicariously through Bridgerton, which was equally as much as a distraction for them as it was for us.
While Laurie "loved the show, but hated the costumes", Sophie welcomed the series' immense popularity.
"It's always good to bring attention to an era and open it up to a new audience," she says. "it's only a good thing when it comes to keeping history alive.
"I think it's actually really important that period dramas have diverse casting. Bridgerton isn't claiming they're trying to be historically accurate, it's sort of in its own regency London, it's doing it's own thing. So absolutely, have that diversity. I think that's a really great thing they've done and should continue to be done in future. That increases the accessibility."
JAPAS's plans, like our own, may be up in the air for the time being, with a looming sense of uncertainty hanging over everything.
But their love of all things Regency has been a source of comfort and unity throughout increasingly trying times.
"JAPAS has never just been about loving Jane Austen," Sophie says. "It's about escapism. It is about each other and that feeling of sisterhood (and we have some men) and that feeling of safety, and other kindred spirits.
"I think that's a type of connection everyone looks for and needs in life. I think when you find it, it can be really positive thing. These people are all my lifelong friends now."
Featured Image Credit: Instagram - TimeTravellingLaurie/Sophie Andrews
Chosen for YouChosen for You
Most Read StoriesMost Read