Not everyone is a history nerd, but 2021 has proved that there are more history lovers than what meets the eye. With new releases featuring breathtaking ballroom dresses and steamy forbidden lovers, the internet has become obsessed with period pieces. Among newer releases, there’s Bridgerton with Black royalty. Greta Grewig’s adaptation of “Little Women” contains fan favorites such as Timothee Chalamet, Emma Watson, Saoirse Ronan and Meryl Streep. The Crown displays the internet-breaking role of Emma Corrin as Lady Diana.
But what is making all of these historical dramas go viral? Has the film industry managed to make history look so enjoyable that Gen Z wants to live in the 19th century?
Ballrooms, Royalty, Castles & Forbidden Romance Galore
Who doesn’t enjoy a steamy romance and riches series (especially with British accents)? Bridgerton has managed to trend on Netflix for weeks, with its social media craze not dying down since its initial release on Dec. 25 of last year. The fan-favorite is set in the early 1800s but with a twist. The series follows protagonist Daphne Bridgerton, the eldest daughter of the very highly and beautifully regarded Bridgerton family, as she steps into London’s courting scene in search of a husband. Bridgerton quickly develops an enemies-to-lovers trope, along with a scandalous anonymous gossiper. The romance fuels the entire second half of the season, marking the famous monologue, “I burn for you.” The passion is bottom-line captivating, leaving everyone wanting more. For those who remember Gossip Girl, many viewers parallel Bridgerton’s gossiping figure to the O.G. Gossip Girl.
However, don’t be fooled by the ballroom dresses and fancy talk. Bridgerton takes a modern time-traveling twist. The original author of the book series, “It’s important to remember that Bridgerton isn’t a history lesson. The show is for a modern audience.” Quinn delivers that sense of modernity with an instrumental version of Thank You, Next by Ariana Grande for an electric ballroom scene.
The series is also a fashion fusion that isn’t as historically accurate to the Regency era as a historian would warrant. Summer Lee, an emerging fashion Historian at FIT, informs the Bridgerton fanbase that the beauty on screen is spread from the early 1500s to the modern-day. Examples are the sequins on Bridgerton’s display of beautiful corsets. Even in the 21st century, corsets are making a comeback. Amazon corset haul videos went viral on Tiktok, sending the masses to purchase corsets, and it hasn’t died down since. It’s an understatement to say that the crowd loves the costume design in Bridgerton.
2. The Crown
Warning: A slight obsession with the British royal family may be a side effect of binging The Crown.
Peter Morgan, the show’s creator, has dazzled audiences to the edges of their seats with the portrayal of Queen Elizabeth II, beginning with her wedding to Phillip Mountbatten, now Duke of Edinburgh, to the latest fourth season with the incorporation of Lady Diana. The Crown takes us through 1947 to 1990, marking historical landmarks and creating irresistible drama. The show is undeniably filled with not only historical figures like Winston Churchill and Margret Thatcher, but also Princess Margaret’s forbidden loves, Edward VIII’s abdication of the throne and Prince Charles’ infamous relationship with Camilla Parker Bowles.
Third-year Florida International University student and avid period piece watcher Jennifer Solares describes The Crown to be all-around perfect when it comes to costumes, history and drama.
The costume design for The Crown is raved about for a reason. Its precision with resembling real-life royal outfits is uncanny, and it costs an even bigger buck. In season one, Queen Elizabeth’s wedding, still a princess at the time, is recreated. The Queen’s dress cost about $37,000 to create in seven weeks’ time. Just season one had a budget of $130 million, of course having gone to costume design and sites such as Belvoir Castle in Leicestershire and even Burghley House, which appears in Pride and Prejudice. And to think, we see two more royal weddings, one being Princess Diana’s with a 25-foot train and 153-yard veil and an appearance from Jackie Kennedy in her signature baby blue.
The newest season of The Crown brings up emotions that many thoughts were soiled. A completely new generation who did not experience Lady Diana’s spotlight in real-time is now falling in love with her. However, the newfound love for Lady Diana comes with scrutiny towards Charles and Camilla due to alleged unfaithfulness and abuse. Twitter took this by storm, trending Charles as a topic for days during the initial release last November.
Lucky for us, The Crown managed to finish filming its latest season right before the COVID-19 pandemic hit Europe, but any cast send-off parties and final goodbyes were canceled. Send-off parties are typical for casts of The Crown, as a new cast is brought in to replace the previous one to match the progressing years within the series. Season five prompts for the third new cast of The Crown.
3. “Little Women”
The most recently made adaptation of “Little Women” has taken hold of hearts through its heart-wrenching romance alongside its cast of characters. Not only are the protagonists fan favorites, but so is the handful of talented sisters. We also can’t forget the reason why our romance standards are through the roof due to heartthrob Timothee Chalamet on screen.
The film takes place in 19th century Massachusetts, requiring fitting costumes. “Little Women” costume designer Jacqueline Durran has experience in the field, having worked on costume design for the similarly set 2005 film “Pride and Prejudice.” While Durran made the rich characters trendier and the less fortunate date a few years back in “Pride and Prejudice,” Durran stated in a Vogue interview that she wanted each girl in “Little Women” to stand out in their individuality. Durran assigned a color palette for each girl, researching Victorian-era attributes of married women compared to liberated ones, as such the difference between the characters Meg and Jo. “Little Women” was ultimately about creating characters through costumes by slightly bending the rules. This fashion is partly what makes watchers, such as third-year UF student Makayla Bruno-Smith, feel like she’s entered a surreal world besides the stories of each character.
So, the verdict is in: period pieces have taken over not only because they can take you back in time, but because films and shows like these have done a top-notch job of incorporating breathtaking costumes, dreamy locations and romance that is incandescent. If you wish to tune into more time travel, try Reign, Outlander, Anne With an E, Hollywood or Cable Girls. Safe travels!