As Bridgerton returns – a guide to ‘Regency Etiquette’

Those eagerly awaiting 25th March for the return of the global phenomenon that is Bridgerton on Netflix can find out more about that era of ‘bodices and breeches’…

As we once again prepare to immerse ourselves in a world of seduction and shenanigans, royal and etiquette expert and Polo & Tweed CEO Lucy Challenger gives ATV Today a fascinating insider’s guide into the manners and mores of Regency times.

“Ladies of the era really did have to suffer for their beauty. Modern underwear was only created in the 1920s, so back in the 1800s it would have been pretty breezy with no undergarments to speak of. “Drawers” – similar to lose shorts and usually crotchless – were invented in 1806 but would not have been widely worn in 1814, leaving only layers of petticoats to keep out the cold.

“Meanwhile it was not uncommon for ladies to wear jewellery made from human hair, whilst a common decoration for hats was dead birds – fortunately stuffed ones!”

Ladies’ discomfort did not begin and end with their clothing. They had to maintain the correct posture when sitting or standing.

“Slouching or leaning back was very much frowned upon. To this end many young ladies were fitted with a backboard – single pieces of wood fixed in place by a leather strap – that would ensure they sat up straight,”

Etiquette expert and CEO of Polo & Tweed, Lucy Challenger.

Much is made of menstruation – or ‘courses’ as it was referred to then – in Bridgerton. But as Lucy explains,

“There were no such things as sanitary towels or tampons during the Regency era. Ladies would just bleed into their clothes. Perhaps this is why the smell of the blood was considered erotic?”

Dinner parties were complex social events with their own specific set of rules.

“One false move and a lady could bring shame upon herself and her family. Dressing for dinner was a must with a more casual dress seen as a sign of disrespect to the host. It was known that the hostess would be seated at the head of the table, with the male guest of honour on her right. There was no other seating plan, and the remainder of the guests would have to seat themselves, ranking their social standing against their fellow guests.”

As Lucy continues, ballroom dancing was a similar social minefield.

“A young woman’s reputation would be at risk if she danced more than twice with the same man. Even two dances showed that the gentleman in question was interested in her. As such the following day she would expect a call so that she could continue her acquaintance with him.”

Bridgerton returns to Netflix for its second series this March 25th.

Even outside the home, the rules of etiquette had to be strictly observed.

“Drinking, gambling and meeting with women of ‘ill repute’ may have been part and parcel of a gentleman’s lifestyle but it would have been seen as scandalous if a woman so much as acknowledged these activities. To avoid any awkward encounters, certain streets in London were off limits to ladies of a certain social standing including St James’s Street, home to several gentlemen’s clubs.”

Neither were carriage rides exempt.

“The gentleman always sat with his back to the horses and a non-relative would never sit next to each other to stop any indecent contact!”

Bridgerton returns to Netflix for its second series this March 25th.

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