Love in the Regency vs. Social Media Era:
would you survive a day in Bridgerton's debutante season?
By now, you will probably have watched - or at least heard of - the very popular Netflix TV series Bridgerton. We found this period drama and its beautiful costumes very inspiring from an aesthetics and design point of view but also couldn't help but draw a parallel between love in the Regency era and our very own social media era. And what better time than Valentine's day week to reflect upon this topic?
Ankles are the bellybuttons of the 21st century
Before you even start dating you have to prepare, as Eloise grudgingly does. A trip to the modiste to lower your hems (ankles are the bellybuttons of the 21st century) and you must go to a few practice balls to get the hang of making conversation. Today, however, hems get raised, ‘thirst traps’ posted and girlfriends gathered to hit the town... Or the apps. And so, the season begins.
As per usual, us girls were dealt the short end of the stick. At 15-18 years old they were thrown into the ‘Season’ as debutantes, while fathers or brothers made deals in exchange for their hand in marriage. Their worthiness depended on beauty and dowry and men’s depended on social hierarchy. Extra points if he was a duke and not 20+ years your elder (hard left swipe on the Lord Berbrooks). And if all that’s not enough, in the 1800s women’s only duty was to produce heirs, and they often entered marriages without even knowing the biology behind it…
I mean, don’t get me wrong, there are some things I wish we still had today, especially during Covid. Getting glammed up (by our maid Rose, of course) and getting a fresh look from the modiste for every occasion, but sans the corset please (unless worn as a cute bustier).
In the Regency era, your mother is your best wingman. She’s kept up with the latest gossip writers’ columns and knows where to promenade to cross the Duke’s path. This is actually not a bad thing, considering that mothers are the only women who know about the sexual aspect of a relationship (and they’re really bad at communicating it to their daughters, you’ll have more luck asking your maid), so they can look for the men with the right… requisites. Today, the same concepts apply but with different characters. Your best friend puts on her FBI hat to track down your crush and hit the same club (pre-pandemic). Or, she lets you know if the guy is actually good-looking or if it’s just the “6 ft” description that has you swiping right.
"Still, in this day and age, a woman should never be found on a date without her chaperone"
The fight against Lord Berbrook
Once we reach the dating stage, we enter the realm of chaperones. As the Duke and Daphne make perfectly clear, a chaperone, usually a mother, is always needed while a man is with a young damsel. If not, who will make sure he doesn’t do anything scandalous, like kiss her hand… This is probably the most fortunate achievement of dating in the 21st century. If this were still a social practice, Netflix and chill would not be a thing. Still, in this day and age, a woman should never be found on a date without her chaperone. It’s there when the date goes bad and you need a saving call, it’s there when you run out of the restaurant and get lost, it’s there when the guy takes his own ride home leaving you behind to fend for yourself, and in extreme situations, it’s there to call for help when your dreamy duke turns into a lord Berbrook. Any guesses who the chaperone is? Hint: it’s your mobile.
In the real-life Regency era, gossip writers actually had columns in the paper where they wrote about the misbehaving and scandals of the people of the ton. Contrary to the Netflix series, names were not named (but it was easy to figure out who they were referring to). Although us normal people don’t suffer from gossip sheets as celebrities do, in the social media age most gossip can be discovered, confirmed or hinted at with basic stalking techniques. If any boys are reading this, don’t deceit us, we will find out. And if we don’t, our best friends will.
Mother always knows best
Apparently in Bridgerton, the actual relationship stage where most people spend a few years is skipped for marriage. And, although this is frightening, the best advice we can take from Bridgerton comes from Lady Violet: “You must simply marry the man who feels like your dearest friend.” So, while I find my dearest duke, you can find me at the modiste (Wolf & Badger) getting Instance blouses fitted to live my best #RegencyCore life.