It surprised absolutely no one that the Netflix sensation Bridgerton snagged 12 Emmy nominations, but if – in some alternate universe we don’t want to visit — it had received only one nomination, it would have been for Outstanding Period Costumes. Right? Right.
The show’s costumes popped visually on screen and complemented the personalities of each and every character. The show’s characters looked stunning in them… and taking them off. Bridgerton Costume Designers, Ellen Mirojnick and John W. Glaser III, and Costume Supervisors Sanaz Missaghian and Kenny Crouch, are up for the award, specifically for the pilot episode, “Diamond of The First Water.”
Mirojnick’s dozens of credits include Wall Street (and numerous other Michael Douglas films), Showgirls, Starship Troopers, The Chronicles of Riddick, The Greatest Showman, Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, and the upcoming Camila Cabello version of Cinderella (for Amazon). She’s actually already won an Emmy, in the Outstanding Costumes for a Miniseries, Movie or Special category, for Behind the Candelabra. And, interestingly, she was nominated in 1998 in the Costume Design for Variety or Music Program for the ABC/Disney take on Cinderella that starred Whitney Houston and Brandy. Glaser’s credits include Tattinger’s, Brotherhood, Person of Interest, and Gotham.
Mirojnick and Glaser recently chatted with Below the Line via Zoom.
Below the Line: I’m sure everybody had high hopes for Bridgerton, but how amazed are you both by the way the show absolutely exploded, not just pop culture-wise, but also on the fashion landscape?
Ellen Mirojnick: You phrased the initial question really well, but this was a total surprise to us. Who knew that it was going to shake the world in the way that it did on both fronts? Nobody. We never, ever, ever anticipated this kind of reception. And the reception actually keeps on going. The word has become… You can Bridgertize something. I’ve seen that. It’s nutty, absolutely nutty. John and I are thrilled that the acceptance has been as enormous as it’s been. Its great fulfillment and it brings us great joy, but also God bless Netflix for seeing the time of release to be what it was. Let’s say it was even just going to be Christmas. And let’s say we were not in a pandemic. We would have never known what would have happened. But because we were at a pandemic and it was Christmas, and nobody could go anywhere except in front of a streaming device, man, did it just catch fire around the world. That was actually for me — John, don’t you think as well? — it was one of the most satisfying things that has ever happened to me in my career. Culturally around the world, whether it be India, whether it be Singapore, whether it was another Asian country, whether it was South America… It was literally around the world, and that is a dream come true.
John W. Glaser: It was a relief, because Ellen and I took a gamble on blending the period and not being historically accurate and taking it to a little bit of fantasy. So, it could have been received in a different way and..
Mirojnick: We could have been slaughtered, in other words.
Glaser: We could have been slaughtered.
Mirojnick: When we chosen to design in the direction that we did, clearly it was a design choice and it was a major, large design choice that we needed to shift the period and shift the color palette, shift the fabrication, shift the idea of the period into a period that was rooted in that time, but certainly had modern elements. And we could have been slaughtered.
BTL: If our numbers are right, we’re talking nearly 240 people, 7,500 total pieces, just under 5,000 costumes, 104 of which were for Phoebe Dynevor specifically. How do you wrap your head around planning for so much, warehousing so much, overseeing that many people, and accessing what you needed when you needed it?
Mirojnick: We have to answer it the way we did it, which was to break it all down. You look at it. You know that you have to manufacture. What we created and what we showed Shondaland and [Bridgerton creator/executive producer/show runner] Chris Van Dusen, of course, everybody was on the same page. They said, “Yes, we’re all a hundred percent with you. Let’s go.” So, what we had to do was literally break it down. That meant hiring a foremost supervisory team in London. It was all-British crew. We had to think about how we’re going to create the stock, how much we would need, how many people we would need, what categories we needed to fill, where could we get them. We had a brain trust first. Who can we go to? What can we do? And, fortunately, because of years spent doing so many different types of things, we could go to, for example, Angels Costumes, and they could manufacture it. When I say manufacturer, well, first we had to know that we could create a stock. So just as you go into a costume house and you have all those costumes, we had to have our own costume house. So, we had to create the stock. Who was going to make the stock? All right, so Angels can manufacturer some, Peris Costumes in Madrid could manufacture some. We have great makers in Budapest who manufactured men and women. Spain manufactured men and women, as well.
Glaser: New York.
Mirojnick: New York manufactured women and Italy manufactured women. There is not enough fabric in the world, but we bought whatever we could and literally sent it out to be made. All of that was out, and then we had to concentrate on the extraordinary eye and logistical planning of Kenny Crouch, who’s a major British supervisor. He said, “We need a great space to do this in.” We started in a little office in Angels, but we knew we needed a warehouse. He went out looking for real estate to hold this. He found it, and we moved in. It was all set up, and we had our Bridgerton costume house waiting for everything to arrive. Then, we hired all the makers that would be the principal cutters within our shop, and a jewelry maker, and dyers, fabricators and embellishers, and assistants, and fitters. That only equals about a hundred and some odd people. The rest, of course, came to us over time and included the people who run the set and the amount of costumers that have to be on the set.
Glaser: Everything Ellen said is so true. This is the one time in my life where this happened… It was overwhelming at first, but there were no roadblocks in front of us. Like she said, Shonda was on board. Netflix was on board. And there were no roadblocks, I don’t think. So, when you thought about what you needed to do, you could do it with a pretty clear mind and a pretty free mind. “Oh, we can do this. We need to do this. And we’re just going to do it.”
BTL: How often have the two of you collaborated in the past?
Mirojnick: The first film I met John on… I never like to say that John assisted me, because I always think of John as being the other half of my brain, but whatever categories we worked in then, the first one was A Perfect Murder. So that was like in 1997-ish, I think.
Glaser: Ellen always tells me that when she first met me, we were at a hotel and she asked me about a piece of fabric. I gave her my thoughts, and she hired me, but a few years later, she admitted that she had no idea what I was saying. I’m not a good communicator, but she still hired me.
Mirojnick: And his sense of humor was just brilliant, and he came very, very highly recommended. He is a genius, and it just so happens that artistically, we can answer each other’s questions. So, naturally, that is a blessing. We didn’t change things; we shifted so many different ideas, and wanted to try so many different things. It would only have been able to be successful by having John with me to be able to then disseminate the information. The two of us could cover different areas and make sure the teams that we were with could understand exactly where we were going.
Glaser: Our history was on The Knick, where we kind of did the same thing. It was a period, but we decided it would be architectural, like 1900, everything being built. We followed that little vision and did that, and Bridgerton was another side road, another way to do something. But we work together rather well, because once we figure out what it is, we stay with it.
BTL: What were the inspirations for the costumes?
Mirojnick: The first inspiration was a painter named Genieve Figgis. The second inspiration was changing the palette, totally. The third inspiration was taking into consideration every decade in the 20th century. What else did we do, John?
Glaser: I always say we looked at the period, which you have to, to give yourself a base, and you look at what inspired that period. And then you look what 1813 inspired. I ended up in the 1960s, when there were lots of empire waists. But another major inspiration, which really helped solidify it for me, were that we used the vision of macaroons for the Bridgertons, and acid fruit for the Featheringtons. Once that was settled, then everything else grew off of that.
Mirojnick: There’s lot of food feasting!
BTL: In what ways were Phoebe, Regé-Jean Page, Golda Rosheuvel, Polly Walker, and the rest of the show’s leads almost part of your costuming team? You couldn’t do your job without the cooperation of these actors…
Mirojnick: They were great. They were great. All the actors were absolutely sensational.
Glaser: We always say that when they walked into the room, they expected that they were going to be in a Jane Austen show. Once we showed them our research and our inspiration boards, they were a little… not shocked, but they were intrigued. And once they accepted it, it opened them, their minds, to think about their characters a slightly different way. So, in the fittings, there was a lot of character development, along with costume development. It freed them out of that restrictive period, not to follow history.
Mirojnick: Because they’re all British, they’ve all been in British shows. They know what they’re going to wear, basically. Of course, each designer is different, but in our show, they had no idea. Once they came out of shock of where we were going and what we were doing, layering fabric and layering different colors, and trying different things, they were so excited. I really will use the word excited, that not only could we develop the characters, but they knew they were getting involved in something that hadn’t been done before. And it inspired them to go and do their work.
Glaser: I always thought if Ellen in a fitting had an English accent, versus how she sounds, it wouldn’t have worked.
BTL: What would it mean to both of you – and your team — to win an Emmy for Bridgerton? Ellen, of course, you’ve been nominated twice for an Emmy and won once.
Mirojnick: It would be the biggest dream come true, the biggest, biggest dream. I don’t mean to talk for John, but it’d be thrilling. It would be an award that would be beyond the amount of times you could say, “Thank you.”
Glaser: For me, it would be an amazing thing to happen because you work on so many things, and… I started (on this) in 2018, and it’s 2021. From the beginning, through the pandemic and through now, from doing press, it’s been a part of my life. And it would be nice to be recognized, absolutely.
Mirojnick: I feel the same way.
Glaser: Not for me to be recognized, but for every person who worked on it. Everyone put their heart and soul into it.
Mirojnick: Everybody was absolutely thrilled to be part of this, the members of our team. They were so proud. They worked so diligently and had so much fun. We have been at this for such a long time. It’s the biggest reward we could share with everyone. And, with that, I think you could feel the smiles around the world. Everybody would be so happy.
The entirety of Bridgerton Season 1 can be watched streaming on Netflix.
All pictures courtesy Netflix; all photographs by Liam Daniel, except where noted.