The fashion designer from the courtship on reality TV’s Regency costumes
Reality TV shows about dating have begun to offer even more absurd premises to break into the saturated landscape. Not that we’re complaining: The Courtshipbilled as a version from the Regency era the bacheloretteis a Regency cosplay dating show, and it’s as delicious as it sounds.
The show centers on Nicole Rémy, “a modern girl tired of modern dating”. Her family – including her parents, sister and best friend – also feature on the show as a “trusted court” of advisers, picking dates for her.
Contestants must learn period dances, write calligraphy and take part in Regency-era activities – and instead of a rose ceremony, at the end of each episode Remy dances with the men who ‘she plans to send home, and they have to make the case convince her that they should stay.
The Courtship works because of its silly premise and the charisma of Nicole and her family, but also because everyone looks so good in every episode. So we had to speak with the man who made this cosplay work: Tom Rogers, a decorator and costume designer. Rogers chatted with City & Country about all things The Courtshipmaking Regency-era clothing flattering for modern men, and the reality show he’d like to work on next.
Town & Country: How did you get involved in The Courtship?
I have a funny CV: I’ve worked in both theater and television, and I do both sets and costumes. In the UK, I’m a costume designer for England has an incredible talent. I’ve been the costume designer for about eight years now.
In my theatrical work, I do a lot of period costumes; I have worked in opera all over Europe and America. The period costume is my happiness. But then, obviously, I also understand TV programs and especially entertainment TV programs, which are very different [than] making a television series is really fast. There was really no one who had that kind of [background]. So probably they had no choice, they had to have me.
How much did you know about The Courtship get in? What was their pitch for you
It was like Bridgeton meets The single person, fundamentally. i mean i like Bridgeton, who doesn’t?
When you hear Bridgeton meets The single person, What references do you use to start thinking about costumes?
It’s the Regency period, so that was really the starting point. I like to call it our “riff” on Regency because it’s not a slavish recreation of the era. We are not making a historical drama. From the beginning of my conversations, I sought to find a world that somehow spoke to this era, but also gave us the opportunity to have a lot of fun and to be a little sexier.
Implacably line empire, after a while, we begin to be saturated. There are 13 episodes, each spanning two days, so we had a lot of dresses to consider – it was great that we could really push that. There is a lot of [costumes] it’s not even a vintage silhouette, but it’s playing with fabrics. Sometimes Nicole is dressed in a modern figure, but everyone around her is in full Regency empire line [dresses]. So the challenge was to find the right balance.
How do you prepare costumes for a reality TV show where you don’t know what’s going to happen?
We knew about the event. So we knew we were going to dress them up for a tea party, a ball or a boat ride, but you don’t know what’s going to happen and you have to let it happen in real time. So it’s an interesting thing. For me, when I look at it, I can see wardrobe malfunctions that other people probably don’t notice, but obviously we can’t constantly go on and fix it in real time.
We did lookbooks for episodes one through four, and then we were still doing [outfits] everyday. I had a team of six creators – brilliant, fearless, amazing people who were right on [sewing] machinery all day. And we had all the fabrics with us. Sometimes, without fitting, you just had to go. For a movie or TV series, it would be much more planned. But it’s fun! It’s really fun. I like problem solving.
I love that you described it as a “riff” on Regency. How do you strike the balance between visually letting viewers know these aren’t modern dresses, but making sure they don’t feel too dated for this young lady in a reality TV show?
If you want to deconstruct something, you need to know that before you deconstruct it. It’s like conceptual artists; most of them can do amazing figure painting, but they decide to walk away from it. From my point of view, I know there will be people who will criticize that this is not the correct period, and maybe assume that we don’t know the period. But, knowing the period really well helps – I know the silhouettes and I know what will work well with modern stuff, so things don’t stand out jarringly.
It was a world where color palette and fabric choices really mattered. Suppose, for example, that Nicole wears a dress in a relatively modern style, but the fabrics and textures she wears relate to the people around her who wear Regency-style dresses in different fabrics and color palettes. similar, then everything is linked as a world.
If you watch fantasy movies or fairy tale movies, they never really take place in a particular era. There are some amazing ones where they shoot everything. There’s a later episode where it’s a big masquerade ball scene, and she’s in an 18th century Met Gala dress for it – so it’s an earlier era, but I don’t think it’s going to shockingly stands out.
What kinds of pop culture references were you pulling, besides Bridgerton?
Fairy tale movies! Like the creations of Sandy Powell for Cinderella, I watched it a lot. There is a truly amazing Snow White movie starring Julia Roberts, Mirror Mirror, I just loved the costumes in there. And then other adaptations of Jane Austen, in particular the recent Emmathere are some small easter eggs [in the show].
How would you describe your aesthetic overall and how you brought it into the show?
Oh that’s a good question! I like the color. It was an interesting process for me, because I started by designing the basic silhouettes of the dresses I wanted to work with – and that was on every level because everything was done, even for the dancers at the ball. Everything for the court, for the men, for the extras, everything was done. For the women’s dresses, I did some sketches and thought about what the silhouettes would be and the different styles I would play with for Nicole.
Once you knew Nicole was in the lead, was there anything you changed in your design?
We basically did [everything]. I mean, Nicole is gorgeous, they’re the most gorgeous family, every single one of them, they’d look great in anything. We had two great days when I first met them the week before filming started. We got dressed, basically; we tried everything that had been done or half done.
That’s when we put on the yellow dress. The yellow dress, as soon as she put it on, we all left, yes, that’s the one. Yesellow looks fantastic on her. There was nothing I had done that we couldn’t use, because she looks great in everything.
When you were on set, what surprised you the most about the experience?
How comfortable they were in clothes – how quickly they felt comfortable in clothes, especially men.
I realized that I hadn’t asked about men at all! Can you tell me what it was like to have all these contestants and they’re basically in the same outfit?
The man’s silhouette is much easier because it doesn’t really change, but oddly it’s harder because men’s tailoring is difficult.
Everything has been done. The majority of the competitors were from the United States and obviously my teams were all over here [in the UK]. We were working from measurements they had taken themselves or their tailor had taken, so it was all quite difficult.
And they are also modern men who go to the gym; their bodies are not as built for these clothes. That’s not what this kind of figure was built for. So making that flattering for those bodies with huge shoulders and huge biceps was also a challenge – flattering them and also making the [Regency] silhouette.
If you had to choose another dating show to work on, which show would you choose?
I love medieval costumes: could someone make it? game of thrones crossed with the island of love?
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