Growing up in Monterrey, Mexico, a small city in the northeastern part of the country, I often daydreamt about being a Disney princess. I imagined myself in elaborate powder pink gowns, sauntering around the countryside, talking sweetly to birds and townsfolk. But not long after my fifth birthday, when I dressed up in a blue, red, and yellow frock like Snow White, I realized that this Magical World of Disney fantasy wasn’t available to girls like me, girls with golden skin, girls who spoke Spanish, and girls who didn’t come from wealth.
Realizing that the regal life wasn’t for me, I started to hide my royal yearnings. I traded pastel dresses for all-black garbs, listened to punk instead of “A Whole New World,” and collected Pokemon cards rather than tiaras. And instead of having an elaborate quinceañera like the other girls in my neighborhood, I asked for a digital camera (a decision I still regret). For more than a decade, I locked my inner princess in a tower and totally forgot about her.
Then, on my 25th birthday, I decided I wanted to mark my quarter-century by really treating myself. As I thought about what that could look like, I heard my inner child, la princesa, gently knocking and kindly asking me to let her free so she and I could revel in all that comes with being regent. I listened. I booked a solo trip to Disney World in Orlando, Florida. It was my very first time at a Disney park, and I immersed myself in all of it: I smiled watching little girls of all races and ethnicities in their princess dresses, excited to meet the classic characters. I joined them on the line to greet Ariel. I took photos in front of the iconic Cinderella Castle. I cried during the light show, when the high-flying fireworks sparked to the tune of “Happily Ever After.”
After this experience in 2017, there was no way I could send my inner princess back into hiding. No, I decided I would fully embrace her, living my life like a fantasy and making the little girl in me happy. And now, I’m fully tapped into my regency era. I’ve made hair bows and puffy skirts and dresses regular parts of my wardrobe. I purchase fresh roses every time I go to the grocery store. I watch romantic movies and shows without shame. And with modern period romance dramas, like Bridgerton and now Queen Charlotte, I’m able to transport myself to 1800s regency, one where brown-skinned women like me could be royalty, too.
Unintentionally, I married an Englishman in April 2022 and had an enchanted forest-themed wedding in Mexico. As the hopeless romantic that I am now, the day I tied the knot felt so much like the classic princess cartoons and modern Netflix period romances: I was met by a prince on a white horse and lived my life happily ever after.
Whether it’s because we want to disconnect from our modern world issues or we want to make our inner child’s heart happy, we are all allowed to romanticize as many aspects of our daily life as we want and transport ourselves to our favorite era. With a pandemic and wars, life can be so heavy, bleak, and difficult, especially for Latines. Many of us are confronted with an unjust immigration system, mass incarceration, poverty, racism and/or xenophobia, and violence. As Latinas, we then experience conflicting beauty ideals, hypersexualization, and gender pay gaps. To find joy amid the chaos, sometimes we need to heed the calls of our inner child and give her everything she yearned for but couldn’t previously receive.
Below, l share five ways that I achieve my regency lifestyle and aesthetic, practically.
To create a home that sets me in a Bridgerton scene, I shop at antique and thrift stores for home decorations. English Regency style is all about opulent, all the things that sparkle and shine. To match these aesthetics, I often search for angel and deity sculptures, metal candle holders, and vintage glass pieces. I like to decorate my home with pastel and airy colors and floral or damask patterns. I complete the looks of each room by adding fresh flowers; I prefer peonies and roses. Most importantly, I use these items as part of my day-to-day life. I drink my morning tea in a pretty floral tea cup and eat my breakfast from a floral vintage plate.
Regencycore centers on opulence. When shopping, I look for dresses with traditionally luxe details, like embroidery and lace fabrics as well as puffed sleeves. These looks start coming together when I dress them up with corsets and accessories, like gold and pearl necklaces.
I’ve found some of my favorite vintage dresses on eBay and other second-hand sites. Note: It is rare to find actual pieces from the regency era, and when you do, they can be very expensive. However, as history has shown, fashion trends often circle back, so I find that ‘80s prom gowns have some of the elements often seen in classic regency looks. For instance, I often look for dresses from the retired clothing label Gunne Sax when vintage shopping. When purchasing from modern brands, I usually find pieces I like at Unique Vintage, Serpenti Apparel, and Selkie; all of these shops offer vintage-inspired pieces.
Using decades-old makeup or skincare products is very unsafe, but luckily you can achieve these classic looks with modern cosmetics. You’ll want a soft, natural-looking glow, so start with a lightweight foundation and work your way to a natural finish. The look really comes together with the blush and lip color. I try to match these hues, whether I go for a soft pink or a light peach. These pretty, rosy tones really bring the romantic look together. It’s common to skip eyeshadow or use a really light, natural color. Instead, focus on mascaras that give you voluminous lashes. If you’re using other makeup, like highlighter or eyeliner, blend them in as much as you can to make it appear as faint and natural as possible.
I achieve these romantic regency looks with brands like Flower Knows, which offers makeup with the prettiest packaging out of the Rococo period, and Bésame Cosmetics, a Latina-owned beauty brand that makes mascaras and lipsticks similar in color and texture to those used in the 1920s; wearing their products makes me feel like I belong in Old Hollywood. To really take me back, I sometimes do my makeup with a handheld mirror or at my vintage vanity.
While we might not be able to rock Bridgerton-style wigs in our everyday lives, there are endless hair styles and pieces we can add to our hair looks to help us look the part. I often have loose, natural-looking waves in my hair. To add an extra touch of femininity, I add satin or lace bows or even berets. Lately, I’ve collected a lot of ribbons from fabric and crafts stores that I use to make a half-ponytail, soft pigtails, or to add at the end of my braids. And for my not-so-great hair days, I use a beret from my favorite brand Brothers & Sisters Paris or a sun hat from Eugenia Kim.
I feel most royal when I’m surrounded by people who share a similar passion for regencycore, so I’m often on the lookout for renaissance festivals and royal dances or balls happening near me or plan for them when they take place out of town. These events enrich my interests, feed my soul, teach me so much, and allow me to meet wonderful new people. Sometimes I get goosebumps because I have a glimpse into how former generations entertained themselves. It makes me feel like I’m in the past, and best of all, that I fit in there.
When I’m not at a royal-themed event, I find a similar escape through art: films, shows, plays, musicals, ballets, and museums. I love watching period dramas like Pride and Prejudice, reading classics from the Brontë sisters, and looking at the collection of paintings, sculptures, and clothing at local museums.
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