Behind the Scenes of The Buccaneers: Redefining 19th-Century Fashion for Modern Audiences

The hit new show is bridging Victorian Era fashion with contemporary style
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Everyone loves a good period piece, no matter how much they say they don’t. 

Problems aside (because let’s be honest, the era had *a lot* of problems), there’s something effortlessly romantic about the 19th century, with its curls and blush, tightened corsets and bustles. 

For many, their introduction to the period was classics such as Emma or Pride & Prejudice, a young Kiera Knightley in a gown looking pretty, for others it was Bridgerton and its bodice-ripping chemistry and indulgent look into England’s upper class during the Regency period. 

But a new show is reminding audiences once again of the power and seductivity of the 19th century. The Buccaneers.

Watch Below: The Buccaneers — Official Trailer | Apple TV+

Set in the Victorian Era, some 50 years after Bridgerton, The Buccaneers follows a group of young American women as they explore London and the stiff English Aristocracy in the 1870s.

Showcasing the Anglo-American culture clash that follows, The Buccaneers intricately weaves an all-star cast, contemporary female-dominated music and an original but unfinished novel by Edith Warton into a stellar first season.

But great writing and acting aside, it’s the visual beauty of the show that makes it unforgettable, which is why WHO sat down with Kate Carin and Jacquetta Levon the Fashion and Makeup/Hair designers of the show to find out how they captured the essence of the period so well. 

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The Buccaneers is inspired by Edith Wharton’s unfinished final novel of the same name, (Credit: Apple TV+)

“The [costumes] are not necessarily hugely accurate,” Kate the costume designer who took the lead in the last three episodes of the season explained. “It’s the ‘yee old 1870s vibe,’ which is what this project required.”

“They weren’t looking for a documentary-style piece. They wanted something that had a bit of edge and a bit of rock and roll to it.” 

Balancing historical accuracy and the preferences of modern audiences is always a precarious balancing act in projects like this, but what makes The Buccaneers so memorable is the blurring of the two; with hints of modernity intertwined with precision and fact.

“I had quite a free rein after I came in quite late, the cast had already been with another costume designer who was not able to do the last few episodes…and I was delighted to get my hands on them,” Kate told us. 

“She had gone a bit more strict to period and I just pushed it a little bit more.”

the buccaneers fashion and makeup
The Buccaneers follows a group of fun-loving American girls as they explore London and the stiff English aristocracy. (Credit: Apple TV+)

There was one accurate piece of clothing the cast were subjected to though, even with the modern flare of the costumes; the humble corset. An item, Kate reveals, the girls would go to great lengths to avoid.

“I mean not one of them really wanted to wear a corset,” she laughs, “but unfortunately, it was the nature of that beast that they had to wear it.”

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. Sent to secure husbands and titles, the buccaneers’ hearts are set on much more as an Anglo-American culture clash kicks off. (Credit: Apple TV+)

Corsets and bustles aside, the makeup and hairstyles of the show were also a standout part of the episodes, showcasing five characters as independent women, Americans who were thrust into the throes of the British aristocracy. 

But, as Jacquetta reveals to us, the makeup of the era isn’t quite as different to the trends of today.   

“All of their makeup was very fresh, and it felt quite modern from a fashion perspective,” she explains. “Victorians weren’t meant to wear makeup, they did wear makeup but all of them stayed in a kind of not overly done up way.” 

“They had clean skin…we gave them a bit of eyebrow definition and a flush to their cheeks as that was the fashion with the time, but I think it’s all fashionable now as well, to be honest. What’s better than a little flush and beautiful skin?“

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Music is at the forefront of The Buccaneers which is also led by an all-female creative team. (Credit: Apple TV+)

For many, watching the show has given a burst of inspiration, with the fashion and beauty of the 1870s becoming literally unforgettable. And whilst many would initially think it would be difficult to adapt some of the styling choices into their own everyday look at the risk of coming across as ‘costumey,’ both Kate and Jacquetta have their own tips on nailing the vibe. 

“I think definitely use hair accessories,” answers Jacquetta. “I think it’s already a bit of a fashion thing at the moment…but I think throwing lots of mismatched things into your hair can be surprisingly fun.” 

“Victoriana throughout the centuries of fashion has always played a part,” adds Kate, “it has always heavily influenced every rustle and every frill. If you were to look at stuff that’s on trend at the moment on the catwalks, and to look back at historical pieces, you’ll see that there’s a lot of translation that comes through.”

“Vivienne Westwood and Alexander McQueen are two designers who played very hard on that corseted waspy shape for women…and I think for the normal human being out there, there’s definitely room to play. Add a bumbag or little bump panel underneath the back of a peplum on a jacket to liven it up.” 

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The eight part series is streaming now on Apple TV+ (Credit: Apple TV+)

But whilst both Jacquetta and Kate are about adding “more” to a look, there’s one surprising item you might reconsider adding. 

“It’s about being brave enough to let go of some of the mascara,” Jacquetta reveals. “The definition is not on the eyes so much…none of the girls wore mascara.” 

It was a choice Jacquetta didn’t take lightly, but a bold move that immediately stopped the women from looking ‘too’ modern. 

“It’s quite a brave thing for an actor to go on screen without mascara, but I think all of them are really happy with how they looked at the end. I think as long as you give definition to the face with the blush, give them Rosie lips, a little bit of contouring and definitely definition to the brow, then it looks quite Victorian.”

The Buccaneers is streaming now on Apple TV+, premiering new episodes weekly, every Wednesday.

Stream The Buccaneers now on Apple TV+ with a 7 day free trial. Subscribe here.

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