Stylists and stars talk about the evolution of fashion on the show.

Bridgerton is back, with all its glamorous outfits, glittering ballrooms, and of course, gossiping aristocrats.

The third season of Netflix’s period drama focuses on the relationship between Penelope Featherington, played by Nicola Coughlan, and her long-time crush Colin Bridgerton, played by Luke Newton.

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But away from tales of love and lust, fans might also notice a change in how both stars look.

They’ve undergone a “glow up”, Bridgerton’s costume designer John Glaser says.

He said in seasons one and two, Penelope was “young and insecure,” and was being forced by her mother to wear bright yellows and bright greens.

But in season three, she becomes more independent and starts wearing colours such as dark emerald green, as well as more muted tones. “It’s as opposite as we could go.”

“We also changed her body shape to make her more mature, more sexy, less of a child,” Glaser adds.

Meanwhile, the initial brief on Colin was that he should be “younger looking” than his two older brothers, “so we kept his colours more youthful,” explains Dougie Hawkes, associate costume designer on Bridgerton.

But in the new season, Colin has just returned from his summer travels across Europe.

“He returns as a man, so the evolution from the boy’s colours to the male dominant strength… was a drastic transformation,” Hawkes explains.

As a result, Colin, who wore paler shades such as baby blue in the earlier episodes, is seen in much more striking hues this time around, such as navy blues and browns.

His clothes also allow for more movement and more of a swagger, according to Glaser.

Based on Julia Quinn’s series of novels, Bridgerton is set in the world of Regency London high society and centres around the influential Bridgerton family.

It’s narrated by the mysterious Lady Whistledown, who writes regular newsletters full of tittle-tattle about the dating exploits of high society. Everyone reads her well-informed takes with fascination – but nobody knows who she is. 

At the end of season one, her identity was revealed to be Penelope.

In the latest season, Penelope appears to have given up her hopes of a romance with Colin. But she has decided she needs to find a husband, and tries to put herself out on the marriage mart.

Colin is disheartened to find Penelope giving him the cold shoulder, and so offers to help her in her pursuit of a husband in order to win back her friendship.

Shonda Rhimes, the woman who brought Bridgerton to the screen, has described Penelope’s wardrobe as “extraordinary” this season.

“So many times I found myself pausing to really examine her gowns because they were done so exquisitely, and they’re so perfectly made for her,” Rhimes said in press materials for the show. “It’s really, really beautiful.”

Penelope has been on “a tremendous journey,” Rhimes continued, adding: “I’ve always loved the character of Penelope. The idea that she’s hiding this entire secret life is amazing to me.”

“And what I think is great is that we are watching her step into her own this season. She really tries to come into her own, she starts to stand up for herself, and she owns what it means to be Lady Whistledown. I think, for her, it’s a tremendous journey.”

But Rhimes said that Colin also undergoes an evolution.

“I feel that we watch Colin grow up this season. He’s always been very boyish, and this season he becomes a man in so many ways,” she said.

“He’s been abroad, he’s learned some things, and he comes back with a new attitude, but that attitude really gets tested as his feelings for Penelope grow.”

On social media, fans have welcomed Penelope’s new look.

“Penelope looks like a princess with these dresses in blue and green,” wrote one Instagram user.

“That dress, the colours, so beautiful on her,” said another.

Coughlan, who plays Penelope, has said the transformation had been “amazing” for her. “It really does make you feel so completely different when you’re performing,” she said.

“In season one, I remember the late great [Bridgerton makeup designer] Marc Pilcher saying to me that the notes they had on Penelope were that she’s dowdy, and I completely made my peace with that. But after two seasons, it was so nice to finally be wearing flattering things, and it really helped the character.

“She has to grow in confidence, and it helped me grow in confidence, too.”

Newton, who plays Colin, also enjoyed his character’s development.

“He’s matured, he’s grown up, he’s on the hunt for a purpose. His style has changed, his confidence has changed, he’s got this element of swagger to him now,” he said.

He described the last couple of years as a “a mad journey” ever since he found out he and Coughlan were going to be at the forefront of season three.

“Finding out that we would be doing our love story and focusing on our book was a really special moment,” he said.

Showrunner Jess Brownell said makeovers are “a huge trope in the rom-com genre”.

She compared Penelope’s transformation in season three to the iconic moment in the 1999 film She’s All That, where Rachel Leigh Cook walks down the stairs in a red dress and is instantly popular and beautiful.

But she warned that while Penelope does have her makeover, it doesn’t necessarily have the impact that she thought it would.

“Sure, her citrus-coloured dresses are not the best, but there’s a much bigger internal journey to go on,” she said.

The hair, makeup, and costume design have become integral parts of the Bridgertonverse.

Fashion historian Jane Walton described the costumes as “wonderfully OTT- Over The Top”.

“The fashion is used to portray characters, which in drama is a good thing,” she said.

She said that period dramas like Bridgerton have helped get younger people interested in history, and also in Regency-era fashion.

“The Regency vibe was quite risqué, clingy, they liked to show off the figure,” she said. “Fashion in that period still has influence now. It’s a style that comes round again and again.”

So can Bridgerton viewers expect more scandalous attire in season three? Costume designer Hawkes says yes.

“[The series] has brought it in, and taken it out, and brought it back in again. Certainly, in season three, I think viewers will see the return of the saucy Regency era,” he said.

“It was quite a debauched era.”

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