Alert Lady Whistledown—Bridgerton's Costume Designer Told Us Secrets About *Both* Seasons' Wardrobes
Bridgerton is all about love, drama, and gossip, but let's not forget the real reason everyone has been marathoning this horny Netflix show: the costumes. (Okay, really it's Regé-Jean Page, but the costumes are a close second.) As with all movie and TV productions, costumes have the power to set the mood and feel, and the wardrobes on Bridgerton really take this to the next level. Each dress, tie, ribbon, and feather reflects the emotions and individuality of each character in a single glance. From Daphne's understated elegance and Eloise's nonconformity to Simon's swashbuckling confidence, it's easy to take the temperature of any moment of the show by glancing at the colors, silhouettes, and textures on screen.
These designs were all birthed from the creative imagination of Emmy Award-winning costume designer Ellen Mirojnik, who previously created the wardrobes for movies like Basic Instinct (1992), The Greatest Showman (2017), and Maleficent: Mistress of Evil (2019). Curious to know more about the subtleties hidden in the Bridgerton costumes, HelloGiggles spoke to Mirojnik over the phone and asked her to shed some light on the process of breathing life into the wardrobes of our favorite characters, the behind-the-scenes action in the fitting room, and what she can reveal about Season 2.
"Going into that fitting room was always an adventure," Mirojnik laughs when asked about her favorite moments working with the cast. "Because here you have a modern person, and they just walk through the door—there's no passageway. They take off their clothes, and within a second there has to be an immediate trust that is developed. We have so much fun, but it's an adventure. And we had the great luxury of having that adventure with every one of the cast."
And an adventure it was. In an interview with Vogue, Mirojnik shared that her team of 238 people created 7,500 pieces for a total of 5,000 costumes for the show. The wardrobe, created over five months, was a modernized reflection of the 19th-century Regency period, with more than a handful of gowns, hats, jackets, and more. (However, Mirojnik did not include bonnets, which were a staple piece of the time.)
Despite that the female characters have strongly feminist arcs, Mirojnik didn't look to feminist symbols when crafting the wardrobes. Instead, she focused on the text for clues to help influence the moods of scenes and to interpret what the characters were feeling. By playing with different colors, fabrics, and details, Mirojnik constructed a wardrobe for each character that was both stunning and thoughtful of the narrative.
As the character with the most screen time, Daphne Bridgerton has a surprisingly subdued wardrobe, but it's chock full of symbolism. "When we think of Daphne, there is a very elegant refinement to her. She's the only one in the series who has been designed specifically to be simple. Practically no adornment. If there's anything added, it's in her gown," Mirojnik tells us. "Her fabrications are simple, her colors are simple—she's an English rose. You see all of her innocence."
As her relationship with Simon develops and she evolves into the Duchess of Hastings, Daphne shifts from innocent and well-loved Bridgerton blues to dreamy mauves and soft purples, the combination of her Bridgerton blue and Simon's Hastings red. When Daphne begins to explore her adult sexuality with her husband, she favors soft and sensual fabrics. "What will look the best? If a fabric moves this way or that way, or is it thin enough, or is it sheer enough? How easily does it come off?" says Mirojnik. Daphne especially tends to wear these warmer colors when she's trying to connect with Simon or when she's unsure about the state of their marriage.
Headstrong and ferociously feminist Eloise, on the other hand, is completely unlike her delicate and feminine older sister. "She resisted society, either with the length of her dresses or the simplicity of how she presented herself and the tailored-ness of her clothes compared to all the other women in the show," Mirojnik says. "She hated the bows, the frills, the lace—anything that was prissy. She's always buttoned up." It's a funny inversion: While Eloise is fixated on uncovering (and later protecting) Lady Whistledown's identity, her wardrobe is all about keeping herself covered up.
Unlike how Daphne is typically wearing her family color, Eloise wears a wider variety of colors, symbolizing that she's more of a creative than a conformist. While the other women wear their hair up elegantly with flowers or feathers, Eloise wears a cute shag with ribbons as if she couldn't be bothered to do more than the absolute minimum with her hair. Her jackets are always immaculately tailored, and her neck bows read like a man's cravat.
"Her inserts were made of a self-stripe pattern, which is more masculine than feminine," Mirojnik tells HelloGiggles, going into specific details about how character costumes get interpreted. "The insert was made in a softer fabric, so it rode the line of being masculine and feminine. And there was one jacket in particular that she wore at the modiste, which was taken from a man's takeaway."
Violet Bridgerton, in contrast to her daughters, has the wardrobe of a woman who has come into her place in society and in her identity. As the rallying matriarch of her family, Violet is usually found wearing the Bridgerton family color: Wedgwood (or fine china) blue. Like Daphne, her fabrics are softer and airier than most, reflecting her gentle nature and her desire for her children to marry for love rather than duty. Violet's necklines are higher and her chest is often covered, as her primary focus is not to attract men but rather to focus on her family. She often wears earrings or necklaces to symbolize her elevated position in the household—she's still the queen of the Bridgertons' castle!
Speaking of mother figures, we would be remiss to forget the prolific Lady Danbury and her wardrobe. "It's nice to see older women in this story be so strong and independent and fierce!" Mirojnik exclaims over the phone. "Lady Danbury is a very strong and independent woman. She's run an entire house, she brought up the Duke of Hastings, and she's done this all by herself. Like Eloise, she has a masculine-feminine element. The masculine part of her presence really takes the form of her accessories, like her walking stick and top hat, and it's added to the precision of her gown and the details encased in her gowns."
Lady Danbury's gowns are exquisitely detailed with lace and metallic piping, and she often favors a deep burgundy palette to signal her affection and alignment with the Duke of Hastings. Her hair tends to be pulled back almost severely, giving her a look of austerity; the high collars of her gowns feel like an extension of her steely spine.
With the stylish Lady Danbury as his primary parent figure, it's little wonder how the Duke of Hastings developed his own unique and bold style. "Simon is a rogue!" Mirojnik laughs when asked about him and developing his costumes. "From the moment we met Regé-Jean Page, he just walked into the room and put on a pair of trousers, boots; we tried three different jackets, a waistcoat, and a shirt. Kept it open, and that was it! It was very simple. It fit like a second skin."
A rake who has been around the world and back, Simon has a style that's refined yet swashbuckling. His style is a direct contrast to Daphne's: While she is innocent and proper, he is sensual and unwilling to have his life dictated by outside forces. Where Daphne wears soft pastels, Simon wears dark, heady tones. Where she wears wafting, minimal silks, he wears sumptuous velvets and gold brocade. Where Daphne's gowns are traditional and demure, Simon's shirts are left open.
Mirroring how Daphne's gowns change in fabrications and colors as she and Simon explore the feelings and sensuality in their relationship, Simon's wardrobe went through similar planning. "It's all designed accordingly. You're presented with the circumstance, and you plan accordingly," Mirojnik says. "We've already thought everything through—where they're going to be, what they have to do, what's necessary. Can I rip buttons off? What exactly is the tone you have to hit? Is it reluctance, enthusiasm? There were many different elements. It's a great way to actually work a choreography into the element of design when these things are presented to you."
Unlike the subtler Duke of Hastings, Lady Portia Featherington is all about showing off and showing out. The most ambitious mama of all and the strong-arming matriarch of a "new money" family, Lady Featherington dresses loudly and proudly. Her family stands in direct contrast to the subtler, classier Bridgertons. Her colors, patterns, fabrics, and frills are loud and punchy, bordering on obnoxious. She is determined for her family to stand out and for her daughters to snag the most eligible bachelors. Her silhouette is not Regency-era; her dresses are more tightly fitted than the soft empire-waist styles of the time. This is a nod to how she's thinking less about the now and more about the future. Her unique and bold hexagonal neckline is a contrast to the softly rounded necklines of almost all of the female cast as well. Portia Featherington is a woman who pushes all rules and conventions.
Despite being the daughter of Portia Featherington, Penelope Featherington is perhaps one of the most overlooked characters in the series. As a member of the Featherington family, her wardrobe is bold and bright with plenty of ruffles and silk flowers but doesn't come across as garish or obnoxious as her sisters and mother tend to. It's a subtle hint to the audience about her secret identity; Penelope might be easy to overlook, but true Bridgerton fans know that there's more to her than meets the eye.
Penelope is frequently shown in yellow gowns, which are apt for her character. She's secretly in love with Colin Bridgerton, but she's a bit too yellow-bellied to confess her feelings and turns to every means of sabotage when her cousin and Colin become engaged rather than just telling Colin how she feels.
But while the rest of the cast is always dressed to reflect continuity within their arcs, Queen Charlotte is all about remaining inconsistent. "The Queen is singular. She has her own sense of style. When she married King George, it was in the 18th century, so her silhouette is what she wore when she became the queen. That was her silhouette, and she never changed it. She never went with another trend," Mirojnik states. "That being said, what's great about Queen Charlotte was that there was a freshness to each time you saw her. Her continuity was that she had no continuity. Her hair might be up in one episode, then down and dreaded, and then pink or blue, and then adorned with flowers. Queen Charlotte's wig wardrobe was totally unlike anyone else because she could do whatever she wanted to. She set the rules."
The Queen is a multifaceted character, prone to caprice and whim, as symbolized through the extravagant beading, fabrics, crystals, and jewelry that she carelessly cycles through. At the same time, she's also deeply human with a tragic story: Her beloved husband is very ill, and she's lost a child. Queen Charlotte's consistent silhouette might be an acknowledgment of happier days in her marriage and life, before her husband fell ill or before her daughter passed away.
To the relief of fans, Season 2 has just been confirmed by Netflix. So what can we expect to see more or less of in season two? Will we ever see bonnets? When asked this, Mirojnik laughs. "You'll never see bonnets," she chuckles. "Unless the character comes from another time and story, no bonnets...and if we did a bonnet, it would not be what you expect."