Penelope and Cressida’s Bridgerton Costumes Mirror Their Season 3 Storylines

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Everything is in bloom this spring, from the recent Met Gala to the long-awaited third season of Bridgerton. While The Devil Wears Prada’s Miranda Priestly might roll her eyes at the florals memo, Penelope Featherington (Nicola Coughlan) and Cressida Cowper (Jessica Madsen) prove there is more than one way to tackle botanicals as each tries to land a husband in the hit Netflix Regency romance.

Balls and garden parties remain similar fixtures, but change is coming to the bustling ton, with new suitors added to the mix of hopefuls. What better way to make your interest known than with a new closet from the modiste? Madame Delacroix (Kathryn Drysdale) offers new silhouettes, embellishments, and color combinations that are a purposeful shift made by costume designer John Glaser. “Our vision was to make the show look a little more organic. We based it on a flower garden with more natural colors and a lot of texture, so it looked a little less chemical,” Glaser tells ELLE.com. The Emmy nominee designed the showstopping first season with Ellen Mirojnick, taking the reins from Sophie Canale in his return to the series.

bridgerton l to r nicola coughlan as penelope featherington, jessica madsen as cressida cowper in episode 301 of bridgerton cr laurence cendrowicznetflix

LAURENCE CENDROWICZ//Netflix

“The story is more involved, more layered, a little more mature. We wanted to break out of that strict color world and make it a little more real,” says Glaser. Of course, Cressida and her eye-popping embellishments didn’t get the latter memo, but viewers can expect an ombre color scheme and a softer, more natural array of tones. Glaser explains this is a natural progression as they “had to throw everything but the kitchen sink at it” in season 1 to establish particular shades for each family, which continued in its sophomore season. “By season 3, the audience is a little more used to the characters, and you don’t have to be as obvious about your color world,” he continues.

Penelope and Cressida are polar opposites in style preferences but share other tastes—namely, certain eligible bachelors and best friends. Eloise (Claudia Jessie) and Penelope are still on the outs, complicating matters further when their paths cross at every ball, daytime gathering, and even the Bridgerton home. However, Penelope has another Bridgerton sibling on her mind as Colin (Luke Newton) returns from his European adventure with a dashing glow-up. All the men have had a wardrobe refresh, so even subtle tweaks to the cut of the jackets have an impact. “It seems like an easy thing, but all of a sudden, it changes the proportion of everything” says Glaser.

Lady Whistledown might be privy to all the relationship tea, but when it comes to Penelope’s makeover and Cressida’s voluminous sleeves, look no further. Here, Glaser reveals the secrets behind the first four episodes of Bridgerton’s Polin season and how Cressida uses her out-there clothing as armor.

Penelope ditches the Featherington aesthetic.

bridgerton l to r rosa hesmondhalgh as rae, kathryn drysdale as genevieve delacroix, nicola coughlan as penelope featherington in episode 301 of bridgerton cr liam danielnetflix 2024

Netflix

When Penelope decides to overhaul her entire closet, she has two requests. First is something she desperately wants to avoid: “I do not wish to see a citrus color ever again,” she instructs. The second is to tap into the styles that Colin has seen on his travels. “Perhaps something like what they are wearing in Paris,” Penelope suggests.

Coughlan, a rising red carpet star, was eager to move on from the saccharine pastels too. “She was excited for herself personally and for the character to break away from those colors because they were very restrictive,” says Glaser. “It gave her character nowhere to grow as long as she was always stuck in that uniform.”

Glaser “intentionally used the brightest, pinkest one that we could come up with” for Penelope’s final outing in her old look, ensuring an impactful before-and-after visual. The choices available at the modiste influence Penelope’s makeover; however, she doesn’t entirely ditch the familial hues. Glaser explains that green remains, but it is less in-your-face than the rest of the Featherington women’s wardrobes.

bridgerton nicola coughlan as penelope featherington in episode 301 of bridgerton cr laurence cendrowicznetflix

LAURENCE CENDROWICZ//Netflix

Standing at the top of the stairs in a captivating teal gown with delicate floral beading and a whole lot of iridescent shimmer, Penelope gets a She’s All That-inspired entrance at the Four Seasons Ball in the premiere episode. “There’s copper in it, which goes along with her hair, black gloves, things that she’s never worn that are different from the old Penelope,” says Glaser. And in true rom-com tradition, the debut of a new look is not without obstacles.

Then she dials it back after a wardrobe malfunction.

Penelope’s more sophisticated ensemble instantly captivates attendees at the Four Seasons Ball—including Colin, who calls the dress “charming.” Unfortunately, not everyone is thrilled by this development. Cressida cannot entertain the idea of more competition vying for this season’s crop of bachelors, so she purposefully steps on Penelope’s hem to tear her dress. She sticks the knife in further by suggesting the cheap fabric is at fault, but in reality, Glaser observes, “There was no way that Cressida could have actually done that much damage.” Instead, TV magic emphasizes Cressida’s villain status and insecurities. The costume team had three versions of this dress with two undersets of petticoats to ensure the stunt went off without a hitch. Luckily, they only had to cut it once. “You hope for the best, but you have your backups,” says Glaser.

Public humiliation sees Penelope eschew bold shades further, but not her desire to find a husband (sorry, Cressida!). If you struggle to figure out if Penelope is wearing seafoam green or cornflower blue—or any other hue—then don’t worry; you don’t need to adjust your TV settings. “After that, we don’t strip her of color but make it much more mystical. You don’t know whether it’s blue or green,” says Glaser.

bridgerton l to r nicola coughlan as penelope featherington, sam phillips as lord debling in episode 303 of bridgerton cr liam danielnetflix

Netflix

After years spent in the shadows, Penelope now takes tentative steps toward the social scene. Bright tones are out, but the unwed Featherington has picked fabric and silhouettes to catch someone’s eye—whether it’s Colin or Lord Debling’s (Sam Phillips). “Even the little gloves are sheer. Everything is so we see her shape and body,” says Glaser.

Whereas Cressida employs a more-is-less approach, Penelope’s embellishments are subtle, with delicate embroidery and sequins adding to the romance-focused aesthetic. “She didn’t need all the feathers, bows, and bright colors. It was now just her personality was coming through,” says Glaser.

Taking charge of her destiny and her wardrobe, Penelope has become “the empowered woman; she was now in charge of her look and life. Her mother no longer has any part of it.”

Penelope’s look had subtle 1950s inspirations.

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Netflix

Bridgerton costumes are a playful interpretation of the Regency period, and this season, Glaser turns his eye toward the Golden Age of Hollywood for inspiration. He notes that the shape of dresses from 1820 “starts to look a little ’50s,” even drawing comparisons to Marilyn Monroe. Of course, this being Bridgerton, they tweaked these elements to match their overall vision. In Penelope’s case, they “cheated [the silhouette of her dresses] to give her a waist, to give her a body because she’s no longer a girl, she’s now a woman.” Glaser recalls that Coughlan was thrilled with this shift toward empowerment through clothing.

The mid-century visuals extend to Penelope’s hair (designed by Erika Ökvist), which was influenced by Lauren Bacall and Veronica Lake. “We use Lauren Bacall because we say that you never knew what she was wearing or what her hair was, but she just looked beautiful all the time,” Glaser says. “That’s how we wanted Penelope to be. You don’t want to remember everything she wore because that’s not important this season. What is important is her story.”

She wears a “simple, sexy dress” for the carriage scene.

It is impossible to forget the luminous gold-speckled pale blue-green frock Penelope wears when she gets in that carriage with Colin in episode 4. The sparkling fabric mirrors Penelope’s glowing mood during this intimate sequence after the Eros and Psyche ballet performance at the Queen’s Ball. “We wanted a dress that shimmered and shone and was a very simple dress; again, no bows, no feathers. It was to show her body and to shimmer,” says Glaser.

From a practical perspective, it was “made out of the lightest fabrics,” so there isn’t an abundance of petticoats and ruffles when moving. “It’s just a simple, sexy dress. Even when she’s sitting down and shows her body it’s another moment of a glow.”

Cressida’s gowns are her armor.

bridgerton l to r claudia jessie as eloise bridgerton, jessica madsen as cressida cowper in episode 303 of bridgerton cr liam danielnetflix 2024

Netflix

One of Penelope’s fiercest fashion critics is Cressida, who immediately makes a disparaging pre-makeover remark before Eloise cuts her off. Instead of replaying the mean girl hits, Cressida’s backstory is expanded, giving insight into her casual cruelty. “We know why she is the villain or why she has that personality because we meet her parents; we see where she lives,” says Glaser. Like Penelope’s mom Portia Featherington (Polly Walker), Cressida’s father does not care if his daughter finds a love match. All he wants is for her to be betrothed to a wealthy suitor, as his single daughter costs him a fortune. “She gets larger [in style] as she gets more desperate,” Glaser says.

At one point, Lady Cowper (Joanna Bobin) warns Cressida that she might need to re-wear some dresses as her allowance has been reduced by half. Considering the array of unforgettable pom-pom, ruffles, and puffed sleeves, it would be a huge social faux pas to appear in public with the same look twice. While Cressida is not a bird in a gilded cage, she does communicate her desperation through leg-of-mutton sleeves and neck adornments. “We intentionally did want to make her bigger, and her armor got bigger as things got worse in her situation,” says Glaser.

Her dresses consist of multiple layers.

bridgerton l to r jessica madsen as cressida cowper, joanna bobin as lady cowper in episode 304 of bridgerton cr liam danielnetflix 2024

Netflix

A specific department of eight embellishers is behind Cressida’s ever-growing array of accouterments like the translucent rosettes, which are made from a synthetic material called horsehair. “It’s a woven material you can weave into whatever you want,” says Glaser.

So, how easy is it to wear one of these gowns? They are often between four to six layers (there is always a petticoat), meaning they can be weighty. These layers include a beaded or all-sequin base, a sheer later to “diffuse the shimmer” and a pattern piece over the top of that. “Most of our dresses are stored in boxes, not on hangers, because they’re heavy,” says Glaser.

When Cressida goes head-to-head with Penelope for Lord Debling’s attention in the third episode, she ups her attire’s botanical levels, whether with black flowers or huge rosette sleeves that are impossible to miss. Despite putting in the work, Cressida fails in her quest, so her look at the Queen’s Ball takes the florals beyond the Carrie Bradshaw extremes: “We never dialed it back.” Not everyone can be a diamond, but going all-out is perhaps what we love most about Bridgerton’s wardrobe season after season.

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