'Queen Charlotte' Costume Designer Lyn Paolo Looked to Paintings and Met Gala for Regal Looks
May 1, 2023

Written by Kelsie Gibson, People 

After creating a fantastical and fashionable world in Bridgerton, Netflix's new spinoff series Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story goes above and beyond with its costumes.

The limited series, starring both Golda Rosheuvel and India Amarteifio as the titular royal figure, takes place in two different time periods as it recounts Queen Charlotte's marriage to King George III and their epic love story.

Having previously worked on Bridgerton, costume designers Lyn Paolo and Laura Frecon put a lot of research and planning into making the costumes for the new series — from reading Queen Charlotte's biography to visiting museums and exhibits. The end result was the creation of thousands of one-of-a-kind costumes and jewelry pieces. In fact, they kept running out of jewelry during filming!

Corey Mylchreest as Young King George, India Amarteifio as Young Queen Charlotte in episode 106 of Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton StoryWhile the costumes stay true to the "Bridgerton aesthetic" in many ways, Paolo and Frecon note they didn't reference the original series too much as the spinoff felt like its own separate world.

One way the show does mirror Bridgerton, however, is by telling each character's story through their costumes with cleverly placed Easter eggs throughout, which Paolo and Frecon both attribute to showrunner Shonda Rhimes' brilliant writing.

Here, they walk PEOPLE through some of the show's most iconic looks and how they created the new world of Bridgerton.

Golda Rosheuvel as Queen Charlotte, James Fleet as King George in episode 104 of Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story

You both previously worked on Bridgerton. How did working on that series inform how you approached making the costumes for Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story? Did it make you do anything differently?

Frecon: "For me, I'm not from the U.K., so it was a good guide into great makers that we met on Bridgerton. You go to Sussex to have the silks done. You go here to Spain to get your shoes made. That was really a great segue for us."

Paolo: "For us as a design team, because we're dealing with such a very different period, we had pitched to Shonda that we did want to be true to the Bridgerton aesthetic in a way but we wanted to put our own spin on it. So a lot of our designs are actually more on point in terms of the period to make people really feel that they're in the royal court.

"Laura and I had said to Shonda that we wanted Charlotte to feel like she was going to go to the Met Ball and that it was more like a red carpet look for her because she's bringing this European new ton aesthetic into the world of George. She's different. She's so strong and so sure in her body and how she walks and moves. So with her costumes, everything was lighter. Her corsetry wasn't as confining. So we made a conscious effort in that regard."

Bridgerton season 1 took about five months to prepare the costumes before filming. How long did it take to make the costumes for Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story?

Frecon: "Over four months before we even started getting into fittings and filming. People keep asking us how many costumes [we made]. We literally tried at the very end to figure out how many things we built and it was in the thousands, but we couldn't come up with a number.

"What we came across in England and in Europe as a whole was that in terms of Regency costumes, no one had built anything for a funeral. There are no black dresses anywhere because everyone's always doing Emma or Persuasion. So we ended up having to make way more costumes than anybody planned."

You both have worked with Shonda Rhimes on a handful of projects. How involved is she in the costume-design process? Did she give you specific visions for the characters before you started putting costumes together?

Paolo: "Shonda's amazing. I'll write to her and say, 'We're thinking this for the wedding,' and she'll get right back in a second and say yes or no. Our world is a world that she's fascinated by. So even given how busy she is, she does get back to us. She really is very hands-on when it comes to our department and loves what we do. She has a genuine love of the costume department and came to visit when she was in London and took a tour of the department. I always say she's a gift to costume designers. I love working for her."

Ruth Gemmell as Violet Bridgerton, Adjoa Andoh as Lady Agatha Danbury in episode 106 of Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story

A lot of research went into the Bridgerton costumes as they pulled from the Regency era while incorporating modern-day influences. Since this series takes place in two different time periods, how did you make sure the costumes accurately reflected those time periods, while also putting your own Bridgerton spin on them?

Frecon: "We basically did months of research, but we wanted to have a modern take on it for the modern eye. So, you take your research and then you put the modern twist on it from basically doing our idea of the Impressionist paintings and the Met Ball and the fashion forwardness of it all."

Paolo: "We didn't really talk about Bridgerton at all. We just felt like our world was a different world. It's a completely different shape. Even our Bridgerton Regency world is very different because it's also about those mature ladies. So for us, we sort of put Bridgerton over here, because our world had to be a very different world."

When you were doing your research, did you look at paintings or royal artifacts of Queen Charlotte for inspiration?

Frecon: "Oh yes. Our whole costume office was just covered in research boards. It was very in-depth. We went to countless museums and exhibits and read books."

Cyril Nri as Lord Danbury, Arsema Thomas as Young Agatha Danbury in episode 101 of Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story

What did the mood boards look like for each character? On Bridgerton, each family has a specific color scheme. Was that the same for this series?

Frecon: "I think it was on the page. Shonda was very clear, especially with Arsema [Thomas]'s character [young Lady Danbury]. Especially in the Regency era, we have three well-defined characters, the Queen, Lady Bridgerton and Lady Danbury, and our story arc was how did they get there?

"We see that young Lady Danbury wears gold all the time. But then we find out that there's a reason she's wearing gold and it's not her choice. So then by the time we get to our Lady Danbury, she's wearing purple and burgundy.

"The beginning story of the characters was already there for us. So we had to just start here and make that arc and transition to where they end up.

"For young Charlotte and her world, we had a lot more freedom in a way, because we were creating that world without any roadmap for the young characters."

Corey Mylchreest as Young King George, India Amarteifio as Young Queen Charlotte, Michelle Fairley as Princess Augusta in episode 103 of Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story

The jewels on the show are so beautiful. What was it just like putting that together?

Paolo: "We kept running out of jewelry and we kept having to have more made. [We had] hairpieces in the back, earrings, necklaces, multiple rings, double bracelets, and then we'd embellish the whole front of the gown. So we literally kept running out of jewelry. I don't know what happened to all the jewelry. I'm sure it's in a warehouse somewhere. I hope it gets out of the boxes sometime. Maybe on the next season of Bridgerton we might see some."

I know many of the cast members have talked a lot about the corsets on the show. There were even previous reports Netflix was considering banning corsets for period pieces. How did you kind of approach incorporating corsets for this series?

Paolo: "We weren't quite as period-correct on that as some designers are. We tried to make the corsets more livable for the human. Certainly, with young Charlotte, we paneled her corsets with some elastic on the side because we wanted her to move."

Frecon: "Instead of a full cage, we built her more of a tutu type of thing, so that way she would tie it on, have the more modern with an elasticized corset, and she could do that fast walking down the hall and it didn't feel so stifling for her."

Paolo: "For the other characters, we needed to be true to what they've done on Bridgerton to a degree, but we made our own corsets and we changed the design slightly for us. For us, Golda was not double corseted nor were any of the other ladies. We really strove to get the correct shape, but also to make sure that our actors were comfortable because nobody wants to torture another human being. So we strove not to do that on our show. It's one of the reasons we used lighter fabrics too."

India Amarteifio as Young Queen Charlotte in episode 103 of Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story

In Bridgerton season 2, there was a scene with Penelope wearing a green dress that was meant to foreshadow season 3 being about Penelope and Colin's love story. Are there any Easter eggs on this series that foreshadow things for the upcoming season of Bridgerton?

Paolo: "We didn't cross-pollinate. There are lots of Easter eggs that refer to our show like the Stars and Moons Ball and all about the astrology that George was mad about. Then there's the robe on young George that at the end our older George is wearing that same robe, but it's sort of in tatters now."

Frecon: "One more is the embroidery. For instance, George's wedding outfit has some Tudor Roses embroidered in there and we mimicked the embroidery on Charlotte's English wedding gown to tie that in. That's definitely an Easter egg. Young Charlotte in the coronation wears the same rubies that we see when Golda's Charlotte wearing for the portrait."

Paolo: "If you have that significant a piece of jewelry, you don't give it away. So we just wanted to make sure that that was a tie-in between young Charlotte and Golda's Charlotte, that the jewelry continued in the way they're reworking a tiara for Camilla for the coronation."

I love the history behind the series. When you were doing your research, was there anything that surprised you about the real-life Queen Charlotte and King George?

Paolo: "I grew up in England, and obviously everyone hears about the madness of King George but this really brings home how heartbreaking it was. I did not realize that their granddaughter, young Princess Charlotte, died in childbirth. I read this whole article about how for that period, she was [the British public's Princess] Diana. It was catastrophic for the royal family because she was bearing the only heir to the throne. And it's because of that loss that we ended up with Queen Victoria.

"I learned so much about my own country that I didn't know. I learned so much about the fact that George was brilliant. Spoke so many languages, and was trying his hardest to change agriculture in England, which is why he was sort of demeaned being called Farmer George, but he was actually trying to help the country. He opened the first public library so people could learn to read. He's a fascinating guy. And it's just so sad that all he's known for is for losing America and being mad."

Hugh Sachs as Brimsley, Golda Rosheuvel as Queen Charlotte in episode 103 of Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story

Obviously, Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story is a limited series, but if Netflix were to explore another character's story, who would you want to learn more about?

Paolo: "I'm madly obsessed by Brimsley and his love story. The whole time we were working on it, I kept saying, I want to know what happened to Brimsley. But I do think the fans would love to see Young Violet Ledger meet Lord Bridgerton."

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