Written by Jazz Tangcay, Variety
It took a village to build the costumes for Shonda Rhimes’ latest “Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story.” Costume designer Lyn Elizabeth Paolo and co-costume designer Laura Frecon paired up to tell young Queen Charlotte’s (India Amarteifio) story and her rise to power in Britain, after her marriage to King George III. But even though Rhimes told Paolo it was going to be a “small spin-off,” the costume designer who had worked with her on “Scandal” and “How to Get Away With Murder” knew that Rhimes would want “everything to be glorious.”
There were going to be grand scenes, such as a funeral and a coronation. Frecon says, “We were told there were no balls,” referring to the grandiose costume fetes that marked almost every episode of “Bridgerton.”
Says Frecon, “But we got the research done. Then it was about gathering the fabrics and linen. We went to Sudbury, U.K. (the center of silk weaving), Spain and I went to Rome. We filled ourselves with as many fabrics and research.”
Their approach was making it a heightened fashion world and based it on the Georgian era. The number of gowns, tiaras and accessories are almost impossible for the duo to quantify. Says Frecon, “It would be in the thousands. It’s the stocks that go with the suits. It’s the shoes. Every single piece was custom-made for the most part.”
Frecon and Paolo break down how they pulled off creating the costumes.
Paolo: We did the research. We had done the wedding gown which was based in silver. Laura and I did all the research and learned a lot about portraiture from the period. King George and Charlotte’s portraits were adjusted and their trains were made longer. There was more ermine (a stoat, in its white winter coat) added.I watched this documentary about Queen Elizabeth during her Jubilee. There was a lot of information on TV and in general. I went to I to Kensington Palace to look at Queen Elizabeth’s coronation gown and based our gown for Charlotte on that. We adjusted for the period and incorporated a lot of gold. We cheated the robes into red velvet with ermine, as opposed to blue as it’s shown because I think for the modern eye, red feels more regal.
Frecon: We had three different versions of velvet that we were testing, and we had three different versions of the robes to get it right.
Paolo: It wasn’t just George and Charlotte. It was all the barons and baronesses. It ended up being one of the most work-intensive scenes for the department. It’s quite a small scene, with them just standing there. This is an easter egg for the fans, but the red ruby necklace young Charlotte wears is what Golda Rosheuvel wears when she’s having her portrait done with the family. It’s the one time we repeat the jewelry because we wanted this feeling that, ‘I wore this for my coronation and this is my world now. My husband still isn’t next to me, and I’m going to wear this necklace again.”
Paolo: It’s not often you get to reverse engineer costume. We knew where we needed to end because Golda and her character and silhouette is well defined. She’s stuck in amber, she’s a young butterfly and a chrysalis that emerged out into the world and then this horrible thing happened to her marriage. Her costume speaks to that. She stayed in the period, silhouette and structure as a young woman we had to reverse that. We start with young Charlotte. We changed her corsetry so she could move, and all her fabrics are much lighter so she could run and climb walls. By episode six, we see that come together. Another little easter egg is that George Sr. is wearing a robe that young George wore when Charlotte came to his bedroom, and she pulls that over herself. That’s the robe that the senior King George is wearing.
Frecon: With young Charlotte, her gowns needed between 13 and 20 meters of taffeta just for the over robes. As for color arcs, the younger Charlotte has more pastels and lighter colors. But, at the very end, the older queen’s colors are rich and jewel-toned. She is in very soft silver with pink and peaches in it.
Frecon: With the older queen, her colors are rich and jewel-toned. Whereas our younger Charlotte has more pastels and lighter colors. But, at the very end, the older queen is in very soft silver with pink and peaches in it.
Paolo: We did blue on blue on purpose with costume and production design in the Queen’s sitting room. She sits on blue and she has the dog. We did that because we thought the blending in the room was beautiful. This was a dream team because Nick and Georgio were the best. We would send them images of fabrics and say “We’re thinking of creating a gown for India in these colors,” and they’d send us pictures of the wigs. We spent so much time on the hair accessories. Our whole team would be stitching jewels onto organza, creating big bows or twirls that would be wired into the hair.