Bustling With 'Bridgerton': Queen Charlotte’s Armor and Softness

Corey Mylchreest as Young King George and India Amarteifio as Young Queen Charlotte take the throne together for the first time as Michelle Fairley as Princess Augusta looks on in Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story

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

Liam Daniel/Netflix © 2023

Welcome to the first installment of Bustling With Bridgerton, a series where we’ll be celebrating and delving into the costumes designed for Bridgertons most interesting characters: Queen Charlotte, Eloise Bridgerton, Penelope Featherington, and Cressida Cowper. Between the releases of the season’s two halves, costume designer John Glaser, along with associate costume designer Dougie Hawkes and assistant costume designer Henry Wilkinson, sat down with Telly Visions to chat about the visual inspirations, character and story arcs that they drew on for each character’s looks as her position in the ton and their experiences with the mysterious Lady Whistledown ebb and flow. 

Previously, On Bridgerton

Queen Charlotte’s (Golda Rosheuvel) very formal public style has remained the same since her first appearance in Season 1. Her gowns in Season 3 consistently have the same dramatic, highly ornate style and silhouette that were hallmarks of late Rococo fashion, which enjoyed its peak of popularity in the late 18th century. Rococo dresses leaned heavily on garment construction to emphasize the wearer’s waist-to-hip ratio, using elements including panniers (aka false hips), boning, and stiff stomachers. Rococo dresses featured more embellishments at their most lavish, than you can shake a stick at. The word “festoon” was probably invented to describe it. 

Queen Charlotte is also the only character who wears dramatic wigs in many shapes, sizes, and colors. 

Golda Rosheuvel as Queen Charlotte in 'Bridgerton' Season 1 with gher entourage and her pups.

Golda Rosheuvel as Queen Charlotte in 'Bridgerton' Season 1

Liam Daniels/Netflix

Of course, Bridgerton is set in the 1810s, some twenty years since the peak of Rococo fashion and well into the Neoclassical period. It makes sense for Queen Charlotte not to be subject to changing fashion trends, however. Her look is integral to her image, and while the young ladies on the marriage mart – and, for that matter, their mammas — wouldn’t be caught dead in finery that, to their eyes, screams old fashioned, the Queen’s established style doesn’t make her look out of date. Instead, it’s a style so firmly attached to the past that it suggests rock-solid stability, an asset for any leader and an essential one for a queen whose beloved king’s chronic mental illness makes it impossible for him to rule. 

(Ed Note: It is also a running fan theory that Charlotte does not change her style in hopes George will still recognize her.)

Diamonds & Sparklers

Golda Rosheuvel as Queen Charlotte in 'Bridgerton' Season 3, with entourage

Golda Rosheuvel as Queen Charlotte in 'Bridgerton' Season 3

Liam Daniel/Netflix

Season 3 finds Queen Charlotte increasingly impatient with and petulant about the still-unsolved mystery of Lady Whistledown’s identity. For the second consecutive season, she’s also feeling thwarted in her efforts to exert what she no doubt believes is selfless, benevolent control over the match made by her sparkler. Season 1’s diamond, Daphne Bridgerton (Phoebe Dynevor), did very well in that role and is happily ensconced with her husband Simon, Duke of Hastings (Régé-Jean Page). Her Season 2 selection, Edwina Sharma (Charithra Chandran), disappointed the Queen by scandalously breaking off her match with reformed rake Anthony Bridgerton (Jonathan Bailey), who then went on to marry Edwina’s sister, Kate (Simone Ashley). 

The Queen has declared she will not select a diamond this season. She won’t tolerate another whiff of obstinate, headstrong girlishness from a beautiful, sentient gemstone! Instead, her approval lands on the head of Francesca Bridgerton (Hannah Dodd), who she names the sparkler of the season. Reserved, demure, and practical, Francesca surely will fulfill her matchmaking dreams. As of the end of the first half of Bridgerton’s third season, that outcome seems unlikely, although she’s hand-selected a seemingly perfect suitor, Lord Samadani (David Mumeni). Instead, Francesca finds herself a suitor quite by accident, the equally reserved and very thoughtful John Stirling, Lord Kilmartin (Victor Alli). The sweet connection between the two – they both visibly relax in each other’s quiet, steady company and are even learning how to flirt by the end of the fourth episode – is lovely and almost guaranteed to infuriate the Queen, should she learn of it.

Elevated Housecoats!

Golda Rosheuvel as Queen Charlotte in her angled wig in Bridgerton Season 3

Golda Rosheuvel as Queen Charlotte in Bridgerton Season 3

Liam Daniel/Netflix © 2024

In public, Queen Charlotte continues to use her formal gowns—equal parts lavish and stiff—to protect her power and authority and perhaps the more tender spots of her heart. The high ornamentation of her gowns is both a form of conspicuous consumption and a tool that projects imperious authority without her having to say a word. 

Glaser points out that now, we’re seeing another side of the Queen: “In public, her gowns have lots of embellishment and many textures. When she’s home, though, we did very little of that, and made it much, much more simple.” Glaser described these at-home costumes as “not loungewear, but still informal.” The Queen’s elevated housecoats and protective headwraps are “nothing that anyone in public would see her dressed in” and are made along softer lines, using far more draping and relaxed, flowy elements like sleeve capes. 

Queen Charlotte's Continuing Style Choices

Golda Rosheuvel as Queen Charlotte flanked by Hugh Sachs as Brimsley in 'Bridgerton' Season 3

Golda Rosheuvel as Queen Charlotte flanked by Hugh Sachs as Brimsley in 'Bridgerton' Season 3

Liam Daniel/Netflix

Since Queen Charlotte is who she is and leads the life that she does, it’s doubtful we’d ever see her donning the empire-waist gowns that the young ladies flock to. However, some of Glaser’s insights are particularly germane for viewers looking for visual Easter eggs and hints of how the plot winds will blow. His message? Don’t bother with one-to-one comparisons or get too attached to dress shades as predictive of how relationships among the characters will evolve. 

In Bridgerton’s first season, it was necessary to use color as a visual cue to understanding family groups and social alliances, such as the Bridgerton family’s exquisitely restrained and tasteful shades of light blue vs. the Featheringtons’ over-the-top bright citrus shades. Now, though, “the audience knows the characters, the actors have all matured mentally and physically, and the story has matured, so we didn’t have to stick to the original color palette.” 

That expansion furnished an opportunity to “put some smoke and mirrors over the costumes so it wasn’t so obvious what the characters were doing, or what we were doing” regarding plot and character development.

Bridgerton Seasons 1, 2, and 3, Part 1 are currently streaming on Netflix, along with the prequel Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story. Season 3, Part 2, will debut on Thursday, June 13, 2024. Season 4 is already in pre-production.

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Sophie has been happily steeping in the potent brew of British TV since her parents let her stay up late on a Thursday watching the Jeremy Brett adaptation of Sherlock Holmes. She loves mysteries, espionage thrillers, documentaries, and costume dramas, and if you're not careful, she might talk your ear off about the Plantagenets. Sorry about that in advance! 

You can find Sophie on all the platforms as @sophiebiblio and keep an eye on her bylines from all over the internet via her handy portfolio.

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