We've been burning for the sophomore installment of the soapy, steamy Regency Era-set Netflix series "Bridgerton," which kicks off on the same occasion as first time around: marriage season. As expected, new levels of deceit, betrayal and lusty romance (forbidden and not) await in the Shondaland juggernaut — along with a new procession of spectacular, period authentic-ish costumes by Sophie Canale.
Moving up from assistant on season one, the costume designer inherited the show's tremendous workshop and in-house atelier, with a 200-plus strong team of embroiderers, embellishers, builders and jewelry designers.
"Ellen Mirojnick created this amazing world in season one, and in season two, I've had this really amazing opportunity to develop their characters," says Canale.
Following her predecessor, Canale enjoyed taking much creative license with anachronistic bold color palettes, contemporary fabrics and inventive embellishments on circa-1814 silhouettes — like the plucky Spencer jackets, cropped at the front and intricately pleated on a trailing back, to accentuate the empire waistline. To differentiate the characters and liven up the composition, she mixed contemporary elements into the period-correct cap-sleeves, with petal shapes, contrast piping, rounded puffs and '70s-style flutter (below).
The costume designer delighted in dropping in humorous sartorial Easter Eggs, too, like coordinating floral-embroidered gowns with petite, essentials-only Regency handbags — or "reticules" (below).
"There's an orange [fruit] reticule as well," says Canale. "There's all these little exciting kinds of things that will catch your eye."
Contemporary runways, including those from Chanel, helped provide inspiration for period-inauthentic fabrics and textures, like nubby chenille, which wouldn't be introduced to Great Britain until the 1830s (or become popular for clothing until the 1970s).
While lurking about the races to seek out goss for her undercover alter ego, Lady Whistledown (the Deux Moi of London high society), Penelope Featherington (Nicola Coughlan) dons an adorable polka-dotted chenille Spencer jacket. (Tacky sis Prudence, played by Jessie Carter, expectedly crosses the line of refinement with glass flower and embroidered leaf embellishments on hers.) And, yes, Penelope maintains her trademark intense yellows, at one point lamenting: "I seem to have grown weary of the color."
"I've pushed a bit more pink into her color palette this year — she's a year older," says Canale, who added bubble gum-hued accents, like a profusion of bows and 3D floral appliqués.
Pen's best friend Eloise Bridgerton (Claudia Jessie, above) continues her menswear tailoring-influenced signature of natty Spencer jackets over chiffon blouses, with ruffles and bow flourishes at the neckline. "She's steadfast in what she wears, really," says Canale, who evolved the teen into checks and stripes this season.
Now that Eloise's older sister — and last season's Diamond debutante — Daphne (Phoebe Dynevor) is settled in a happy union with Sir Hotness, a.k.a. the Duke of Hastings (Regé-Jean Page), the marriage pressure lands on eldest brother, Lord Anthony (Jonathan Bailey). The tightly-wound head of the perfect, sprawling aristocratic family attempts to follow his sense of duty — and not his heart (or any other instincts) — in choosing a wife during the annual Regency-rendition of "The Bachelor."
Conveniently, two generations of the Sharma family return from Bombay, to matriarch Lady Mary (Shelley Conn)'s swishy childhood home of Mayfair London — the one she left embroiled in scandale. Her youngest daughter, the kindhearted ingenue Edwina (Charithra Chandran), readies herself for the betrothal circuit. Under the guidance of Lady Danbury (Adjoa Andoh), she hopes to catch the approval of Queen Charlotte (Golda Rosheuvel), who's hellbent on unmasking Lady Whistledown. Older sister Kate (Simone Ashley), who, at the advanced age of 26, supposedly has no interest in a match of her own, regulates the courtship process, taking over the cockblocker role held by Anthony last season.
"Lilac is symbolic of first love," says Daphne, during one of her return visits to the palatial Bridgerton country home, while Simon presumably is too busy with duke duties and child-rearing. Notably, Kate and the Sharma women, with their own hidden secrets, wear the soft, romantic hue during decisive moments (above): "[Lilac is] also bringing the family together," says Canale.
Kate literally rides onto the scene establishing her signature enthralling and commanding jewel-tones. During one of her early morning equestrian jaunts, she tears through the countryside in a billowing teal velvet cape ensemble (above) — immediately piquing the interest of the usually grumpy Anthony, on a ride of shame.
"Kate is a strong character. She's unmarried and a mother figure to her sister, so I wanted to portray that in both the color palette and also the fabrics that I chose for her," says Canale. "Then, as we traveled through [the season], there's a softer element, and the color palette also changes."
Kate's deep sapphires and teals also pay homage to the Sharma family's Indian heritage — "a conscious decision," says Canale, who researched and incorporated Indian-inspired gold embroideries and silk fabrics into the period-authentic Spencer jackets and empire-waist silhouettes. The Sharma women wear brilliant, stone-encrusted rose-gold jewelry, too: "Poonam [Thanki], one of our jewelers, is from Indian heritage, so it was great to have so much knowledge from her." (The Bridgertons adorn their polished looks with cool silvers, while the Featheringtons preen in flashier golds.)
Paisley (or "boteh" and "buto" in Persian) also features prominently in the Sharmas' wardrobes, through elaborate prints and intricate embroideries. The teardrop shapes originated in Persia over 2,000 years ago, in the area now between the border of India and Pakistan near Kashmir and Iran — not 19th-century Liberty of London.
Joining a hunting excursion with the Bridgerton Bros, Kate wears an elegantly rugged wool riding habit, complete with a jaunty top hat (below), decorated with paisley embroidery. While maneuvering through the terrain, she accidentally flashes her white over-the-knee socks and a bit of bare leg — almost sending an overly restrained Anthony into a fainting spell. Canale confirms that the sexy thigh-high "stockings" are, in-fact, period correct: "Not sure if you caught it on screen, but they are embroidered up the leg as well."
Under pressure, Anthony finds himself "vexed" by his conflicting feelings regarding his impending decision and bouts of heavy panting, especially when Kate is around. All hot and bothered, he tumbles into the lake, fully clothed in his finery. Anthony emerges with his white shirt in an absurdly sheer, water-logged state — seemingly paying homage to another repressed Regency Zaddy moment: a soaking wet Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy, slow-walking out of a misty lake in the 1995 miniseries version of "Pride and Prejudice." (Not to mention that unbuttoned, open neckline shirt moment in the darkened library, when Anthony and Kate both suffer from longing-induced insomnia.)
"Whenever you see that kind of Regency man, everyone's automatically going to go to [Firth as Mr. Darcy] because it's such a famous scene," says Canale, with a laugh.
Facing up to his familial responsibilities in his next stage, Anthony has evolved into darker tones, like plush navy velvet tail coats. "He was quite a cad in season one, and he's now on a journey," says Canale. "He's a lot more serious and taking his role as the head of the Bridgerton household."
As for on-screen color clues, keep an eye on the intense jewel tones, as Kate's teals and sapphires intentionally match (sorry) Anthony's indigos.
"Definitely," says Canale. "They're on this journey."
Season two of 'Bridgerton' premiers on Friday, March 25 on Netflix.