Nicola Coughlan has been one of the most exciting fashion forces to follow over the past few years, as the world caught on to her star power thanks to a little show called "Bridgerton" and she started becoming a regular on the red carpet. It helps that the Irish actor's a massive fan and connaisseur of designers and up-and-coming creative talent, and has built a team around her that shares that love and enthusiasm — and, perhaps most importantly, that desire to create A Moment.
On the styling front, Coughlan tapped Aimee Croysdill at the beginning of the "Bridgerton" press cycle, and the two have been collaborators and sartorial co-conspirators ever since.
"To be honest with you, when I first met Nicola, I was quite kind of headstrong with her and her team, like, 'I know you're going to be a fashion girl.' I knew it from the outset," she says. "Now, as a collaborative team — and really, it's the most amazing team I've worked on, and it's a proper team where we're all so passionately involved and invested — every element is so beautifully taken care of. There's this amazing synergy and this amazing environment, and it obviously works. It's such a joy to witness."
Over the years, the London-based stylist has worked with clients including Laura Haddock, Lolly Adefope and Natalie Dormer. Still, she recognizes that her partnership with Coughlan has been unique.
"I've had some amazing moments in my career, but it's very rare to come across new talent that takes off in that way, very quickly in such a short space of time — and it's very rare to work on a press tour for the biggest TV show in the world," Croysdill says. "That kind of thing doesn't happen very often. And people have really taken notice."
Croysdill admits that timing has played a significant role here: Because of the pandemic and the response to the first season of "Bridgerton," she and Coughlan gone straight from one project — whether that's a promotional cycle, a photo shoot, a red carpet — to another, allowing them to continue to build momentum around the actor's style and continually evolve what that looks like. "The trajectory of Nicola's fashion hasn't stalled at any point."
The first round of "Bridgerton" press was such a coup largely because of Coughlan's performance (and her character's arc in that first season, ending in a game-changing reveal), and also because of the way the actor embraced the all-digital junkets and interviews, showing up in full looks and sharing the details on social media.
There was also a clear intentionality in that wardrobe, both in terms of connecting back to the Netflix series and of spotlighting brands from the U.K. and Ireland. The latter was partly logistical (because of lockdown and Brexit), but also partly driven by a desire to represent Coughlan through fashion.
"We definitely were really keen on celebrating up-and-coming designers from our local area and from Ireland, like Simone Rocha" she says. Other highlights: a beaded fringe-sleeved JW Anderson look, a pouf-sleeved Cawley top and a Three Graces London dress topped with a red Emily-London Headwear bow.
When they sprinkled in brands from outside the British Isles, Coughlan and Croysdill found ways to tie the pieces back to the world of "Bridgerton" — by focusing on shapes and silhouettes that felt reminiscent of the Regency era, for example, and seeking out looks with ruffles and other regal and decadent embellishments.
"In retrospect, we were massively inspired by the first season," Croysdill says. "Nicola and I were getting to know each other stylistically, and I think everyone was inspired by 'Bridgerton' in more ways than you'd think. We were all locked up in our house and needed that escapism. It couldn't have come at a better time. All of a sudden, people were wanting to get dressed up."
These two threads came together at the 2021 Golden Globes, which in a way bookended this chapter of their collaboration: Coughlan wore a voluminous tulle Molly Goddard dress in a pale yellow reminiscent of Penelope Featherington.
By the next big red carpet — the 2021 Screen Actors Guild Awards — the duo made it a point to veer away from the ton stylistically, so to speak. They followed up the frothy Molly Goddard with a custom black lace Christian Siriano gown, revealed on Instagram in a series of black and white images. The idea was "to flip [the last look] on its head and be more gothy and vampy," Croysdill says. "We've worked out that we can marry the two worlds together and create something really wonderful."
What followed was a sartorial palette cleanser of sorts, as Coughlan headed back to filming both "Bridgerton" season two and "Derry Girls" season three. In the lead-up to the BAFTAs, she wore two custom looks — an off-the-shoulder gold gown by Emilia Wickstead for a Times portfolio and a long-sleeved orange Valentino Haute Couture ankle-length dress. The latter was a favorite of Croysdill's, as it was "all about tailoring": "It was layers and layers of crinoline to get that dressed out in that smooth way. The work that went into that was unreal."
“The reason why it's so fun with Nicola is that she just looks good in everything," Croysdill says. "There are so many sides to her style, but there's always a bit of a running thread. You always feel like it's Nicola's style."
By the time the promo cycle for "Bridgerton" started back up again — and, arguably, Regencycore had reached its apex — they decided to adopt a different approach to their references, moving farther from the source material.
"It was really important that we didn't mirror the costumes in 'Bridgerton,' only because: How can you outdo what they do in the show?," Croysdill says. "It's so magical, that world, and Penelope has such a distinct theme throughout.... Penelope sees this real growth in her fashion, and it was really important for us to keep Penelope and Nicola really separate." (However, that's not to say yellow's off the table: "I'm not going to write off doing yellow ever again because it's such a great color. And we always pay our dues to Penelope.")
No matter what they're working on, the two will send each other images back and forth on WhatsApp — Coughlan from film, Croysdill from fashion — to identify references they can weave into their sartorial storytelling. The starting point for the actor's "Bridgerton" premiere look was Audrey Hepburn in "Breakfast at Tiffany's," paired with an itch to try a shape they hadn't done before. Always wanting to up their fashion game, they called on none other that Mrs. Miuccia Prada's Miu Miu.
"Obviously, Miu Miu is quite pastel-y and embroidered normally — quite a lot of its gowns and its aesthetic are that way," Croysdill says. The stylist sent over some ideas for the silhouette, and the team came back to them with a few options, many of which had "the pastel colors that we know we love on Nic, then embroidery that we love from Miu Miu." However, it was the single all-black outlier that stood out from the pack: "We were like, 'Oh shit! We love that. We love all black.'"
From there, Croysdill and Coughlan doubled down on the "Breakfast at Tiffany's" theme by adding a bow detail to the gown and commissioning Awon Golding Millinery to create a matching headband. Halley Brisker was on the Old Hollywood-inspired hair, while Neil Young created a Tiffany Blue eye look with a retro cat-eye liner using all Pat McGrath Labs products. (Coughlan was recently appointed a "muse" for the brand.)
"It all came to life when we saw this black sketch," Croysdill says. "We took that idea and we ran with it, and it transformed into this other world."
Alas, you might remember that Coughlan was absent from the season two premiere in London — that's because she tested positive for Covid-19. Even though she had to sit out the red carpet, the look still had its moment: Once Coughlan recovered, the actor and her team came together to shoot an editorial around the Hepburn-inspired ensemble at London's Lanesborough Hotel, which was published in Elle U.K.
"When we got over the fact that we weren't at the premiere, we leaned into the fact that actually we can put this 'Breakfast at Tiffany's'-inspired gown into this 'Bridgerton' world of the Lanesborough, which is insanely decadent," Croysdill says. "It was really special."
Though the primary inspiration wasn't rooted in Shondaland, Coughlan and Croysdill made sure to honor the world of "Bridgerton" with the look: Her Mejuri accessories included a bee ring and "L" and "W" earrings, for Lady Whistledown. "We really wanted to nod subtly to all those little things, because Nicola is such a fan," she says. "She's so behind it." They're also still making sure to highlight emerging local talent, like having Lia Cowan create a red and pink dress for Coughlan to wear in interviews and sourcing pieces from Galway jewelry designer Richard Murphy.
There's a lot to look forward from Croysdill and Coughlan in the near future. (At the time of our call, the stylist was "desperately trying to pin down a Valentino look.") So much of the magic of this partnership, though, is what happens behind the scenes — "seeing a team work in such an incredible way, [where] everyone is in tune with one another," according to Croysdill: "Everyone comes to work and wants to create something iconic. I've not felt that level of energy and excitement from every single person, down to even my tailor that I've worked with for years and years and years. Everyone's so good at putting their piece in, but also paring back. It's really special."
Ultimately, Croysdill says she's grown from working with a client like Coughlan, who has "[given] me the opportunity to create these looks and [trusted] me to do things that I've always wanted to do," she says. "Everyone has their own style, and it's always been bubbling inside me to do something like this, and Nicola has brought that out of me. That doesn't come around very often, this trajectory and the speed in which this has taken off. That has given me an amazing platform to do really exciting things."