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Penelope’s Bridgerton Season 3 Makeover, All You Need to Know About Her Glow-up

Plus, the ton’s hair and makeup queen offers a lesson in how to lift cheekbones

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With the ton’s marriage mart the height of London fashion, wallflower Penelope Featherington is set for a classic rom-com makeover in Bridgerton Season 3 – and FIRST for Women takes you behind the scenes of the glow-up that has everyone talking!

Ahead of the May 16 premiere, Bridgerton star Nicola Coughlan, showrunner Jess Brownell, executive producer Shonda Rhimes, and costume designer John Glaser spill the tea on creating Penelope’s new look.

Plus, Bridgerton’s hair and makeup queen Erika Ökvist shares how you can use a sexy Old Hollywood hairstyle and few properly placed curls to reframe your face.

MUST-READ: ‘Bridgerton’ Costume Designer John Glaser Shares Secrets About Gorgeous Season 3 Dresses and More

Bridgerton star admits she ‘teared up’ over the Penelope makeover

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Kathryn Drysdale and Nicola Coughlan in “Bridgerton” (2024)Liam Daniel/Netflix © 2024

Bridgerton‘s Nicola Coughlan had made peace with the fact that her character was a dowdy wallflower amid a sea glittering ladies – or so she thought until Penelope’s season 3 makeover began!

MUST-READ: ‘Bridgerton’ Star Nicola Coughlan Teases Penelope and Colin’s Season of Romance

“It was really emotional, going to the first costume fittings and seeing fabrics that they’d chosen for this season,” Coughlan shares. “They draped some on me – it wasn’t even a dress at that point – and I teared up, because you feel this connection with the character.”

Until now, Penelope’s pin curls and citrus-hued gowns have given her a childlike air. This season, she steps into the glamour – wearing luscious greens and blues and embracing sleek lines, new corsetry, and softer, sexier hair inspired by Old Hollywood icons like Rita Hayworth and Marilyn Monroe.

“After two seasons, it was so nice to finally be wearing flattering things, and it really helped the character,” Coughlan says. “She has to grow in confidence, and it helped me grow in confidence, too.”

Penelope’s Bridgerton reveal is a twist on a classic rom-com makeover

With showrunner Jess Brownell leaning into rom-com traditions for Penelope and Colin’s friends-to-lovers storyline, the makeover and big reveal references one of her favorites of the genre – the 1999 classic, She’s All That.

“There’s this iconic moment where Rachel Leigh Cook walks down the stairs; she’s taken off of her glasses, she’s put on a red dress, and suddenly she’s instantly popular and beautiful,” Brownell says.

Penelope has a gloriously similar moment at the top of the stairs, but as we already know, dear readers, it will not be the magic bullet she hopes it will be.

“We felt that for modern audiences, we needed to do something different with it,” Brownell explains. “So Pen does have her makeover… but it doesn’t necessarily have the impact that she thought it would. Because the change that needs to happen is much more about her confidence than it is about her external impression.”

MUST-READ: Shonda Rhimes and Showrunner Jess Brownell Dish on ‘Bridgerton’ Season 3

Penelope makeover reflects her journey in Bridgerton S3

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Nicola Coughlan in “Bridgerton” (2022)Laurence Cendrowicz/Netflix © 2024

After making a grand entrance, Penelope will fall on her face socially, learn a thing or two about flirting from Colin, and ultimately, even land herself a suitor. She will also grapple with her double identity as Lady Whistledown and as she comes into her own – and closer to landing Colin – her look will reflect her journey.

“We had in-depth conversations during costume fittings about how the shape of my costumes change all through the season,” Coughlan says. “It’s not just, ‘Oh, we have a new look!’ Her first glowed-up look is quite an out-there look. She’s trying to fake it ‘til she makes it. The look then becomes much more refined and womanly.”

The colors will also shift, moving from the garish Featherington fabrics to what is at first a softer pallet.

“Her new colors are just all neutrals, because we as the audience don’t really know where she is going,” Costume Designer John Glaser sets up. “We’ve kept her in layered fabrics and colors that keep you guessing. It could be a mix of purple, pink, blue, green… You can never pinpoint what it actually is, just like her character development this season.

“As the season goes on, her colors darken,” he adds, “because she’s gotten rid of all of her baggage and she can be her own person.”

Bridgerton S3 hair & makeup designer reveals a secret to lifting cheekbones!

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Nicola Coughlan in “Bridgerton” (2022) Liam Daniel/Netflix © 2024

With Penelope embracing her womanhood, the cherubic face we’ve gotten used to had to change. That meant a complete overhaul of her hair and makeup.

“Instead of doing the makeup to emphasize the childlikeness of a face, we used all lines to lift the cheekbones up to God, and have those lovely cat eyes that she can flirt with,” says Erika Ökvist, Bridgerton Hair & Makeup Designer.

Beyond streamlining the makeup, the team moved away from pin curl poodle looks and used Coughlan’s hair to reframe her face – which, it turns out, was a rather precise undertaking.

“To enhance someone’s features through that Rita Hayworth hair, you have to make sure the waves end and start in the exact right places along the face,” Ökvist explains. “To enhance the cheekbone, you wouldn’t want to have a curl on top of it because that would press the cheekbone down – you would want the wave to go just under it to lift it up, and the same around the neckline. To make sure that that happened, we had to do a lot of tests on Nicola.”

Penelope makeover styles will grow from cherub to avant-garde

man touching woman's jaw
Luke Newton and Nicola Coughlan in “Bridgerton”Liam Daniel/Netflix © 2024

Once the team figured out what worked, they had a formula to apply to each new look and style – which gave them room to start breaking societal rules.

“You’ll see how over the season her hair gets looser and more down,” Brownell says. “It’s actually slightly anachronistic for a woman to wear her hair like that in Regency times, but Pen is an anachronistic character. She’s ahead of her time and exceptional in many ways. For her to break the rules like that felt like a statement of her power.”

With Bridgerton promising to pump up the volume on all the fabulous Regency fashion in season 3, Queen Charlotte will even don an automated wig – but Penelope may just steal the show.

“Penelope’s wardrobe is extraordinary,” executive producer Shonda Rhimes promises. “So many times I found myself pausing to really examine her gowns because they were done so exquisitely, and they’re so perfectly made for her. It’s really, really beautiful.”

MUST-READ: ‘Bridgerton’ Matriarchs Golda Rosheuvel, Adjoa Andoh and Ruth Gemmell Spill the Tea on Penelope & Colin and Season 3 Surprises

Nicola Coughlan is ready for Penelope’s closeup in Bridgerton S3

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Nicola Coughlan in “Bridgerton” (2022) Liam Daniel/Netflix © 2024

With Bridgerton based on the novels by Julia Quinn, fans have been querying Coughlan about her character’s makeover since the Netflix series premiered.

“It was quite scary knowing there was a big ‘new look’ moment,” Coughlan admits. “Also, it’s scary to [shoot] it because you’re in a ballroom with 200 supporting artists, 30 cast members, all of the crew, and everyone’s looking! The nerves and trepidation Penelope felt were very much fueled by my own nerve.”

Like Penelope, however, Coughlan found her confidence over the course of the season, and now she can’t wait for fans to see the big reveal, as well as the slower transformation that follows.

Bridgerton Season 3 premieres on Netflix on May 16, with the second half premiering on June 13.

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