Bridgerton season 3: Penelope Featherington undergoes a major transformation and we've got the BTS tea

*Contains spoilers*

Dearest readers and esteemed members of the Ton... As it is well known, a makeover is a huge trope in the rom-com movie and TV genre, what with some of the greatest early 2000s hits championing physical transformations like no other – we're talking from geek to prom Queen, if you get the vibe. And bringing that to today's screen with a modern yet still very much 1800s twist comes Penelope Featherington and her external beauty evolution in season 3 of Bridgerton.

The newest season of the show dropped yesterday [16 May 2024] and this time focuses on the love story between Penelope Featherington (Nicola Coughlan) and Colin Bridgerton (Luke Newton). Now, the storyline underpins a big change for Penelope and a lot of her growth throughout the season is actively tracked through her hair, makeup and costumes. And so, from donning tight pin-curl poodle hair looks to loosened, cascading waves, the production team behind the Netflix show shares *all* the behind-the-scenes beauty secrets used to further the plot.

Talking about the inspiration for Pen's transformation, showrunner Jess Brownell says that the 1999 movie She’s All That had somewhat of an impact. "...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, and it just works like that," says Jess. "So we felt that for modern audiences, we needed to do something different with it."

Naturally, this is where the hair and makeup team came in.

penelope featherington bridgerton season 3

Erika Ökvist led the hair and makeup design for S3 and details the evolution of Pen's loosened curls as time went on. "You’re looking at Penelope changing from the first two seasons – where everything was, very childlike and using very strong colours that don't necessarily work with her skin tone but definitely work with the character – to now," Erika says.

"To make that look more glamorous, we made it more streamlined and instead of doing the makeup to emphasise the childlikeness of a face, we instead went in and we used all lines to elongate the face – lift the cheekbones up to God and have those lovely cat eyes that she can flirt with."

Working alongside this matured makeup look, surprisingly Erika shares that Penelope's hair drew inspiration from unlikely sources, including Jessica Rabbit and Rita Hayworth. "We’ve got that lovely Jessica Rabbit, Rita Hayworth-inspired cascading hair falling down on the one side, which again just makes it really good for flirting with somebody," she notes.

"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.

"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. [...] We take what I call the DNA for Penelope’s new look and derive new styles from that."

penelope featherington bridgerton season 3

What makes this so transformative is not only the comparisons to Penelope's look from earlier seasons but also the period in which it has been done. It's slightly anachronistic for a woman to wear her hair like that in Regency times but then again, Pen is an anachronistic character. "She's ahead of her time and exceptional in many ways. And for her to break the rules in that way actually felt like a statement of her power," says Jess.

Clearly, she's no longer going to wear or do what her mother says!

penelope and colin

In season 2, Penelope is a young girl who tries to experiment with her looks and detach herself from what her mother expects of her. Whereas in season 3, she is now a woman and through her looks, Penelope is determined to find the future that she wants.

That strength and determination is heightened by her Old Hollywood, glamorous looks, proving never to underestimate the power of hair, makeup and beauty overall.

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