From the minute they first saw the “Ton” and all of its fabulous inhabitants, Bridgerton viewers were as glued to the screen to take in the gorgeous sets, gowns and makeup as its imaginary residents were to Lady Whistledown’s society papers. Both offered a world of intrigue and beauty. Though the author behind Lady Whistledown remains a mystery to Queen Charlotte, Queen Charlotte's history will soon no longer be a mystery to Bridgerton fans.
Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story, the much-anticipated prequel series to Bridgerton, makes its debut on Netflix on May 4. The new series follows young Queen Charlotte as she takes the hand of King George and the crown, and helps shape a new mold of society. True to the Bridgerton universe, the hair and makeup are just as delicious as the storylines. To get a deep dive into the beauty of Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story, Nic Collins, the show’s Hair and Makeup Designer, gives us the inside scoop.
Though Bridgerton has never claimed to be a docuseries, the world is still steeped in historical accuracy and influence. For Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story, Collins went down a rabbit hole of period research for the 18th century, since the show takes place in a different era than Bridgerton.
“We always start with the period that existed, looking at libraries, portrait galleries, art history, costume, fashion, even architecture,” Collins says. “We start looking at the whole world that existed. And then because we want to give it our own flavor or take, we then start looking at all kinds of way to style hair, or to create hair texture. We collect as many images as possible—it could be from anywhere. We look at the way that fabric was created in that period and how it was designed, from the way they hung curtains.” Collins also scrolled through Pinterest and Instagram to find images that inspire her.
For the character of Queen Charlotte, Collins researched the authentic portraits of the actual historical figure. “There's a couple of Queen Charlotte [portraits] that we've not imitated by any means, but we definitely took inspiration from,” she says. Two were of particular importance to Collins, one of her where she’s younger and you can see her hair texture, and another when she’s slightly older and has her hair in a beautiful design.
The Wig Story
Wigs are the heart and soul of the beauty looks in Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story. The hair and makeup team made over a thousand wigs across the entire series. To make the wigs and hair pop even more, they were adorned with jewels. “Lyn [Elizabeth Paolo] and Laura [Frecon], the costume designers, choose the jewels and gave us so many options,” Collins says. “I previously had worked on a job where I loved weaving jewelry into hair and had learned that aesthetically it looks really good onscreen.” Collins placed the jewels not only where they were visually striking, but also so that they flowed with the hair. “Symmetry has a lot to do with my decision on jewelry,” she says. “It's making the two work together so that one's never overpowering the other.”
To put the signature Bridgerton spin on 18th century wigs, they kept the traditional and accurate styles of the time and integrated that with textured hair. To make the wigs true to each character, each wig was in the same color palette for one person. “Because the palettes are the same throughout, it's not too distracting,” Collins says. “The choice was to keep everybody in the same tone throughout so that you immediately can identify that character. It was more to do with the emotional story and the personal story that [the character] was going through. And it was really important to try out different textures, to mix that with an authentic styling of the period, so a lot of what you're seeing is a mix between new and old.”
The wigs are just another way to tell each character’s story. For example, in the pivotal wedding scene (spoiler alert!) in the first episode, Queen Charlotte trades a more traditional look for a decadent style that embraces her natural hair texture. “It was really important to keep that natural texture at that point in the storyline,” Collins says. “This is a young woman that's saying 'accept me for who I am right now'."
Makeup played an equally important role in the storyline, with young Queen Charlotte embracing a fresh face of barely-there makeup. “India [Amarteifio] had a good say in how she wanted the young Queen Charlotte represented,” Collins says. “The script helps you make your decisions.”
Bridging Two Bridgertons
Though Bridgerton clearly influenced the beauty and fashion of Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story, it was important for Collins to differentiate between the two different historical periods. Unlike the Regency era of Bridgerton, where real hair was embraced, the 18th century world of Queen Charlotte was all about wigs. “I think the main difference between us and Bridgerton is they are rigid regions with different worlds of hair,” Collins says. “The 18th century is all wigs—everybody wore a wig. Whereas in the Regency, you weren't allowed to wear wigs anymore unless you were clergy or lawyers. The taxes came in at the turn of the century, which stopped people from wearing wigs anymore.”
Hair and makeup were strategically used to make the two actresses who played the young Queen Charlotte and mature Queen Charlotte look more alike, including their facial birthmarks. “We actually took a little plaster cast of each of the little moles and then our very talented prosthetic artist [created] a little silicone mold,” Collins explains. “They are identical casts of Golda's [Rosheuvel, who plays older Charlotte] moles.”
Though the show is set in the past, modern makeup products were used. A go-to for Collins was NARS foundation; she used a different formula for each cast member depending on their skin type and needs. “They're fantastic,” she says. “We never use one—we mix. The other brand that I've always loved is Temptu, because it's so sheer. You cannot tell somebody has [the airbrush foundation] on and yet it's there.”
Other favorite brands include Fenty and Bobbi Brown. “I still use Max Factor 2000 Calorie Mascara ($9) on people because it's a go-to, it comes off; it gives you those beautiful eyelashes. A lot of the eyelashes we dye so we don't have to add mascara, so you get that depth of color on the eyes, and we do that a lot on guys as well.”
Another signature beauty look of Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story was young Queen Charlotte’s 'your cheeks but better' blush look, which was created using Bobbi Brown cream blush and Benefit Cosmetics Dandelion Baby-Pink Blush ($18). “Dandelion is a really pale powder and if you put that over a cream blush, it just absorbs the cream, so it sets it, but it's so fine,” Collins says. “It's such a fine dusting that you can't really tell it's there.”