In the new season of Netflix’s Bridgerton, the Sharmas have entered the chat. The family, who move from Bombay to Regency-era London, shake up the ton with scandal, excitement, and (obviously) romance. A rigid Kate (Simone Ashley) discovers the pleasures of intensely horny gazes when she falls for Lord Anthony Bridgerton (Jonathan Bailey), who is equally smitten, but also happens to be betrothed to her younger sister, Edwina (Charithra Chandran).
Over eight episodes, the Sharmas find themselves entwined with the Bridgertons, Lady Danbury (Adjoa Andoh), and Queen Charlotte (Golda Rosheuvel) herself, quickly rising to prominent ranks in society. What’s more, they elevate Bridgerton’s already enviable fashion game with a bit of cultural flair. The show has always taken creative liberties by blending period and contemporary styles in its outfits and musical choices (Taylor Swift’s “Wildest Dreams” string rendition from season one remains a knockout). Season two ups the ante with nods to the Sharmas’ Indian heritage.
Bridgerton’s costume designer Sophie Canale tells The A.V. Club she was excited to introduce Kate, Edwina, and their mother, Mary (Shelley Conn), to the show through their fashion senses. “It was nice to be able to push the Sharmas forward,” she says. “We had lots of discussions about how their gowns—the embroidery, patterns, embellishments—need to be an amalgamation of Indian heritage with them now being part of the ton.” Canale points us to keyhole cuts in tulip sleeve dresses, which refer to both worlds (Indian and British), as well as the regency style of center-front splits in the skirts. “When possible, we moved [the splits] a little to the side to give it a sari-like influence,” she explains.
To nail down the looks, Canale received invaluable help from Poonam Thanki, who is part of the show’s jewelry team: “She was constantly bringing new ideas to the table. We both wanted to ensure the matching jewelry has Indian notes, so we used lots of flowers, hairpins, and decorations to match the dresses.” These are already adorned with sparkly motifs, sequins, and floral designs.
Bridgerton’s fictionalized world is set in the early 1800s, just before British rulers began colonizing India in reality. So while there’s unsurprisingly no direct references to colonialism, Canale says they looked at the established Indian communities in the U.K. for fashion references: “We shopped for fabrics a lot in Southall,” she explains, referring to a large London suburban district with a major South Asian population. “I’ve traveled to India,” she adds, “as has my assistant designer. I think it was important to have the experience of visiting the textile mills.”
The styling choices match where the characters are in the story, too. When season two kicks off, Kate dons mostly harsh fabrics and dark color tones to go with her austerity. She has a single-minded goal of getting Edwina married off so she can return to India and become a governess. Fate and—and hormones—have other plans, though. As she opens up more to Anthony, her clothes become softer. “The idea of doing this came naturally to me when I was reading the script,” Canale says. “It’s how I saw Kate. I wanted her clothes to reflect her journey. Simone and [series creator] Chris Van Dusen were immediately onboard.” On the flip side, Edwina is dressed in a soft palette right away. “She gets lots of pinks. She believes in and wants love. Hopefully this helps you see the difference in the sisters immediately.”
Canale’s other big objective was to bring jewel tones to Bridgerton through the Sharmas, whether through silk dresses or cropped pashmina jackets. “It was on my mood board before anyone was even cast,” she notes. “I was thinking about the show overall as a set piece. The Bridgerton women are in white shades or pastels; the Featheringtons have a punch in their color palette with yellows and oranges. I wanted the Sharmas to have their own feel.” Kate’s stunning purple and blue gowns stand out also because South Asian women are often styled in drabber colors. That mold is changing with Bridgerton, not to mention Sarita Choudhury in And Just Like That… and Mindy Kaling in The Mindy Project.
Of course, the Sharmas aren’t the only ones with dazzling ball gowns in season two. Canale says the costume design team crafted and delivered about 700 items, with each dress completion time varying from 10 to 24 days. “This process starts from cutting to making the final embellishments, including working with dyers, the jewelry team, and at least four trial rounds with the cast members,” she tells us. “It was roughly 160 costumes every six weeks.” Luckily, Netflix has already renewed Bridgerton for two more seasons, so more of its torrid affairs and elaborate, elegant fashions are on the horizon.