- Bridgerton -Were Penelope's Dresses In 'Bridgerton' A Clue All Along?
Warning: Spoilers for Bridgerton Season 1 to follow. After a social season made all the more interesting by Lady Whistledown's juicy gossip and scandalous revelations, Bridgerton revealed the notorious scribbler is none other than Penelope Featherington. At first glance the reveal was shocking, but in retrospect, Penelope's fashion choices may have revealed her Whistledown secret long before she slipped off her hood in the final episode of Season 1. The biggest giveaway? All of that yellow Pen hates so much.
Remember, in the premiere, Penelope is allowed to choose her own dress when her mother stays home to deal with Marina's "situation," and she reveals to Colin that Lady Featherington never would have let her wear something so utterly lacking in yellow. However, despite her disdain for the sunshiny color, Pen's yellow wardrobe is all-too appropriate, and not just because Nicola Coughlan shines like the actual sun in Pen's many lemon hued frocks.
As fine jeweler Sheryl Jones pointed out in a recent interview with W Magazine, "Yellow is the color of knowledge and truth, which I think is very interesting, especially when it comes to Penelope." It's very interesting indeed — especially when you look at the evolution of Pen's dresses over the course of Season 1.
Episode 1: Lady Whistledown's Scandal Sheet Makes Its Debut, & So Do Penelope's First Yellow Dresses
When Penelope is first introduced to the queen, and by extension society, she's wearing a fairly subdued look. Her white dress includes touches of gold, but on the whole, nothing about her look stands out. This could in part be because she's still hoping her mother will change her mind about her debut. Now, let's look at what happens after the first Lady Whistledown pamphlet is distributed:
The more secrets Penelope gathers, the more yellow she rocks, which could symbolize a couple of things. As Jones points out, the color is traditionally associated with knowledge, and there's no doubt the youngest Featherington is gathering plenty of tidbits for her scandal sheet.
Additionally, all of the flowers and yellow hues bring to mind Bridgerton's ever-present bee — which in part represents the late Lord Bridgerton, sure, but "buzzing like bees" is also slang for gossiping. However, there could be a far more personal reason behind Penelope embracing her mother's favorite color at society events.
Note that when she's allowed to choose her own dress, Pen picks a soft, pink floral number. In terms of symbolism pink is the opposite of yellow: Pink represents childishness, femininity, and romance, which captures the side of Penelope that's not ready to be introduced to society yet. It stands to reason that if she feels like she's most herself when she's wearing pink, then yellow could be like a disguise for her.
It's possible that every time she wears a yellow frock, she's secure in the knowledge that she'll stick it to her "tasteless and tactless" mama within the pages of her Lady Whistledown pamphlet later — which could be why she doesn't protest about her dresses again for the rest of the season.
Episode 2: In An Episode Low On Scandal, Penelope Wears Pink
Lady Whistledown is fairly quiet in Episode 2, focusing her attentions on Daphne seeming to catch Simon's eye. The relative lack of fresh gossip is reflected in Pen's wardrobe. At home and while promenading with Eloise, she opts for pink or multicolored dresses, which tracks, because she's far more focused on Marina's predicament in Episode 2 than she is on wearing her Lady Whistledown cap.
Episode 3: Lady Whistledown Is Back In Action
I've talked about the symbolism behind Pen's least favorite color, but there's another reason why her yellow dresses are a dead giveaway that she's Lady Whistledown: They're like neon signs.
In the third episode of the season, you literally can't miss the fact that Penelope is always observing the buzziest moments at every ball. From a cinematography standpoint, the eye is drawn to her, which is a clever way of the writers revealing Whistledown's identity without saying a word.
Episode 4: Penelope Begins To Embrace Her Lady Whistledown Side
If pink reflects Pen's truest self, and yellow is her trademark Lady Whistledown color, then by the time episode four rolls around she's beginning to embrace both sides of her personality at once. Case in point: she's rocking bubblegum pink gloves with her yellow dress while totally throwing Eloise off the scent of Lady Whistledown's true identity.
Later, Penelope is dressed in an all-yellow ensemble when she drops a Lady Whistledown-style barb in front of Colin. Clearly, she's beginning to enjoy her secret identity, and not just because she can infuriate her mother.
Episode 6: Penelope Goes To War, & She Wears Her Dresses Like Armor
When Marina insists on marrying Colin, Penelope's role as Lady Whistledown stops being a simple act of rebellion, and it becomes a weapon. Just as Daphne's arc is about becoming a woman, so is Pen's, and it's illustrated in the way her dresses become armor in episode six.
Her first dress in the episode is head-to-toe yellow frills, despite the fact that she's at home, a place where she generally wears her favored pink. Symbolically, she's taking the gloves off where Marina is concerned and bringing Whistledown into the family sitting room. When that doesn't work, she rocks a subdued pink, before wearing both colors when she makes the decision to potentially ruin her and her sisters' futures to save Colin.
At this point, Pen's evolution is nearly complete, which is fitting because Lady Whistledown's Marina gossip could only have come from within the Featherington household. Basically, she's not even trying to hide her secret anymore.
Episode 8: Penelope Shows The World Her True Self
Penelope rocks several looks in the final episode, but none of them feel quite as pivotal as the yellow and pink lace overlay dress she wears to visit the Bridgertons. After a long journey from starting a scandal sheet to annoy her mom to using it to save someone she loves, Pen seems to have finally accepted that she can be romantic, shy, witty, and any multitude of things all at once. And just moments before she's revealed as Whistledown to the audience, she wears a dress that seems to meld her secret identity with the Penelope she's always shown the world.
Whether her yellow dresses were popping in the background of all-important scenes or secretly pointing to her knowledge on all things society, Lady Whisteldown's arc played out as much through Penelope's wardrobe choices as it did through the words within her scandal sheet.
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Images: Liam Daniel/Netflix; Netflix