We chat to Bridgerton’s hair and make-up designer, Marc Elliot Pilcher, on how he merged Regency styling and modern techniques.
If you haven’t yet seen Netflix’s Bridgerton, what are you waiting for? While the steamy scenes have been getting a lot of chatter, we were completely entranced by the show’s incredible hair designs. Towering, shapely wigs, intricate braiding techniques and brilliant references to all eras of hairdressing – there’s so much to dig into!
We reached out to the show’s make-up and hair designer, Marc Elliot Pilcher, to ask him about his career trajectory, design process for Bridgerton’s hair looks, and even his ride-or-die products.
With decades of experience working on both historical and modern productions, he’s an expert on the importance of research, and how to take the norm or the expected and push them to new heights.
Q: How did you begin your career in hair?
MP: “I began my career in 1988, after graduating from The London College of Fashion. I landed a job on Chess the musical, in London’s West End, by pure chance and continued working in theatre for the next 15 years. At that point I was asked to do some TV, and that’s how I made the jump.”
Q: What was your first TV job?
MP: “It was a mini-series called Boudica, about the ancient warrior Queen of England during the times of the Roman conquest. The designer needed a strong wig dresser and make-up artist to fly out to Romania and help her out of a sticky situation. I ended up working for her for the next 5 years.”
Q: What are the key skills that hair stylists need to hone to become a successful hair & TV stylist?
MP: “Obviously the most essential skill is talent – without it you won’t get very far. I would also urge trainees to build their speed up as I never like to keep people waiting on set. The ability to stay calm in any stressful situation is also crucial, as you want the actors to have every faith in you.”
Q: What sort of prep and research do you undertake when designing for a new project?
MP: “I always begin a project by reading the script a few times over, trying to get to know the characters and how I can convey their personalities through their hair and make-up.”
From there it’s a case of developing ideas and experimentation.
Q: Tell us about how you mixed different hair references and time periods to create the looks for Bridgerton.
MP: “I didn’t only mix regency looks with modern looks, I also mixed in other periods too. Lady Featherington’s look is very 1950s due to the shapes of her costumes, while Phillipa Featherington took on a slight 1940s feel. I modernised the Queen by adding locks, braids and afro textured hair, but still stuck to 18th century silhouettes.”
“I think my favourite look was Queen Charlotte’s Hastings ball look – a mixture of locks and intricate hair bows, topped off with two amazing gilt bird cages and jewelled cuffs made by the costume team especially for us. This wig took us three weeks to build. None of the looks were hard to create, because I chose my team well. They are all very experienced for each task I gave them, it’s what they do.”
Q: What three products do you always have in your kit?
Q: What advice would you give to people looking to branch out into film & TV hair?
MP: “My advice to people wanting to get into the industry is to practise, practise, practise. Know your history, and know your movie history as well – references are everything.”