Bridgerton's Nicola Coughlan reveals surprising side effect of wearing regency dresses on the hit show

Stills of Coughlan in Bridgerton
Nicola Coughlan has revealed an unexpected side effect of wearing regency gowns. Photo credit: Netflix/Everett Collection

Look, it's no secret that the humble corset caused our ancestors a lot of suffering, plaguing our great-great-great(-great?) grandmothers with a myriad of health problems.

According to the Royal College of Surgeons of England, women often felt faint as the tightly laced corsets restricted their breathing. Compressing the abdominal organs could also contribute to poor digestion and over time, the back muscles could atrophy - with long-term, tight lacing known to lead to the deformity of the rib cage. Astoundingly, the garment continues to make comebacks in fashion and variations are still widely worn today.

Taking to social media over the weekend, Irish actress Nicola Coughlan - who rose to prominence as Penelope Featherington in the popular Netflix period drama Bridgerton - revealed an unexpected side effect of wearing regency gowns while filming the third season, in which she is set to be the leading lady.

The 35-year-old shared a behind-the-scenes glimpse at the surprising side effect associated with the dresses, which historically featured an empire waist and full skirt over a petticoat. Beneath the gowns women often wore stays - the corsets of the era - to support and amplify their, ahem, assets as well as a knee-length shift.

"And so… the Bridgertan* returns," Coughlan teased in an Instagram Story on Friday (local time), alongside a picture of her showing off a visible sunburn.

"*Sunburn you get while wearing a regency dress," she clarified.

In the photo, a smiling Coughlan slightly pulled down her costume to emphasise her burned chest, collarbone and décolletage due to the dress's low neckline. 

Coughlan's Instagram post showing her sunburn
Well, we now know what a 'Bridgertan' is. Photo credit: Nicola Coughlan / Instagram

Filming for season three of Bridgerton reportedly began earlier this year, with the upcoming series set to focus on the relationship between Penelope and the dashing Colin Bridgerton, played by Luke Newton.

After their fallout, Penelope has "decided it's time to take a husband, preferably one who will provide her with enough independence to continue her double life as Lady Whistledown, far away from her mother and sisters, but lacking in confidence, Penelope's attempts on the marriage mart fail spectacularly," as per the synopsis.

At the same time, Colin "has returned from his summer travels with a new look and a serious sense of swagger," the synopsis continues. "But he's disheartened to realise that Penelope, the one person who always appreciated him as he was, is giving him the cold shoulder. 

"Eager to win back her friendship, Colin offers to mentor Penelope in the ways of confidence to help her find a husband this season. But when his lessons start working a little too well, Colin must grapple with whether his feelings for Penelope are truly just friendly."

The season takes inspiration from Julia Quinn's fourth book in the Bridgerton series, Romancing Mister Bridgerton.

In May, Coughlan shared with E! News that the next instalment is "gonna be a lot different" from the previous material, revealing that her character "finally becomes a woman and comes into herself".

"A lot of it gets rewritten until the last moment," she added, regarding the plotline.

"They make every single costume from scratch, including for all the supporting artists," she added. "I saw a picture of [Newton] from a fitting today and they've taken him from 'boyband' to 'leading man' in a major way."

Speaking to Glamour UK earlier this year, Simone Ashley - the breakout star of the second season - recounted the story of her very first day on set, where she made the mistake of eating a full meal before getting into costume. 

"I realised when you wear the corset, you just don't eat. It changes your body. I had a smaller waist very momentarily," said Ashley, who is set to reprise her role as Kathani "Kate" Sharma in the third instalment. 

She also referred to her experience wearing a corset as "interesting", noting that the frequent wearing of the garment as part of her costumes also caused her "a lot of pain".

"I think I tore my shoulder at one point," she admitted.