Costume designers often say that to copy a character’s look, all fans need to do is buy vintage, rip off sleeves and dye fabrics.
Maybe if you have a degree from Parsons or the Fashion Institute of Technology, those instructions make sense. And maybe looks can be created cheaper and easier.
Sometimes, however, the joy in a character is that it can’t be copied easily.
“People keep wanting us to do looks for less,” says costume designer Lyn Paolo tells Zap2it. “I think it is unfair to our gladiator. Olivia Pope is Olivia Pope.”
Paolo had a vision for Pope before she knew Washington was cast.
“I talked about the essence of femininity,” Paolo says of meeting with show creator Shonda Rhimes. “And I didn’t want to do another woman in a gray suit or a boring suit, and I wanted this to be elegant femininity.”
A woman can show her curves tastefully and not be in a boxy suit.
“I didn’t want Olivia Pope to look like a man in a suit, which is what we see,” Paolo says. “I had a big fight with the network. They wanted a tough exterior to this woman, and I feel like, as women, we are smart. We don’t need to pretend to be men. It is more powerful when we come to these meetings from a female point of view.”
To make Olivia stand out in a room, Paolo put her in an elegant white suit. Pope’s palette is subdued in whites, grays and very soft pinks.
A great trench coat is “just an iconic, powerful image,” Paolo says. “You think of Humphrey Bogart, you think of the trench. It is an iconic American image. It is not a European image, not what we Brits think of. It’s ’40s, ’50s, ’60s, Steve McQueen [in] ’Bullitt.’ This is Tory Burch. I just love that image.”
Paolo, who loves old movies, shares that she tells Washington to be, “Kate Hepburn during the day and Audrey Hepburn at night.”
Los Angeles milliner Louise Green created this hat and made several with different brim widths.
Pope has a wardrobe of white jackets. “When she is with a client, she is always in a jacket,” Paolo says. “When she is just with her team, she will be in a shell or a blouse.”
The glamorous Jean Fares gown has silver beading, but on camera, it looks gold. “It is a very complicated dress when you get inside it,” Paolo says. “It is very structured, a very difficult dress constructionwise and beautifully executed.”
Before each episode, Paolo says, “I read the script and break it down. Kerry will be the first person to tell you she is not Olivia Pope.”