'Scandal': Using Armani and Valentino to make Olivia Pope stand out in a 'male-dominated world'

Costume designer Lyn Paolo achieves just the right balance of professional yet feminine style with the wardrobe of legendary "fixer" Olivia Pope ( Kerry Washington) in the Thursday ABC series "Scandal."

"So often in TV and movies when a woman is playing a strong leadership role, they kind of end up getting dressed in very dark structured suits," Paolo tells Zap2it. "My idea was this woman would always be in lighter tones. That way she stands out in the male-dominated world."

Paolo has spent a lot of time in Washington, D.C., doing "The West Wing" and other projects, and she says it saddens her that women have to dress in masculine ways to fit in. Finding suits that are both lighter in color and softer in silhouette has proven quite the challenge.

"The main thing about Kerry for me is the color and the palette because the set is dark," Paolo says. "She almost always is in white, pinks, peaches and creams in that world. We ended up doing a lot of Escada, and many of the pieces are Armani. We've also used some Valentino. Kerry is open to any line at all as long as it has the right silhouette and complements her, obviously. She has amazing taste, which helps a lot when you are trying to explain your vision."

Paolo demonstrates the subtle ways she softens Olivia's style with a few examples:

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"The coat she is wearing is Tory Burch. A classic trench is often very stiff, but that particular coat is soft and lovely. Underneath is a Diane von Furstenberg peach blouse that is just beautiful. There are tiny gold buttons, and we try to do that a lot -- tiny touches.

"You'll notice that her jewelry is always pretty and evident and very much part of the outfit, but it's delicate, not heavy. We had the jewelry shipped in from Aspen so that Kerry wouldn't be wearing the same jewelry as everyone else in town, usually pearls or tiny little dangles to carry on the lighter theme with the clothes.

"Those are brown Armani pants."

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"This is one of the few times we did a darker suit, and it is Armani. It's very simple with a shawl collar. The shell underneath also is Armani, and we try to use that draped neckline a lot. Look how long her neck and legs look in that shot. We do that with the drape, which elongates her whole body.

"She looks feminine but strong. She obviously has style, but she is not self-conscious.

"We were lucky last year Armani did a lot of the shorter jackets because longer jackets can be overwhelming."

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"This is a Paul Smith suit in a champagne color. It has a sheen to it because there is silk in the jacket. She is wearing an Armani shell underneath. We didn't do any structured blouses.

"Kerry's got an amazing figure, and she is very diminutive, so we have to completely recut the garments for her. Anything that gives her length we go for, so that's why we do the shoes with the hidden platform. We used Chloe shoes almost overall."
Photo/Video credit: ABC
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