Scandal Costume Designer (and Our Conference Keynote) on Olivia Pope's New Wardrobe

Sounds like Olivia's ditching all that white for season three. There will still be gloves, though.
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Dhani Mau
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Sounds like Olivia's ditching all that white for season three. There will still be gloves, though.
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So, in case you haven't heard, our New York "How to Make It in Fashion" conference was so awesome we're doing another one next month in Los Angeles.

The City of Angels is also obviously the capital of Hollywood players including actors and the more-up-our-alley costume designers. And we got one of our favorites, Lyn Paolo, to be one of three keynote speakers at next month's event. Most notably the costume designer of the hit show Scandal, the Emmy Award winner has worked on The West Wing, Southland, and also currently works on Shameless.

Of course, few shows have garnered as much attention from the fashion crowd as Scandal, probably because few of television's leading ladies look as consistently stunning as Kerry Washington's character Olivia Pope. From her feminine white suits to her show-stopping evening gowns to her vintage-y gloves, Olivia Pope never fails to impress, and yet somehow still looks like a real person--a testament to Paolo's skills.

Just about every cast member who came down the red carpet sang Paolo's praises and was especially appreciative of how collaborative she is--all of the actors have plenty of input into what they wear.

We had the pleasure of chatting with Paolo at last night's Scandal Season 3 premiere event at Saks Fifth Avenue (the show recently embarked on a collaboration with the retailer) on working on a show that's a hit with the fashion obsessed, the importance of featuring clothes that viewers can go out and buy (as they're watching), and how fashion plate Washington influences her character.

Read on for that--and don’t forget to get your ticket to Fashionista’s “How to Make It in Fashion” conference in L.A. on November 8 to hear even more.

Any exciting costume developments for the "gladiators" this season? I think you'll be surprised this season. A bunch of our characters are changing their looks. I'm reticent to tell you what they're changing into, but it's all driven by the fact that things are changing dramatically in all of their lives. Thinking about the end of the season where Quinn was, she's baby Huck and we talk about her being baby Huck, so she's had a definite style evolution. Before, she was all Marc Jacobs and Peter Pan collars. That's gone. Abby is going to be a little softer this year because she found love again. But really elegant. You'll be surprised by what she's wearing.

And Olivia? Olivia's Olivia...

So still lots of white? Actually, not so much. Maybe she's not wearing the white hat this year. There's a lot of style evolution for Olivia this year.

We always get excited about her formal dresses. Can you tell us who will be designing some this season? It's a secret because they actually made them [custom] for us this year, so right before the show airs you'll start hearing about it.

Like a cross-promotion? From my point of view it's not promotional. We want people every week to watch the show to see what happens on the show, but also to see what we've done with the clothing. For me, it's more about getting things that are fresh and new before they hit the stores and being way ahead of the fashion curve. I don't want the characters wearing something that was in the stores six months ago; I want to get clothes that are going to be in the stores when the episodes air.

The fashion on Scandal--and the show as a whole--have gained a lot of attention specifically from fashion publications, probably more than any other series you've worked on. Does that effect the way you do your job? I do the same job on this show that I do on every other show. I think it's a mixture of Kerry ['s fashion profile] and Shonda's writing that have made [the show's wardrobe] resonate with people. It's gratifying and it's wonderful, but I just go to work every day and do the same job I do on every other show I do.

Kerry posing with her Saks window installation

Kerry posing with her Saks window installation

Does Kerry's growing fashion profile have any impact on the show? Kerry is Kerry, Olivia Pope is Olivia Pope. We keep the two worlds very separate. I try not to have her personal fashion impact the show's fashion because Olivia is just a very different person from Kerry Washington and when you see Kerry on the red carpet, she's stunning and wears amazing colors and is very fashion-forward, and even though Olivia wears amazing clothes, she couldn't wear the things that Kerry Washington wears.

Did she have any involvement in the Saks collaboration? I came and pulled the clothes and I went downstairs in the basement, which was amazing and we were on the phone every day. Kerry came up with the idea of the rose garden and she couldn't be here, but I would send her pictures back and forth.

Kerry mentioned that you guys came here in the middle of the night... We came here at 1:30 in the morning last night; I was behind her in my car coming from the airport and she was like, 'Oh my god, this window is this,' and we were yelling at each other on the phone and nobody bothered us, they didn't even notice it was us, but we had a great time.