It feels like forever since the "Pretty Little Liars" August mid-season finale left us hanging with Noel literally losing his head, "Game of Thrones"-style, Ali announcing her pregnancy and Spencer finding out she's Mary Drake's mystery kid (and catching a bullet to the chest by wild shot Jenna). In short, the series has plenty of story lines and mysteries to wrap up in the remainder of the seventh — and final — season, including 10 episodes worth of fashion. After all, the outfits pretty much earned the role of sixth Liar on the show, thanks to six-plus, over-the-top years of teenage looks by costume designer Mandi Line and the sort of professional, five-years-forward makeovers by Cameron Dale, who finished out the series.
"It's not so much about the fashion for this last half," said Shay Mitchell, who plays Emily, at the Zimmermann Fall 2017 runway show during NYFW. "It's more about the relationships and putting the bow on the whole seven seasons." This makes sense: Aside from Em, who actually found employment in Rosewood during the first half of the final season, the rest of the Liars took a collective career-hiatus back in their Hellmouth of a hometown to focus on the second coming of their Big Bad, now known as A.D. or Uber A.
"There's not as much career going on," Dale tells Fashionista, on the phone from Los Angeles. "There's a lot of running from Uber A." And the Liars are dressing for the action; the fashion in the remainder of the series is all about function, including, "a lot less high heels. A lot of cute denim, [low] booties and leather jackets."
Newly single Hanna (Ashley Benson), who's maybe still pursuing her Lucas-backed start-up fashion line when she's not dabbling in kidnap and torture, is putting her sexy red dresses and Louboutins on hold. "There's a lot of action-packed scenes," Dale says. "Ashley loves her high-waisted vintage Levi's and we did a lot of different kinds of satin bombers for her. So definitely things she can comfortably run through the forest from Uber A in."
As for artsy Aria (Lucy Hale), who's anxiously awaiting Fitz's return (with a rescued Nicole?) from the "rebel-held" jungles of "Colombia," she still mixing prints — a holdover from her high school days. Dale dressed the wunderkind author in casual, running-from-Uber-A-wear, like Isabel Marant wedge sneakers (Aria's preference for athletic shoes, if you recall her boxing classes with Jake), high-waisted denim, and pieces from the Asos and Topshop petite lines.
Emily returns to her roots as a swimming coach at Rosewood High, so her scenes consist of lots of sportswear and athleisure, like yoga pants with mesh insets. "Shay loves her Adidas and Nike, so she definitely wins the comfort award for all those girls in [season] 7B," Dale says. Although, Mitchell — a fashion obsessive in real life — wasn't enamored with her character's athletic gear. "[What will I] not miss? Having to [wear] that bathing suit again," Mitchell laughed at NYFW. "And maybe some of those track suits."
Newly preggo Alison (Sasha Pieterse) won't be wearing Pea in the Pod or basic maternity gear because "she's not showing." Dale explains that "PLL" creator I. Marlene King's directive for Alison's aesthetic was "Reese Witherspoon," leading to lots of feminine florals and maxi-dresses, high-waisted bell-bottoms, a soft color palette of pinks, light browns, and tans — all paired with heels. "Even if they were running through the forest, [Pieterse] would want her wedge heels," explains Dale. "And then the whole crew would look at me like I was crazy, but I would be like, 'She wanted them! I swear I'm not trying to kill her.'"
As for Spencer, once she's out of her hospital gown, she'll be back to her "super-classic preppy East Coast vibe," including "so, so much Rag & Bone," more high-waisted denim and "some cute rhinestone booties." The aspiring policy wonk will also carry her signature trench coat game through to the very end, with pieces from Cos and Zara in various on-brand Hastings hues like mustard and navy. "She probably has, like, 20 different trench coats," says Dale, who's currently working on King's new Freeform series starring Bella Thorne, "Famous in Love."
Despite the town's spiking murder rate, Rosewood residency does offer an upside: it's always layering season. "I call it the jacket show because it's always fall in Rosewood," laughs Dale. But the need for outerwear does bring one major challenge, especially for the group scenes, because you can't have two Liars wearing similar moto jackets or bombers. "It's tricky with all these girls [because] you want to really differentiate them," she says.
Of course, Line understands the fine art of sartorially individualizing each Liar, as she designed and established the characters for seasons one through 6A — forever associating Aria with everything feathered and Hanna with absurdly inappropriate funeral attire. (Maya Mani of the CW's "Arrow" did the pilot.) After experiencing enthusiastic feedback from dressing "Greek"'s Ashleigh character in outrageous collegial fashion, Line reached an epiphany.
"Do not underestimate the viewer to want to check out," she explains, in regards to the heightened fashion on the show. "'Gossip Girl' did it, too. It wasn't that I was copying them, because they were in an elite world. So how do I do this?" The answer was easy: Line looked to what she wishes she wore back in high school. "Oh my god, I want to wear knee socks and gloves and I want to wear this many belts. I want to have 5,000 bracelets on and rings," she continues. "They were my dolls and Marlene King never said no. I had no limits."
"Pretty Little Liars" premiering and quickly skyrocketing in popularity during the nascent years of live-tweeting and spontaneous (and quaintly authentic) Instagram shots helped spread the show's fashion gospel and allowed the public to peek in at the synergy between the costume designer and Hale, Benson, Mitchell and Bellisario — who currently have a combined Instagram following of nearly 60 million. "It was like lightning in a bottle," says Line, from the set of her new show "The Arrangement" on E!.
"I helped push them [to be active on social media] and they helped push me because we had each other's backs," she adds. "These days, you can barely get people to post stuff for you. It's all about the individual. I think it was really special timing when we all supported each other."
Under Line's watch, the fashion delightfully jumped the shark leading up to the long-awaited fairy tale prom in season 6A. "It came from me challenging myself," says Line. "And it came from knowing [the actresses] were so much in the media's eye and the fans. I wanted to keep jaws dropping."
Despite designing original pieces for all those Halloween specials, the seemingly endless number of non-prom dances (that always culminated in an A crisis) and the '40s noir, black and white episode, Line found that custom-creating the fairy tale-inspired prom gowns was her most challenging task during the series. "By that time, [the actresses] were already fashion icons, so I had to step up my game," she says. "It was a little tougher because their eyes were keener. It all had to be perfect. But my favorite was the masquerade ball [in the season two finale]. They were so new, fresh and young. Aria's [gown] was built based on a dress from the VMAs. I've had so many people copy that black and red dress."
Although, the most couture and challenging of all the costumes might be — surprisingly — those damn black hoodies worn by A, Uber A and all the red herring menaces throughout all seven seasons. A zip-up that fits perfectly, but that has a hood deep enough to obscure the faces of Mona, Toby, Shana, et al., just isn't on the market.
"[The Uber A hoodie is] like a mishmash," says Dale. "We steal a hood [from an industrial hoodie], put it on the slimmer body of an Alternative Apparel or American Apparel hoodie and then make the zippers dark. The hoodie probably cost $8 wholesale from a uniform store and then at the very end it probably costs a couple hundred bucks after all the tailoring we do to it."
But rest assured "Pretty Little Liars" superfans: The final stretch of the show isn't all about Frankenstein hoodies and weekend-wear.
"There's some really good moments for super-cute, semi-formal outfits for a big event," hints Dale. "We had done so much denim and leather and casual outfits for the whole last part of the season, so [we made sure to] insert some dresses and some heels." Please, please let "Pretty Little Liars" end with a #Haleb wedding. We've earned it.