Lyn Paolo

Ever wonder who is the mastermind behind all of Olivia Pope’s amazing outfits? Ever think about who is responsible for you looking in the mirror and thinking “I am so channeling Olivia Pope today”? (Okay, we do that all the time. Hopefully you do too…)

The answer to those questions lies with Scandal’s costume designer Lyn Paolo, who controls the narrative of the story more than you’d think. Subtleties in outfits and changes in wardrobe are such a huge part of what propels these characters forward and defines them (kind of like hair and makeup…did you see Abby Whelan’s transformation first episode?) We chatted with the costume designer on stitching, Scandal and LA restaurants…

From start to finish, what would be your ideal food day?

I strive to eat early, because I dislike breakfast so eating first thing is an issue for me, but coffee is big (my one addiction) then a juice from Totes or Pressed Juicery. Lunch is salad with fish. Dinner is whatever I am making for my son, but a much smaller portion. I strive to have only organic food in my home and lots and lots of fruit.

Where do you draw your inspiration when making costume decisions on Scandal?

Honestly, the tone of the script and the emotional context of each character are where I start. The script is everything. Then I start to imagine how that emotion would translate. Clothing and emotions are so tied together, although we may not be aware of that moment in the morning as we look into the dark abyss of our closet. Then it is research: who is this person, what are their perceptions etc. I am also an avid reader and I am constantly tearing pages out of magazines – and not just fashion magazines. I’ll see an image in Time, or National Geographic or online that resonates, and I tend to go back and use those as inspiration. But what is on the page starts the process.

If you could pick three characteristics that define Olivia Pope and her wardrobe, what would they be?

Olivia is a conundrum: so strong and yet so vulnerable, full of compassion and empathy for her clients and yet at moments capable of changing a persons life overnight, some times for the better but at other times not. That is why she is so fascinating to dress.

Olivia’s color palette is darker in the past (flashbacks) than in the present. Why is that?

I think the silhouette of Olivia in the past is the main difference. She does still wear white but she seems more feminine in the past, and less-structured: more skirts and softer lines, such as the amazing Ralph Lauren sweaters she wore at Camp David. She was a woman in love, so we dress Olivia in softer more casual looks: jeans, sweaters, twin sets and lots and lots of skirts and dresses. They were sometimes darker, but they had a softer sensibility – more innately feminine.

What designers are you using and why?

Like my own closet, we go to a designer because of the garment not because of the name. We use a wide range of designers: Armani, Escada, Max Mara, Valentino, and Christian Dior were all huge favorites for Olivia in the first two seasons. The quality and outlines suggest elegance and strength. They all have amazing fabrics that evoke a Washington style that also exudes a feminine flavor. For flashbacks we go to some American time-honored designers – specifically Ralph Lauren – who we felt were the perfect way to reflect the elegance of a Camp David that may no longer exist. We wanted to paint an iconic image and Ralph Lauren helped to create that image. This season, because our story lines are even more serious, and the audience will see that there is a lot of internal conflict for Olivia, she will seem more buttoned up and more closed off. We have been using Alexander McQueen and Burberry as well as go to designers such as Armani. Additionally, we try to ensure that our loungewear has it’s own life and it’s own Olivia Pope style. We mix many designers to create the Olivia Pope who relaxes with her popcorn and red wine. Donna Karan, La Perla, and Natori are the usual combination for that look.

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