Scandal Costume Designer Lyn Paolo Is Shopping for Capes and Gloves

She's seeing a clear Olivia Pope Effect on designers at NYFW.

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This post originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com.

Olivia Pope wears the white hat—but according to Scandal costume designer Lyn Paolo, Kerry Washington will also be wearing the best of New York Fashion Week when season three premieres Oct 3. An  Emmy-winner who costumed the casts of ER and The West Wing (and also works on Showtime's Shameless), Paolo is at NYFW looking at collections before they walk the runways—and seeing a clear Olivia Pope Effect. She talked to Cosmopolitan.com about pulling from the runway, her obsessive rules about Gladiator white, and getting paid to fit Tony Goldwyn in Ralph Lauren Black Label.

Welcome to New York!

I just did a huge shopping trip for the Gladiators. I went through Saks going, ‘That’s an Abby,’ ‘Oh, that’s a Quinn.’

How does NYFW inform your work on Scandal?

NYFW is really about continuing relationships. It’s important because when people are friends of the show, they're more likely to pick up the phone and say, ‘Lyn, I’m doing this now.’ And they do. I see images before they even get to Fashion Week. I’m going to the Dior show and peeking at Vera Wang, Donna Karan, Calvin Klein and then some smaller designers. There's a gown that I want to see while I'm in town. I can't tell you what it is, but someone sent me sketches that I’m really interested in…

Intriguing. Do you come with specific plot points in mind, like, ‘I need a dress for that state dinner?’

We get our scripts two days before shooting, so I can’t do that. Looking at the collections, I’m just thinking, ‘How can I get ahead?’ You have to have the confidence that you will use the piece for a character. For instance, we have a Dior evening coat that I bought six weeks ago that has just been sitting in Kerry’s room and this week, the moment came. It’s amazingly collaborative. I will email Shonda (Rhimes) a picture and say, ‘Look what I found!’ And she’ll go, ‘God, I’m going to write a scene for that.’ She said, ‘Send me pictures from Fashion Week, show me what you’re seeing!’ Because she will tailor a scene around it.

Have you sent her anything yet that screams Olivia Pope?

Yes, I’ve been texting her and Kerry. I'm madly in love with Dior right now. They're bringing back capes and I'm mad about capes. There are going to be a lot of cape and glove moments. Have you seen the Alexander McQueen capes? Just phenomenal. The softest cashmere and when you move, it just flows behind you. There's already been a cape moment on the promo in the white Burberry. And we’re really pushing to bring back gloves. It's kind of funny, because [Olivia] wore them last year and all of a sudden this year, they're back.

Do you think you're influencing designers?

I know. At the CFDAs, a bunch of designers told us they're incorporating gloves this year because they just loved how the gloves looked on the show. I’m not going to say who, but gloves are everywhere now! It’s a huge compliment but I'm always sort of amazed that they have time to watch.

So… do Dior and McQueen lend you these capes and coats?

No, we buy everything. People are happy to loan us things, but honestly, in Scandal world, we never know if we’re going to flashback or flashforward. We need to have our hands on that piece for at least 10 to 12 days to film and then we might need it again if we flashback.

Do they give you a nice big budget?

Yes. They have to.

Have they upped it since the show has gotten so much bigger?

Well, there’s a negotiation that goes on. But they know we’re doing 187 costume changes in a one-hour drama. We are are mindful of not being crazy. I don’t buy the $35,000 gowns. I might look at them, but we don’t buy them.

You just stick to the $10,000 gowns?

(laughs) We try to have some balance. No disrespect because I loved Sex and the City, but when I’m talking to the producers about what we’re doing, I go, ‘Look, it’s not Sex and the City.’ [“Sex"] was a fantasy and a huge fashion moment for television. Everything was brand new. I’d like to do a show like that where we can just throw crap and be like, ‘Here! Put this hat on! Because we can!’ But I have to pull myself back.

Are more designers calling now than they did in season one?

We have people calling constantly, and people that we love. For instance, someone sent me this amazing St. John coat but it was black so I wrote to them and said, ‘Can you produce this in winter white?’ and they said, ‘Sure, we can.’ But it's been a little overwhelming this year because everybody wants to be on the show. And a lot of people want an exclusive episode. I actually came up with the idea of one designer dressing one character for an entire episode and then I realized, I rarely put the characters all in one designer. I always like to mix it up. Buying a suit is sort of stale. [Olivia] only wears a suit when it's a very specific moment—a very structured event, like a press conference.

Do you have specific rules for what Olivia wears and when?

Kerry and I are a little obsessive. Like, she can only wear white when she's wearing the white hat. When she doesn't know what she's doing, she wears grey. If she's in a lot of trouble, and she's conflicted, she's in black and white. At Saks this week, they were showing me all of these dresses and I was like, ‘Olivia doesn't wear dresses. She only wears dresses in the past. That was when she was happy and in love with Fitz. Now she wears the pants because that's who she has to be now.’ She always wears a platform sole—Miu Miu, Prada, Gucci—to stay solidly rooted to the ground. But if she's feeling vulnerable we'll put her in a Manolo stiletto with a pointed toe, and she teeters a bit more. We change the shoes up a lot. People don't notice.

Are you looking for men’s stuff at NYFW too?

I'm looking for everybody. Everybody this year is getting a little more stylish, except for dear old Huck. Tony wears Ralph Lauren Black Label, Armani, a little Hugo Boss, a little Zegna. I have a couple of assistants that I constantly tease, especially Nicholas, who has an amazing crush on him. Every time Tony comes in for a fitting, I go, 'Nicholas, can you please bring me some pins?' I just love to see Nicholas go bright red.

Follow Michelle on Twitter @michelleruiz.

 


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