Lyn Paolo’s Inspiration Behind Dressing Olivia Pope

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Fashion and politics don’t belong in the same sentence. Or do they? From the intertwined political drama to the intense romance between Olivia Pope and Fitzgerald “Fitz” Grant, there’s still so much to love about the hit series “Scandal” – especially Olivia’s wardrobe.

To be candid, I was never really a huge fan of experimenting with pastels.  I’m all about wearing pieces that identify with my bold personality. That changed after watching the show.

Who’s behind all of this? I had a chance to chat with the “Scandal” costume designer, Lyn Paolo, about Olivia’s feminine, but professional style, and Paolo’s thoughts on dressing powerful women.

MCOS: You’ve worked as a costume designer on some amazing shows including “The West Wing,” “Southland,” and “ER.” Your resume definitely doesn’t stop there. How is “Scandal” different and what do you enjoy most about working on the show? Lyn-

Lyn Paola: Yes, I have worked on many varied shows over the years and each show has both challenges and joys. For me, Scandal has become a particular favorite because of the collaboration with Kerry and because of the trust that Shonda Rhimes and her team have in my decision making. It is, for a creative being, a very nurturing and safe place for an artistic person to blossom.  I think everyone working on the show would agree.

What’s the craziest or funniest thing that has happened to you while working on the show?

The funniest thing that has happened to me whilst working on the show: I was walking down Ventura Boulevard  talking to Kerry on the phone about an upcoming episode. As I hung up I turned around and several people were grinning at me and then began telling me they heard me mention Scandal. They went on to tell me how much they loved the show. I was in my yoga gear and so unprepared to talk to fans. It was sweet.

Olivia is a fixer.  Very dominant. What inspires you to develop a look that’s super fem, yet it still communicates the strength of her character role?Kerry

OP is a very strong and intelligent woman, working in a male-oriented world. I simply strive to have her always look appropriate for her environment, but also I earnestly always want her to be feminine, almost ethereal.

You often see politicians or people that are affiliated with the political world wearing bold navy, grey or red. Olivia doesn’t and still manages to stand out. What prompted you to go for a stylish, political look that isn’t super traditional?

In researching this show and “The West Wing” before this show, I was intrigued by how conservative Washington has become, and I wanted to play against the traditional expectations of what a woman should wear in that world. OP is a defining person and I wanted her to glow, to be the center of attention in every room, and I felt that bringing back winter white or pale pastels would ensure that every ounce of light in a room would revolve around her.

Two of my favorite pieces from the series include the Salvatore Ferragamo cashmere coat and the Jean Fares gown. What designers are you using to make Olivia stand out this season? 

I have been using a lot of Dior this season (one of my favorites) and I am also using some edgier pieces from Alexander McQueen.  I think the audience will enjoy some of the new looks we have for Olivia this year.

What designers and trends jumped out at you during fashion week?

Gosh I loved Jason Wu.  Roland Mouret’s black and white stripes mixed with neon colors were amazing. In Paris, I am blown away by Raf Simmon’s work with Dior, so graceful, elegant and ultimately feminine. Ralph Lauren’s nod to the ’60s was fun and unexpected. Loved the Michael Kors show, felt like I had been transported to England of the late ’30s, lots of florals and softness.  I was surprised to see so much black and white, but equally as surprised and pleased to see gowns that were gowns again and not columns.

I think I’m one of many women with high hopes for a “Scandal” clothing line. Am I onto something?

You may be onto something. It is a work in progress. The issue for me is that I want to be true to our Gladiators [Olivia Pope and her team], and I would love to find collaboration in which the price point for our looks would be more reasonable to reach a wider market.

What style advice can you offer to women? Where can they shop to pull off similar looks?

I always say the same thing:  be true to yourself and your shape. Do not be a slave to fashion. Find a great seamstress in your neighborhood.

“Scandal” premiers Thursday October 3rd. Be sure to tune in.

1 Comment

  • Reply October 9, 2013

    Rahkal Shelton

    Wow!! Great questions and phenomenal interview overall. I’m not a big scandal fan but after learning the behind the scenes fashion scoop I may tune in. Interesting enough your opening is coinable. Fashion and politics are everything and married as well. You think of how much of a fashion icon Jacki Kennedy, Nancy Pelosi and Michelle Obama are. Especially Mrs. Obama she has totally redefined the true meaning of fashion and politics. Great post! Love it!!

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