‘Scandal’ Series Finale: Costume Designer Reflects on the Impact of Olivia Pope’s Fashion

Over eight years and seven seasons, costume designer Lyn Paolo has helped create and develop one of TV’s most talked-about characters: Kerry Washington’s Olivia Pope. Featuring Prada, Gucci, Miu Miu, Manolo Blahnik, Jimmy Choo and many more labels, “Scandal” has become one of the most fashionable shows of all time — so much so that The Limited launched a collection inspired by the series in 2014.

Set Secrets Scandal
On the “Scandal” set.
CREDIT: Courtesy of ABC

For Paolo, this buzzy reaction to the onscreen style came unexpectedly.

“It was surprising because I approach every job exactly the same way. But I think the attention was because of Shonda Rhimes and her love and affinity for social media — and, of course, Kerry. It was the confluence of everyone working together,” Paolo said. (The ratings escalation for “Scandal” was partly due to the cast’s live-tweeting of each episode.)

WWD Fashion Forum
“Scandal” costume designer Lyn Paolo.
CREDIT: Christina Hilliard.

“My team creates a digital stylebook for each actor, and we send to them two days before the episode airs, so if fans ask what they wore, the actors can respond in real time. This makes it more intimate with the audience,” Paolo added. “It’s our version of the red carpet.”

Looking back at her time on “Scandal,” Paolo said the show’s end is bittersweet.

“We are a family,” she said. “I just adore [Kerry]. Not just as an actor — she’s a decent human. She’s a great leader, and to have her No. 1 on a call sheet has been a privilege. We are in awe of her.”

As far as costumes go, Olivia Pope’s remained the most consistent, Paolo said. And throughout the final season, she was seen in more edgy looks — even down to her shoes. “We [went with] a lot of metal spikes and pointed stilettos. [Since she was] in the White House, we’ve wanted to reflect that [power] in the clothing,” she said.

Scandal
A scene from “Scandal.”
CREDIT: Courtesy of ABC

Paolo’s most memorable moment? It was “Scandal’s” 100th episode, and Olivia gets married in a dream sequence.

“We put Kerry in a princess dress, which is something Olivia would probably never pick, but that was the point. We were getting Kerry dressed, and she has her jeans on underneath. We didn’t think anything of it; we were just enjoying the moment. When Kerry walked out, the whole congregation of extras stood up and started applauding and cheering. It was a weird, joyous moment. It was a great day.”

For Washington, the shoes always played a major role in connecting to her character. Paolo said, “Many actors I know feel strongly that if you find the right shoe, then all of sudden they become that character. The shoe is the No. 1 thing you pick before anything else. Your feet touches the earth. It’s really important and pivotal.”

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