Scandal’s Style Secrets with Lyn Paolo
Posted On Apr 21, 2016
Since 2012, Gladiators from around the globe routinely join forces on Thursday nights as they enter into the wonderful world of ShondaLand. The on-going love triangle among Olivia Pope, President Fitzgerald, and Jake Ballard isn’t the only facet that magnetizes worldwide audiences. In fact, actress Kerry Washington’s authentic style, captivating fashions, and overall riveting attire strikingly evokes every woman’s fashion envy and tantalizing wardrobe obsession.
All in all, it is safe to say that TGIT would not be the same without the driving force of Lyn Paolo’s creative genius behind the evolutionary style statements of your favorite onscreen characters, including Olivia Pope, Quinn Perkins, and Elizabeth North. The British costume designer’s extensive resume isn’t limited to the power players of Scandal because she is the ultimate fashion fixer within the realms of Hollywood. Her credentials are impalpable by architecting the timeless garments of such casts as ER, The West Wing, Animal Kingdom, and Shameless, but it doesn’t stop there! This fashioner was recently honored as the Costume Designer of the Year at the first-ever Variety and WWD Stylemakers ceremony, which speaks volumes to her groundbreaking endeavors throughout the years.
After speaking with the Emmy-Award-Winning costumier, her infectious personality and ability to successfully fuse her passion for fashion were beyond evident. During our candid conversation, we discussed the top three looks she’s outfitted, personal definition of style, and why it is important for the mother of two to travel around the globe in an effort to enlighten young people about the limitless opportunities within the world of fashion.
New You: When did you first fall in love with the world of fashion?
Lyn Paolo: Honestly, I’ve always loved fashion and have always been enamored with it. However, I am a coal miner’s daughter and grew up in the North of England and because of this I did not have much access to the fashion world.
I recall my early access into fashion was through music especially music videos. Actually, one of the reasons I lecture across the country at schools and Universities as well as back in England is to inform young generations that this world of fashion truly exists. Although I fell in love with it from an early age, I really did not know how to move forward with pursuing my passion for fashion while growing up.
NY: If you had a time machine, what is your favorite fashion era you would like to travel to?
LP: Oh my gosh, there are so many (laughs). It is really hard for me because I have my favorites in each period. I absolutely love everything about Dior’s New Look particularly the silhouette.
NY: What is your personal definition of style? Is it necessarily the type of clothes a person wears or does it involve a person’s confidence more than anything else? Why/why not?
LP: Personally, I do not believe you should follow a fashion format just to say that you have style because I think having style is more about being true to yourself. I have a variety of friends who have what one would consider to be style but they certainly look very different from each other. All in all, it is more about having that sense of internal confidence about feeling good in everything that you wear.
NY: If the fashion world takes away one lesson from your legacy as a costume designer what is the message you hope rings loud and clear?
LP: Again, I believe whoever you are or however you define yourself, the ultimate goal is about remaining true to yourself and taking from fashion what works best for you. This is something that I execute with all of the characters I work with because [obviously] they are not real people. My role in all of this somewhat entails or allows me to create and make up worlds.
Therefore, if the fashion world were to take away one lesson from my legacy as a costume designer, I would hope that they understand it is important to treat yourself as a character in your own book. For instance, if you were to write a script about yourself, that you wanted to present to the world I would forewarn people to be as subjective as possible about themselves. Treat your life as a Shonda Rhimes script with the mindset of, here I am in the middle of this script, who do I want to be in this very moment? With the world as your audience, this is how you pick and choose exactly what to wear.
NY: What excited you the most about working on this season [Season 5] of Scandal?
LP: It is tricky to say what has excited me the most because we honestly are unaware of what will transpire in future episodes. In a very smart way, Shonda [Rhimes] maintains the story lines that she will eventually disclose in her own brain. In other words, at the start of each season I am unaware of what is going to happen.
On the other hand, I will admit, this current season right after the midseason break, being able to create a drastic change in Olivia’s [Pope] look has been amazingly fun and exhilarating. Although Kerri [Washington] and I are having a great time, it has also been exceptionally challenging. Similar to yourself or anyone else if you become accustomed to dressing a certain way, you begin to think to yourself, “OK this is who I am.”
As a result, the neutral palette on Olivia became second nature and having to change it up as well as viewing a variety of factors from a very different point of view has been extremely great for us. In a way, it is like flexing a brand new muscle leading to your brain not being able to quite wrap itself around everything that is occurring. In the grand scheme of things, it would be a lot easier to stick to the neutral base because we have it mastered. Nonetheless, switching gears from Olivia’s neutral palettes to the bold new colorful palettes has been tremendously fun, exciting, and at the same time challenging. Not to mention, it has opened the doors for us to utilize new designers in the process.
NY: To date, what has been your top three favorite looks you’ve had to create from any of the characters on Scandal?
LP: I don’t know, because it is so hard for me to pick just three! Personally speaking, I would not say I have three favorite looks because it is more about the transitional wardrobe phases.
For example, I have to reiterate once again that I absolutely loved transitioning Olivia into the new color palette. It has been really brilliant, to say the least. I also loved transitioning Quinn from previous Peter Pan colors, shift dresses, and jackets on the first couple of seasons until now. To date, she has transformed into wearing dominatrix, super spy leather jackets, skinny jeans, and boots.
Lastly, Porsha has evolved from a very conservative, suit type of look, which is standard to Washington D.C., into channeling classic movie news reporters such as Jean Harlow and Katharine Hepburn. During the era of Hepburn and Harlow, they would wear big, wide calypso pants, and cool shirts.
At the end of the day, it is never just about the outfits but more about entire looks. For me these three transitions in characters, I have loved and I am still having a great time in the process.
Stay Connected with Lyn Paolo: