'Scandal' Costume Designer Sets The Bar For Legal Fashion
At Schiff Hardin event, fashion mastermind reveals sartorial secrets
The hit political thriller "Scandal" has attracted a fervid following of women lawyers as much for the glamorous clothes of its protagonist, high-powered crisis-fixer Olivia Pope, as for the racy drama and soapy intrigue.
The TV show's costume designer, Lyn Paolo, drew an enthusiastic crowd of about 80 sharply dressed lawyers for a Schiff Hardin women's networking event last week at the Savannah College of Art and Design's Digital Media Center.
Women watch the show, which begins its third season Oct. 3 on ABC, to see what Pope, played by Kerry Washington, will be wearing as she rushes about Washington's corridors of power in high heels and chic pantsuits, successfully negotiating hush-hush political crises and conservative Beltway fashion.
Law and fashion can seem like oxymorons, so Pope has become an icon for professional women who want to look great while succeeding at demanding jobs. The former White House communications director has become the go-to fixer for D.C.'s political elite, while carrying on a complicated personal life that includes an affair with the president.
Paolo shared her costuming insights for professional women in a conversation with Schiff Hardin partner Leah Ward Sears, a former chief justice of the Georgia Supreme Court and an ardent fan of the show.
Sears looked chic in a bottle-green sheath dress with cap sleeves and a just-below-the-knee skirt. A striking yet modest cutout below the jewel neckline and a sparkly gold brooch of the scales of justice added interest. The effect was tailored yet feminine, reminiscent of Olivia Pope's look on the show.
Paolo said a line from the pilot script—that Pope and her team at crisis-management firm Pope & Associates are "gladiators in suits"—gave her the idea for how they should be dressed.
"All of the characters in 'Scandal' are often closed off emotionally, so it's important to me that the suits are very tailored. The suits become their armor," said Paolo, who also designed the costumes for two other popular TV shows, "ER" and "The West Wing."
That was the vision Paolo said she pitched to the show's creator and scriptwriter, Shonda Rhimes.
Paolo often dresses her leading lady in white to emphasize Pope's white knight role, but she said it was a major battle with the production people to make that happen.