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Calling all Scandal fans: an interview with Costume Buyer, Kristine Haag.

Shonda Rhimes has done it again. Well-known for being the creator of Seattle based hospital drama, Grey’s Anatomy (which has recently been renewed for a tenth season!), Rhimes has been getting well deserved praise for her political thriller-drama Scandal on ABC which has just finished its second season this month.

The drama follows Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington) a former communications director to the President of the United States, who has left the White House to open her own prominent crisis management firm.

The show has been a great success and has been getting particular attention around the fabulous costumes. Recently, I had the opportunity to speak to the exceptionally talented Costume Buyer, Kristine Haag who gave the low-down on all things costume design in Scandal.

On Screen Fashion: Scandal is on it’s second season – how long have you been working on it? What’s it like to work on?

Kristine Haag: I started on episode 4 of the second season and we just wrapped for hiatus. It is very intense. Scripts come out the day before we shoot and its always a crazy rush to get it all to camera on time. In fact, my co-workers have renamed our show ‘Scramble’.

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OSF: What type of research did you do to prepare for the show?

KH: Research for me was just about watching season one and having a really close look at the character design so I could just hit the ground running. Lyn Paolo, our Costume Designer, had already established the characters’ designs, so it was pretty clear after having a closer look at the first season.  This show is about contemporary, affluent, Washington DC power players.  We look to current high-end designers as inspiration which means lots of magazine research. Fashion is the name of the game for this show.

OSF:  Can you talk through the different designers used in the show? Where else did you source costumes from?

KH: For our lead character Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington), we shop primarily at Giorgio Armani, Emporio Armani, Escada, Ralph Lauren, and Christian Dior. We also source Prada for hand bags which means lots of trips to Rodeo Drive! For other characters, we turn to Brooks Brothers and shop a variety of brands from the better department stores like Bloomingdales, Nordstrom, Sacks Fifth Ave, Barneys, and Neiman Marcus.

OSF: The main character Olivia Pope wears some lovely pieces – what are your favourites?

KH: That is a hard choice to make. I really love the Ann Demeulemeester cropped white jacket I found at Barneys and the White Escada evening gown. All of her Ralph Lauren sheath dresses are amazing too; so clean and chic, they are amazing! She has so many great coats and blazers in her closet… it is really hard to pick a favourite.

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OSF: Typically, a woman with power and working in politics would be dressed in primary colours yet Olivia’s colour palette seems far more subtle with neutral colours – what’s the story behind this?

KH: Lyn Paolo  our Costumer Designer came up with this idea and its just genius. Olivia Pope is a very strong woman and she wears lots of power suits, but to make her different from everyone else in the frame they chose this colour palette of neutrals. It looks amazing on Kerry and it adds a wonderful layer of feminine quality to the character. We are very careful to not use Olivia’s colours on anyone else.

OSF: Will we see bolder colours on Olivia in the future?

KH: That’s an excellent question. I won’t say its impossible. However, I think it would have to be in a moment where it furthers the story.

OSF: How closely do you work with overall Costume Designer Lyn Paolo?

KH: I work very closely with Lyn every day. She is very close to all the actors and Shonda Rhimes. Lyn talks everything over with them and then we talk about what she needs for the fittings. I take her notes and ideas with me when I go out into the world to find all the essential pieces. Lyn has exquisite taste and loves beautiful things. I think this is why we work so well together.

Scandal

OSF: A lot of woman that are fans of the show want to dress like Olivia – what advice would you give them?

KH: Know your body. Understand how to find a great blazer that flatters you; not all blazers are equal. Get a great tailor who can help you fit and alter, this is key! Look for business attire that is feminine, but not girly. Find a colour palette that compliments your skin and hair tone.

OSF: Costume Designer Janie Bryant of Mad Men has done collaborations with high-street store Banana Republic, thus enabling fans to dress like the show – are there talks of a Scandal high-street store collaboration?

KH: Not sure how that will all work out as of yet, but stay tuned …

OSF: Are there any other characters costumes in Scandal that have been particularly great to work on?

KH: Lyn and I both love Mellie and it has been fun finding pieces for the First Lady. I think her character is evolving and so is her wardrobe so I’m very excited to see where we will go with her next season.

OSF: What do you look for when costume hunting for Olivia?

KH: These are the questions I ask myself when shopping:

1. Is it in ‘the colour palette’? (i.e. white, cream, tan, camel, any hue of grey, or navy  on a wild day soft pastels pale pink, pale green, ice blue.)

2. Is it classic?  (If it’s too trendy or crazy fashion forward- skip it!)

3. Is it strong?  (i.e. If it’s too overly feminine/frilly/lacy- skip it. Olivia Pope is serious business so she has to look strong and command respect.)

4. Is it clean? (i.e. Are the overall design lines of the garment clean? Is it simple and sophisticated? If it’s too busy in design detail or print – skip it!)

5. Will the proportions flatter the body? (Too much fabric will overpower anyone.  Garments should fit well. This is the key to really being put together!  If it’s overly boxy or flowy- skip it.)

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OSF: What advice would you give somebody who is looking to start a career in the costume design world?

KH: I would say that they need to ask themselves if they are passionate enough about it that they are willing to take on 12 to 14 hour days. Our schedule requires this kind of work everyday for months straight. So be aware!

I went to school and studied theatre costume design and fashion design. Both areas taught me valuable lessons that I call on in my every day work. Understand storytelling, stock characters and psychology of personality types. Study garment construction and fabrics.

Learn as much as you can about photography, lighting, and working with the camera. Most importantly, practice small talk and how to make other people feel important.

Many thanks to Kristine Haag.

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The best costumes in film of all time part three

Continuing on from part one and part two:

Eleven: Marie Antoinette

I’ve spoken about Marie Antoinette before, it is an absolutely stunning film by one of my favourite directors Sofia Coppola and whenever I think about the best costumes in film this immediately pops into my head. The queen of France, Marie Antoinette is young, fresh and a lover of fashion (especially shoes) and enjoys indulging in cake and champagne. Costume designer Milena Canonero won Best Costume Design for the film at the Oscars in 2006 due to the pastel coloured dresses including duck egg, mint green, baby pink and peach which are all currently fashion trends this spring 2012. The lace collars, the wide exaggerated under skirts and corsets are a depiction of what the queen did wear during the late 1700s but with a romantic, edgier feel which has a traditional notion with a little modern-day cult thrown in.

Twelve: Inception

The wonderfully creative, mind-boggling Inception messed with our heads in the summer of 2010 and although the costumes are impressive for all of the characters (I can’t pin point just ONE great costume moment!), the costumes play a particularly important role in the way that the film is being told. Costume designer Jeffrey Kurland had to work extra close with director Christopher Nolan to make sure the clothes are accurate throughout the dreams and also the reality but while speaking to Clothes on Film he might have given away the ending. All of the clothes were custom-made and each character had their own individual style and colour palette as shown in the above image therefore everything was made specifically for each of them. Due to the architecture professions in the film Jeffrey chose sharp lines such as peaked lapels, windowpane patterns, and plaids.

Thirteen: Sex and the City

For the first Sex and the City film Carrie had more than 80 outfits to wear but this is by far the most memorable. The moment when Carrie receives a large dress box and a note from the woman herself, Vivienne Westwood stating that the dress belonged to Carrie, after seeing her wearing it during a Vogue photo shoot. It would only happen to her wouldn’t it? The dress is a little OTT, I remember seeing it and thinking it was lovely but Carrie is the only one that could pull it off even though I wasn’t a fan of her ‘something blue’ feather a.k.a. bird head-piece, yet it did give the outfit edge which you would expect from her. The beautiful fabric is luminous – the champagne silk is the perfect colour for Carrie whilst the fabric itself is very classic. The dress has a silk bustier with a built-in corset, a puff under-skirt which is also silk but a slightly off-white colour with an asymmetric hem. Sarah Jessica Parker and the Sex and the City films are sure great for marketing, particularly as shopping platform Net A Porter sold out of the Vivienne Westwood Carrie dress’ on their website for $10,000 a pop despite it only being a knee-length version (the floor length version is $15,7000 which you have to order from the lady herself, Vivienne and wait six months for it to be produced.) Were you inspired by this dress for your wedding?

Fourteen: Alice in Wonderland

I love anything Tim Burton and there’s no deny in the fact that his films excel in everything – production design, script, visual effects and of course, costume design. With his eccentric mind alongside his long-standing costume designer Colleen Atwood who has worked on many of Burton’s films (Edward Scissorhands, Planet of the Apes, Sweeney Todd, Sleepy Hollow and upcoming film Dark Shadows) the costumes ooze originality. Alice in Wonderland is no exception. There are wonderful costumes throughout, but of course Johnny Depp’s Mad Hatter stands out to most. Colleen explored the world of hat makers in London from the Edwardian era which inspired her more than the previous illustrations of the Mad Hatter from Lewis Carroll’s book. Depp being a chameleon by adapting to all of his costumes so well that they don’t even appear as costume was dressed in very playful and eccentric clothes to portray his mad personality, yet not distracting away from his character and personal story within the film. The jacket is made from silk which is burnt by the break-down department to give it age, he also has a bow tie which reacts with his mood which rises up when he is happy and droops down when he is sad. He has a pair of scissors attached to the a jacket with scrap pieces of ribbon which he can use to create a hat at the last-minute, there is embroidery on his trousers which is an embroidered ‘doodle’ which he does while waiting for Alice to come to tea and he also has mismatch socks as he lost the pairs.

Fifteen: The Help


Being a huge fan of 1960s clothing, or ‘Mad Men era’ shall I say, I absolutely adored The Help. Costume designer Sharen Davis transformed the best-selling novel by Kathryn Stockett into costume heaven with sort-after dresses upon dresses of the ice-cream shade kind. The bold floral prints and pastel shades are so visually appealing and beautifully hand-made that it’s very clear how much effort she put into transforming sheets of fabric into wonderful shift dresses, pencil skirts and ultra-feminine blouses. Kathryn created 50 costumes from scratch using vintage fabrics with the rest being sourced from vintage and costume shops, the latter being difficult due to the rural location which meant cast members having to fly to LA for their fittings. Taking inspiration from old Vogue magazines, 1960s high-street fashion catalogues and Marilyn Monroe, the overall look is any fashion-lover’s dream and an expensive one at that – she spent $15,000 on just the period accessories which included leather structured handbags, pearl choker necklaces and cat-eye sunglasses.

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