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In this Nov. 11, 2013 image released by ABC, costume designer Lyn Paolo holds a Christian Dior coat worn by actress Kerry Washington for the ABC drama series, "Scandal," in the show's wardrobe closet on the Sunset Gower lot in the Hollywood section of Los Angeles. (AP Photo/ABC, Danny Feld)
Washington’s ‘Scandal’ closet holds many outfits
First Published Nov 18 2013 12:39 pm • Last Updated Nov 25 2013 06:46 pm

Notice anything different about Olivia Pope’s look this season on "Scandal"?

It’s still full of the very best designer labels, and her suits — a good chunk of her wardrobe — blend an aggressive edge with a sexy shape while staying professional.

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But in Season 3, there’s a hint more color, and many of the silhouettes are asymmetrical, showing her just a bit off-kilter. "Hopefully viewers will see the emotional reason to make these changes, and we’ve amped up the fashion, too, because we needed it for the story," explains costume designer Lyn Paolo.

Olivia has a full life and — just like everyone else — needs the right clothes for it, says Paolo, who talks about her favorite character on ABC’s hit inside-the-Beltway show (Thursdays) as if she were real.

Kerry Washington, a fashion It Girl in her own right, plays Olivia, described by the network as a "professional fixer."

The show has to buy the clothes and keep them because Paolo is unsure if creator Shonda Rhimes will want to revisit a particular scene in a flashback. As a result, Olivia’s closet is as big as the Manhattan Starbucks where Paolo met a reporter.

Paolo shops from the runway, at department stores, from windows and online. When she was on vacation this past summer on a cruise, she fell in love with a fellow passenger’s outfit. She told the passenger the clothing tag was showing (it wasn’t) so she could "fix it" and steal a peek at the label.

Is there anything in that bulging "Scandal" closet that Paolo would like to borrow? "I’m a uniform girl. I dislike dressing myself. It’s all black and white in my closet — I wear whatever is easiest to get me through the day."

She is, after all, dressing up to 80 people per episode. "We should call it ‘Scramble,’ not ‘Scandal.’ "

Olivia was easy, though. Paolo had her look down before she knew Washington would be the star — and maybe even before "Scandal" was pitched as a pilot.


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Paolo, whose credits also include "The West Wing" and "ER," says she keeps dozens of files on imaginary characters, cutting out photos and jotting down notes about what they would wear and stuffing them into folders. One was "an African-American woman in light clothes and a custom Louise Green hat," she said. "I had an image of Diana Ross. I would have liked a bigger brim on the hat, but our sets are too dark and you couldn’t see Kerry’s face."

Paolo also works on Showtime’s "Shameless," and her problem there is that the characters are supposed to have a gritty appearance, but Emmy Rossum, the most fashion-y of the cast, is a little model-like, she says. "You’ll look at her and say, ‘She looks too good in that!’ "

There are other stars Paolo would like the opportunity to dress, including Patricia Heaton and Julianna Margulies, whom she calls "so elegant and stylish."

"I have characters and their wardrobes ready to go. I just need a show for them."



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