Ever since we got our first taste of Scandal back in 2012, we’ve been captivated by the show’s never-ending drama. But as much as the political coups and love triangles have pulled us in, the wardrobe has played a huge part in keeping us on the hook. From iconic statement coats to the gorgeous ballgowns, ABC’s Shonda Rhimes-produced hit has delivered endless fashion inspo to Gladiators everywhere over its seven seasons. And the series finale on April 19 won’t be any exception.
InStyle has an exclusive sneak peek at two looks from the finale, and let’s just say, they do not disappoint. For starters, Kerry Washington serves up one of her final fierce coat moments as Olivia Pope, wearing a long white Burberry trench that was especially meaningful, according to the show’s costume designer, Lyn Paolo. “Shonda wrote the script for the entire final episode—which was amazing—and she wrote, ‘Olivia in a classic, white, Olivia trench,’” says Paolo. “I felt certain that she should be in a Burberry trench, because Burberry has been a huge help to the show and I wanted to thank them. We also wanted it to be a bit of a tribute to the original Tory Burch trench she wore in the pilot, and this particular coat has that same feeling.”
Of course, no Olivia Pope ensemble would be complete without power accessories. Paolo paired the Burberry trench with a black Prada tote—“we always carry Prada,” she says—and white Tom Ford pumps. While she kept Olivia’s look simple, Paolo had fun throwing some extra pieces into the mix for other characters’ finale looks. “We didn’t know that we were going to film in D.C. until we had really established the last two episodes, and we had never filmed there before,” says Paolo. “Because it was bitterly cold when we got there, we ended up adding scarves to everyone’s looks. It’s funny when you see the scene, because every single person is wearing a scarf apart from poor Kerry.”
While Washington wears Olivia Pope’s signature white in the scene, which takes place by the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool, “we really wanted to play on the colors, as always,” says Paolo. “It was all about the contrast between the characters, so Quinn (Katie Lowes) is in burgundy, Huck (Guillermo Diaz) is in black, and Abby (Darby Stanchfield, pictured below) is in a navy Stella McCartney coat—which Darby ended up buying, because she had to have it. We really wanted to ensure that the final episode embodied where everyone had ended up, and while each character wears something that pays a little homage to where they started, it also represents that this is the end and they’re a united team.”
Keep reading for our full conversation with Paolo, in which she looks back on the show’s biggest fashion moments and dishes on working closely with Washington.
How has Olivia Pope’s style evolved from the pilot episode through the series finale?
Her evolution was always expressed through color. When she was the “White Knight,” she was in white. When she went to the dark side, we did the darker colors. And then she was in bright colors when she was trying to pull herself away from Fitz and his world. The thing that I think everyone missed was when she was in the White House with Fitz, she dressed like Mellie (Bellamy Young) did in the beginning. So there was this idea of losing of one's self to become this pseudo First Lady. Other characters evolved more dramatically in terms of style, but Olivia's style evolution always revolved around the palette of her costume.
What was her most “Gladiator” look of all time?
It was in the beginning of the third season, when she wore a white Burberry trench that had a cape. She called a meeting with Fitz and Mellie in the bunker underneath the White House, and I love the image we created. The whole set was grey, but they were wearing the colors of the flag with Fitz in a blue suit and Mellie wearing red. Olivia was literally leading the way—she was in charge, and I think the Burberry trench epitomized that.
Speaking of coats, I don’t know if a show has ever featured so many. Did Olivia Pope ever wear the same coat twice?
Early on season two, Kerry was wearing a Ferragamo coat that everyone thought was white, but it was actually baby pink! We were both really fond of that coat [pictured below], and we used it quite a bit. We thought it was cool that it wasn’t technically white. That coat was still in her room at the end of the show—I think it really began our passion for outerwear. We filmed in Los Angeles, so we were always using green screens. Because the show was taking place in other parts of the country that had different weather patterns, the outerwear really became part of the story. If it was raining outside, everyone was in a trench, and that sort of sold the East Coast feeling of it all.
Two of Olivia Pope’s favorite things are wearing white and drinking red wine. Did Kerry ever spill wine on her costume during filming?
Literally, never. I think Kerry is like a freak of nature, and she won't mind me saying this. But she never got dirty, I mean never. Although during the pilot, I was a little nervous because I didn't know Kerry and we decided to go with a white Tory Burch coat!
Were there ever any wardrobe malfunctions on set?
The funniest costume fiasco on the show was when we had a scene with Jeff Perry and Tony Goldwyn in season four, I think. It was a very intense scene where they were arguing, but it wasn't supposed to be a stunt or anything. Jeff is such an amazing actor, and he was so in the moment that he started grabbing Tony by the shoulders. They did the scene over and over, and then all of the sudden, my amazing on-set person Francesca called me and said, “Oh my gosh, Lyn, you've got to come to the set.” I ran to the set and the whole back of Tony's Giorgio Armani suit had just come off completely. We had to sit there on the set, stitching away, trying to put Tony's jacket back together because we didn't have any multiples. We still mention on our set sometimes that, in the heat of the moment, Jeff managed to destroy an Armani suit. It's very funny.
Looking back at all the seasons, what was the hardest outfit to put together?
It always was and always will be the “Happy Birthday, Mr. President” episode, when Kerry was in the Jean Fares Couture white evening gown [pictured above]. The silk chiffon was literally falling to pieces, and we had to reconstruct it. We also had to pitch the fact that we were spending a lot of money on something that we had to completely restore. It had the full support of Shonda and [executive producer] Betsy Beers, but in my own heart and head, I was very nervous. I wanted it to be something that would blow in the wind as she was running to him after he was shot. I thought about making it myself, but we were running out of time and I loved the construction of that gown. Luckily, it paid off, and when Kerry came to the set that day, she said, “Oh my god, Lyn, this is beautiful.” I just wanted it to be stunning, and it was one of the most challenging moments to make that choice early on in the show. As the years went on, our access to fashion grew—and I give Kerry the credit for that. As a result, we were able to get things that I just would've dreamed about getting 10 years ago.
Which Olivia Pope outfit do you think was Kerry's all-time favorite?
That's so hard! We just went through her [wardrobe] room and she was trying to figure out what she would like to have as a memento. She was like, “I just want it all!” Some of it was for emotional reasons. Kerry still jokes about the fact that I destroyed all these Armani pants when she was pregnant—I put in elastic waistbands, cut out the front, and built in panels. She was appalled that I was destroying these beautiful pants, but rather sweetly and fondly, she wanted a pair of them to take with her as a memory. It doesn’t seem very glamorous, but in her heart, that was something special to her. The Christian Dior coats were also huge favorites for her—especially the black and white houndstooth one that she wore walking into the house in Vermont when she was supposed to get off the helicopter and see Fitz [pictured above]. She loved that, and I know it was one of the pieces she purchased at the end of the show.
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What else did she keep from the set?
She also really wanted to purchase a lot of our gowns, specifically the very first gown she wore on the show by Calvin Klein. But because we borrowed gowns from collections, we didn't have them anymore. We were both sad that she couldn't have all those pieces for her personal mini-archive and to hand down to her kids one day. But I know she bought a bunch of the evening purses and kept a Prada bag, and I'm sure those are being distributed to her friends and family.
Did she keep any of the coats?
Yes, she purchased some of the coats at the end of the show, including the black and white Dior coat that she wore when she was pregnant [pictured below]. It really helped hide things that we needed to hide at the time, but it was also still stunning. The Dior coats for the last four or five seasons have been amazing, and that was one of her favorites. I know it’s in her personal collection now.
What were Olivia Pope’s most-worn shoes throughout the series?
It changed as the seasons went on. In the first two seasons, we did a lot of Miu Miu and more of a platform to give Kerry an extra bit of height. Then, as time went on, we went to Jimmy Choo land and that was amazing. We had a lot of Jimmy Choo in her room.
We did a lot of Christian Dior shoes when she was in the White House with Fitz and she was dressing in a lot of Oscar [de la Renta] and more feminine outfits. At the end, what people haven’t really seemed to notice is that Olivia has been wearing jeans instead of slacks and she’s in a lot of boots. We had some amazing Burberry boots, and if there’s any designer who’s making a rockin’ boot right now, we probably had it in the room. That’s her shoe story toward the end as she’s getting tougher.
In 2014, you and Kerry designed the Scandal collection for The Limited. Was there anything still in the wardrobe room from that line?
Yes! In fact, Kerry took some pieces from The Limited line. We still had the black and white cape coat. We kept everything from all the seasons and it's funny because Elliot Staples—who was our amazing collaborative partner at The Limited—wrote to me a few weeks ago and said, “I saw one of our blouses on Scandal tonight,” and I was like, “Yeah, we still use it—we love it!” It was a great line, and we were really proud of it. Kerry and I had a blast working on that, and it was nice to do something for the Gladiators.
If you had to look back and think of a favorite memory from being on set with Kerry, what would it be?
I absolutely adore her. I’ve been super blessed to work with amazing people, and Kerry is at the top of that list. She’s a great leader—I just wish she would run for office. She is honest, down to earth, and she and I kind of have the same brain. We would finish each other’s sentences all the way through. We just instantly had this connection and have become so close. At the end of the final episode, she just hugged me so tight and said, “I couldn't have done this without you.” That was an amazing moment.