Spotlight on Costume Designer, Lyn Paolo
Lyn Paolo is one of the most iconic and sought-after Costume Designers in Hollywood today with countless credits in hit TV series and major films. An Emmy® Award winning Costume Designer, Lyn is best known as the force behind the impeccably dressed Olivia Pope on the ABC-TV hit television series “Scandal”, created by Shonda Rhimes and starring Kerry Washington. Most recently she completed “Queen Charlotte”, the new NETFLIX show written and produced by Shonda Rhimes, which is a prequel to the hit series “Bridgerton” for which she also served as Costume Consultant for the second season.
Lyn’s talents span centuries, styles and settings. Illustrated by her work on numerous hit shows including “Inventing Anna”, “Maid”, “Little Fires Everywhere”, “How to Get Away with Murder”, “Shameless”, “Animal Kingdom”, and “Homefront”, which won her an Emmy in 1992.
Known for creating iconic looks for some of the most memorable characters on TV, it was a thrill for Emily to receive Lyn’s first inquiry about working with her on “Queen Charlotte.” Now that the show is out, Lyn generously made time to answer some of our most pressing questions. Hope you enjoy this in-depth Q&A with her as much as we do…
How do you go from dressing modern day women in shows like Inventing Anna to period pieces like Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story?
I treat every show, no matter the period, story, exactly the same. Research, more research, concept, then from that point, I spend a great deal of time discussing what we (Directors/Writers/Producers) want the costumes to say about the characters. Every single show is a brand new world, with new characters who need to be costumed, so each new project needs a great deal of thought and preparation.
Tell us about your process preparing to take on the 18th century. What are the first steps to get into the mindset of Queen Charlotte? How does it begin for you?
I read a great deal about Charlotte and George, spent a lot of time in England going to Museums, Palaces and even went to Kew to see where George spent his time away from his duties and also to see where he was during his mental health breakdowns. Then, I looked at portraiture from the period and also images of other royals in Europe. A great deal of time was spent researching the silhouettes of the period, fabric research and in general traveling around England and Europe to find suppliers for the project. (Fabrics, jewelers etc.)
How many people were on your team? It is incredible to see how much work goes into getting all of the characters in costume from not only the stars but all the extras on set…
We had around 200 people working on the show as well as vendors who had their own costume work rooms. People like Liz Poole and her team who were about three hours away from our shop in London. We had corset makers, jewelers, milliners and tailors as far away as Rome and Budapest.
It was truly an honor for us as a brand to be asked to be part of the show...how did you first hear about Larkspur & Hawk?
The honor was all mine. Linda Kearns from Matchbook (my representative) introduced me to your brand but the second I saw the line, I knew you were a perfect match for the show. To find a luxe modern representation of the Georgian aesthetic in jewels was a remarkable event. I was thrilled and could not wait to begin our journey together.
When we first started working together, did you have certain outfits in mind for Larkspur & Hawk?
Initially, I thought that the travel costume for young Charlotte as she heads to the palace to meet the royal family would be a perfect match for our collaboration. The fact that we would hang your jewels on the bodice of the gown in addition to her necklace and earrings seemed a perfect opportunity. However, after that, there were so many moments that worked for the Larkspur & Hawk brand, if only we had more episodes!!!
When you asked to use our three-strand rivière, did you know it was going to be for the hair or how did that come to be? It was such a dramatic and unexpected, beautiful moment. Was it planned well in advance or was it an on-set impulse?
I fell in love with this piece and at one point thought of designing a gown with a low back so we could use the necklace reversed. However, after I saw the piece, I felt it needed to be highlighted and after talking to Nic, our head of hair and make-up, we came up with a plan to add this gorgeous piece to the hair. I know it is a very different thing to do, but it is something we could certainly do today. Why be confined.
How did you come up with the idea of sewing charms into the bodice of Queen Charlotte's travel gown?
In addition to what I answered above, I love the idea of adding "En Tremblant" elements to the costumes, as in Charlotte's custom tiara. It seemed to me that adding similar jewels to her travel costume would hark back to the period but also feel "modern."
Is it emotional for you to see the first fittings?
I do get emotional on set when I see all the pieces coming together, the whole picture coming to life.
If you had to choose, do you have a favorite costume/look from the show? And what was the most challenging costume and why?
It is so hard to pick one costume! I love the balls and of course the wedding and the coronation scenes. The robes for all of the aristocracy and the royal robes for Charlotte, Augusta and George, were very time consuming, and the whole department was full of tiny pieces of fake fur, which literally could not seem to remove for weeks.
What is a day in the life like for a costume designer once filming begins? Are you on set with the actors or in the office preparing for the next scenes?
Both depending on the day. Once costumes are established on set, I spend my time at the various shops preparing the costumes/fitting actors/ discussing next steps with the team.
How important was historical accuracy to you and were you given any creative license in creating the costumes?
Starting with what is accurate is important, then we take creative license to build costumes that reflect the story and the modern eye. Working in this particular team with Shonda Rhimes, Tom Verica and Laura Frecon was a creative dream. We adore one another and feed off one another creatively. Tom will have an idea and Laura and I would be so excited by his enthusiasm and vision. This really was a dream on so many levels.
A costume sketch by Jacqueline Wazir featuring a design by Lyn Paolo
Have you watched the show yet? Will you be watching?
Yes, more than once. My family and I had a watch party together.
If you are watching, can you sit back and enjoy it, or are you too busy critiquing every nuance of the costumes on screen?
I usually cannot enjoy a project as I tend to be very critical of my work. However, on this project, I was basically thrilled with how it turned out. I am so proud of the work that the team in England did. We were very lucky to be working with some amazing artisans.
What's next for you?
I am working on a new project for Shondaland, "The Residence" with my old friend Paul Davies. A modern piece but so fun and with amazing actors. I would like to do another period piece fairly soon, maybe next year.
Thank you to Lyn for this wonderful Q&A! For more insight into her beautiful world, you can follow her on instagram at @lynpaolo.