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Scandal 3.01 “It’s Handled” Costume Review

4 Oct

It’s back! After a summer of catching up with Scandal, talking about Scandal, predicting what Olivia Pope might wear and admiring what star Kerry Washington has been wearing we can finally talk about the season 3 premiere. This is going to be a different kind of review as I’m going to be looking at the costuming and how this adds to the narrative and tone of the episode. Costume designer Lyn Paolo has done an excellent job of establishing key aspects of a character’s wardrobe – such as Olivia never deviating from wearing pants in the office – and I will be looking at how this informs a scene and how it evolves over the season.

Scandal 3.1 Olivia Burberry Trench

The centerpiece outfit is this incredible Burberry Prorsum Caped Duchess Satin Trench Coat and it acts as armor for Olivia; it’s what Olivia wears to tell her father that she is never out of options and as she tries to work out the best solution with Fitz and Mellie. Olivia has worn other more traditional Burberry trench coats in the past and there is a powerful image that this silhouette produces as Olivia walks with determination to her destination. We’re not used to seeing Olivia backed into a corner like this and while she is trying to give off an image of control her expression reveals how hurt and lost she is feeling. This piece features in the “Storm is Coming” promo photos and it’s one that I wrote about in the Fantasy Costuming series back in July (yes I still can’t believe something I picked something that features this heavily in the season premiere).

Scandal 3.1 Mellie and Olivia

If you knew nothing about this show then the image above quickly identifies the two opposing styles of the women in Fitz’s life. Mellie is very traditional and while she rails against the notion that as First Lady she is ornamental not functional she knows how to dress the part. Block colors are very much part of the Mellie look and here she wears midnight blue to emphasize that in her position no matter how ornamental, she still has power and authority even in the presence of the woman that Fitz really loves. Despite their differences Mellie and Olivia are mirroring the other with arms folded as they try to resolve this situation. Olivia is very much in what you would consider work wear – her uniform consists of well tailored pant suits and the costuming shows a clear divide between the roles these women play.

Scandal 3.1 Mellie in black

Olivia lays out what color Mellie should wear when they tell the press about the affair details, she tells her to wear a soft color like lavender and as you can see from the photo about Mellie goes in the opposite direction with black. Mellie is clearly not on board with Fitz and Olivia’s plan and this is because she has figured out that Fitz is the one who leaked Olivia’s name. She’s ready to go to war with Fitz and by dressing in black she is mourning the death of her marriage (which died a long time ago) and shows that she is not backing down from this fight. While the cut is still very much in the First Lady tradition, it’s going against the vibrant color palette that we normally associate with Mellie. Gone are the regular pearls too and the necklace she is wearing looks like pearls made from gun metal which is appropriate given all the war talk with Fitz.

Scandal 3.1 Fitz as Kennedy

While Fitz’s costuming is pretty much what he has always worn, I really like the above shot as it’s reminiscent of this JFK portrait and the image of Kennedy has already been mentioned earlier in the episode. Fitz also pulls a move when he takes off his jacket that at first suggests that he expects some sexy time in the bunker, instead he pulls Olivia into a very different kind of embrace as he comforts her. I’m not Fitz’s biggest fan as he tends to act like a horny teenager a lot of the time so this was a very pleasant surprise.

Scandal 3.1 Olivia and Harrison

Olivia returns to the office mad as hell because of the role her team played in choosing an innocent woman to get Olivia off the hook. Harrison is all “There’s nothing wrong with a little self-preservation” showing that these gladiators sure like to live in the moral grey areas. As always Harrison is impeccably dressed and by mixing a polka dot tie with a gingham shirt he shows that power clashing is something he does with both his clothes and with his boss. Olivia is in her usual work wear and I wonder if we will be seeing more dark shades after this experience. I don’t think she will be wearing the white hat that David gave her anytime soon.

Scandal 3.1 Quinn and HuckQuinn jokes that they should find a bad intern they can blame again who can end up dead, well she made it seem like a joke but considering how she took to torturing at the end of season 2 part of her is probably being serious. From the way Quinn dresses you wouldn’t be able to tell that she is developing this darkness and she wears the brightest colors in the office. Her costuming is still very girly and this gives her an unassuming quality.

Scandal 3.1 AbbyThere’s something different about Abby this season her poker straight hair has been transformed into this gloriously wavy style (something I have praised about Darby Stanchfield’s red carpet look). We’ve been promised more Abby backstory this season and her style has evolved from being somewhat uptight to this more relaxed and confident appearance. Her relationship with David might have something to do with this and while it doesn’t look like they are back together there was definitely something that bordered on flirtation in the premiere. Abby is one of the only characters that calls Olivia out and so this confidence might also be down to feeling less like one of Olivia’s fixing projects and something nearer to an equal, especially as Olivia has a problem that needs to be fixed now.

A really strong start to the new season and I’m looking forward to discussing how the costuming on Scandal informs and adds to the experience of watching this show.

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7 Responses to “Scandal 3.01 “It’s Handled” Costume Review”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Out of the Box: Look of the Week | TV Ate My Wardrobe - October 4, 2013

    […] costuming that has caught our attention. We haven’t forgotten Scandal as there is a whole post here dedicated to the season 3 […]

  2. Variety Power of Women Red Carpet | TV Ate My Wardrobe - October 7, 2013

    […] has been on crazy good form with her red carpet choices recently and her new look on the season 3 premiere of Scandal is definitely giving me some red hair […]

  3. Scandal 3.02 “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?”: It’s All About the Coats | TV Ate My Wardrobe - October 11, 2013

    […] the season premiere of Scandal Olivia wore a very striking white Burberry trench coat and in this week’s flashback episode she gave the audience at least 3 more reasons to have […]

  4. Scandal 3.07 Costume Review: The Making of Mellie | TV Ate My Wardrobe - November 15, 2013

    […] lapels and cuffs is everything. Olivia has a lot of AMAZING coats and this one is up there with the Burberry trench from the season 3 premiere. The full skirt with a white lining on this coat makes it perfect for […]

  5. Best of TV Costuming 2013: Scandal and Olivia Pope’s White Hat | TV Ate My Wardrobe - December 12, 2013

    […] her terrifying father. White is Olivia’s armor and this was no more apparent than in the season premiere when she wore this incredible Burberry trench – I’m still riding the high of predicting […]

  6. Best of 2013 TV Costuming: Group Discussion | TV Ate My Wardrobe - December 31, 2013

    […] and season 3 has delivered some exceptional pieces including every single coat (and specifically the Burberry trench in the S3 premiere) and this Rubin Singer dress looks like superhero couture. Olivia continues to […]

  7. TV Costume Designer Secrets Revealed at Vulture’s First Festival | TV Ate My Wardrobe - May 29, 2014

    […] On Scandal Abby and Quinn’s style has shifted the most from where it was in the pilot; Abby fell in love and so there’s less structure and Paolo uses lighter fabrics on this character now – all those scarves and wrap dresses I love – with Quinn as she’s got darker so has her attire. Some of these shifts aren’t meant to be all that apparent and it can act on a subliminal level. With Olivia Pope we associate the color white with her wardrobe and as Paolo points out Olivia doesn’t wear all white all that often. Gray is her staple and the reason we remember the white is because these outfits tend to come at heightened moments like the amazing Burberry trench from the season 3 premiere. […]

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