Best of TV Costuming 2013: Scandal and Olivia Pope’s White Hat

12 Dec

Continuing TV Ate My Wardrobe’s “Best of 2013″ costuming series and rather than doing a straightforward countdown we’re going to do a variety of posts that look at which costumes and shows have made a huge impact this year. From items that we want in our own wardrobe to pieces that got everyone talking, we want to look at this year’s TV through the prism of costume.

It would be impossible to talk about shows that dominated 2013 without talking about Scandal and I marathoned the first two seasons over the summer. This is a decision I am very happy with as not only is the storytelling at the speed of a juggernaut, but it also features some of the most exquisite costume design work courtesy of Lyn Paolo.


Olivia’s wardrobe is a plethora of neutral tones and the white attire of her collection is when she is at her most defiant. ‘Wearing the white hat’ is one of Olivia’s core ideals and it’s a notion that she uses to justify her less than legit methods (election fixing anyone?) and in the season 2 finale “White Hat’s Back On” Olivia received a real white hat from David Rosen. The symbolism is explicit as David is who Olivia tends to have these ethical debates with (this has sadly been lacking in season 3 so far) and the box also contained evidence to implicate Billy Chambers. David at this point is probably the one character who could be described as morally good in this very murky world, he hasn’t murdered anyone (yet) and he still has a strong moral compass; at this point the white hat belongs to him.

While my own relationship with white clothes is rather fraught (I am a perpetual spiller), Olivia has the poise to drink red wine in her luxurious lounge wear and not spill a drop. It’s more impressive when you factor in the occasion when she got super sloshed and drunk dialed 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 this piece would feature in season 3.

Scandal 3.1 Olivia Burberry TrenchWhite is a color that suggests purity and while we know Olivia steps way into the moral grey areas, it’s still the image she wants to project to the world. By putting on the white hat both literally and figuratively it acts as justification of those nefarious methods. This season has focused on B613 and Olivia’s parents; hopefully tonight’s mid-season finale will put some of those stories to rest as I miss how Scandal previously balanced the long term arc with the procedural elements. Shows need to evolve, they also need to not get bogged down in shadowy puppet master storylines (see previous offenders Buffy the Vampire SlayerRevenge24Alias).

It’s a show that isn’t afraid to head down some very dark roads (wrist munching/face licking) and while I don’t necessarily agree that these parts are necessary, showrunner Shonda Rhimes justifies these moments to Vulture stating “For me, it’s a reminder that as much as we all love these people, they’re all still monsters. They’re all still monsters walking around in human skin.” Is Rhimes including Olivia in this grouping? If so these monsters also wear some fabulous Prada, Burberry and Armani.

Scandal has become one of the most discussed shows here at TV Ate My Wardrobe and the costuming is a huge part of that. Abby’s Diane von Furstenberg infused wardrobe upgrade would feature highly on our wish list and every coat that Olivia wears is perfection. What these characters wear informs the story as well as my own shopping fantasies and it is a vital part of the big Scandal success story of 2013.

2 Responses to “Best of TV Costuming 2013: Scandal and Olivia Pope’s White Hat”


  1. Scandal 3.10 “A Door Marked Exit” Costume Review | TV Ate My Wardrobe - December 13, 2013

    […] Scandal returns Thursday, February 27 and we talk about the importance of the white hat conundrum in the TV Ate My Wardrobe Best of 2013 series here. […]

  2. Best of TV Costuming 2013: The Collection | TV Ate My Wardrobe - January 1, 2014

    […] Scandal and Olivia Pope’s White Hat […]

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