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'Scandal' costume designer Lyn Paolo visits Atlanta

Gladiators, hold on to your white hats, there's a new Olivia Pope in town.

The mid-season premiere of ABC's 'Scandal' is Thursday, Feb. 11 and costume designer Lyn Paolo, who is visiting Atlanta this week, says Olivia Pope is getting a whole new look.

Paolo, the Emmy award-winning designer who also created two "Scandal" capsule collections for the Limited, is in town for  aTVfest -- an international event hosted by SCAD which offers attendees exposure to the latest in design, creativity and innovation in television and media production .

The panel discussion featuring Paolo and her fellow designer is about the process of costume design and how one moves from concept to reality.

After flying in from L.A., Paolo was a bit under the weather -- breakfast was Perrier and Tums, she said -- but she took a few minutes to chat about Olivia Pope's new look and how all women can find their personal style.

The costume design process on "Scandal" is a bit different than on shows that may be more research or director driven, Paolo said.

"Kerry (Washington) and I work so closely. We really want to express what is happening with the character through the clothing," she said. For an hour each week, they sit together and go through the script line by line for inspiration.

In the early days when the show was just hitting the airwaves, they thought their work would go unnoticed. "We didn't think anybody would catch on to what we were doing. Then all of a sudden we stated getting emails and letters from people, so now it has become a thing," Paolo said.

All of the attention can be nerve-wracking for Paolo as her choices for Olivia's wardrobe may be interpreted as carrying a meaning she didn't intend. But as with any woman, Olivia Pope's wardrobe must evolve as her life changes.

"When we started the show, whites, creams, grays and pastels were the anti-hero. Now she has a sense of freedom. For her, that is to go against everything she thought she should do before," Paolo said.

Here's a peek at Liv's new look:

Of course, nothing is forever.

Paolo says what you see in the first episode is not what you may see in the fourth episode of the new season. "There will still be moments where she may change to her old look given the situation," she said. "What I don’t want the audience to think is that she went and bought some new clothes because she had a breakup. She is changing. Fitz meant everything to her but she has walked away. We wanted to represent that in some way."

While most women do not have the resources of Olivia Pope, we could all benefit from devoting a little more time to thinking about our clothing, Paolo said.

"I think a lot of women and young girls go out and just buy the first thing they see that they fall in love with. They don’t think about how it is going to work in an outfit, how it will go together and what does this say about me?" she said.

It is okay to buy items that are trendy, she said, particularly if they are at a low price point, but it's also important to develop a sense of personal style.

"I recommend to everyone I work with (as a personal stylist), to treat it like it is a movie," Paolo said. Pull tear sheets from magazines, look a range of different looks then go to the store and make your self very unpopular with the sales staff by trying everything on.

Dressing well, Paolo said, is like any other skill and practice makes perfect.

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About the Author

Nedra Rhone has been a features reporter with the AJC for 10 years. She’s written about everything from fashion to food to news.