As regular readers may recall, a few months ago we were invited to a Pretty Little Liars press junket. When we solicited questions for the actors and the crew from you guys, the overwhelming majority of you brought up this:
Remember The Feather? Well, the show’s costumer Mandi Line definitely does, and she told us the backstory behind how it got onto Aria’s ear that day. Even though we don’t usually run interviews on GFY, we decided that you guys might enjoy our chat with Mandi, who was really cool about taking time out to come down to the set and talk to us (she wasn’t otherwise scheduled to do so). Ergo, Fug Nation, brace yourselves for some dish about everything from Greek, Tyra Banks, General Hospital, the difference between PPL and Gossip Girl, and OF COURSE The Feather… plus, since we have ‘em, some cute bonus bits and pieces from our chats with cast members, including Lucy Hale’s thoughts on, yes, The Feather. It never goes without capital letters. It is its own entity.
GFY: So, this is exciting for us because we don’t know anything about your side of the business. A lot of our readers really wanted to know how you sort out the wardrobes for these four characters who are so distinct. Especially Aria [Lucy Hale], since she’s the most unusual.
MANDI LINE: She’s me. [Laughs] I’m not kidding! There was this one blog, Possessionista. She always calls to ask for things, and I opened up the site one day and she had said something like, “Please don’t ask me where to find this because it came off Mandi’s body.” It was all stuff I take off and put on the girls in a scene. Like, I just took off something for Hanna, I gave Emily a jacket… I just love the girls on this show. It’s really cool because after every episode, I’ve never had so many blogs, like, “Where’s you get this? How’d you get this?” It’s crazy because I had done Greek, and 10 Things I Hate About You, so I do a lot of ABC Family things that need to be real and obtainable.
GFY: Well, and you’re never going to be able to wear what Serena Van Der Woodsen is wearing, because it’s Proenza and it’s thousands of dollars.
ML: Right, and I think a lot of young kids get discouraged, like, “I really want that but I can’t have it.” It’s not that hard to come in and do Gossip Girl when people are throwing clothes at you. I’m not saying their job isn’t hard, but [viewers] can hardly pick up anything. So here you have a show where the kids want to be able to obtain these things and buy them, and be like, “God, how can I put that together,” or, “God, I’m not that rich girl, but where can I get that?” you know, so I really make sure first of all that the price points overall are right, according to the characters. Really, when I came on — there was a different designer at the beginning, and I had left Greek to do Drop Dead Diva –
GFY. Love that show.
ML: Yeah, it’s great, but they wanted L.A., and then when they got LA they didn’t really want L.A., they were like, “Wait, we want Midwest, we want browns.” And Margaret Cho was like, “Wait, I want vests and big hair,” you know? So I came back, and I got this show. And the second I was on set they were like, “Aria needs to be dressed,” and I was like, “God who’s this character, who’s this character?” and I literally went to her [wardrobe rack] — I hadn’t shopped anything yet — and I was like, “Okay, what would this character do?” Aria is very unique in how she goes into her closet and does her thing. Like, take this lace blouse and turn it inside out, sew it up, you know? So that’s the main thing to do, is to just stop and say, “What would this character do here.” Aria does thrift, a little retail, and what I call deconstructing. I think it’s smart for girls these days who don’t have the money — it’s called upcycling, actually. You take clothes in closet and redo them. We had this one pair of her boots that had a brown panel, and I don’t put her in browns too much. So we cut out the panel, we took scissors, poked holes through the back, laced it up, and the lace was the same color as her blouse. That’s what that character would do. So [dressing Aria] takes time but it’s not necessarily about shopping it.
Hanna [Ashley Benson] is the It Girl, so she does need to have what’s in the magazines, so we actually stepped her up in the back ten [episodes]. The first ten she was all pretty in pinks and flowy, but if you think about it the It Girl is kind of edgy these days too. I think fashion’s a little more edgy than it’s ever been, even conservative brands, like Ralph Lauren, are getting kind of like edgy. But Hanna mostly keeps with lighter colors, she’s flowy and fashion conscious, at whatever cost it takes. Spencer [Troian Bellisario]…I was looking at pictures of how they dressed her [in the beginning], she was very preppy, and if you look at the pilot she’s got an argyle sweater. That’s easy for anyone to do. But now Spencer’s my favorite. I’m mean, they’re all my favorite, but she’s so different. If you notice, a lot of her clothes have animals. In every single outfit there’s an animal.
GFY: We never noticed that! Was that your decision or was it an accident?
ML: Yeah, I maybe just got bored. [Laughs] But yeah, we’ll have, like, lions on nice soft creams. As long as you keep her in creams and not too many blacks, she stays Spencer, but we’ll add like a Polo belt, riding boots, leggings, and her hair in a bun. I call her preppy with a twist. That’s a lot of what you’re seeing now. … Who else do I have? Oh, Emily [Shay Mitchell].
GFY: Poor Emily. Emily is the quietest one, in every way.
ML: If you knew her in real life, oh my God, she’s a vixen. She’s a hip-hop video girl. My friend is John Legend’s girlfriend and she looks just like her, and I’m like, “How are you playing the jock?” But what I’ve done is — like, you can watch a jock forever on TV and it’s like, “Oh my God, boring,” but here you have a jock that’s being able to come out with who she is. So slowly we’re taking her a little Johnny Depp-ish, with scarves and the v-neck, very American Apparel. She’s rebelled against her parents, and you’ll find out what she’s doing this season as she’s really becoming herself… so I know I want to keep her athletic and simple, but she’s starting to do, like, leather beads, and this linen coat, there’s a little masculine edge we’re giving her. I would love to take her, like, full-on rough, but we’re ABC Family still. But they always evolve. Even if you watch Greek, they were collegiate and then they got, like, Amber. [Laughs]
GFY. Oh, God, Amber!
ML: I just talked to her. She’s one of my best friends. She, again, was like my Mini-Me.
GFY. We were going to say, she’s totally the one you got to play with, right? She had the one sweater with the cloud, and then the dress with the giant lobster.
ML: One of my favorites! But to keep viewer interest you kind of have to step it up a little bit.
GFY. And it became her brand, kind of — it was her thing. Every week it’s like, people can’t wait to see what she’s going to wear because it’s going to be awesome.
ML: Just wait! When I left, they brought it back for another season. [Shakes her head] It’s all drab, and browns.
GFY: That’s not our girl!
GFY: So with Pretty Little Liars, it sounds like… you know, each of these girls plays her character, but you kind of have to play them too, because you want to get in their head.
ML: That’s the difference between a stylist and a costume designer. A stylist gets pretty stuff. Like, Rachel Zoe is amazing, she’s great, but she gets what is in and what is right. She doesn’t have to do a background thing, like okay, Aria can’t be with the person she loves, her parents are going through this, and she’s at home reading… like, Aria isn’t going to always be glam. She’s going to be in sweats and the things that fit the situation, the tone. Also, like… I was the cheerleader, the popular girl. And then I realized that being skinny can’t last forever, so I was like, “I’m going to be edgy and I’m going to dress weird,” so I did that, and I played sports, so I think I had already been a little bit of all of them. Well, actually, I was never Spencer. She had MONEY. [Laughs]
GFY: But you got her the animals.
ML: Yeah. I got her a little funky.
GFY: It seems like you have a lot of freedom to play, which is nice.
ML: At first they were like, “Who is this person we just hired?” Not that anyone was hesitant, but I wanted to sell them on the idea that you’ve gotta have a show where viewers will tune in for clothes. Every station, every channel, has blogs that cover where to get things or how to buy them. And I had to convince them of that. I’m like, “I know there’s always budget constraints on everything but let me push it just a little bit,” and when they saw the responses from the episodes a little bit, I think it clicked.
GFY: Our readers really want to know if you have go-to retail lines for each girl.
ML: Free People… whoever the designer is, is so genius, they do edgy but soft and sporty, they do everything. They do everything right. Free People works for all of them. For Spencer, I still love J. Crew, there’s an online brand called ASOS… All Saints, I love for Aria sometimes, and I’m going to put it a bit on Emily… Alice + Olivia for Hanna, and Foley + Corinna, have you seen their stuff? Everything is so good, I’m obsessed with them. I do Macy’s, Bloomie’s, Nordstrom. I don’t do Barneys or Saks because I don’t think it’s the ABC Family viewer. I don’t think it’s right because it’s not really fair. And I live in Los Feliz, so I do a lot of Una Mae’s, and on Vermont all those little shops, and Wasteland. I love Betsey [Johnson], always. And Rachel Roy. Oh my God, I’m obsessed with her too.
GFY: How long does it take to prep the different wardrobes for every episode?
ML: We get seven days — they shoot seven days so we get that many days to prep it, but I like to have one day of slacking and relaxing with my team, one whole day of shopping, one of putting it all together, one for fittings, one day of doing the pieces… It takes six or seven days. And I’m easy, but I’m also tough, like when it comes to colors and details. I do love the background and it’s important, but I have people for that, so when I look at the girls it’s for details. I’m picky. It’s funny, the girls that work for me, they hadn’t worked for me before, and they were like, “Oh my God, we’ve never seen so much shit on one [character] before.” Like Aria had: shirt, jacket, boots, socks, and then a necklace bag, a ring bag, and then her hat, and a scarf, and one feather, and it was like, so many pieces.
GFY: The feather! We got by far the most comments from people who were like, “PLEASE ask her about the feather.”
ML: This is hilarious. It was the first episode I had [Aria] in. We were on set and I was like, “She needs something.” So I took it out of my ear, stuck it in her ear. I didn’t want to put anything on the other side, because, like, sometimes it’s better just to let one thing make the statement.
GFY: And that was a huge statement.
ML: Huge! And then ABC Family called and they’re like, “We’re not so sure about that feather,” but we were like, “Oh no, we shot it, what do we do?” Next thing you know, Entertainment Weekly, everyone, they’re all like, “The feather! The feather!” The woman who made it, Owlita — she has new ones in, like, hot pink, red, turquoise. She called me and was like, “You’ve got to be kidding me with how much money you’re making me.” From a feather! It’s so crazy.
GFY: We got a lot of Tweets: “Did you SEE Aria’s FEATHER?”
ML: And it’s so funny because that was the one they were hesitant about. It’s like, with Tyra Banks, I did that movie The Clique, and Tyra Banks was like, “We’re not so sure about Mandi,” and then after she got [positive] responses from the girls, then all of a sudden they did this whole behind-the-scenes thing and Tyra was like, “I hand-picked her!”
GFY: How involved do the girls get in your process now? Especially the better they know the characters.
ML: The one with the style that is the most far from me is Troian. She’s that hipster skinny girl who’s so smart and well-read and makes everything look amazing. She can put on anything and it looks good. So she’s got such quirky taste that Spencer gets a little flavor of that. I will very often ask Troian, “What do you think?” A lot of times I’ll be controlling, but she… like, she literally looked like a country bumpkin in our last episode, and it was insane, she looked so freaking cute. You know how Tucker did that line for Target, so I had her in like this bow in orange polka dots, and I had this vintage vest from Wasteland that I made really tight, and light blue jean knickers rolled up, and a floppy little hat put back, and I swear to God if anyone else would’ve worn it we would’ve looked like we were from the country. And then she comes on set with these high lace-up cream boots and everyone’s like, “Oh my God.” It worked. So she has input. She has flavor.
Lucy and I are super close in real life. So we literally text each other, like, “Okay, you bought this? Cool. You ate this for lunch? Cool.” We have the same tastes. She’s a little simpler than [Aria], for sure, but she knows her body really well because she’s so tiny. We’ll love something, and put in on her, and she knows when it swallows her up. Ashley is so funny. She makes me laugh because she’d come in with like a half top, jeans, messy hair, like, “I don’t care, put it on me.” But now that I’ve stepped Hanna up she’s like, all of a sudden she’s got an opinion. Shay used to say “I don’t care” about everything. Because she’s so far from her character. But now that I’ve made her character a little cooler, she’s like, “Well, what about these boots? I don’t know, do you think we should take this in?” I’m like, “I promise I would never put you in anything I didn’t like, but I see what you’re saying,” because she’s starting to… actors start to get their characters more and they get more opinions. So they have input, but they’re trusting too.
GFY: Is there any show out there you wish you could get your hands on, or any show you think is flawlessly costumed?
ML: I’m obsessed with General Hospital‘s clothes. [Laughs] No! I’m not kidding! I’ve always said that they do General Hospital so well. All My Children sucks, but General Hospital is awesome. Californication I think is perfect, because… I think the mom is perfect. She’s an ex-rocker, got a Steven Tyler-ish vibe, it’s great. Oh, Boardwalk Empire is so spot-on authentic, and the way he pushes the patterns… There was a cover of a TV magazine a week ago with the three leads on the cover, and you had Gretchen Mol with the burnt-out velvet but it matched a little part of her hat, and then Michael Pitt, if you look closely it was all aged but the collar was up, so [costumer John Dunn] takes the trueness of the period and still puts on a modern twist, even the colors on Steve Buscemi, I can’t even — it was so well done. There are a ton I want to get my hands on. My biggest thing is when you watch a show or look at a poster, you’re like, “Wow, t-shirt, t-shirt, t-shirt, button-up, button-up, button-up.’” You can have stuff picked out for each person but the biggest thing on a show is paying attention to how it all comes together. 90210 before was horrible, but now my friend’s doing it and it’s getting better. What else…Housewives of Atlanta… no, just kidding.
GFY: Actually, they need your help.
ML: I was Kim for Halloween last year. It was so good, I’m totally doing it again next year. Wait, what else do I watch? Sons of Anarchy is perfect. I come from features so I love the ones that are all authentic, like when you see stuff aged properly.
GFY: Have you done period stuff?
ML: I’ve done horror and sci-fi, I came from music videos, and then did, like, Mimic 2, Hellraiser: Inferno, really dark movies, and then all of a sudden I interviewed for a college TV show and literally half of ABC Family was like, “YOU ARE OUT OF YOUR MIND,” and the other half was like, “That’s what we need, I swear it’ll change this network.”
GFY: It totally did.
ML: ABC Family is a different network. And I’m not saying it’s because of me — it’s because they have open thinkers who aren’t afraid to bring something new in.
GFY: It sounds like a fun job, though. But so much more involved than just skipping around town shopping and coming back with bags of stuff.
ML: It’s more involved than people think but it’s… most costumers who do what I do, like, their feet, I have to have surgery in January. I wear braces on both feet. You don’t sit down. You walk the malls all day, and you’re fitting people Lucy’s height, and you’re on your knees, getting up, bending down. At the Warner Bros. office we have people from The Hangover, Chuck, Undercovers, and I’m not kidding, probably 75 percent of them have had surgeries on their feet, their elbows, shoulders, or are in braces.
GFY: You always think about the people lugging the lighting rigs and stuff as being the ones who need that.
ML: Nope, it’s all wardrobe.
GFY: Holy hell.
Well, we knew fashion was pain. We just didn’t know that that the wardrobe departments were literally in pain. After Mandi took off — presumably to tend to her feet — we got to sit down briefly with the actresses in the show, and talk to them a bit about their wardrobes and fashion foibles. Here are the highlights.
… on getting into character: Wardrobe loves when I come in because they’re like, ‘Hey, Shay, here’s more sneakers for you!’ And I’m like, ‘Guys, what about these ten-inch heels?’ and they’re like, ‘Um, no.’ [laughs] I’ve gotten a lot of new sneakers incorporated into my personal wardrobe due to Emily, which is awesome because I didn’t wear that many before. [points to giant boots] I’ll try and incorporate these and they say no… But it’s fun, the whole process of getting to really be in someone else’s shoes, literally, kind of throws me into her character. They give me some more options now as opposed to what she had before. Especially with Emily as she goes through different relationships, she’s picking things up from people she’s meeting along the way, and trying out new styles, along with everything else.
… on her first fashion splurge: The one thing I really want that I haven’t gotten is a classic Chanel quilted bag. I keep saying I’m gonna get it and I haven’t, but I did splurge on Louboutin shoes that I bought for myself and I wore to an event, and it felt great. I was like, “I got these for MYSELF, and it was AWESOME!”
… on Hefty Hanna’s sweatshirt wardrobe and her fat suit: Honestly, Hefty Hanna is my favorite character to play. She’s so much fun. When I put on the fat suit, tears come out of my eyes, I feel so bad. I think in the third episode when I’m asking Sean if he wants to go to the dance with me, and he’s saying yes but it’s really to Alison and not to me, it’s heartbreaking. [Hefty Hanna is] my favorite character, I get really great emotional moments with her. The outfit choices a little much [laughs] but they’re so cute for her. [We ask if it's a full fat suit.] In the beginning we were just doing layers and layers and layers, but they were like, ‘It doesn’t look real.’ So they got the suit and I was like, ‘Yes,’ I wanted to do it. It’s a full body suit and arms and tons of layers on top of it and then baggy jeans or cargo pants or sweats. [Is it hard to move?] No, it’s like a leotard. But it’s really hot, I hate that because I’m literally sweating and it’s so cold in here and I’m like, ‘IS ANYONE ELSE HOT? I’m BURNING.’ So, yeah, the fat suit is complicated. But it works.
… on her style inspirations: Patti Smith, who is the godmother of rock and roll, is huge. I have her poster up in my room. I am obsessed with her….It’s funny, because I try to mimic that, and then I have, like, Audrey Hepburn. I fully believe that, when you’re getting dressed up, unless you’re going to spend the entire day in jeans or pajama bottoms — which I will do — be a character. So when I dress up, and I want to be Audrey Hepburn, EVERYTHING on me from head to toe is prim and proper, like flats and peg-legged jeans and the Burberry vintage trench coat. Or if I’m gonna be completely ripped t-shirt, it’s going to be with ripped tights. You know, my poor family. They’re like, “You have money. You’re on a show. BUY SOME NEW TIGHTS.” And I’m like, “I like these! I ripped them myself!”
… on her biggest fashion regret: [The last time leopard print was in] I wore this terrible snow leopard blue bell bottom pant! They were, like, terrible. Like literally, horrible. And I would wear them all the time. It’s not okay.
… and, of course on THE FEATHER: Oh my God! The first time I saw it, I was like, “Mandi….what?!” But then I was like, “YEAH! This is really cool!” It wasn’t hard to wear it, but I don’t know how much the hair people appreciated it, because it kept getting caught in my hair. But the response from that, I never in a million years would have thought people would have freaked out so much. [We tell her, "It was hypnotic."] It’s so different. And I want to say I saw Miley Cyrus wear one the other day. I was like, I did it first!