‘Pretty Little Liars’ Costume Designer Talks to Teen Vogue

The complete article:
Pretty Little Liars, Ashley Benson, Lucy Hale, Troian Bellisario, Shay Mitchell, Emily Fields, Hanna Marin, Spencer Hastings, Aria Montgomery
We’re still reeling from the Pretty Little Liars summer finale. And as much as we love the drama of the hit TV show, we also adore the fashion. When you have Lucy Hale, Shay Mitchell, Troian Bellisario, and Ashley Benson in the cast, you can pretty much count on statement-making style.

Dressing the show’s myriad of characters is no easy task, but Cameron Dale handles the workload with ease. She actually got the call for the coveted role while she was traveling in Spain. “I was interviewing on Skype for the job. It was crazy. I would interview at 10 p.m. in San Sebastian with the producers in Los Angeles and then head out for dinner. And by the time I reached my next destination in Ireland, I had booked the job. The day after I returned to Los Angeles and began shopping for the cast.”

Here, Cameron dishes on the show’s fashion, working with our favorite PLL actors, how you can shop the looks from the show, and so much more.

Teen Vogue: Let’s take it back to the season premiere episode. Which brands did you use?

Cameron Dale: I love the French brands Sandro and Maje for Lucy Hale. Lucy wears a Sandro top with a cute cropped All Saints jacket in the premiere episode. Emily wears a Zara denim coat and a jumper by Velvet Heart. Poor Hanna is in undies and a Gap tank top being tortured all episode. These girls have really been through the ringer. Spencer starts out in an amazing Roland Mouret dress since it’s a direct cut from our finale episode from last season where she’s fancy for her Mom’s party. She quickly changes into Frame jeans and Adidas so she can help find Hanna.

TV: And which other brands did you use for the rest of the season?

CD: We love mixing high and low on the show. Topshop and Zara are favorites, and I filled in with fun splurge pieces that we hunt down at the Camarillo outlets and Nordstrom Racks. Spencer has been wearing a ton of Rag and Bone while Emily has been wearing so much Pam and Gela. I love Peggy Li for small jewelry and Lionette for a special costume jewelry moment.

TV: Where do you pull inspiration from? Editorial runway, street style, or even a bit of all three?

CD: Everywhere. I love Instagram for amazing street style, but I love editorial also. Instagram is so fun because you can really get lost in a web of stylish strangers.

TV: What is it like pulling from brands? Is it something you do slowly over time, or all at once?

CD: Our show is so driven by our scripts. We never know what is around the corner so we take it day by day. One episode could feature Hanna in New York at her fashion job and the next the girls could be running around the woods being chased by AD. As soon as we get an episode outline (usually a week and change before we start shooting it), we all hunker down and excitedly read. It’s such a great show because it moves so fast and so much happens very quickly. Once we know what’s happening in that episode, I start pulling from various brands and stores.

TV: When it comes to the different characters and their incredibly varied styles and personalities, how do you approach dressing them all? Do you ever commission any custom-made pieces?

CD: At the beginning of each season, we see everyone and create new closets for them. When I go out shopping, I’ll really pull for everyone at once. I try and vary their closets: lounge looks, day looks, sleuthing looks, and fancier date looks. It’s a grab party. In Los Angeles, most department stores have ‘Studio Services’ which allows stylists and costume designers to pull out a bunch of merchandise at once, try for the fitting, purchase what works, and return the rejects. We rarely commission custom made pieces and if we do, it’s usually nameplate jewelry. Fans know custom jewelry can be involved in some pretty big plot points on PLL.

TV: Do Shay, Troian, Lucy, and Ashley have any input on what their characters wear as they all have such great personal style?

CD: The girls are all such fashionistas in their own right, so they absolutely have input in their clothing. I had a conversation with each girl once I joined the family, and we discussed their new 5 years-forward looks. They had great ideas to contribute, as well as what styles they were done with. Two requests I remember off the top of my head: Lucy wanted to leave behind the giant statement jewelry and Shay didn’t want any more denim cutoffs.

TV: How do you work with the production designers and cinematographers when it comes to color palettes?

CD: Our cinematographer is excellent and can somehow light all of the crazy color combos and glittery jewelry the girls wear so I never have to worry. We tech down all of our whites which means we dye them a light gray so the white doesn’t blow out or ‘glow’ on camera. White is always the trickiest. The art department and costume department are always in dialogue. You never want to put Hanna in a red dress and say, have her sitting in a red leather booth. We call the art department for wall paint colors of new sets and always have to be thinking of how the costumes play off the sets.

TV: Do you have a favorite character? Especially style-wise?

CD: I can’t pick just one. Once I get sick of shopping for jeans, worn in t-shirts and leather jackets for Emily, I can start shopping preppy Rag & Bone for Spencer. Having so many female leads is so much fun and keeps everything fresh and interesting. Their styles are so varied that it’s impossible to be bored.

TV: You also worked on Hart of Dixie. What was that set like and how was it working with Rachel Bilson?

CD: Rachel is an angel. She has become a good friend and was so fun to work with. We text often about The Bachelor. We all became a family on Hart of Dixie over the four amazing seasons. It was a special show with great, funny writing. There is nothing like it on TV.

TV: What’s next for you this year?

CD: I am excited to be a part of the newly launched Pretty Little Liars boutique on PeopleShop. Here, fans can get some of my favorite brands and looks from the characters. I am also now working with the same amazing team as Pretty Little Liars on the new show Famous in Love starring Bella Thorne. It’s such a fun show set in Hollywood. I think it’s a little like Entourage for the younger set. Fun, bright, young and very fashion-centric. I’ll be splitting my time between both shows.

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