How to Get the Looks of Your Favorite Characters on 'Pretty Little Liars'
The show’s costume designer Mandi Line gives us the scoop—just in time for the fifth season.
We all wish we could go back and re-do some of our wardrobe choices from high school. Not only does Mandi Line get to live out that dream as costume designer for Pretty Little Liars, she is responsible for one of the most eclectic groups of girls—not to mention the most coveted closets—on television. With the fifth season premiere mere hours away, check out what she had to say about stealing their unique styles and her latest collaboration with Aeropostale, inspired by the characters themselves.
How did you get involved with the show? "I did Greek for 5,000 seasons and it still is my baby and my heart and my favorite show. [However,] when it ended, they had asked me to do Pretty Little Liars, and I was like, ‘I don’t want another kid show. I’ve been doing kid shows forever, and I need something a little more conservative on my resume.’ They told me to watch the pilot; I did, and I thought, ‘This show is like no other. It’s like a Desperate Housewives for teenagers mixed in with Gossip Girl and my high school life,' and I was so excited. I told ABC Family, ‘I can make this the best show on television, but you’ve got to give me a lot of creative freedom. You’re going to see me taking a lot of risks and wonder what the hell [certain] outfits are, but if you go with it, I promise not to fail you. Because this is what kids need right now.’"
Who is your favorite character to dress? "I used to say Aria [played by Lucy Hale] because she’s based on me in high school—Aria Montgomery is everything I wanted to be and never got to be. But I have to say my favorite character is flashback Mona [Janel Parrish]. Sometimes I’ll have my assistants help get me pieces, but any time there’s a flashback Mona, I can’t let anyone else do it. We’re always cracking up in fittings because we’re convinced she’s a first grade schoolteacher in the '70s. I love to do flashback Mona."
Who is the most challenging character to dress? "What’s happened now is that these girls have become such fashion icons in their own rite and in their daily lives. Troian Bellisario has such amazing, effortless, hip style that I get insecure because she’s got this 25-year-old, hipster style that when she comes in, I’m constantly like, ‘Ohmigod she’s so cool; I’m never going to be that cool,’ so I would say [Spencer is] challenging just because her style is so on-point in real life.”
How has the characters' style evolved? “I love that Aria is true to who she is. Since day one, you never know what she’s going to be; one day, she’s a '50s gangster from West Side Story, the next day she’s boho-chic and the day after she’s a sexy, club-loving dressy girl. I always say she has style schizophrenia; it’s just about maintaining the diversity of who Aria Montgomery is. She could be having the most intimate breakup scene, yet she’s in a Betsey Johnson green leopard-print dress with a striped jacket and combat boots. I think she is still classic Aria: true to who she is and her uniqueness.
What’s really cool about Emily [Shay Mitchell] is that when we first saw her, she was appeasing everybody. She was doing what was right for her mom because she didn’t want to tell anyone she was gay. I think we met her very conservative and sporty, and now that she’s come out and has gone through every girl in Rosewood [laughs], she definitely is bolder with her choices. This season, we’re going to see she’s a little bit more hip hop. She goes back and forth from edgy to hip hop; she sports Nike dunks with, like, a Hawaiian tank top and a bomber jacket. And then the next day, we see her in a maroon All Saints blazer and leather leggings. Her style to me has evolved the most.
Spencer’s style, if anything, has become a little less preppy and classic and a little more hipster. She’s never going to lose her blazers and button-ups, but she gets to put more twists on her classics.
Hanna [Ashley Benson] was the It girl in brights and colors, sexy and super glam. I think she’s the kind of girl that looks at Vogue and makes sure she has it no matter what it takes. This season, you’ll see Hanna almost does a complete 180—you’ll find out the reason when the show airs—and it’s really cool that the writers said, ‘Take your best dressed, fanciest character and bring her to your side of the world, Mandi.’”
Do you have any tips for our readers about how to develop their own personal styles? "If you watch the show and identify with one of the characters, go into your closet, find the piece that speaks to you [and is fitting of that character], and then you can assess from there. For example, ‘I have an Aria top, but I really wish I had these coated denim jeans. I can’t afford them, but maybe if I save up my money, by x time, I can get this.’ I think it’s also about looking to see what piece you can save up for that would be versatile. Emily, for example, has a bomber jacket from Topshop that can put an outfit just perfectly over the edge to make it that cool. [Also,] take pictures of episodes, keep them on your phone for when you’re shopping, and it can be your own little fashion diary of how to channel your inner favorite characters."
Can you tell us about the latest summer collection for Aeropostale? "Aria’s got a great little edgy, studded vest ($45). Because it’s summer, you can pair it with a ‘90s-inspired shift dress ($32)—it kills me to do '90s, but it’s what’s right now. And then you have your ultimate Hanna: a beautiful pink babydoll dress ($32). She takes a little turn this season, so it’s nice to see that this is so ultimate Hanna and girly because the viewers are going to miss that for sure on the show. And Spencer’s is so cute: a striped blazer ($45), a cheetah blouse ($16) and high-waisted sailor shorts ($24) all in one. It’s funny because she had tried it on at the fitting and was like, ‘Okay if anyone ever had a Halloween costume for Spencer, this would be perfect.’ Everything is so iconic Spencer. For Emily, one of my favorite pieces is her jean jacket ($55), and I wanted to do paintbrush strokes on it. I think the denim jacket is cool because it can be summer with the bright colors, but you can still wear it any time of the year. The little muscle tee ($14) that we have underneath it was totally inspired by Shay. For some reason, I started doing arrows on her necklaces and earrings a couple of years ago, and when Aero asked what I wanted on the front of the top, I said, 'Arrows!' So it’s those little things that hard-core fans will get."
Will we see the girls wearing these pieces on the show? “Well, you will have to tune in and see!”
Watch the season five premiere of Pretty Little Liars tonight on ABC Family at 8pm EST.