written by Ryan Fleming, Deadline
For Inventing Anna, Shonda Rhimes needed someone she trusted to create the outfits for the infamous fashionista. As a longtime collaborator of Rhimes, costume designer Lyn Paolo was the best person for the job.
Inventing Anna is a Netflix miniseries, created and produced by Rhimes, inspired by the true story of fake German heiress Anna Sorokin played by Julia Garner. Under the assumed name Anna Delvey, Sorokin managed to con the most influential people in New York City into believing she had a massive fortune overseas, which she then used as leverage towards her goal of creating an exclusive art club.
While she travelled the world in the series, the bulk of Delvey’s journey takes place in New York City which became the basis of Paolo’s designs. Although she lived her life online before she was caught, researching her fashion was more difficult for Paolo and her team once Delvey’s accounts were taken offline.
LYN PAOLO: She’s very collaborative. It’s hard to describe because so many producers are very hands on with the costume design but aren’t clear in what they want, but Shonda was very clear. She puts it in the script, so it’s not constant phone calls or emails since it’s written on the page. Some of the time it’ll say “a fabulous outfit” or sometimes it’s very descriptive. Other times she’ll actually write “whatever Lyn P says,” which is an enormous gift for a costume designer and its highly amusing when people read that. She’s very giving as a writer. She will literally give you exactly what she’s expecting on the page.
If I ever have a moment where I don’t know what she meant, I will send her images. Not all the time, but if I’m unsure I’ll send Shonda images and if she doesn’t respond it means she liked it. If she does respond, sometimes it will only be to give direction. On this particular project, it was a tricky, not in a bad way but it was a challenging thing to do. And I mean that in the best way of a challenge, in that we were trying to create the sense of New York and the fashion, but we were also having to do absolutely massive amounts of research on Anna, in the way that you would if you were doing a documentary or someone’s biography. It had to match exactly to what she had been posting, but then the rest was on the story end creating amazing images. So it was a little bit of both of the special worlds of costume design – lots and lots of research, and then lots and lots of creative freedom.
DEADLINE: Was there a lot of good research material? She basically lived her life on instagram.
PAOLO: But it was hidden by the time we looked at it. It had been taken down and we actually had to go down this worm hole of following people that she used to hang out with and doing a deep dive into that. Shonda and her research team had done a lot of the work already for us, but their research was images. Our research was who made that dress? Where were those sunglasses from? And then we would look at an image and ask what year was that? We’d be looking at all the online sites from all the designers to find the right pair of sunglasses and find the right dress and more… and it was actually fun. The research part of it was a lot of fun.
DEADLINE: What was the biggest challenge you faced on this project?
PAOLO: Definitely the volume of costumes. I think a lot of people don’t realize when they watch the show that we created an outfit for every single picture on that wall in the baby’s room where the Instagram photos are posted. We created all of that, every single one of those was a full costume. Even if you just saw her face in the photo, she was dressed head to toe. We didn’t know how they were gonna use each of the pictures, so the Instagram of it all was practically its own costume department. And then the courtroom was another costume department, and then another for each part of the story, like Morocco and Berlin.
Then there was the Los Angeles part of it and going to the Chateau Marmont, and that scene when she’s fake killing herself which was just very Norma Desmond. We decided it should look very 1930s LA, and we even toyed with putting her in a turbine for a second. So, each section of the show had its own beat and each section of each beat had its own look, so it was an enormous amount of fashion… And I felt really sad at the end because we had curated this fantastic collection of fashion and then we ended up selling it on The RealReal. And it sold out, I think in no time whatsoever, it’s all gone.