An Interview with Mandi Line, Costume Designer for “Pretty Little Liars”

With three weeks left in its run, the FIDM Museum’s 6th Annual Outstanding Art of Television Costume Design exhibition is showcasing the diverse and creative offerings available on the “small screen.” A look at the list of the featured costumes helps visitors appreciate the range and quality now available on television.

Boardwalk Empire, Downton Abbey, Game of Thrones, Magic City, Pretty Little Liars, American Horror Story, Great Expectations, Hemingway and Gellhorn, Luck, New Girl, Once Upon a Time, Pan Am, Revenge, Sons Of Anarchy, and The Fresh Beat Band have entertained millions. They have left a mark on today’s culture, what we talk about, and what we wear.

On display are the costumes from the Rosewood’s Junior League Masquerade Gala on the season finale of Pretty Little Liars. (L to R) Costumes worn by actors: Lucy Hale as Aria Montgomery, Troian Bellisario as Spencer Hastings, Shay Mitchell as Emily Fields, Ashley Benson as Hanna Marin, Janel Parrish as Mona Vanderwall

Sometimes the clothing in a television show generates such a strong response that the costume designers become well known in their own right. Mandi Line exemplifies this phenomenon with her creations for the hit series Pretty Little Liars. Her mix of vintage, high end, and normal priced clothing—often customized and one-of-a-kind—have been instrumental in communicating the characters’ personalities, while also influencing viewers and their fashion choices. Fans are now eagerly awaiting the Halloween Special later this month.

PLL costume designer and FIDM grad, Mandi Line is in demand. Still, she took the time to answer some questions from students and fans.

First—have to ask—do you dress up for Halloween? Any advice on how to put together an amazing Halloween costume?

I am obsessed with Halloween. I try to get tattoos of the recent “girls“ I have been for Halloween. Lisbeth Salander in Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Pris from Blade Runner, and Marla Singer from Fight Club…I have lost friends during Halloween when they say they are going to be part of a “trio” and then they chicken out! Or I work my butt off to make a perfect replica of a costume and they say, “oh I’m just gonna be a BEE!” What what!!? Laaaaaame!! Ha ha

Costume advice? Think of who you look like! That’s always a perfect first step. Look at your hair color and go from there. Or think of films from this year that you loved. Just don’t be a “sexy nurse!“ Think harder!

Speaking of Halloween—if you were hired to create a costume for a Lady Gaga what would you put together?

I wouldn’t even touch Lady Gaga. It just seems like too much. I’m already starting to go gray—life is too short!

Do you have a dream project or time period or character you would like to work on in the future?

My dream project is something like Underworld, or a new Charmed—anything dark, twisted, young, hip—anything street, young Hollywood… I want to do what is me…(Well, not so young anymore! Haha)

One of the things students talk about at the exhibition is the difference between costume designing and styling. Could you say something about that in regards to what you do on PLL?

Styling and costume design are soooo different. First of all are the paychecks! I have done both—I loved styling but I felt I wasn’t “creating“ enough. You have to realize that when you style, you have so many people TELLING you what to do. It’s all about the designers—“who are you wearing?“ I’d rather create a character; work with a director, an actor, and a producer, to create who this person is. To me as a designer, it is much more fulfilling. I live for it.

I used the Job Placement Program through FIDM to get my first internship, and that changed my life forever. It was on a film set. I met my mentor Julia Schklair and she took me under her wing and seriously taught me what I would never have the patience to teach anyone. The combination of FIDM and me working my butt off for nothing really showed the industry I was the real deal. I haven’t stopped since.

Any last words of advice for students that are working toward a career in costume design?

Be you, we can all smell fakes. Be persistent, but not annoying. Don’t tell us how much money your daddy has, or the list of people you have dressed, or projects you have done. We are in the moment and want to see what you have and how you work with us. And it’s a bummer, but work for free. Do not be abused, but do put in your time, it will be worth it. But never sell yourself short. The industry doesn’t have what it used to as far as money, but stand strong for what you and your team need in a reasonable manner. Remember you will never make what Rachel Zoe makes being a designer. You will put in more hours and your body will ache at the end of the day, but you get to see the character YOU MADE COME ALIVE on screen. Nothing beats that feeling. It’s not just a dress off a runway, it’s from your mind (and the director’s of course) and that satisfaction is priceless.

The free exhibition runs until October 20, 2012.

Exhibition photos by Alex J. Berliner/ABimages

Ripped: Expressions from the Underground

Opening November 8th is RIPPED: Expressions from the Underground, the first comprehensive museum exhibition to explore the art and influence of punk rock on design and culture.

Cesar Padilla, artist, musician, collector, Punk rock enthusiast, and author of Ripped: T-shirts from the Underground will curate the exhibition, which is sponsored by Cherry Resource Center.

The opening will be held in conjunction with LA’s popular Downtown Art Walk. The free event will be in Grand Hope Park, in front of the museum. Lydia Lunch with Retro Virus and the Ritchie White Orchestra will be performing. Roddy Buttum from Faith No More, Kari Krome of the Runaways, and Nicole Panter, former manager of the Germs, are among others contributors to RIPPED: T-Shirts from the Underground scheduled to perform live readings from the book.


FIDM Museum Shop

Trick or Treat? Treat yourself to some hauntingly stylish tricks this Halloween. Candy may be fine for strange little ghouls that knock on your door, but inside get into the spirit with a full range of skull-inspired décor and accessories.

Fill your goodie bag with Vivienne Westwood Skull cufflinks with black Swarovski crystals, Memento Mori candles, quirky Halloween books, and jewelry with just the right touch of autumn texture. You will be ready for everything from pumpkin carving to attending spooky costume parties to just yelling ”BOO!“

Looking for the perfect accessories for fall? New jewelry, bags, scarves, and more are arriving every day.

Visit the FIDM Museum Shop for a fabulous selection of one-of-a-kind jewelry, amazing treasures, and exclusive gifts and see why we have won Downtown LA’s Best Unique Store for the past three years.


Everyone’s Talking about Hats! Louise Green Trunk Show, Sample Sale & Gallery Tour

From the Royal Wedding to the Kentucky Derby, to Lady Gaga to Downton Abbey, hats are back in the spotlight.

Celebrate all things hats at the FIDM Museum & Museum Shop.

World renowned, LA-based milliner, Louise Green will present her millinery visions in a trunk show and sample sale.

Co-curator Christina Johnson will take you behind the scenes of A Century of Millinery Style: Hats from the Helen Larson Historic Fashion Collection, 1820s–1920s, the latest installation in the FIDM Museum’s Larson Gallery. She will explore the role of hats in fashion and society in the 100-year time period featured.

  • Book signing
  • Elle & Blair Fowler
  • Beneath the Glitter
  • Tuesday, October 23rd
  • 5–7 pm
  • FIDM Museum Shop

2012 Exhibitions

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