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Little screen, big impact

September 22, 2013|By Whitney Friedlander
  • Costume designers: Ret Turner and Bob Mackie  "Cher's collaboration with Bob Mackie created a revolution in hippie chic," says Landis. "You could say it wasn't Sonny and Cher who made the music together, it was Cher and Bob Mackie because she was a sensation. That's what we wanted to look like."
Costume designers: Ret Turner and Bob Mackie "Cher's collaboration… (CBS Photo Archive / Getty…)

We are living in a golden age of television where every millisecond of a hit TV show can be scrutinized and celebrated by smartphone-addicted fans.

Most of the credit for this goes to series' creators and networks, but for a certain segment of the audience, the costumers deserve recognition as well.

Blessed are the fashion geeks. For they have the best attention to detailed craftsmanship. Not only do they watch, they obsess.

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For proof, look to the way we follow TV's current lineup. There are blogs, Pinterest boards and Tumblrs dedicated to the crisp, elegant costumes that Lyn Paolo designs for Kerry Washington's Olivia Pope on "Scandal" and Daniel Lawson creations for Julianna Margulies' Alicia Florrick in "The Good Wife," as well as the somewhat-'80s looks that Eric Daman creates for "The Carrie Diaries." John Dunn's costumes for "Boardwalk Empire" fit in nicely with the speakeasy-style retro revival that was happening when the show premiered in 2010. Even the high-class editors at tune into "Game of Thrones" to ogle costume designer Michele Clapton's furs and rich silks.

Fans of "Pretty Little Liars'" flock to Macy's, where costume designer Mandi Line holds in-store events to get them back-to-school and prom-ready. Costume designer Janie Bryant is a household name among "Mad Men" fans; Banana Republic had a revenue windfall with its 2012 collection themed around her styles. ("Downton Abbey" and "Revenge" are trying similar gimmicks, with products and clothing themed around their shows).

Of course, fashion lines and runway inspirations are not always the goals when starting projects.

"Successful shows are not fashion shows," says Deborah Nadoolman Landis, founding director of UCLA's David C. Copley Center for the Study of Costume Design. "Always first and foremost is that creation of that person, that irresistible object that the audience is going to love. That messy, interesting layered story that makes that show worth watching."

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But Chrisi Karvonides, a costume designer whose resume includes creating the costumes for the 2011 show "Pan Am," believes that fan interest in costume and fashion is here to stay, and she points to "Once Upon a Time":

"I think 'Once Upon a Time' has more of an impact for young girls right now than any of the other shows," she says, referencing Eduardo Castro's feathered and lizard-skinned costume designs that are worn by "princesses who are warriors."

"I guarantee you that in five years or when those girls start buying their prom dresses, they're going to be making choices based on those characters who they admire.

The show's spin-off, "Once Upon a Time in Wonderland," premieres Oct. 10.

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