‘Scandal’: Olivia’s Wardrobe Color Choices Were Symbolic and Intentional to Reflect Her Character’s Mindset

As fictional as ABC’s Scandal was, it was still based on a real person, always making audiences wonder what kernels of truth crept in. If nothing else, the show was loaded with as much detail as Breaking Bad, giving a good reason to stream the series over again.

One thing some fans may have overlooked is the wardrobe on Scandal. Reports are there were intentional color choices made to reflect what Olivia Pope was thinking at any given time.

Beyond that, it helped inspire a fashion line, something no one expected at the time for a show centered around political headlines. As for those fashion colors: It often went by what certain classic colors represent.

Kerry Washington smiling at the camera
Kerry Washington | Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/Getty Images

What colors were used the most in Olivia Pope’s wardrobe?

According to Cosmopolitan, the show made very deliberate color choices sometimes going beyond Olivia Pope’s mindset. The designers dipped into science to utilize what specific colors usually stand for in the realms of history.

Using the color white was inevitable, albeit its use intended to reflect Olivia’s stance as a “rescuer.” Considering she was the ultimate D.C. fixer, this really does denote the work she does, if perhaps maybe being misinterpreted without prior knowledge.

Most people associated white with purity, something looking ironic when throwing in the plot point of Olivia having an affair with President Fitz Grant. Regardless, it was an effective color and did give the idea Olivia had enough sanctity to fight for the common good.

Other colors used in her wardrobe need further explanation, if some being more self-explanatory.

‘Scandal’ and their wardrobe designer, Lyn Paolo

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Many fans may not realize that Washington and costume designer Lyn Paolo worked closely together throughout Scandal’s seven-year run to choose the right colors. Doing so helped establish Olivia Pope’s story through color symbolism as noted above with white.

They also used other colors like black and red as just starters. Black was always used to represent Olivia in mourning mode as it usually is by tradition. In the show, Olivia was shown wearing black to reflect her psyche after her kidnapping.

Red was also used to represent power, something going back centuries for those in states of power. During the early days of Scandal, this was used to denote Olivia’s push to gain power, something she eventually managed.

In many cases, as seen in Glamour, Paolo would mix up colors to represent Olivia being in conflict about an issue. As a good example, a mix of black and white occurred when Olivia started dealing with her love triangle.

Other colors used on Olivia Pope’s clothes

The above colors are fairly basic and can denote many things just at first glance. A number of other colors were used, though, including less neutral colors. When red became more common, Olivia could also be seen wearing bolder purple and orange as more “power”-like overtures, according to Vulture.

Said Lyn Paolo to Entertainment Weekly at the time of the bolder color choices (2016): “She is even more driven, even more determined, and she is going to do whatever it takes for Olivia Pope to survive.”

When that season began, there was a concerted effort to change the look of Olivia after she walked out on President Grant. With the show going in a slightly different direction by this point, Paolo worked alongside Shonda Rhimes to reflect the differences through the brighter wardrobe. When audiences saw Olivia Pope at the beginning wearing brighter clothes, it was a surefire sign she was a renewed person.

Now fans will likely go back and reanalyze all of this to see how many mixed colors were thrown in to reflect certain emotions.