As part of our new weekly series “Inside the Fitting Room” we spoke to Major Crimes costume designer Greg LaVoi to get an inside look at the fashion and costumes behind this weeks episode, “Cashed Out.”
MajorCrimesTV: This episode spent a lot of time jumping back and forth in time. Did that affect how you designed the costumes for the episode?
Greg LaVoi: It was so much fun doing this episode, because of how it was structured. I loved going into and out of the real story and then cutting between those with Cynthia’s interviews with the team. There were no titles on the screen that showed the changing of time like there often are in movies, so the only way we could tell what was happening on which day was with our character’s clothing. The day we filmed with Cynthia (actress Sonya Leslie) was such an important day, and it was fun to be able to film it like that in one day. I wanted the costume changes to be important, and also got to play with some of the looks a little bit since the team wasn’t solving any crime that day, they were just giving interviews.
It was most important that Cynthia’s clothing stayed the same and was recognizable to help with the time shifts, so I put her in an ALC print blouse from Neiman Marcus, and a great Tahari flannel suit from Saks.
MCTV: I feel like this episode we saw a glimpse of Sykes more put together than we’ve ever seen her before, with the beautiful tailored suit.
GLV: I’ve had that Theory dress and jacket in Sykes’ closet for four years, and never had an opportunity to have her wear it because she’s always in the field solving crimes. And to me Sykes just wouldn’t wear a dress or skirt when she’s crime solving. So with a leap of faith I added it into the interview day, and I loved it. And that scene with Sykes and Cynthia was amazing. I thought both of them knocked it out of the park, and it was so wonderful to watch Sykes be so powerful in a dress and go toe to toe with Cynthia in pants.
One thing that’s so interesting about that scene between Sykes and Cynthia was how their suits wound up looking on the HD camera, and what that can do to colors. The Tahari suit with Cynthia, and the Theory suit on Sykes were almost the same color to the naked eye. When I went onto set and saw how that looked together, I became concerned because I thought they were both going to look like they’re in the same shade of grey. But amazingly enough, with lighting and the HD camera we film with, Sykes’ suit had a lot of blue in the grey, and Cynthia’s was warmer. So Sykes’ suit came off as blue-grey, and Cynthia’s stayed that kind of warm grey. So I was very pleased it came out looking like two very different greys.
MCTV: In that same scene we also saw Amy in heels, which I feel like was also a new thing for her?
GLV: Sykes had on Manalo pumps. Usually we see her in the stack heeled boots with her pants, which are perfectly correct and true to life for a real cop to wear. I loved being able to put her into a high heel for this episode – not super high, but a simple high heeled Manolo shoe.
MCTV: This week we saw one of my personal favorite Raydor jackets, which we’ve seen before in the show, I believe?
GLV: Yes, it’s an Armani charcoal dot jacket, and we have seen it before, starting in the very first season. Funny thing about this jacket is the beautiful Bakelite clasp/buckle on the side. It’s very fragile, so we have to take it off of the jacket anytime it comes off the set, or for storage and cleaning, because it can very easily fall off. The jacket is a perennial favorite – Mary looks good in it, it’s a great shape and creates a lovely silhouette.
We’ve used this jacket several times, always paired with a something different. This time it’s over a Narciso Rodriguez dress which I think is one of the most gorgeous dresses on Mary. The neckline, the sleeve-length, the cut, the seaming is gorgeous. The dress repeats again later in the season. It has 3/4 sleeves which is good to wear without a jacket. It was a nice sheath with a great v-neckline, which draws the eye up to the face rather than staying on the clothes. I’ve never put her in Narciso before, so it was fun to try it and see how she looks in it, and I’m excited to go back to them for more of Raydor’s clothes in the future.
MCTV: You mentioned last week that one of the costume items you’ve gotten a lot of feedback on from fans is the green checkered Equipment blouse Raydor wears in this episode.
GLV: The blouse is by Equipment, and yes, I’ve had a lot of fans reach out to me about it. The great thing about Equipment blouses is that they are feminine, but still business-like and affordable for the public and the character. I’ve seen several fans mention that they’ve bought one of these blouses after seeing it on the show, and I love hearing that, and knowing that these are something that are in stores now that anyone can buy.
I’ve started using them more and more, and we have an array of them in Raydor’s closet now. And this week we paired it with a new Ralph Lauren blazer, and a pencil skirt that’s a repeat from several season ago as well.
MCTV: The guest cast this week had a really distinct look. What went into building those costumes for them?
GLV: I loved working with both Mike Manning and Chris Gorham. Their costumes were fun, because they had to be uber hip and trendy, but not so over the top that you didn’t believe them. But they had to be on the cutting edge. So with Mike Manning’s character I did Alexander McQueen and All Saints – really hip brands.
On Chris’ character I thought he had to be so cool and hip that it had to be a signature look, and that’s how we started the search for his leather jacket. It’s from Iguana Vintage on Hollywood Blvd. No label, just a vintage leather jacket. It had great detail, and to me looks like a Dolce & Gabbana vintage jacket. And that’s what I love about designers, is they go to the vintage stores, flea markets and antique malls, and find the fabulous clothes and then they make them with modern day cuts and fabric, and they sell them. And what’s more classic than vintage?
Chris loved the jacket. We were going to give him a new jacket for the second day, and he liked it so much he said no, ‘no, if it was mine I’d wear that all the time.’ So it was a case of the actor saying he loved something, and his input influenced the final design.
MCTV: How much input does the cast and guest actors have on what they wear? How collaborative is the process for you?
GLV: It really depends on the situation. I do try to take the main actor’s preference into account, but depending on the story, it can’t always be heeded.
With Mary, she has a huge input in what she wears because she knows Raydor so well. I’ll start the season off with doing a big shop, and get things together for her to consider. But she’s so busy, we don’t get a lot of time for fitting, and when we do, we make the most of it, so we do a bulk fitting. So, it’s great to find something that works with her, and then keep it in the closet, and bring it out. With Raydor it’s all about fit, but also she’s got a pretty consistent style. She’s always pretty classic and straight. But when I get to introduce new designers, like with this week’s Narciso dress, it’s really fun, and once we’ve all decided we like them, they’ll become part of the rotation.
But in terms of input from the actors, I love collaboration and I don’t mind collaborating if it comes from the character. If they say this is just not right, I ask why not, and they say ‘because I don’t think my character would be wearing this.’ Well, okay, tell me what you’ve thought about your character. We talk, and maybe I’ll think ‘Oh my God, I never thought about that, you’re right’ and we’ll change it. But if it’s just “I, the actor, just don’t like this”, then no way. (laughs)
MCTV: We saw a lot of the team in the field this week. Are the vests and jackets something that you’ve created, or are those standard-issue for the police?
GLV: Tactical gear is actually a combination effort between the costume department and the props department. They take care of the vests, and we take care of the raid jackets and if they are in SWAT gear. For Raydor and Sykes we tailor their raid jackets so they fit better. The vests are fit with Velcro, so they can be as tight or as loose as they need to be. They are real tactical vests with the bulletproof lining, so they can be hard to wear and uncomfortable, but they have to wear them.
For the LAPD, officers are required to wear the vests, and it’s an option to wear the raid jackets. For our show, sometimes it’s written that they have to wear the raid jackets, and sometimes if it’s not and then it can be up to the actors if they want to wear the jackets, but they but they have to wear the vests in those scenes, just like the real LAPD would.
Last year Fritz had to wear his vest under his clothes for an episode, but when you put that on the body, and a shirt on top, it looks too cumbersome. So for that, we made him an unlined vest that he could wear under his shirt, so that it appeared to be a vest under the shirt, but it was a better look on camera, and more breathable and comfortable for the actor. But we love it when they get dressed up in their raid jackets and vests, and it looks so real, because it is.
MCTV: Well, the fans always love those moments as well. Especially this week, we saw Raydor out in the field, with her gun, in pursuit of the suspect, which we don’t often see. Do you put together her holster as well?
GLV: The holster and gun is done by Props, in tandem with Costume. Costume provides the belt, which is usually up to the actor’s preference. So it would be a belt that Mary or Kearran likes, that fits through the belt loops, and then then Props attaches the holster and the gun to that. Last night the holster was attached by one of her standard Raydor belts.
I love when she’s in a gun because she’ll stand differently – and she’ll plant her feet apart, hands on her hips and you see the gun. It is so rare for her, so it stands out well when it’s done.
Tony always wears his holster, though most of the other guys don’t, and sometimes we even alter Tony’s jacket to give a little extra room on the holster side so it’s not so bulky. But some of the actors really love to be correct, and some just when it’s needed.
Speaking of the partnership between Props and Costume, in this week’s episode the whole crime was solved with sunglasses. Those were Oliver Peoples sunglasses that we in Costume did not provide. On a lot of shows, it’s traditional that the Prop departments provide handbags, sunglasses, different jewelry the characters wear, etc.. But it’s fun with our Prop department because we’ll provide the handbag if it’s fashion. And they’ll provide the handbag if it’s part of a stunt. So it’s a give and take. So when it said in the script Oliver People sunglasses: I said no, Props could do that, because there’s a whole approval process of looking at the different styles of sunglasses, and getting the name of the brand cleared to use and all that. So it’s fun to be able to choose, because we passed on that, but a designer handbag, we’ll do that!
We’ll be back next week with more from the costume department, and a discussion of the costumes from the next new episode. For more information about Greg LaVoi’s career, check out our in-depth 2013 interview here, and follow him on twitter @GregLavoi.
Special thanks to TNT, Warner Bros and Greg LaVoi for making this segment possible.