MCTV Exclusive: Inside the Fitting Room with Greg LaVoi – “Skin Deep”

By M. Sharpe

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Major Crimes costume designer Greg LaVoi in his fitting room at Raleigh Studios, with his assistant, Vida.

Armani. St. John. Michael Kors. The labels behind the costumes on Major Crimes are as iconic as some of the looks themselves have proven to be. The man behind these iconic looks is costume designer Greg LaVoi, who, before designing for Major Crimes and The Closer, also put together ensembles for legends like Reba McEntire, Dolly Parton and worked for Bob Mackie.  LaVoi invited us into the storied halls of the Major Crimes costume department to take a look behind the scenes, and we are thrilled to announce a new weekly series “Inside the Fitting Room With Greg LaVoi” where we will take a closer look at the labels, looks and behind-the-scenes workings that bring Major Crimes to such vibrant visual life in each week’s episode.

MajorCrimesTV: The last time we spoke to you was in season two, when Major Crimes was just finding its footing. Now that we’re firmly in season five, we’ve seen a lot of evolution of many of the characters. Have their looks and your costume choices evolved?

Greg LaVoi: Really, you know, there has been no evolution per se from The Closer to the fifth season of Major Crimes. Only in the sense that these characters have lived in these clothes for twelve years now. Not the same clothes, but they’ve lived in these characters for twelve years. So short of, this season, with Provenza’s new wife, Patrice, kind of buying his clothes now (per the writers) he’s upped the game a little bit with better sports coats, better ties, and better pocket squares. I haven’t repeated any of his old ties this season at all. It’s all been new. So that’s fun and GW’s enjoyed that because it’s now his “wife” picking his clothes instead of him.

But as far as Flynn, and Sanchez and Sykes and all that, they’re everyday. The characters are not making tons of money, and they’re busy solving crimes, so they can’t go out and buy clothes every other day. We do repeat clothes, as I think the fans enjoy, but other than repeating a look in a different way every so often, I design it like a real person’s wardrobe. So maybe Sykes goes out and buys new Theory jackets and pants when the sales are, or maybe Raydor, when she has the day off, does go to Neiman Marcus and picks an Armani. I design it like a real person would shop and buy their own clothes.

MCTV: You talked about repeating some pieces of costume – how do you choose which ones to recycle and what goes into that decision of what becomes part of that rotation for that character?

GLV: Usually, on the rotation factor, it is what an actor likes. I do take them into account when I’m repeating clothes. Sometimes I might use a jacket for Sharon, and we’ve liked how it looks but it turns out to be uncomfortable to wear. Or on Sykes this year she’s gotten new Theory stretch pants, which look exactly like suit pants, but they’re easier to move in.

costume tease

The Major Crimes “gold” room features all the regular wardrobe of the main cast, which is often repeated in rotation throughout the season and over several seasons. Other rooms house an array of costume options for guest actors, and storage for pieces that are on hold from use in prior episodes.

Some things, like the purple jackets on Mary, which have become iconic, I’ve retired both of them now, just because they’re getting worn, and their time is gone. So now I’m looking for new iconic pieces for her, which is a challenge. We have an area in the costume closet called “Show Holds”, so I always look at that to see what episode I’ve put maybe the one purple jacket in, then I may not repeat it again until, you know, four episodes ahead, or whatever. It really is a game of numbers. Looking to see which ties I’ve used, and oftentimes I don’t repeat a tie each season, but I also don’t buy a lot of new ties for the guys because they’ve got huge stacks of ties from twelve years.

MCTV: One thing we don’t see that often, but that we did see in this week’s episode, is Sharon at home. What goes into choosing her home wardrobe as opposed to her work clothes?

GLV: That’s a good question because it’s fun now to see Sharon at home. We got to see Brenda at home a lot in The Closer, and it was usually her in pajamas or her comfy sweater or something like that. But with Sharon, she’s a little more pulled together then Brenda was. To me, shopping for Raydor’s at home clothes has been fun. It’s usually a nice pair of tailored jeans, something that Mary likes. And I often costume the characters like I dress, in the sense that I love cashmere so I assume every actor is going to love cashmere, and every character is going to be cold at home.

In Raydor’s condo I put her in a lot of cashmere sweaters with maybe a tank underneath just because that’s what I would wear at home, a cashmere sweater and a pair of jeans. I got called on the carpet for it the other day, in a joking way, from one of the actors saying “Why is everybody always in a sweater?”, and I said ‘because I’m always cold so my characters are always cold.’ (laughs)

It’s humorous in a sense but that’s the truth, and it’s like I become these people, in a way, when I shop for them. So when I’m shopping for Raydor, my mind is on “What would Raydor buy?”  when I’m shopping for Sanchez, I turn into Sanchez and think, “what would he buy?” So it’s very personal to me and thus, Raydor is in her cashmere sweaters at home to stay warm. Not that her apartment is cold by any means but it is LA, we do have chilly nights, if she has the windows open on the deck, I assume the apartment is a little chilly. But it’s fun because there are so many cool things out there that I can put on Raydor now that doesn’t look so uptight, like she is at the office. Thus, the more casual sweaters, the hoodies, the cowl necks, the boots. It’s fun to get a glimpse into them off the clock.

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Raydor’s Theory coat is paired with a Stella McCartney V-neck blouse, Paige denim, and a necklace from McDonnell’s own collection.

MCTV: Another outfit in this week’s episode in the casual vein was the great brown suede jacket that we saw Sharon in at the very end. It seems like we’ve seen her trend towards some more leather jackets lately, with this one, and the black Armani we saw a few episodes ago. Is that a conscious change, or just an evolution of the “Raydor has great jackets” game?

GLV: I think she just has great jackets. I love leather on camera because if it’s shiny, it radiates, and if it’s matte it soaks up the light. The suede jacket is gorgeous. It’s a Theory mushroom suede jacket, actually, and Mary initially didn’t like it. But she tried it on and fell in love with it. And then I paired it with a Stella McCartney green V-neck tunic, which, green, she looks absolutely fabulous in, and her pants are Paige denim. And the necklace is actually her own. Mary had it on the day of the fitting, and we realized it went perfectly, so we used it.

But a suede jacket like that and leather jackets like that are iffy at best because I can’t easily repeat that jacket like I would the “Darth Raydor” jacket or her black leather jackets because this is a more casual look, more upscale casual look so she can’t wear it off to a crime scene.

MCTV: She had another great look in this episode with the lavender dress, and the textured jacket.

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The very first costume worn by Raydor when the character was introduced in The Closer was an Armani trenchcoast, and Armani continues to be a staple of her wardrobe, including this boucle jacket paired with a lavender St. John dress.

GLV: Oh yes. That’s a case of repeating. So with that, I have the blue and lavender boucle Armani jacket that was bought a couple of seasons ago. And then, that was a St. John lavender knit dress. But again, that was bought, two or three years ago, at least. So that’s a great example of truly repeating a look from the past and pairing them up with something different.

MCTV: You mentioned Provenza is really the one who has had a conscious change in his style this year. How did that come through in this episode?

504 costume provenzaGLV: With Patrice “buying” Provenza’s clothes this year we’ve been able to get some better brands on Provenza, and a better fit for him. So my go-to store for that, for elegant mature men–is Carroll & Co. in Beverly Hills. And so in this episode he’s in a beautiful houndstooth sport coat from Carroll & Co. and his pants are Carroll & Co. and his tie is Carroll & Co. and his pocket square is Carroll & Co. So really I was like, pretending to be Patrice and going in there and just saying “Oh, Louie would like this, and Louie would like that that “Pretty Woman” scene, ‘oh, he’ll love this, he’ll love that.’

MCTV: The murder victim this week had quite a loud outfit. How did that one come to be?

GLV: The dress plays a huge part in the episode. It had to look like a beach ball, a floating beach ball. The dress was from Bebe, and it was an orange Lycra dress, and then the blazer was from Carven, a high-end brand at Neiman’s. The actress plays a high-end realtor, and she was great. This is truly a costume stunt gag, where her bottom, had to look like a beach ball floating in the pool, so thus the Lycra dress.

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Realtor Heather Lutz met her end in this Bebe Dress and Carven jacket. Several pairs of each outfit are often required for any out-of-the-norm costume needs, like this outfit which had to be seen in the water. Pictured here are the “hero” version of the costume, as well as the copies that were also sourced as backups.

MCTV: Finally, I noticed there was a lot of matching happening in this episode with Sharon and Andy. You’ve described before how you like to do a color story with coordinating the characters outfits, but now that “Shandy” is really moving forward, has that ramped up for you?

GLV: Yes. I always did the color theme with Brenda and Gabriel and clothes (in The Closer), so it’s fun to have a pair that are kind of in cahoots again, but it’s tough, because Flynn was always the peacock with colors and Raydor was always very subtle. So now with some of the colors I’m getting on Raydor, like the green tunic this week for instance, I can look for green ties and other things for Flynn.

Color Story: LaVoi often uses the characters to tell a story with the colors of the clothes. in the case of "Shandy", their outfits often share the same colors, reflecting the closeness of the characters.
Color Story: LaVoi often uses the characters to tell a story with the colors of the clothes. in the case of “Shandy”, their outfits often share the same colors, reflecting the closeness of the characters.


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.

Additional reporting by K. Black