Mandi Line has a harrowing job. Dressing four of television’s most fashion-forward high schoolers on ABC Family’s Pretty Little Liars isn’t an easy task, especially when fans are ready to give you notes after each episode airs.
“Our viewers are so hardcore that I’ll never forget this,” Mandi told me at a party for TCA at the Paley Center this week. “Spencer wore a black-and-white asymmetric kind of striped sweater and I got so much flack for that like, ‘Only Aria wears stripes!’ So I have to be really true to how they were introduced to the viewers. So I do have to remember their color tones. Like Hanna wears the lighter, pink and floral even though now she’s on trend and trend is a little more edgy. I literally have to keep the viewers in mind with 90 percent of what I do. I get blogs and emails and Facebooks going ‘I really like that but do you really think Emily wore heels? She only wears tennies.’”
Mandi has been dressing the cast of Pretty Little Liars since 2010 and has two different sets of costumes on display as part of collections, including one of Aria’s dresses at the Paley Center and the masquerade ballgowns worn by the PLLS at the FIDM Museum & Galleries on the Park in Los Angeles. Not only does she dress the girls in their everyday wear and party dress attire, but she’s also got flashbacks to deal with, which have the girls looking altogether different and can be quite a challenge.
“First of all, the girls growing older. So my make-up and hair [team]‘s task is to keep them looking young,” Mandi said. “So when you first met Emily, she was super sporty. Her mom didn’t know about her being gay. She had to act the role and play the part. And now I’ve edged her up. I’ve got a little West Hollywood lesbian in there. She’s so edgy. Literally her fanbase — all my friends at the Abbey are like ‘Oh my god I love her!’ So, yes, we take her back and the girls have gotten so comfortable with who they are now. It’s really hard they’re like ‘Ugh! I gotta wear a polo!’”
Mandi has a favorite though. “Aria. She’s my favorite to dress because I get to go back to myself in junior high and make everything goth her up, ‘cuz that’s kind of where she came from. So it’s tougher when they’re getting older, but it kind of pushes me, too. Like going, ‘OK, Mandi, don’t do what you normally do. Remember what they’re supposed to be.’”
One challenge is making sure Ashley Benson is believable when she goes back in time to be “Hefty Hanna.”
“Hanna got so unbelievable packing sweaters on so we actually got her a custom-made fat suit,” Mandi said. “She walks around it in. She looks like she’s nude — she does these dances in it! She’s so hilarious. All of a sudden we get this sensitive heart to Hanna when she gets this outfit on. Her shoulders get lower and her chin goes down — she really does get in the role. She feels sad like ‘Oh my god this, this is how I used to be.’ So it actually helps the character but it’s tough because her face is so thin. Everyone else is in summer clothes and I’ve got her in long sleeves. Even last Halloween when she was Britney Spears — the poor girl was dripping sweat but I can’t show her parts because she’s so tiny.”
Before working on Pretty Little Liars, Mandi worked on ABC Family’s 10 Things I Hate About You, which means she worked closely with Lindsey Shaw, aka Paige McCullers.
“Paige is the toughest character because I want to butch her up. I think she’s hot,” Mandi said. “She’s got this sexy masculine energy so I just want to butch her up. Marlene [King] and me are on board. Let’s do this! But all of a sudden we’re like, it’s ABC Family so we have to pull back a little bit because she brings it. So I have her in like a G-Star/Diesel drop-crotch like my friends. I’m basing it off two of my butchy girlfriends. But she still has feminine hair so it was a little too much. So if you chopped her hair, it would work. But if she’s feminine from the neck up, I could do the drop-crotch, I could do the suspenders, a tank, a necklace and some earrings instead of a flannel and a wifebeater.”
Executive producer Marlene King said that it’s not so much about ABC Family’s editing as it is making Paige a little less edgy. “I don’t know that it’s ‘what’s the ABC Family version of Paige’ it’s more ‘what’s the Rosewood version of Paige?’ I think that’s probably a more accurate way to look at it. Mandi would probably like to dress her like the West Hollywood version, but she’s the Rosewood version of Paige.”
Mandi said Paige has been difficult to dress because not a lot of other looks can work on her. “We introduced her as preppy; that didn’t work. Bobbed hair; that didn’t work. So she’s come through a lot of transitions and [Shay Mitchell] actually works better acting-wise with someone a little more masculine like that,” Mandi said. “So she loves it when Paige came out in a cut-off. Marlene was like ‘We gotta get that off her.’ I’m like ‘But she looks hot!’ Marlene’s like, ‘That’s a Marlboro man shirt cut-off.’ We had to tone it down a bit because I took it extreme west Hollywood butch cuz she can pull it off.”
And one more fun fact about Mandi Line: You might have seen her on AfterEllen.com before. She was on Briana Stockton‘s work out vlog Advanced P.E.. And it must have worked because she looks great!
Catch Mandi Line’s work on Pretty Little Liars every Tuesday night on ABC Family.