We Talk With The Costume Designer Behind the Clothes on To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before
“One of the beautiful things about working from a book is that there is a visual statement that everybody can take wherever they want to take it."
Netflix’s summer feel-good teenager rom-com, To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before (aka my new favourite movie), taps into a mortifying teenagers’ nightmare: having your secret love letters mysteriously delivered to their recipients. (Yes, more than one recipient.) It’s like a teenage version of drunk texting your Tinder date, then having to face them the next day. Lara Jean Covey (played by Lana Condor) finds herself in this particularly cringe-worthy predicament when five boys – including the school’s most popular guy, as well as her older sister’s ex-boyfriend, receive her Shakespeare-worthy love letters.
Based on Jenny Han’s young adult fiction novel (young adult means it’s okay I enjoyed it, right?), the movie depicts complex characters that feel real, that are easy to connect with and that you actually want to be friends with. Plus, their wardrobes are a perfect blend of inspirational, but relatable, especially Lara Jean, who might be this season’s new style icon.
“Lara Jean is such an interesting cool character that really brings a variety of different worlds together,” says Rafaella Rabinovich, the movie’s costume designer, over the phone from Vancouver. She was in the middle of an Aritzia warehouse sale shopping spree – for a new project – when we called. Rabinovich based Condor’s signature style on the ’90s retro revival and added a hint of romance to it. “I really got lost in the world of Modcloth retro-vibes Instagram,” says Rabinovich.
“One of the beautiful things about working from a book is that there is a visual statement that everybody can take wherever they want to take it,” says Rabinovich. This helps explain why she took style cues from the novel’s fan base to build Lara Jean’s relatable, and quite iconic, closet. “I really looked into the worlds of what the fans loved. I could really see how they own vintage and romance.”
On-screen that meant dressing the actress in striped turtlenecks, a-line button up skirts, flirty printed dresses, sneakers with high knee socks and an adorable heart-shaped necklace. Her retro-yet-cool aesthetic is best captured, when Lara Jean heads to a house party (with her fake boyfriend) in a a little black dress adorned with a white Peter Pan collar, amazing platform brogues and a baby blue bomber layered overtop. The essence of her costumes are so relatable because many garments were actually purchased in the same stores where real teenagers shop : Forever 21, Simons, Aritzia, H&M, Urban Outfitters, Asos and, obviously, Modcloth. Rabinovich also revealed her not-so-secret Vancouver vintage troves where she found some of the characters’ garments : Burcu’s Angels and Mintage.
“I think that costumes help in creating trends,” says Rabinovich. So, is LJ the new teen style icon? With her vintage Etsy combat boots, her yellow beret and her flirty velvet maxi skirt, she might be launching a new retro-urban trend.