The key to an immortal teen rom-com often lies in the wardrobe: think Cher Horowtiz’s yellow plaid or Molly Ringwald’s penchant for pink. Throughout Netflix’s To All the Boys trilogy, Lara Jean Covey (Lana Condor) has demonstrated her dedication to the genre while becoming a style star in her own right. She might look to movies for romantic inspiration, but when it comes to her closet, Lara Jean mixes and matches vintage with off-the-rack pieces in a soft color palette dominated by blue, yellow, and pink. Not all her fashion choices are set in stone, however—college is looming and this is a senior year packed with uncertainty and experimentation, including what to wear to prom.
Milestone moments shape Lara Jean’s To All the Boys: Always and Forever wardrobe, including a Seoul family vacation, the New York City senior trip, and a backyard wedding. “The whole series of books and films is a coming-of-age,” costume designer Lorraine Carson tells ELLE.com during a day off from working on Netflix’s upcoming dramedy Maid. “Rather than doing things for everyone else, she had the epiphany of doing things for her. That was a very important part of the storyline for me.” While Rafaella Rabinovich served as designer for the first TATB film, Carson took over for the sequel P.S. I Love You and the final installment, and tailored changes to signify Lara Jean’s journey from high schooler to college student in the third film. Peter (Noah Centino) is heading to Stanford, but will his girlfriend embrace the West Coast college’s signature cardinal, or is another hue on the cards?
Here, Carson discusses the teenager’s arc, the eclectic inspiration for her BFF Chris (Madeleine Arthur), and the look that signifies the future for Lara Jean.
Spring Break in Seoul
Sibling time is essential before Lara Jean embarks on the next chapter of her life, and what better place to bond with Margot (Janel Parrish) and Kitty (Anna Cathcart) than the vacation of a lifetime in Seoul? The South Korean capital directly influenced Carson’s bold color palette. “It’s very bright and overwhelming in color, so we bought into that and had everybody in color there,” she says. Always and Forever director Michael Fimognari set the tone as cinematographer in the first movie, and these hues get stronger as the series progresses. “[It’s] a very warm and loving time, so we tried to embody the joy of that with the color,” Carson says. The bold color extends to a big cat costume the Coveys pose with for a photo op. The piece was conceptualized after Fimognari noticed the large stuffed animal costumes during location scouting in the city. “We worked in conjunction with the crew that worked with me over there,” she explains of putting the costume together. The custom cat is pink, blue, and yellow to match the To All the Boys signature color scheme.
Author Jenny Han, who wrote the book series on which the films are based, continued her involvement behind the scenes and joined production on location in Seoul. Han was hands-on during P.S. I Love You—including shipping vintage garments from New York—but reduced her role for Always and Forever due to another project she was working on. Still, “this whole project is Jenny’s baby as the books go,” Carson says. “We always ran the lineups and fitting photos by her. She was always involved in that.”
Falling in Love with New York City
Love at first sight isn’t confined to people, and Lara Jean falls head over heels for New York City during the senior class trip. A setting for many rom-coms—as Lara Jean tells Peter later on—the city offers a meet-cute between the high schooler and NYU.
“We dropped some hemlines for when she went to New York because she thought that was more sophisticated,” Carson says, noting the purposeful shift toward softer tones. Platform Keds is Lara Jean’s version of commuter sneakers (“I want to look like a local,” she tells Chris while packing) paired with a lemon yellow ‘50s striped dress that is “very much a Lara Jean kind of look.” Carson switched glass buttons for a yellow camera-friendly option and paired the dress with a pink belt and the aforementioned sneakers.
Slipping out of the hotel with Peter to get sweet treats at the Little Cupcake Bakeshop doesn’t require a Holly Golightly oversized sunglasses disguise.“We had shades of Audrey Hepburn when we put her in lilac cropped cigarette pants,” Carson says of the movie-star inspiration behind Lara Jean’s low-key mission-in-the-city attire. The costume designer turned a vintage windowpane check dress into a blouse, and the cute look reflects a shift toward a more tailored silhouette.
Comfort Food Clothes
There was often uncanny synchronicity between Lana and Lara Jean’s closets. “Many of the things we bought, she’d come in and go, ‘Oh my god, I own this.’ ‘Oh, I want this, I’m going out to buy that!’” says Carson.
Lara Jean’s NYU acceptance letter is marked March 2021, and while this is a pandemic-free alternate universe (the film was shot 18 months ago) what would Lara Jean find soothing in quarantine? “She’s all about comfort. She’d definitely be doing her slouchy wear. [That’s] her comfort zone. This is her macaroni and cheese, her comfort food.” Carson says. “She would go to this when things were confusing for her or she had to sort out…her sad times were in comfort wear. Like wrapping a blanket around yourself.” Lara Jean wears a pastel ombré Wildfox sweatshirt when she finds out she didn’t get into Stanford.
The ‘90s Influence
The ‘90s are alive and well with a soundtrack featuring the Spice Girls and Oasis, and Lara Jean opts for Romeo + Juliet during a particularly bummed-out mood. Her BFF Chris leans into this decade, mixing rock and roll vibes with some boho flourishes. “We brought a little bit of the Pacific Northwest grunge into her world [in P.S. I Still Love You], but she never crossed the line until she went into Part 3, where she was full-on,” Carson explains of Chris’s aesthetic. Unlike her bestie, Chris hasn’t factored in practical shoes for NYC and chooses signature stacked platforms instead. “She was in her glory wearing it,” Carson says of Arthur’s penchant for the style.
Citing ‘90s supermodels as a touchstone, Chris’s prom and wedding attire also stick to this decade. “We thought of ‘90s nightclubbing, and we threw in was some long opera gloves to make her more sophisticated,” says Carson. “But she has high platform shoes on and that was a Kate Moss-[influenced] dress.”
Lara Jean has had a fashion fairy tale moment in each movie, with P.S. I Still Love You offering the opportunity to don a borrowed J. Mendel seafoam green gown for a romantic epiphany. Sadly, Holland Taylor’s stylish Stormy doesn’t make a surprise appearance to dish out sartorial gifts for prom in the third film, but her influence can be felt via Lara Jean’s mid-century summer frocks and cigarette pants. And instead of a gorgeous gifted dress, Lara Jean’s dream dusty rose option is one she picks for herself for prom, rather than matching her boyfriend’s navy tux.
As is often the case for finding a jaw-dropping look for a celebratory event, Carson tried “various styles” for prom on Condor. In this case, three dresses provided the various components to build one stunning frock. “We found the fabric we felt was the most beautiful—it was like a matte satin. It was beautiful for the camera, and it was stunning on her,” recalls Carson. One obstacle was the neckline, which Carson’s cutter transformed into a “V” while the hunt for embroidered lace continued. “I found another dress in a wedding store, took that fabric from the skirt, and layered it over the top of this dress,” says Carson. “Then we put massive amounts of crinoline under.” What began life as an off-the-rack garment was transformed into a three-in-one custom build.
The Backyard Wedding
“You’ll see as the film went along we started to streamline the clothes,” Carson says, “They became a little more body-conscious but still within her youthful age group.” Lara Jean’s fit is more tailored, whether she’s wearing a top paired with jeans, a pretty floral Aritzia frock (as seen on the poster), or formal wear. She wears a fitted bodice for her bridesmaid dress (IEENA for Mac Duggal bought from Nordstrom) at her father’s wedding to Trina (Sarayu Blue). “We threw many, many, many crinolines under it to give it the wow factor,” says Carson.
Eschewing identical dresses, each Covey sister wears a style that fits her personal aesthetic in a different shade of blue. Earlier in the movie, Kitty states she’ll be wearing a tux and sneakers, much to Lara Jean’s horror. The final version is a flawless Theory suit that Carson’s team altered for the teenager, “We completely tailored it to fit her, slimmed it down. Got a small men’s dress shirt from Uniqlo,” the designer says. Carson knew it needed an extra something and looked back to another stylish decade: “In the ‘20s people used to wear ribbons around their neck, so I put a ribbon for a bow tie on her.” Kitty’s choice of blue tux is a reminder that the youngest Covey sibling is “very much her own girl.”
College branded attire becomes part of Peter’s closet as soon as he gets into Stanford, but there are strict production rules regarding these garments. First, it has to be cleared by legal, and then only authentic licensed products can be depicted. There is one Standford exception, and that’s the tree hat, because it isn’t official apparel. “We took it to a comic level,” says Carson.
From over the top to effortlessness, the final Lara Jean ensemble (including a new haircut!) is one of the first costumes Carson conceived for the concluding installment. “It’s a denim skirt, a t-shirt, and her shoes were fabulous, of course. All her shoes are.” Interesting footwear is a big deal for the teen and includes a full circle moment when Gen (Emilija Baranac) compliments Lara Jean’s sage green patent Geox sandals. Carson describes Lara Jean as “a major fashionista” when it comes to shoes, so Carson also sourced footwear from Vancouver boutique gravitypope, the Wishbone Collection from Browns, and Michael Kors. “When you’re doing television series you rarely see people’s feet, but on a feature, you tend to see their feet more. Shoes become a part of the character,” says Carson.
Lara Jean’s outlook and closet were conceived long before anyone knew what 2021 would look like. However, considering the turbulent landscape, this slice of teen rom-com escapism and Lara Jean’s journey is a welcome stylish respite. “Everything about her is positive and I think that’s what everyone needs these days,” says Carson. “Especially with quarantine, we need a positive role model, and she embodies that.”
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