The Fashion Gladiator

March 20, 2016

When my daughter comes home from college on break, I suddenly find myself staying up late once again waiting for her to get home at night. Sydney (like most of our kids) is a huge Netflix fan and kept asking me if I had watched her new favorite show ‘Scandal.’ 

Since I don’t have time to watch (or get hooked) on too many shows, I hadn’t watched a single episode. One late night, I found myself in need of something to pass the time. So I tuned into the first season. And I hate to admit it, but I was hooked. Not only was I intrigued by the plot lines, but the fashion! Holy smokes, the savvy style character Olivia Pope, played by Kerry Washington, had me at ‘hello.’


But what I find the most interesting (and inspiring) is her wardrobe which has undeniably become a critical part of her character and the storyline. The show’s costume designer, Lyn Paolo, in my humble opinion is brilliant. Paolo curates the clothing worn on the show from different designers (including many that we carry at K. Renee) and mixes and matches the pieces to create a unique and powerful fashion statement.

Olivia Pope is a high-powered “fixer” in the political world of Washington DC. She calls herself and her team ‘Gladiators’ who are ready at a moment’s notice to fight to ‘fix’ the problems, and in many cases scandals, of their clients.

The fashion of Olivia Pope always provides its audience with insight into her mental state and is a serious tool to underscore the dynamic in each scene and situation.  No matter what is happening, her style is always ‘feminine elegance.’ But make no mistake, she is smart, fierce and impeccably dressed with a wardrobe of versatile pieces. Think tailored suit separates, ladylike dresses, statement jewelry and statement outerwear.   I have often told our team that if Olivia Pope was in Des Moines...she would most certainly shop at K. Renee!

From her (or perhaps her costume designer), we can learn a thing or two about dressing in a way that allows us to tap into our own unique inner fashion gladiator.

The suit is Olivia’s sophisticated signature look. There is nothing boring (or masculine) about her tailored suits that are paired with soft blouses, feminine heels and great pieces of jewelry. This Lafayette 148 New York suiting below (that is currently in-store) has a micro pattern that creates serious style. 

Personally, I love wearing a suit (even though I am not in an office setting) and always feel strong and powerful wearing one. No matter where you work, at the office or in your home, everyone needs at least one great suit in their closet.

The suit is really quite practical. The jacket  can be worn with a contrasting slack or skirt (below), over a simple dress and even with jeans. The slacks can then be paired with a contrasting jacket, sweaters or blouses. Too many people have suits in their closet that don’t get re-worn in different ways. Struggling with a suit in your closet?  Bring it in and we will show you how it's done.

I love how a statement necklace can add personality, softness and a unique finishing touch to most any outfit - dressy or casual. A long necklace, in particular, is Olivia’s go-to accessory often helping her create a soft and approachable look.  

We all make a statement of some kind by how we dress when we walk into a room. It is one of the first things others notice about us. In Olivia’s case, she wants to be taken seriously no matter where she goes, and the way she dresses is part of her personal brand. Think about the statement that you want to make and remember to always dress the part!

When Olivia Pope is feeling dark, she typically wears colors that match her mood. And when she is ‘gladiating’ (fighting for a good cause) or is feeling calm and at ease, she lightens it up with soft hues of white, grey and other light-toned pastels. This softer look makes her more approachable yet strong.  Clearly, a woman doesn't need just to wear black to be fierce.  

Whether you are dressing for business or pleasure, there is nothing more versatile than jackets. You can wear almost anything underneath and when you throw it on, you are suddenly dressed for the office, a meeting or a dinner out. Wear a jacket over a dress, with a skirt, pants or jeans...the options for changing it up are endless.

I’ve always known that we can create a character through the way we dress and perhaps that is why I have developed a girl crush (Yikes) on Olivia Pope.

Dressing ‘the part’ has been an important (and very positive) tool in my own up and down journey over the years. When I was just starting out in my career, I wanted to show my boss that I could do the job and do it I dressed the part.  In my darkest hours, dressing myself in a confident way told my kids, friends and family that I was strong (even when I wasn’t) and that I would make it through.  On my best days, a great outfit is just plain fun and always makes me feel like a million bucks. Who doesn’t need that? 

Bottom line, no matter how we are feeling - good, bad or otherwise - channeling our inner fashion gladiator can certainly give us the confidence boost we need to arrive at the many better days ahead.

PS. The video below is a great little video of Kerry Washington and Lyn Paolo on ‘the dressing of Olivia Pope. Enjoy!

K. Renee's clothing and home store are located at 2600 University Avenue in West Des Moines, Iowa.