If you didn’t think The Bold Type could go bolder, think again.
For its fifth and final season, the Freeform series — which follows the antics of Scarlet magazine co-workers turned BFFs Jane Sloan, Kat Edison, and Sutton Brady — is stepping up its fashion game. The show brought in costume designer Mandi Line, who’s known for her work on fan-favorite series like Pretty Little Liars and Shameless, for its last six episodes, the first of which aired Wednesday, May 26. And although some may find it daunting to take the fashion reins of a series that’s already delivered four years’ worth of unforgettable (and at times, slightly questionable) looks, for Line, it was a no-brainer.
“The show has actually had four different costume designers throughout its run, and each one has done their best to keep a consistent thread for the characters’ style while still putting their mark on it,” Line tells InStyle. “I’m known for taking things almost out of reality into an aspirational place; you don’t call me if you want things to be super grounded.” A longtime fan of the show herself, Line rewatched all episodes during quarantine to prep. “I screenshot each character’s looks that I loved from all four seasons,” she says. “That helped me look at their arcs and see where they should be in their lives.”
That meant going for a more refined and cohesive wardrobe for Katie Stevens’ character Jane, who runs Scarlet’s "The Failing Feminist" vertical and is poised to be the magazine’s future leader. “Jane had worn every trend in the past, and you’re like, wait, is she the frilly Peter Pan collar girl or is she a sexual diva?” says Line. “Her journey has been a bit all over the place, so she was the toughest for me. We’re all expecting her to take over the company one day, but how do you show her sexual journey and how free she’s become yet still keep her professional and curious?”
Ultimately, Line figured out how to strike the right balance — and Stevens was eager to help shape her character’s look. “Katie, bless her heart, she’s always throwing brands at me and I’m like, ‘What is this from?’ And she goes, ‘It’s from Instagram, Kylie Jenner wore it,’” says Line. “The truth is, whatever Katie says, she’s usually right. But we were really discovering Jane’s fashion journey until the very end. I wanted to pump her up with the right shoes, belts, and accessories." Her favorite look of Jane's this season? "In episode two, she wears this blazer with an Isabel Marant belt, leather leggings, and tall Paris, Texas boots, which are a go-to, although her signature boots are from Ruthie Davis. She looks strong and sexy, but it was still office-appropriate — and that hasn’t always been the case with some of her short skirts.”
Line had a clearer path when it came to dressing Aisha Dee’s character, Kat, Scarlet’s former social media director who’s currently bartending at (and podcasting from) N.Y.C.’s hottest women’s social club, The Belle. “In terms of Aisha’s evolution, if you look back at the first season, she was f—g dope, wearing weird angles and lengths — she wasn’t grounded at all,” says Line. “When you see her at the beginning of the season, she’s effortlessly cool in an R13 leopard cashmere blazer with an All Saints coat and white combat boots. She’s been very fluid in her taste of partners, and as a queer woman myself, I really wanted to show that fluidity in her fashion.”
In addition to having images of Lovecraft Country star Jurnee Smollett’s style “all over” her vision boards for Kat, Line turned to the Black Designer Database started by her friend, Judah and the Black Messiah’s costume designer Charlese Antoinette Jones. “I wanted to bring Kat’s strong Black voice to her wardrobe,” she says. “I created a book full of BIPOC designers to go to first, so we could put money back into the community before going to retail stores. It was a little tougher because we were filming in Montreal and nothing was open because of the pandemic. But we really wanted to go for it, and we did. At one point, Kat wears a shirt that says ‘Support Black Designers,’ and later in the season you’ll see her in a two-piece yellow outfit and on the jacket, it has the name of the first Black women’s baseball team from the early 1900s, which is a really cool story.”
For fashion assistant turned Scarlet’s in-house stylist Sutton Brady, played by Meghann Fahy, Line also had a very specific vision in mind. “My thing with Sutton was that she never looked like a stylist,” she says. “She looked fun and super fashionable, but real stylists like Karla Welch and Samantha McMillan don’t want to be seen — they just want to be paid. They just wear jeans and t-shirts with blazers; they’re not bright or colorful.”
Line channeled Welch, in particular, for much of Sutton’s wardrobe this season. “I put a more masculine touch on Sutton with vests and high-waisted plaid vintage pants and men’s ties,” she explains (the Judith & Charles blouse paired with Etro trousers and a vintage vest, pictured above, says it all). “In the first episode, she wears a green velvet blazer with a white tank top and wide-leg Victoria Beckham jeans that just drag on the floor, which Meghann loved. She’s got this kind of Annie Hall vibe this season and wears a lot of vintage, which we got from a store called Recess in L.A.”
Line also felt that Sutton would dress differently now given her social status, trading in colorful floral ensembles for chicer looks inspired by Anine Bing and Olivia Palermo. “She was married to Richard, who’s the richest of the rich,” says Line. “Those kind of women don’t wear frilly; they wear cool. And I wanted that to come across.”
To get the entire wardrobe just right, Line turned to websites like Forward, Moda Operandi, and Net-a-Porter to source looks during filming. The end result? A high-low mix of brands ranging from Etro and Alexander McQueen to Retrofête and Aritzia (a go-to for Jane’s pleather pants). She also created custom looks for the finale, which she promises will steal the show. And eagle-eyed fans may be quick to spot a fashion Easter egg in that episode, which pays homage to the iconic season one scene with the girls in purple, red, and gold gowns. “I got choked up visualizing the episode when we were reading it,” says Line. “I looked at my crew and said, ‘I want a purple jacket, a red jacket, and a gold jacket. Let’s find it.’ To be honest, I can’t believe that Kat’s leather vintage Burberry didn’t come home with me. I died for it.”
As for what the stars themselves got to keep? “Let’s just say that they were able to leave with some of their memories,” teases Line. “Filming during COVID, the energy wasn’t exactly light. Katie, Aisha, and Meghann would come into fittings wearing sweats like everyone else, and when they left my dressing room, I needed them to lighten up the mood in our lives so that it would translate onscreen — and that’s exactly what happened. We fondled the clothes like we’ve never done before. It was this high to play dress-up, and it was something that we all needed. It served a purpose in our real lives.”