Exclusive Interview with One Tree Hill's Costume Designer
We had a fabulous phone call with One Tree Hill’s costume designer, Carol Cutshall, who’s simply awesome. She took so much time to answer your and our many style-related questions, and her immense fashion knowledge blew us away.
Carol joined OTH this season, and she clearly loves her job (who wouldn’t?!). She tells you guys how she got started and what you can do to someday land a gig like hers.
Read on to find out which jeans the characters wear, the inside scoop on Peyton’s concert tees, Sophia’s shoe brands, Nathan’s sleeker style, and much, much more!
Q: Hi, I was wondering how you got the job as costume designer and what college did you attend [I'm thinking of becoming a costume designer and I LOVE the work you've done on OTH!]? -- Esther
A: I studied theater at LSU undergrad. My master’s is in fine arts -- costume design at Tulane, New Orleans. It comes in handy; believe me!
From there, I immediately moved to LA. All of my experience had been in theater, working onstage with dancers, and doing clothes for rock bands, friends of mine. I started from the bottom up. I graduated with my master’s, and I was on the road.
Film and television is completely different from stage. You may know a lot about clothes, but the business end and the pace of (television) is completely different. It’s good to spend a lot of time helping people out. Do a lot of free jobs and student films. At universities, see if they have a directing program or film program. All of those film students will be doing their films and you can spend a lot of time working really hard for nothing. But you’ll get experience.
The way you have to work up in this field is, you start as a PA (production assistant). You’re running errands for people and watching how the job is done. I had to do PA jobs for several years. They pay enough to get by. If you’re used to living on a college budget, it’s not a problem. If you’re working really hard, then people start to recommend you.
Q: Which shows did you work on before One Tree Hill?
A: I was assistant designer on The O.C. The designer was Robin West -- she taught me the job. She’s pretty amazing and was a really good mentor.
Q: Does any of the cast have a say in what style they want to wear, or is it already chosen for them? They all have their own style, and I just wanted to know if that is really their own or actually the costume designer’s. -- Jamie
Do the cast members get input on what they would like to wear? And if they don’t like it, would you have to make another design that they would enjoy wearing? -- Tharmiya
Do you ever have to change an outfit because the actor/actress doesn't feel comfortable in or like it? – Katie Fo
A: All the characters were intact when I came to OTH. I wasn’t creating a look for someone so much as carrying on their characters and helping to build that.
(Cast members) do have a say once I get to the fitting. What I talk about creatively with Mark is what’s happening, where he wants the characters to go visually, etc. I do a lot of shopping and sourcing. Then, when I get to the fitting, it’s got to feel right for the actor. At this point, they’ve played the character long enough (to know what’s right).
If I’m looking for the right dress for Sophia, I may have six or seven choices that I think are really great. Hopefully, we’ll find a dress out of that. If not, it’s no big deal.
I love to get their input. It’s priceless. The more information you have, the better job you can do.
I work with creator Mark Schwahn on his vision. He’s the show creator, and what we’re all here to do is to bring it to life!
Q: Haley's prom dress was my personal favorite. Actually, her whole ensemble was quite beautiful. Was that dress specifically a maternity prom dress? Did the actresses get to select which prom dresses they were going to be wearing? -- Lynda
Haley’s prom dress wasn’t a maternity dress. It’s Diane von Furstenberg. At that point (in the show), she’s just starting to have to deal with her body changing. It’s a real frustration of a really young girl having all these changes happen to her and none of her clothes fit. I didn’t want her to appear to be, bam! Pregnant! Also, she’s very elegant.
Both Peyton and Brooke’s dresses were ABS Allen Schwartz. I have a good relationship with that company. We work really quickly. Television works incredibly quickly as far as shooting and getting everything together. There were a handful of designers I knew I could get a number of dresses overnight, FedExed. So many amazing dresses came in. It was so difficult to choose because we got so many great dresses.
Q: Nathan has been wearing a lot of sweaters this year. Does that have anything to do with the storyline -- he's going to be a father and they want him in more mature clothes? -- Lena
A: It was really cold while we were shooting a lot of this; I want the actors to be comfortable. We were kind of growing him up a little bit. I think we still kept him a teenager, but just making stronger choices.
Q: Can you tell us more about dressing Nathan/James Lafferty?
A: He’s such fun to dress. He’s really tall. Certain lines of clothing that just fit him really well, like Hugo Boss Menswear. I wanted to find kind of a signature denim look for him. I’ve got him in Levi’s -- real classic American. Nike generously sends us amazing sneakers for him. It goes along with the Air Jordan basketball player guy. I was going with not a lot of pattern. Real clean lines, solid colors, rich colors -- he’s about to be a dad.
Hugo Boss Menswear
Q: What about the other characters? Which designers/brands do you usually put them in?
The wonderful thing about Sophia is that she herself is so into fashion, and she knows so much about fashion, and when I work with her, she’s got ideas, I’ve got ideas, and we blend it all together. She can wear anything, and she looks great, so it’s always really fun. Sophia has a sophisticated eye when it comes to fashion. It’s not always about the label. In one of her changes, I’ve got her in a Dolce & Gabanna skirt and the top is Urban Outfitters. She has a tiny waist, so I’m always altering things for her waist.
I put a lot of BCBG on her.
J Brand jeans are fantastic on her.
I’m standing here between a rack of Peyton’s clothes and a rack of Brooke’s clothes, and the only thing that is the same is their cheerleading uniform. Hilarie – I just love her. Working with her (has) been wonderful. For her, she’s more of the do-it-yourself girl. She’s so into music, art, she’s such a rich character that there are a lot of different things to draw on. Sometimes she’ll just be in a plaid flannel shirt because she’s painting. Some days she’ll be in a concert T-shirt. We have to find the right concert T-shirt. I do alter them a lot. We’ll take a men’s concert T-shirt, and Hilarie will put it on. She’s also very, very slender, so I’ll taper them down to her figure. We come out of it with kind of a one-o-f-a-kind rock T-shirt. I take something and then turn it into my own piece of clothing.
In episode 412 (the episode where Peyton and Lucas have a cookie dough fight), I took a long-sleeve Gap T-shirt, lavender with grey print, and we completely turned it into a racerback-looking halter tank top thing. It was a long sleeve, looser top, and we just kind of worked with it. I did it with five T-shirts, since it was the cookie fight episode.
We were on the search to find the perfect pair of Peyton jeans. There’s an amazing brand of jeans at Barneys called Cheap Monday. It’s a Scandinavian design group. They do a really cool grey jean. It’s fitted, skinny, and stretches. I’ve used those on her quite a bit.
Miss Sixty is really good for her.
Diesel is so wonderful on Chad. Diesel jeans. It’s an Italian company. A lot of times, Italian designers cut much more slimly… for a really lean physique. Also, this year, they’ve had nice long sleeves and nice long shirts and really slim clothing and that looks best on Chad. He doesn’t need to be swallowed up. He’s got his own style as a person. It’s not just up to me. I try to bring in what I think is going to fit him best.
Guess menswear -- they’ve had some amazing shirts this year.
Juicy Couture for men -- amazing T-shirts
Q: What has made Haley's fashion sense evolve from just jeans and t-shirts? – Megan Lynne
A: Her style is really all over the place. It’s very hard to cull more than one thing from one designer for her at this point. (Bethany’s) a really creative girl; she goes with that. If I bring something in, she’ll say, “How about if I wear it like this?”
Her denim miniskirt from episode 414 is Marc Jacobs. She does Paper Denim and Cloth jeans, a lot of sundresses just from all over the place. It was more for me about taking clothing that wasn’t necessarily maternity and using it on her and still having her be young and fresh and not changing her style, her feeling, her vibe from being not pregnant to being pregnant. Lots of tank tops and summer tops that may be Empire waist. Also, you can accentuate the belly by putting a cardigan over the top and button a button right in the center to complement the Empire line.
Q: How about Mouth (Lee Norris)?
A: He’s awesome, such a pro. He’s always kind of been this really fun character on the show. They’re seniors now, so one thing I try to do with him is have his clothes a little bit more tailored. I’m kind of starting to grow him up a little -- going from just regular khakis to Diesel khakis; going from regular jeans that may not be so fitted to a more designer pair of jeans. They just look a little more grown-up.
Paper Denim and Cloth
Q: What about dressing Rachel (Danneel Harris)?
A: I love Danneel! She’s really fun. We all love Danneel. She has the most amazing dancer’s body, so as long as the clothes fit, she looks great in them. Her character is so outrageous, so the clothing is all really body-conscious -- really kind of flaunting that. We can go out on a limb with it.
A little bit of Diesel
Le Roc tops
Q: And Dan (Paul Johansson)?
A: He really brings the evil! Of course he’s got the business suits; that look was kind of intact when I got here. Zegna business suits. Also, (I put) some Hugo Boss suits on him. One thing I wanted to do as well is to see him outside of a suit. What does he look like if you’re dropping in on him? So I kind of started to mix separates with him so that he really did feel like someone’s dad. With this last half of this season, I tried to create some more natural looks for him: dress shirts with jeans, polos with jeans. Rather than a full suit, I’ll have him in a blazer with a dress shirt and jeans.
Banana Republic dress shirts
Zegna business suits
Italian suede coat from Bloomingdale’s
Ralph Lauren blazers
Q: Can we talk shoes? What brands/styles do you like for the actors?
A: Hilarie has worn her own cowboy boots on the show several times. Some of them are hers, and sometimes it just feels right. Lot of Nikes for the guys, Frye boots on Chad. Sophia is so fun to shop for shoes. She’s into fashion, Brooke obviously is into fashion, so… everything is about putting together the perfect outfit and completing it with the right pair of shoes.
Brooke’s shoe brands:
Charles David pumps
Antonio Melani boots
Q: I adore the wardrobe for the characters on One Tree Hill. Do you ever use any fashion ideas from what you wear? – Gretchie
Q: What’s your style like? Which character on the show do you most identify with, style-wise?
A: My style is all over the place. It was funny coming from CA to shooting in Wilmington (North Carolina) -- I wasn’t ready for it to be that cold. I was really spoiled by CA weather, and I was wearing lots of sundresses, etc. Ironically, I’m not pregnant, but some of Haley’s pregnant style is along those lines. It’s real sunny and flowy and a lot of the Empire waist kind of sundresses and babydoll tops. I’ve got a lot of that in my own closet. I would say I would most personally be associated with Peyton’s style.
Q: Who are your favorite designers?
A: Marc Jacobs: always perfect and always new. For dresses, Allen Schwartz is one of my favorites. I also absolutely love Phillip Lim. Tadashi has some amazing dresses. BCBG is always great. Elie Tahari. Theory for suits, amazing pants, really great button-front shirts for women. Theory for men is so good.
Q: How do you decide what's hot and what's not? -- Christiana
A: There’s so many different ways that the clothing comes to us. Sometimes people contact us and send us a look book or something like that. It’s a book of all their looks, their whole new line. Before it’s hit stores, they put out the look book.
I’ll look at tons of look books. I read every magazine. What I’m doing for my career is what I’m interested in, so I’m constantly reading fashion magazines, visiting showrooms, and I watch what people wear. So many fashion designers have gained their inspiration from what (real) people do.
I shop constantly, so there’s that. You never know where you’re going to find what you really need. I live in CA and have worked in LA and could call Bloomingdale’s to see if they have something Hugo Boss for Nathan, for example.
Another good resource:
If you can’t make it to NYC for fashion week, you can go to style.com (for pics and inspiration).
Q: What happens to clothes after the cast wears them?
A: They are kept here. I’m standing in our department right now, and there are racks and racks and racks, and each rack is tagged with whose it is, and everything is tagged in the order of the episode. Sometimes they’ll say, “Can I wear the jacket I wore back then?” Then we can find it. It’s much more real if they repeat their clothing. Also, in case we have a flashback. We keep it all here, and once the season is completely over, then everything is boxed and tagged and it goes to Warner Brothers Studios.
Q: Hey, just want to say what an excellent job you’ve been doing! What would you say is the hardest part of the job? – Brittany
A: The hardest part is when you can’t find what you’re looking for. If there’s something that you’re looking for to complete an outfit and you just can’t find the right thing, that’s frustrating, I guess. The hours are really long, but it’s a very rewarding experience as well. That definitely balances that out.
I enjoy it. It’s a great job – I love it!