Jill Ohanneson Tells Us How To Design REVENGE

November 9, 2014

Jill Ohanneson has become one of Hollywood’s most influential costume designers and stylists. From her early work on Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure to Roswell, 40 Days and Nights to ABC’s REVENGE, Jill has seen the start of many of Hollywood’s hottest careers. One could even say she designed them!

Jill has been an influential part of SOURCING at MAGIC in the past year. She’s helped attendees understand the process of sourcing materials and designers in order to outfit and build the characters in her television and film work. We sat down with her in order to understand how she sourced and designed this year cast of REVENGE.

What were the major influences for the costume direction for this season’s show? Where their any trends or designers that you had to have included in the way you style each of the characters.

JILL: The most major influence this year has been the change in storyline due to the reappearance of David Clark. This new twist has had an impact on both Emily and Victoria’s costumes being more functional in particular.  Other influences have been financial considerations for the distressed Graysons as all there money and assets has been taken by the government. The opposite can be seen with Margaux taking over Le Marchal Media which allowed me to give her a more business/power look.

Despite the storyline changes, I still wanted to keep the Hamptons Style intact. I did that in the premier episode, I had a great time dressing the cast for the Memorial Day party at the manor which Emily has now bought. I chose a Carolina Herrera dress (for the second season in a row) for Emily to wear to the seasons first party. The full skirted floral was just the right elegant statement dress I wanted for Emily to open the season as the new Queen Bee.

Nolan’s character is wearing a lot of Tallia and Topshop this year with some Gucci and Lanvin thrown in for good measure. Margaux’s dressing much higher end this year in everything from Dior to Donna Karan and Stella McCartney.  Charlotte is character is wearing lots of chic separates like clover Canyon, Parker, Helmut Lang and Haute Hippie.


Nolan’s Wardrobe has definitely become more progressive and edgy, along with his hair, and just about everything else about him. Tell us why? Tell us where did you get that fabulous blue pant and suit ensemble as well.

JILL:  Nolan’s look has definitely evolved this season. I wanted to combine the eclectic whimsy of first season with the polish of last season. So the patterns and prints are back but with a sleeker silhouette. Gabriel Mann, who plays Nolan, and our key stylist Lori Fenton wanted to try a hairstyle that reflected the combination of hairstyles he’s had in the past. A bit longer but more edgy. His fabulous blue mosaic suit is Topshop from two seasons ago. I’ve been saving it for just the right party and this was definitely it!

We of course have to discuss the main character of the show – Emily Thorne, or should we say “Amanda Clarke.” Though they’re technically the same person, they play very different roles in society. Tell us about your style inspiration for both characters – how do they differ? Can you tell us about any style changes Emily/Amanda has gone through over the last four seasons?

revenge-style-fashion-charlotte-margouxJILL: When we first met Emily Thorne, she had a  sleek elegant and classic look that was a perfect foil for her devious plans of revenge. Our inspiration was Grace Kelly and her effortless style and class when dressing. I dressed her in mostly American designers such as Michael Kors, Ralph Lauren, and Donna Karan. This was in sharp contrast to Amanda Clark who we see come out of juvenile hall as a punked out rebellious teenager who’s been on her own since she was a girl.

Her style mostly consisted of thrift store and military pieces with a rock and roll edge. It was important to show how much she’d had to change in her style of dressing to pull off her entrance into Hamptons elite society.  As the seasons have passed, we’ve started to see the gap between Emily and Amanda’s fashion worlds close as Emily is wearing more jeans, tops and boots and less dresses and skirts. the audience will continue to see the gap close as the fourth season plays out.

Both Margaux and Charlotte have excellent taste, but in different ways. Margaux’s been a fashionista from day one. With Charlotte, we’ve seen her style evolve over time. Tell us about your inspiration for both of these characters. How would you describe their looks?

JILL: Margaux is French and has grown up in the world of couture and fashion magazines so has a very sophisticated fashion sense. This is shown in the chic little dresses she wore last season, the graphic patterns and strong colors of her power dressing of this season. Fendi, Burberry, and Dior can all be found in Margaux’s closet this season.

Charlotte started the show still a teenager and we wanted her to feel young, girlish and feminine, so I dressed her in fit and flare  dresses with florals and lace and ruffles. I used a lot of Trina Turk, Rebecca Taylor and Nannette Lepore.  As her character grew up on the show and she became an adult the softer look gave  way to a hipper more New York look with edgier separates and a more grown up color palette. Now she’s wearing more designer pieces such as Roland Mouret, Phillip Lim, and Narcisco Rodriquez.

Just coming of fashion weeks globally, what silhouettes, designs or collections caught your attention? Why?

JILL: I loved the colors and patterns at Bottega Veneta and the silhouettes at Zero & Maria Cornejo, and the architecture of Balmain’s line. But my favorite was the theatricality of Gareth Pugh’s amazing line!

You have a job that most women in fashion covet – Costume Designer on REVENGE. Of course, with any highly desired job, comes a lot of responsibility. What are some of the biggest challenges you face with character development? What do you love most about what you do?

JILL: I really do love my job and especially REVENGE as we have such a marvelous crew and cast. Most of the challenges on REVENGE come from either the amount (or lack) of time we have to get things ready for filming or costumes that we need multiples of that are required for stunts or bullet hits. I may want to design and build dresses for Emily and Victoria but we film an episode every eight days with no breaks in between.

So unless I have early notice of a party, I usually have to purchase and alter what’s appropriate for the occasion and scene. The stunts usually require sleeves and layers to protect the stunt person which may not usually be part of that character’s wardrobe especially on a show set in summer. Also, as there are only so many colors in the rainbow sometimes it’s a challenge to make sure no ones in the same color in the same scene unless we want them to be. The set colors and patterns can also affect what I can and can’t put my actors in at times.

My favorite part of my job is getting to create characters through costuming and to help tell the story through the choice of those costumes. Some artists tell stories with words or paint or photos. I tell stories by combining clothing and accessories in certain combinations of color pattern and texture.

Images courtesy of ABC Television + Style.com.

This post was originally written for SOURCING at MAGICRegister for February 2015’s show.

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