Fall TV fashion: Outfitting ‘The Vampire Diaries’


Story highlights

"The Vampire Diaries" is heading into its fourth season, which premieres on October 11

Costume designer Leigh Leverett outfits the supernatural characters on the series

Leverett: It's a challenge, but "I enjoy (costuming) flashbacks most of all"

Period pieces that aren't made in-house are often rented from costume companies

Editor’s Note: This week, CNN is introducing you to a few of the most sought after costume designers in the business. They’ll share the trends, colors and silhouettes viewers can expect to see on TV this season, and offer inside information about the series they clothe.

CNN —  

Having worked on seminal teen shows “Dawson’s Creek” and “One Tree Hill,” costume designer Leigh Leverett is no stranger to dressing high-school-age characters.

But there’s something about the teens from Mystic Falls that makes outfitting “The Vampire Diaries” – which enters its fourth season with an October 11 premiere – a unique experience.

For one, Leverett has to make sure everyone on the show about witches, vampires, werewolves – oh, and “hybrid” vampire-werewolves – looks fabulous covered in blood, as characters are routinely stabbed, bitten and shot.

Leverett is regularly tasked with finding six to eight of the same top or jacket to be worn during multiple scenes and takes. With all the gore, borrowing clothes from designers is often out of the question.

“We do a lot of mall shopping because that’s the best way for us to get a lot of multiples,” she said. “Sometimes we need more than we can get in Atlanta,” where the show is filmed.

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But when episodes call for flashbacks, which might take place in the 15th century, a trip to the mall simply won’t do.

“Even though they are more challenging than the contemporary clothes, I enjoy doing the flashbacks most of all,” Leverett said, noting the period pieces that aren’t made in-house are often rented from costume companies.

Period pieces also come into play when Mystic Falls High School throws its annual Decade Dances. The trick to costuming such events, Leverett said, is dressing the human high school students like “a teenager would interpret the period – or at least what a teenager would pick out when they go to the fantastic Mystic Falls Costume shop.”

The centuries-old vampire characters, on the other hand, are meant to look “like they would have gotten things straight out of their vintage clothing storage closet,” Leverett said.

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That’s not the only way viewers can differentiate between the living and the undead.

Leverett has created a dress code of sorts for each of the supernatural groups. While the regular humans on the show dress more or less like typical high school kids, the vampires have their own set of fashion rules.

“We try and keep them timeless and not super trendy,” said Leverett, who started working on the series at the end of its second season. “They have their comfort and what they like to wear within the realm of the decade.” Besides, with many of the vampire characters, trying to blend in as mortal teenagers, Leverett added, “we can’t get too crazy in the clothing department.”

With one notable exception:

For characters Elena Gilbert and Katherine Pierce, both played by actress Nina Dobrev, fashion is especially important as it helps viewers tell the lookalikes apart.

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When Dobrev is playing human teen Elena, she dons a lot of simple long-sleeve shirts and jeans; whereas Katherine, Elena’s vampire doppelganger, is a bit more fashion-forward.

“Katherine has been around for hundreds of years,” Leverett said. “She follows fashion trends a little more. (Her clothes are) edgier and sexier than what we put on Elena.”

And because the vampires that live within the CW series have the power to control people simply by staring at them, they get to don more expensive threads. “Maybe they can compel the salespeople into giving them what they want,” Leverett said. “I like to think that Katherine saw (the) tan Michael Kors heels (she wore during season 3) on some unsuspecting Chicago socialite, and probably just compelled her to hand them over.”

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Then there are the witches, like Bonnie Bennett (Kat Graham), which Leverett said dress “a little bit earthier” with a “bohemian flair.”

For the men, whether normal or paranormal, they’ve got to look tough.

“These days you can’t go wrong with a great leather jacket,” Leverett said. “Plus, they hold up really well in a supernatural fight.”