‘Pretty Little Liars: Summer School’ Costume Designer on Creating a New Bloody Mary [FINAL GIRL FASHION]

Pretty Little Liars

The Pretty Little Liars franchise is fueled by pop culture references, with the original show known for its winking nods to everyone from Alfred Hitchcock to David Lynch. But its most recent spinoffs, Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin and the newly launched Pretty Little Liars: Summer School, pay homage to horror icons specifically, with everything from the pithy script to killer costume design pulling from scary movie history.

While working on Pretty Little Liars: Summer School, costume designer Charlotte Svenson (an Emmy winner for her work on Russian Doll) challenged herself to keep up the meta pace while also honoring how far the spinoff’s main characters (final girls Imogen, Mouse, Tabby, Noa, and Faran) have come following the traumatic events of Original Sin. While speaking with Dread Central over the phone recently, Svenson shared her inspirations for styling both the show’s heroes and their new, yet familiar foe Bloody Rose.

From Carrie to Kirsty: The Horror Of It All

Svenson is quick to namedrop The Final Girls when talking about the “summer campy vibe” of this new season, which takes place during the sweatiest season of them all. But don’t think it’s going to be all Crystal Lake Core all the time. An assortment of classic movies fills out her reference list.

“We had a lot of Margaret White [from Carrie] references pulled, and Kirsty from Hellraiser, and Joan Crawford in Strait-Jacket,” Svenson says. “Honestly, [showrunners] Roberto and Lindsay are such a wealth of knowledge when it comes to that. So every script I get, I am learning about a different horror film and pivoting to see what they’re seeing visually, and going from there.”

A figure with red bandages covering their face holds a knife

One of the biggest creative challenges for Svenson was developing the look of Pretty Little Liars: Summer School’s big bad, Bloody Rose, an obvious reference (at least in name) to another iconic woman in horror with a complicated image.“Bloody Mary isn’t a person that we always see,” Svenson explains. “So I was taking influences from younger females, to older females, and horror films, and figuring out how to play into her own symbol, the rose.”

Still, don’t expect Bloody Rose to follow too closely in any particular female villain’s footsteps. She is, by Svenson’s design, her very own beautiful beast. “All the references I found just dived into this narrative that I didn’t feel like belonged here, if that makes sense. They were all like a very singular type of woman. So it was fun to create a character that’s outside of that.”

Retro-Fitted: Diner & Disco Chic In Pretty Little Liars: Summer School

In addition to scary movies, Svenson also turned to this season’s new settings for inspiration. This includes The Creamery, an old-school diner where Imogen works alongside new love interest Johnny, who Svenson said is meant to have “greaser vibes”. Meanwhile, Imogen’s pink seersucker uniform is her mix of 1920s soda fountain and 1950s roller girl.

A group of five teenage girls lean on the side of a roller rink while wearing 80s style outfits

Imogen and the rest of the girls actually put on some skates in the third episode (“Chapter Thirteen: Sweet Sixteen”) as they head to an ‘80s-inspired roller rink. This was one of the highlights of the season for Svenson as she calls the aesthetic “a true collaboration between all the departments” with the location speaking for itself and inspiring the hair, makeup, and costumes.

“It really started with all things Xanadu,” she explains, referencing the Olivia Newton-John flick that provides the soundtrack for the scene. “But we really wanted to meld it to what their styles are today and still make it really wearable.”

Svenson added, “I feel like that scene is when we see the girls at their most light-hearted. It’s another opportunity to really inject color and fun and what summer is really about for these girls, and kind of a reprieve from the drama and darkness that we had in the first season.”

The Final Girls’ Summer Style

In general, Svenson’s goal with the costumes of Pretty Little Liars: Summer School was to follow in the footsteps of the show’s main characters and embrace change. After all, we all shed a few layers, emotionally and physically, when the temperatures rise.

“They faced a lot of trauma the season before,” Svenson says when talking about Imogen and the other Final Girls. “And they are older now, so they’re definitely more defined in their style.”

A group of five girls stand in a line on a rainy day, each of them holding a different umbrella

Svenson added, “Imogen, for instance … she’s not the person she was pre-birth, being friends with Karen and Kelly. There’s still this essence of her past style. It’s still like this cottagecore vintage vibe that’s an homage to her mother. But now we’re in summer. It’s fun and a little bit more flirty.”

Svenson goes on to say that she thinks Faren has “the biggest transformation” of the Final Girls this season: “She’s ditched the ballet, and really come into her own more defined style, mirroring with strong athletic performance.” You can also expect some athleticism—at least in terms of outfits—from Noa, who remains unsupervised while her mom continues her stint in rehab. Think lots of track shorts and crop tops in reference to ’70s and ‘90s trends.

As for film fanatic Tabby, Svenson says there is a “newfound lightness to her”. You’ll notice more color in her wardrobe, which is meant to “mirror the hopefulness” of her new opportunities, both professionally and romantically. Meanwhile, the ever-quirky Mouse is leaning into a “counterculture cyber girl vibe” as she falls deeper and deeper down online rabbit holes with her obsession with horror site Spooky Spaghetti.

While, like any Pretty Little Liars show, Summer School aims to be fashion-forward, Svenson assures that practicality is always top of mind when she’s styling characters that have to quite literally run for their lives. “You have to get the fabric right, and you want to make sure that the actors can move,” she explains. “We always try to ground things back to reality because that’s honestly what makes it so scary.”

A teenage girl with pigtails holds a flashlight as she walks down a path in a wooded area. The path is lined with red rose petals.

Stream new episodes of Pretty Little Liars: Summer School every Thursday through June 20 on Max.

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