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'Pretty Little Liars': Costume secrets from the Halloween episode

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Eric McCandless/ABC FAMILY

“Until this show, I never got nervous about what fans thought,” Pretty Little Liars wardrobe designer Mandi Line admitted of working on the ABC Family series’ annual costume extravaganza. “Come mid August or early September [every year], I start getting Facebook messages and tweets like, ‘What’s it going to be? Give me a hint! I want to prepare my Halloween costume.'”

The episode is almost here — it airs this Tuesday, Oct 22 at 8 p.m. EST — and the secret is out…. Emily, Hanna, Spencer, and Aria attend a WWI-themed soiree in Ravenswood, site of the PLL spinoff series.  With just three weeks to pull everything together, Line said her biggest challenge was creating costumes with authentic touches that would appeal to the show’s young viewers. “I thought, ‘Kids aren’t going to get this,’ then [creator] Marlene [King] pulled me aside and said, ‘Make it true to the silhouettes, but please put your modern touch on it,'” the designer recalled. “So that’s where you get the bright colors, the sexiness.”

Plus, each leading lady’s costumes had to have at least one exact double — in case of any unforseen wardrobe malfunctions — which meant one-of-a-kind rentals weren’t an option. “[In] the summer finale where Ezra winds up being A, [the girls] were supposed to walk into the party, so we shot the Halloween episode first and that meant their costumes were going to get screwed [due to] wear and tear, sweat, food stains, all the stuff that happens in life,” Line explained. “So we had to have perfect [duplicates] because [the script said] we were supposed to see them walking into the party.”

Typically, Line and her team have a week to prepare the wardrobe for each episode, but for this special occasion, they needed more time… and more money. “We were trying to make this amazing vision work on the small budget that we have. Finally, our producers put the numbers together and gave us the green light,” she said of fighting for the extra resources she needed to create period costumes that would live up to the show’s sartorial reputation. “[It wasn’t] because I was being a diva, the money was actually necessary.”

Read on for more costume secrets from the Pretty Little Liars Halloween episode. 

Downton Abbey comes to Ravenswood

“I based it on Downton Abbey, but with a contemporary feel,” Line said of working with sketch artist Bryan Kopp to bring her vision for the costumes to life. “I would have loved it a little more authentic, but bottom line… You still have young girls who are contemporary watching the show and they want to be wowed. I felt if you stuck too much to the original everything, that would get a little boring.” Line said her painstaking attention to detail isn’t just for the look of the show, it’s also for the benefit of PLL‘s style-conscious fans. “I think it’s so cool when, at the beginning of the school year, girls base their wardrobes on [what the characters wear], or get inspired for their Halloween costumes,” she explained. “There’s no bigger compliment than having these young girls emulate my [work].”