Kerry Washington played a range of characters on Saturday Night Live, but none were more memorable than her portrayal of Michelle Obama for the show’s cold open. To channel FLOTUS, Washington donned the same dress Obama wore to the 50th anniversary celebration of the March on Washington, a sartorial move that hardly surprised Scandal costume designer Lyn Paolo.
“She looked amazing, didn’t she?” Paolo told EW.com of Washington’s appearance in the floral Tracy Reese dress — which can be yours for $498. “If you’re mimicking somebody, [wearing an authentic garment] is be quite the obvious thing to do to sell the character.”
Though Paolo wasn’t involved in planning Washington’s SNL wardrobe — that’s a job for resident costume designer Tom Broecker — she has firsthand experience dressing actors for live broadcasts. “I’ve done live TV three times in my career — on ER and on The West Wing –– and it’s hard,” she remembered. “They do an amazing job on Saturday Night Live. Kerry changed clothes so many times, they must have been dragging her from one rack of clothes to another!”
Washington’s Scandal character is known for wearing designer labels like Armani, Burberry, and Ralph Lauren, but can audiences expect to see Olivia Pope in Tracy Reese anytime soon?
“I think Mrs. Obama is a lot more casual than Olivia, except when she’s going to a gala or some kind of ball,” Paolo said. “I’m a huge Tracy Reese fan, but we never use her on the show because it’s too casual…. I think Olivia Pope’s situation is a bit more serious, [though] I love the playful quality of Tracy Reese’s gowns.”
The fictional fixer is her own woman, but Paolo has taken one style cue from the First Lady. “I was disgruntled by the whole reaction to poor Mrs. Obama showing her arms for her first official portrait, so that’s one of my favorite things to do on the show… to always have Olivia’s arms out because she has great arms… and so does Mrs. Obama.”
Watch Washington channel Michelle Obama below.