By Lindzi Scharf
October 20, 2013 at 07:40 PM EDT
Eric McCandless/ABC FAMILY
  • TV Show

“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].”

Flowers and lace and hot glue, oh my!

“The process was so crazy,” Line remembered of making the hats, gloves, and other accessories for the episode from scratch. “I have hot glue gun scars… I hot glued the velvet, the flowers, the lace, everything, because [the hats] had to be perfect!” The only thing Line did buy were the shoes. “It was ridiculous trying finding the right shoes and you never saw their feet!” Still, “as a fashion designer, you dress them head-to-toe. On television, so many shots are from the waist up, but I never know what the camera is going to see.”

Spencer’s Titanic moment 

“For Spencer [Troian Bellisario], I wanted her to have a Kate Winslet moment… in Titanic when she looks up and she’s wearing that crazy hat,” Line said of Bellisario’s velvet ensemble. “Spencer’s costume was the most authentic [to the era] because that’s something the character would do. I really wanted to do that look with the high neck and the long train…. The other characters wouldn’t have gone for it, they would have been like, ‘I’m too covered up!'”

Aria’s luxe look

“Aria’s [Lucy Hale] costumes always start with picking silhouettes and colors,” Line explained of Aria’s “super fem, but edgy” steampunk-inspired look. That meant splashing out for superior materials. “Every fabric I ended up picking was so expensive. I swear my assistants sold their souls to the devil. They’d come back like, ‘This is $125, but I got it for $60.’ I don’t know how they did it, but they made it happen.”

Hanna’s cinched flapper

“Hanna (Ashley Benson) was my wild card, because I didn’t know where I wanted to go with her,” said Line, who finally decided on a feminine flapper chic look, complete with a cape and corset. “They kicked ass in this episode. They couldn’t breathe. They could barely see with those damn hats on. They had gloves on. There were so many things restricting them.”

Emily has suit, will travel 

“I literally copied a travel suit, but instead of giving it a high neck, which I knew [Shay Mitchell] would hate, I gave it an open neck with a corset, a detachable collar and a cameo. Even the cuffs were detachable,” Line said of the buttoned-up costume. “At first, my staff was like, ‘Forget it, Mandi. We can’t find a pinstriped bright blue!’ but then they delivered by finding a company that specialized in pinstriping fabric. It was genius!”

The Pretty Little Liars Halloween special airs Tuesday, Oct 22nd on ABC Family.

Episode Recaps

Four little liars and a being named “A” (who may or may not be the fifth little liar) try to live their lives in Rosewood. It’s complicated.
  • TV Show
  • 7
  • TV-14
  • 06/14/11
  • In Season
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