In “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before,” Lara Jean Song Covey (Lana Condor) isn’t the most outgoing high school student, but she lives a rich life in her imagination. She also expresses that creative spirit through her whimsical and romantic wardrobe.
This trait has been an integral part of the character, dating back to Jenny Han’s novel on which the movie is based. Several passages detail how Lara Jean will agonize over her ensembles and whether or not to pair them with an elaborate braid, courtesy of her little sister Kitty. Han, who is also an executive producer on the film, wanted to preserve this quality and therefore consulted on the wardrobe.
“Lara Jean is such a throwback kind of a character,” Han told IndieWire in an interview. “She’s somebody that’s very romantic and is kind of in love with the idea of days past and the romance of olden times. For her, olden times is the ’90s or the ’80s. Her personal style is kind of some vintage. It’s feminine, but kind of sporty. She is a more introverted, internal person, and I think her clothes are a way for her to show that ‘this is me.’
“It’s not a high-concept story in the sense of, ‘Okay, it’s dystopic and they’re all wearing robes,’ but it’s still equally important to this character that she is built a certain way,” she added. “I wanted it to be kind of like ’90s meets ’60s meets Asian streetwear. I gave a bunch of mood boards to the directors and the producers to say, ‘Here’s what I think the vibe should be.’I showed a lot of photos of different Asian street fashion and also some stuff from the ’60s and the ’90s, like Alicia Silverstone in the ’90s.”
Lara Jean’s wardrobe also helped establish the tone of the movie, which was also a throwback to classic novels about young women.
Han said, “The story, as I wrote it, is a very classic story in the sense of I was thinking a lot of ‘Little Women’ and ‘Anne of Green Gables’ and things like that that are really about family and feeling really cozy and warm and being around the hearth. That’s what the story is; I wanted it to look that way, too.”
Costume designer Rafaella Rabinovich also gave insight into Lara Jean’s look.
“Generally speaking, there was a color palette for the entire movie which was cayenne, magenta, and yellow,” she said. “You can kind of see it over all in the production design and the choice of lights and washes for the camera department. With Lara Jean specifically, I was really attracted to the pastels and the vintage washes of color. And I really tried to find her in the texture of the silhouettes that are romantic but at the same time like effortless and vintage and cool.”
Because Lara Jean’s look is so eclectic and specific, Rabinovich had to source clothes from several places, including stores that specialized in vintage attire, thrift shops, and modifying pieces.
“It’s definitely been quite a bit of custom making, about 14 pieces that we needed,” she said. “And a lot of modifying of items. You find an item and you can kind of see what you need to see in it and then you’re like, ‘Oh but I need to like cut it from here, add from here, cover it this way, add some fringe, add some ruffles to it.’
Lara Jean is a teenager with a teenager’s salary though, and shopping at the mall or thrift stores are probably her primary means of putting together her wardrobe.
“She’d shop at Forever 21 and H&M and Urban Outfitters and Simons [in Canada] and … thrifting. She’ll actually go to the mall and she’ll go to what’s cool and hip right now and buy it. And a lot of places like Urban Outfitters will do things that are in relevant vintage/retro-like cuts.”
Even though all of this work goes into creating Lara Jean’s look, it’s supposed to come off as effortless.
“She doesn’t really know it looks as good as it does,” said Rabinovich. “The charm of Lara Jean is that she doesn’t know how cool she is.”
For Rabinovich’s breakdown of several of Lara Jean’s signature ensembles, check out the gallery above or click here.
”To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” is currently streaming on Netflix.