Monday, July 11, 2016

Major Crimes' Costume Designer - Greg LaVoi

Greg LaVoi - photo credit Kendall Sherwood
Hollywood costume designer Greg LaVoi is here today to tell us about Emmy nominations, Barbie and how he dresses the characters on TNT's Major Crimes. Not only has Greg been with Major Crimes since the beginning, he also did the costumes for The Closer

How did you first know that you wanted to be a designer for television? 

I thought I'd have a career in film since I started designing low-budget Roger Corman features, but I met a producer who had an ABC Saturday morning kids show he was producing Land of the Lost ( NOT the 1970's version but a 1990's remake) I gained my first Emmy nomination for costumes on that show... I designed a bunch of movies of the week, a sitcom and then in 1999 met Mike Robin and Greer Shephard on a single camera show "Brutally Normal" and I've worked for Shephard Robin ever since!...the rest is TV history.

How do you approach the wardrobe for Major Crimes? 

What are the steps you go through from idea to shooting? My designing starts with reading the script. I design for reel people...not real people...but my success is that I make it look real. So I try and shop wherever that character might buy their clothes...Neiman Marcus to JC Penney to thrift stores.

Do you use particular designers for particular stars? Do you favor one designer for Mary McDonnell? 

Miss McDonnell wears Armani, Michael Kors and the Row beautifully. I buy most of the detectives suits at a downtown LA suit shop where real cops shop! This season Provenza's new wife Patrice is buying his clothes, so Provenza has new suits, ties and pocket squares from the sartorial men's store Carroll and Co. in Beverly Hills.

What recommendations do you have for anyone who wants to be a costume designer for television? 

Be a collaborator. Enjoy that process because all of my choices are approved in a show and tell that we started 12 years ago, that way our show-runner, producers and director can see in person what the characters will be wearing. Most t.v. Designers email pictures to the producers. With an in-person show and tell I can explain my concepts and by committee we decide what is right or wrong. For anyone wanting to design costumes, study history of dress, and look at people on the street...the best way to learn how people get dressed for their day.

Be prepared for long hours and hard work, but the reward in the end is seeing your vision on screen.

All of the characters on Major Crimes have distinct looks. Where do you get your inspiration for the different characters?  How do you keep their wardrobing unique to their character? 

Again I start with the script. Also, I have dressed these characters for 12 years, so I know what they would wear by instinct. Some of the ties are twelve years real people we re-use the clothes as much as possible. And like real people on a budget I shop when I need to or when the script tells me to...or when the clothes wear out.

Are you designing for any other shows currently? How does your approach differ from your approach to Major Crimes? 

I was fortunate to design the first season of TBS's Angie Tribeca. That show was 99% designed and built. Which means I got to sketch the costume and have it made to measure. That show was all about site gags and stunts so completely different than a suit and tie show like MC.

Which character is the hardest to outfit and why? Which is the easiest and why? 

Anytime we have a stunt where multiple shirts or suits are needed it gets difficult because often times it's hard to find 6 suits the same size or shirts that stunt men can wear with their safety pads. The easiest characters are jeans and t-shirts.

Has an actor or actress ever come to you and said, my character would never wear that? 

My MC actors have embodied their characters for 12 years so,they trust me and they know their characters are completely different than who they are in real life. 

Do the actors and actresses get to take the clothes home? 

NO! Warner Brothers owns the clothes.

What is the best thing that has happened to you as a result of your work on Major Crimes? 

I had hoped to win an Emmy nomination for the real looking work I did for The Closer and still do for Major Crimes. However that probably won't happen as we are the little show that could...not some splashy costume show...truthfully I prefer it that way!

What is the project in your career that your are the most proud of? 

Probably having a steady job for the last 12 years!

You wrote and designed a called book, Barbie Loves LA: America’s Favorite Doll Sees the Sites. It depicts Barbie crusin’ through LA. What inspired you to write that book? Did you design all of Barbie’s outfits in the book? 

I grew up playing with Barbie, the dolls style and my mothers fashion sense influenced my career. I loved all of the miniature doll clothes that Mattel designed for Barbie so most of the costumes in my book are from my collection original to the 1960's. Since Barbie was "born" in LA I thought Barbie seeing the sites at iconic SoCal buildings was apropos.

What else would you like us to know? 

That I adore my job and adore the folks I get to work with every day!

You can find Greg on Twitter @GregLavoi.

Greg LaVoi with Barbie - photo credit Dee Dee Roe

Don't forget to check out our previous Major Crimes Q&As with Tony Denison (Lt. Andy Flynn), Kearran Giovanni (Detective Amy Sykes) and Ransford Doherty (CI Doherty). 

And check out the Major Crimes Facebook page tonight before the show starts for live video Q&A with Major Crimes' Co-creator and executive producer, James Duff. 


  1. Thank you for a great interview Greg!

  2. Oh my, this is just fascinating. The cast dresses exactly as I would picture detectives to dress and now I know why. Thanks so much.

  3. This was so informative and interesting. I love that Greg grew up with Barbie as did I. You have to love those little clothes.

  4. Not being a fan of splashy costume dramas, I love the Reel and Real costumes he puts together. The more realistic, the more the show benefit!=s.

  5. Very much enjoyed reading this and plan to get the book. Looks interesting :-)

  6. Dear Sir, I really like the way you cast/ dress your actors and Imus confese that I love the snowman black sweater with white cuffs that Amy Sykes wears in one of the chapters. Would you please tell me where you bought it or is it one of your own lovely designs? Thank you very mucho for your time.
    Maria Teresa