Outfitting a modern rom-com icon in To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before


There’s another reason to love Lara Jean Covey’s style in To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before: because it doesn’t go too far.

When Netflix’s To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before landed just a couple months ago, besides stanning love interest Peter Kavinsky, all anyone could obsess over was Lara Jean Covey’s style.

The rom-com heroine, who pretends to date the most popular guy in school to avoid revealing her true feelings for her childhood crush, served some truly iconic looks – a mix of ’90s throwbacks, pops of color, and plenty of vintage moods. We spoke to costume designer Rafaella Rabinovich about outfitting Lana Candor, the film’s star, and how fans could channel their own inner Laura Jean this fall, but Rabinovich deserves credit for more than just a handful of killer outfits.

The costume designer managed to outfit a modern rom-com icon without turning her into an on-screen sex object, something notoriously difficult to do.

A rom-com, particularly a teen rom-com, follows an accepted formula. Usually, they chronicle a coming-of-age story for their female heroines. Whether it’s a film about a young woman pursuing the unattainable jock, a clueless teen realizing her love for the guy that’s always been there or a girl eschewing societal norms through a classic literary protagonist, rom-coms are about more than what their label suggests. Often, movies about teen girls exploring their identity, falling in love for the first time, and growing up mirror the internal journey of the character through their clothing. Shorts get shorter, skirts skimpier, tops tighter. A young woman coming into her own as a sexual being must reflect that in the outfits she wears.

To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before production still. Photo Credit: Netflix

But not Lara Jean Covey.

“She’s not that girl,” Rabinovich told Culturess.

The costume designer wanted to create a new look and a new feel for a character intended for the film’s millennial audience.

“I think it’s refreshing to recognize that teens don’t necessarily dress like [that] anymore,” Rabinovich said, explaining why she avoided revealing too much skin in Covey’s outfits. For the designer, the clothes represented an internal journey not based on sex appeal – even though romance is a huge theme of the film.

Instead, every outfit change Lara Jean makes signals a new chapter of her own identity. Striped turtlenecks give way to frilly blouses, signaling the character’s willingness to be vulnerable, to open herself up to a new relationship. Chunky, layered sweatshirts transform into Peter Pan-collared dresses, romantic bomber jackets, and delicate accessories.

To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before production still. Photo Credit: Netflix

The transitions are noticeable, not because a piece of clothing suddenly becomes tighter or completely vanishes, but because Rabinovich puts the kind of time and detail into Lara Jean’s outfits that make fans take note. We see the character arm herself in combat boots and layers at the beginning of the film, only to open up her wardrobe to brighter colors, ruffled blouses, and floral details.

“With Lara Jean, you really see this arch that opens up,” Rabinovich said. “She flourishes within the story, there’s the arch, the growth in every outfit change she makes.”

For Rabinovich, it was important that growth not present itself in an oversexualized way. We’ve seen that enough in when it comes to young women on film.

“I don’t think that any character necessarily needs to be revealing,” Rabinovich explained. “Knowing that it’s a rom-com, that men were potentially going to see it, I didn’t want to make it into something that is too revealing. That was something I had in the back of my mind. Being revealing or being covered up doesn’t make you more or less beautiful or fashionable. Right?”

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With Lara Jean, Rabinovich wanted to create a young woman who dressed for herself, not the men around her, hoping to empower young women and prove that style is a very personal and creative relationship we have with ourselves.

It’s a refreshing and welcoming change. Hopefully, it becomes the norm.