One of the biggest surprises since beginning this Hallmark In Real Life journey is how supportive everyone has been. As I shared my journey about Getting “Hallmark Ready” (see previous posts here and here) to create my very own Hallmark wardrobe, Jaralin Detienne, costume designer and personal stylist on over 30 Hallmark films, was kind enough to agree to speak with me and answer my questions.
Located in Vancouver, British Columbia, Jaralin lives at the epicenter of many Hallmark films. With a passion for music, theater, and fashion, her interests make her perfectly suited to spend her days close to actors and stylists in the collaborative creative environment that is a movie set.
She’s also very personable. Jaralin understood my urban closet struggle of having a wardrobe consisting of black, black, and more black. She readily acknowledged that in real life, a New York City wardrobe color palette typically consists of black, grey, charcoal, cream, white, and maybe a pop of red, but in the Hallmark movie world, New York characters wear color. Jaralin shared that jewel tones are particular favorites for Hallmark movies, because the colors look great on camera.
In sharing advice on what every Hallmark leading lady needs in her closet, Jaralin was quick to point out that it “depends on the leading lady and her job,” but in most cases, Hallmark leading ladies need a great cardigan sweater, a blazer, and a gorgeous dress, plus “every woman should have a great pair of black and nude heels, because they really elongate the legs and make everything look better.”
Jaralin has had the privilege to work with many Hallmark leading ladies and leading men, and most recently she was the costume designer on All Summer Long starring Autumn Reeser. Currently, Jaralin is planning the wardrobe for an upcoming Hallmark Christmas movie that will once again star Reeser, this time as a teacher.
One of the aspects of her job that Jaralin enjoys most is the opportunity to collaborate with the lead actors and her team, who help execute her vision. For each character, Jaralin considers what they do for a living and what type of budget the character would live on and then constructs a wardrobe that would be realistic for this character.
Fans always hear about how Hallmark movies work on tight deadlines, and the costume process is no different. Jaralin explained that as a costume designer on a Hallmark film, she sometimes has two weeks to prep, which she considers a long time; other times she learns who her lead actors are the weekend before filming begins.
The first thing Jaralin does to prepare for a film is to review the script. During her review she will break the script down into movie days, meaning the number of days over which the story—not the filming—takes place. Is the story over the course of a weekend, five days, or two weeks? Once she knows the timeline, she can determine how many costume changes will be required for each character, as well as the types of activities each character will need to dress for, including Hallmark staples such as transitioning from work to a date and going Christmas tree shopping. Also special attention is paid to the seasons during the costume process, and all the Hallmark Christmas movies will include shades of red and green.
Next, Jaralin will create a mood board for each of the 15–30 speaking characters she needs to dress in the movie, paying special attention to the female and male leads. Jaralin creates these boards to develop her vision for each character, incorporating a range of details including the character’s occupation and personality traits. Although Jaralin and her team will dress everyone in the film, she will only create costume boards for the 15–30 characters who have speaking roles.
Each mood board will then be accompanied by a collage of styled looks, and these visions are shared with film executives as well as the female and male leads. It’s a collaborative process, and Jaralin’s goal is to make sure the leads have items they love and feel embody their characters. In all cases, Jaralin wants each actor to feel so comfortable in their clothes (unless of course, the scene calls for the character to be uncomfortable in their clothes) that all they have to do is focus on their lines.
When there is agreement on the vision for the characters’ styles, she will turn the boards over to her team of buyers and explain each look so that the shopping can commence. Jaralin could offer no magic list of store recommendations to get Hallmark attire, because she and her team, “go all over the place in search for the perfect items,” including outlet stores. In fact, because most of the Christmas movies are filmed in the summer, outlets are a great place to find out-of-season items.
Although Jaralin personally shops for her lead female and male characters, she thankfully has a great team that includes an assistant and multiple buyers who do all the other shopping required to execute her vision. In some cases, she’ll want a character to have some flair, but in all cases she wants different looks for different characters because in real life, everyone looks different and has different individual styles and preferences.
That said, Hallmark does have a brand to protect, so there tend not to be characters with crazy, quirky styles. The goal is to make the cast look beautiful and, hopefully, timeless, so that these movies can be replayed over many years without looking dated. Therefore, Jaralin aims to steer clear of any looks that are overly trendy.
Jaralin shared that when she styles the actors, she always layers jewelry and likes to focus around the collarbone area. She explained that Hallmark movies tend to use a lot of close-up, tight shots. If she can add a scarf to create a pop of color with a coat onscreen, she will! But you won’t see any characters dressed in real or faux fur. Although there is no written rule, Jaralin shared that because Hallmark is such a positive supporter of animals (to the point where it promotes animal adoption), the use of fur or faux fur doesn’t align with company values, so she tends to avoid those items.
Many actors will mention that Hallmark sets feel like a family atmosphere, and Jaralin echoes this sentiment. She attributes it not only to the fact that the “casts are so lovely,” but that Hallmark tends to use a cohort of production companies where people have all worked together on multiple films, which infuses that familial feeling.
“We get to make ‘made for TV’ movies that bring people joy,” Jaralin said. “It’s fun. I really enjoy going to set.”
She has had so many wonderful experiences it was too difficult to choose a favorite, but most recently she loved working on All Summer Long and was excited to have the opportunity to work with Autumn Reeser again on an upcoming Christmas movie. “I have so much love and respect for her,” Jaralin said.
Outside of Hallmark films, Jaralin’s advice is to invest in a few key, high-quality pieces that you will have forever. Her checklist of must-haves for ladies includes:
- Great jeans
- Pencil skirt
- White blouse
- Leather bomber jacket
- Black heels
- Ankle boots
- The perfect little black dress
Happy shopping to all as you get “Hallmark Ready” for your Real Life movie moments!