November 26, 2012 02:00 PM

Vivian Zink/ABC

The dress Kerry Washington wears on this Thursday night’s episode of
is anything but scandalous — though it did take a lot of work to find.

“We were having a really hard time finding anything,” Scandal costume designer Lyn Paolo tells PEOPLE. “There were a lot of needs for this dress: I wanted it to be white to echo [an episode from] last year, and she had to be able to move in it, too — she had to run down a hallway in one scene, and withstand wind effects in another. So I needed something that flowed.”

Knowing she wanted to go vintage, Paolo found a gorgeous white Jean Fares Couture dress that was a few sizes too big for Washington — and in somewhat rough shape — but “fell in love with it,” she says. “There were so many challenges — the size, the destroyed hem — so we basically rebuilt the whole gown.”

The work was worth it, though; Paolo says that when Washington walked onto the Scandal set wearing the gown as her character, Olivia Pope, “the reaction of the crew and other actors was phenomenal.”

Paolo says a perk of her job is collaborating with Washington, whom she calls a true fashionista. “We spend a lot of time together in our costume room, talking about the tones of a scene, and try to tailor each individual costume to what’s happening in her head, in her world, the palette of the set,” she explains. “I think sometimes the rest of the crew wonders what the heck we’re doing in there!”

But with Washington changing outfits 13 or 14 times per episode, the serious costume consultations are necessary. “We’re constantly striving to one-up ourselves with the fashion on this show,” Paolo says.

As for Thursday’s stunning white dress, Paolo says she’s kept it, in case it’s needed for any flashbacks. “I decided that once it was Olivia Pope’s, it should stay as Olivia Pope’s,” Paolo explains. “And I think we might see it again …” Tell us: Are you loving Washington’s Scandal fashions?

–Kate Hogan


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