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A Pair of T-shirts for Fans of Atticus, Scout and Boo

Updated: Jul 16, 2023

Los Angeles-based designer Wendy Mullin talks about her fashion tribute to Harper Lee’s iconic story and the 1962 film.

One of Wendy Mullin’s T-shirts pays tribute to this moment between Robert Duvall and Mary Badham in 1962’s “To Kill a Mockingbird."

Like so many fans of To Kill a Mockingbird, Los Angeles-based designer Wendy Mullin fell in love with Harper Lee’s seminal story when she was a kid, and her affection for the 1962 film, starring Gregory Peck, Brock Peters and Mary Badham, soon followed. “My best friend, Jenny, and I just loved this movie and book so much,” Mullin recalls. “We would act out the scenes; I was Scout and she was Dill. For some reason we thought it was so funny to yell, ‘My lord, Aunt Stephanie, you almost gave me a heart attack.’ We’d say it over and over, cracking up.”

The film later inspired Mullin as an artist. “Since the ’90s, I would just smoke pot and watch movies, put them on cc for subtitles, take photos of the TV on pause and make collages and little stories,” she says. “To Kill a Mockingbird is a classic people love all around. Good theme.”

That’s the idea behind the pair of T-shirts Mullin has included in her Built By Wendy collection since the early 2000’s. The graphic T’s feature Mullin’s original artwork highlighting a pair of iconic scenes: Scout in her ham costume, coming home from the school play, and later as she sits with Boo Radley (played by Robert Duvall in his film debut) on the front-porch swing. What was it about these particular two moments that inspired her? Says Mullin simply, “I connect with getting lost and being found.”

Scout in her ham costume is the highlight of this Built by Wendy T-shirt.

Other pop-culture inspirations throughout Mullin's T-shirt collection include tributes to 1970s favorites, from Mean Streets to Bad News Bears and Ice Castles, films she terms “probably not ‘classic,’ but these are all my classics. I like color [vs. black-and-white films] and more pop culture. I mean, I like Sunset Boulevard — but no, not my main jam.”

Born in Chicago, Mullin founded her label in 1991 and has since gathered a following of artists and musicians that includes Sofia Coppola, Zooey Deschanel, Michelle Williams, Jack Black and Justin Theroux. Her line includes a full women’s ready-to-wear collection, while she also designs custom guitar straps, but it’s her graphic T-shirts and pop-culture references that seem to attract her biggest fan base. All-natural fabrics — cotton, linen, wool and silk — are key, Mullin says, while she also focuses on working with women-owned businesses to craft her designs. “I have a few manufacturers I’ve worked with overseas, [all] women-owned. I make only a very small quantity per style, so it's hard to find manufacturers here [in the U.S.] that will work with me,” she adds.

On July 11th, To Kill a Mockingbird will celebrate the 60th anniversary of its publishing; why does Mullin believe both the story and film continue to resonate with fans? “I think ‘You can’t judge a book by its cover’ is one of the most classic film themes there is,” she says. “It’s Storytelling 101.”

Featuring original artwork, Built by Wendy’s graphic pop-culture T-shirts retail for $45 each; click here to view the full collection.

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