Every single piece of costuming in Pose is a showstopper, and the second season dives into a very show-stopping time: the early ’90s. There’s so much color, so many patterns, and so much Madonna in the second season of the landmark drama. Every time someone else walks on screen, you scream a little bit inside, and we have costumers Analucia McGorty and Lou Eyrich to thank for it.
In the season’s fourth episode, “Never Knew Love Like This Before,” the show suffers an incredible and sudden loss when Candy is murdered in a hotel room. At her funeral, the guests are dressed to the nines to show their respect, and the color red is evident throughout. The episode ends with an emotional, musical climax when Candy dances at the ball lip synching to the Stephanie Mills classic song. The red fringe dress hugs her body, and Angelica Ross looks incredible.
With a show like Pose, the details matter. Ryan Murphy has made it a mission to honor the fight for survival during the early days of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, and the designs from McGorty and Eyrich celebrate that battle with color and fabric.
Awards Daily: When you have two people working side by side, how do you collaborate together?
Analucia McGorty: Lou and I have a fantastic communication, especially through design. We are good friends and have the same interest. Even through this quarantine, we are sending each other pictures and books and movies and incredible pieces of artwork. We have a lot of the same aesthetics, in a lot of ways. We both love the research and discovery of beauty in places where people don’t always look. You have to be open to the other person’s ideas. I love bouncing ideas off another person. Creatively, it’s so important to work with other artists. Within our department, it makes things so fun and you get bigger and bigger results. Based on Ryan [Murphy]’s writing and his love of costume design, it’s quite a dream.
Lou Eyrich: When Ana and I started prep on the first season, Ryan had a lot of clear ideas of what the story he was telling. Ana and I worked to establish who these characters were along with the actors who brought so much flavor to the show. With the second season, I thought I was going to be able to come to New York and work alongside Ana again, but Ryan had so many shows going on.
AD: He never stops.
LE: Yeah. It was different, where Ana and I had to work via Skype, FaceTime, DropBox, Google Docs and then we had to figure out how we could have time together since I was so busy on other shows. And also get Ryan’s input as fast as we could. I was really the facilitator to get the answers from Ryan and when Ana would get her original sketches for something like Elektra’s guillotine dress. We had to figure out how to make it work so we came up with the jacket. It wouldn’t have logistically worked if we did it as a dress and you wouldn’t see the great carriage underneath that Ana amazingly designed with the corset. We worked a lot of the kinks out over the phone and over FaceTime.
AD: Talk about “Never Knew Love Like This Before.” There’s a lot of red throughout the episode, like in Lulu’s dress in the first half and Elektra has accents in her collar and earrings. The dress Candy is buried in is red as well. Can you talk to me about that importance?
LE: Like was it intentional?
AM: When we were reading it, we were all crying uncontrollably and felt how important that script was. Every department felt that way. I remember when we had the creative meeting with Ryan and that was even emotional. Along with Janet Mock, Our Lady J, and Steven Canals, they had written this moving, beautiful script, and we wanted to honor it. To be able to speak through the clothing in an important and dark scene like when they find Candy’s body—I get emotional just thinking about it—that was so emotional. Just wanting to make sure everything stood out and connected. We always do love notes to our actors, and with the fringe dress we needed a celebration and for the audience to feel that. When we were designing it, Lou said she thought it should be red. It needed to be bright and vibrant and bold like a celebration of her life. We put butterfly fringes throughout that doesn’t really show up on camera, but we wanted to include that for Angelica because she felt her journey of transitioning felt like a butterfly.
AD: That dress is incredible. Any time she moves her body, it moves.
LE: Yeah, I love that dress. It also really helps an actor. It gave Angelica something to work with on the floor.
AD: In the funeral scene everyone is in their full regalia. How do you strike that balance of being respectful but celebrating her life in a fabulous way? The funeral is ball within itself.
AM: Some of it was scripted.
AD: Oh yeah?
AM: The way the funeral parlor [was], to open up into the ball. They wanted to see people that are part of her chosen family and the ball community and the difference from her birth family. When her parents arrive, they are in a typical suburban look from the ‘80s. Even Nurse Judy is a little more pulled back since she’s not part of that scene. What was expressed to us is that, yes, they are at a ball and being respectful and honoring Candy. She would not want them to show up looking terrible.
AD: She’d kick them out probably.
AM: Maybe! There’s also, with talking with Janet and Ryan and Steven in the meetings, about the parallels between the ball scenes in the show and how a lot of the kids who are kicked out of their homes went to church. A lot of people in the ball scene talk about that. The first time they saw someone feeling proud and looking incredible with the spotlight on them was when they went to church. We see Pray Tell above everyone else a lot, he talks like a sermon. Even though we are at a funeral, we thought it would be what like a lot of churchgoers would dress [in]. We wanted to set that similar feeling.
LE: I wanted to add another overall note is that we are really lucky with this group of writers that it is on the page. It inspires me to read it, because they bring so much to what they do.
AD: It’s that specific?
LE: A lot of the times, yes, but they are also directors, too. Janet might come in for a meeting and she’d suggest that everyone might be blue in a scene. Or Ryan might want to shoot it with a red light and we need to adjust them accordingly.
AM: Or sometimes they will say that they wrote something because it was based on a memory of their experience.
LE: Or maybe they had Janet Jackson in mind when they wrote something.
AM: Oh, yeah. Music is a huge part of the collaboration. Ryan is the most incredible encyclopedia of pop culture and that can hone in on specifically what he is looking for.
AD: I’ve seen him talk about music and I feel like I know anything. (Laughs)
AM: It’s about fashion, too!
LE: Oh, yeah.
LE: He can specifically name the Hermes bag from anything. He can say what the “It” bag was from Gucci when Tom Ford was designing. It’s daunting. (Laughs)
AD: I had forgotten about the ball category that we see at the top of that specific episode. Pray Tell describes it as “innovative experimentation” and we get these great pieces such as a girl with the birdcage. Those outfits are so different.
AM: Yeah, we do. There are some instances, as Lou said, where it will be in the script. While it does say that she comes out with birds on her head, but then you have to make it fashion forward and conceptual but also glamorous and elegant. We put together some mood boards and color palettes. We got together with hair and makeup as well. Sherri [Berman Laurence] and Barry [Lee Moe] are vital to every part of this show, and the departments work very closely.
LE: The collaboration is amazing.
AM: Barry would put something together for the wig for that and he will present it, along with Lou, to Ryan. He will tell us what he likes and we will go from there. But there usually is some element on the page.
AD: Near the end of the season, the girls get a little respite from New York City and we see different people who may work in the city but are on vacation. Can you talk about anything special from that episode? Do you have to change gears at all?
AM: We had to change gears when we got to that restaurant scene when Elektra tells off that awful woman.
AD: That pink dress she is wearing is incredible. It’s so bold and bright and loud. I love it so much.
AM: That was making sure that there’s a difference even if the other patrons are from New York and they’re on vacation in the Hamptons. They’re a different class—there’s an upper-middle class variable there. There’s research even with that which we love.
LE: We do.
AM: We also worked with our production designer to see what type of restaurant it is and even asking what type of food they’re serving. What the waiters are serving helps us even with what the background actors will be. We make background boards and put together racks and racks of clothes and we are pre-fitting on the day. For the main cast, it’s asking what their idea of vacation wear is. What does Elektra wear on vacation that looks fabulous? But she’s always looking a little more fabulous than anyone around her. They’re going to stick out. They feel great, but they will look different than anyone else in that given situation.
AD: I would love to watch Elektra pack a suitcase.
AD: What do you each like about this time period? We shift forward a bit at the start of this season.
LE: In the ‘90s anything goes. There’s no longer a certain hemline. The pants can be high waisted or low-waisted. It started to all meld together and there was more freedom. There was more color which I loved. In New York, people really dressed up still. It’s not like today where everyone wears what’s comfortable. It was fun to look like in Vogue magazine especially. Everything was so beautifully curated, but we watched a ton of music videos. It’s beautiful and specific. When we first started on the pilot, it was still the ‘80s that made you gasp or you forget about those big shoulders and multiple pleats on those pants. It was more what I consider chic than opposed to that outrageous silhouette.
AM: I liked that everyone didn’t want to look the same. People were being more interested in how they could stand out. New York in particular. Lou said we watched so many music videos, but I find, oddly, stand-up specials would interview people before and after the show. These were regular people, and they looked amazing. When we’d watch something like Dateline there would be shots of New York City down Broadway or in the Financial District, people would still have their own flair. Not everyone was shopping at GAP. People still had this unique vibe going on. I miss that.
AD: I am obsessed with Pray Tell’s outfit at the top of the fourth episode. I need someone to recreate that multiple lapel-ed jacket for me with the matching hat. What would you steal from the set of Pose to keep in your closet? From either season.
LE: Go ahead Ana.
AM: There found this amazing 1940s…it wasn’t really a kimono. It was probably made for Broadway in the ‘30s or ‘40s and it was this red kimono-esque gown that was made for a very tall man with a red, sequined dragon going up the side of it. We took it all apart and turned it into a suit, and there are high-waisted pants with dragons going up each leg. We made a coat out of the top with the dragon’s head on top of it. It was so great. Billy Porter and I have very similar measurements
AD: Oh, yeah?
LE: So if it ends up in her closet…
AM: He’s a little taller than I am, but that’s all right. I would want the pants.
AD: That sounds amazing.
LE: If I had Elektra’s body, it would be the navy blue and cream Thierry Mugler suit she wore in the pilot because I love that neckline. That makes me think of how we collaborate. I was too busy with other things for the second season, but during the first, Ana and I would dash around. We would call pieces and come together and would put outfits together. We were like children. I’d come back with a robe and she’d have the perfect slipper. It was like magic.