The costumes play such a vital role in the story in HBO’s Lovecraft Country. The sci-fi/horror drama is ambitious and packed with story, but Dayna Pink’s designs meld together 1950s silhouettes with contemporary fabrics so well that they have an urgent relevance. Every single character in this fantastical world has a different journey starting with the clothes everyone puts on their bodies.
My personal favorite character of Misha Green’s series is Wunmi Mosaku’s Ruby because she can wear almost anything. As a performer, Ruby presents herself on stage, but she also struts in her every day clothing. Ruby’s arc is particularly fascinating when she embodies Hillary Davenport, a privileged white woman. Think about how Ruby would want to dress as Hillary when she has access to a life that society denies her.
Pink also had the opportunity to transport us to several different eras and cultures. She played with a different culture when we dove into Atticus’ past in South Korea and we literally go back in time to the 1921 Tulsa massacre. What’s so fantastical about Lovecraft Country is we finally see Black protagonists in a genre that normally underutilizes them and every character’s motivation shines through in the patterns, colors, and shapes of their clothing.
Awards Daily: I imagine that some pieces in Lovecraft Country are vintage. Did you have to build a lot of it?
Dayna Pink: Because of the nature of the show and the horror component and there was blood and running and fighting, we made a lot for the main characters. We wanted to do whatever we wanted to do. Sometimes we need two or three or ten of each outfit. We didn’t know if they were going to get bloody and you don’t always shoot in order. Sometimes I would find an amazing vintage piece, I would change it a little bit to make it my own and so we could recreate it. A lot of things for the main characters we made, but a lot of things for the extras were things that we rented or purchased.
AD: And when things get bloody in Lovecraft Country, they get bloody.
AD: The dress that Leti wears when she smashes all the cars has a lot of movement and I love the color of it.
DP: When I read the script, I knew it had to move. I intentionally wanted to use some fabric that was going to make a statement, and fringe was such an obvious choice for that. We sourced a lot of fringes and picked the color and I built it a few times. We made it and then changed it and then lined it in the crimson color so you could see the red on the inside. There were a few different versions of it.
AD: Did you have certain colors for characters?
DP: In a way. Our heroes had stronger colors on purpose. They were the ones we wanted you to focus on. Ruby can pull off any color. She is such a beauty that we did a bright blue for her for the first time we see her. The pink sequin dress is a modern fabric but we made that to look like a modern silhouette. She had a bright red dress and bold patterns. She really was so much to make clothes for and we really tried to make a statement for her.
AD: Wunmi Mosaku looks good in everything you put her in. Every time she came on screen, I was so excited to see what she was wearing.
DP: She loved coming to fittings.
AD: She knows how to wear clothes and what looks good on her body. Speaking of Ruby, episode five is such a standout in terms of the ambition of the themes of the show. Ruby transforms into Dell/Hillary and she has a lot of fun with the clothes she puts on her body. One of the first times we see her she’s in a patterned skirt and the red gloves really pop.
DP: Oh yeah. That’s Jamie [Neumann], and she was so much fun to work with. Did you remember her as Dell?
AD: I didn’t recognize her at first! She looked so different.
DP: We did the fittings at Dell with the jeans and the hat on, and then when we put her in 1950s Hillary, she was walking around the room differently. What we do changes them so much. We help them embody the character.
AD: In that scene with Mr. Hughes, she’s wearing that printed coat and there is so much violence happening and the coat is very primal, very animalistic.
AD: You get to go to South Korea in the second half of the season. What were you looking forward to exploring with that departure?
DP: It was a capsule episode, so it was all in Korea and it was all different. We also have the fantasy element like the rest of the show. We root it in the period and then add a layer of fantasy on top of it. It was fun making the robes and we made jumpsuits. We did the traditional and gave it a twist.
AD: I love the purple in the dress that Ji-Ah wears when we see her bring a man home for the first time.
DP: That was such a fun episode because it was so different. It was like making a movie. All the uniforms from the war and all of her interesting pieces for her and her mother, we made everything.
AD: There are a few lines, especially towards the beginning of the series, when characters recognize who Atticus is. They reference him as, “the kid with the glasses” quite a bit and then he’s played by a super-built Jonathan Majors. I was curious if you wanted him to look like he was proud of the man he has grown into?
DP: Atticus doesn’t need anything else. It’s simple and his body speaks for himself. You see the elements of the period in the high-waited pants and it’s roomier with the boot. The t-shirts, with the right fabrics and the right colors, is all it needed to be. Sometimes less is more.
AD: I love that mustard shirt he wears.
DP: Thank you.
AD: Christina and William are so different than everyone else. I’m a sucker for a hat.
DP: Are you? (laughs)
AD: Their clothes reminded me of steel and their fabrics look opulent with some silks. How did you want them to stand out, because they definitely do.
DP: Christina’s look was definitely more ’40s than other people. She came from a different era–her inspiration. Her outfits were crispier, harder, and not as touchable. A lot of what Atticus and Leti wore used fabrics that made you want to touch them. Even some of Ruby’s dresses were soft and they had a lot of movement to them. Christina’s were crunchier. They were definitely high fashion and you want to look at them. We kind of looked at her differently like you wanted to observe her. You’d never think you were friends with her, though.
AD: She looks like she’s under glass almost. You want to watch her.
DP: Yes. She sits a certain way and walks a certain way. Her clothes tell a story.
AD: Tell me about your instincts with Leti because she can pull off so many different things.
DP: It’s limitless what she can wear. It depends on what she wants to say that day. She is living her own fantasy of presenting herself. She shows up at the block party in this big, fancy dress, and you’d think she has all the money in the world. That’s what she wants you to think. We were not bound by how much money does she have and where is she shopping. It’s about what she wants to wear.
AD: What outfit would you steal from set to put in your closet?
DP: I like that question–no one has asked me that. The shirt that Leti wears with the equestrian outfit is symbolic of what we did with the entire show. That shirt was not 1950s classic attire. It was a fabric that I found that had nothing to do with the show that I knew would pop with that outfit and look beautiful with the red. That was the second episode. When we were mixing modern fabrics with period silhouettes and period elements, I knew what the show was going to be. I knew I could take it to another place and I knew it was a green light to do what we wanted to do.
Lovecraft Country is streaming on HBO Max.