Lou Eyrich is on the Fox lot, at work on the set of the brand new season of American Horror Story. At this precise moment in time, we’ve only had teasers and a scary poster. Viewers are guessing wildly what the next season will be about, but don’t even think of asking Lou for any secrets. She is sworn to secrecy.
She has Emmys in 2014 and 2015 for her costume design work on American Horror Story and this year received another nomination for her work on American Horror Story: Hotel.
She was at work when the Emmys were nominated, and didn’t expect to be receiving a nomination this year. However, when she found out the news, needless to say, there was “a lot of screaming.” She wasn’t expecting the Emmy nomination which made it all the more special for her.
I have to say, this season of all seasons was visually beautiful. From The Countess to Evan Peters’ character, everything was just Hollywood glam in every sense.
It was really a fun season to design that’s for sure.
What was the process for designing this season? You’ve got the modern hotel, but The Countess is over a hundred years old?
I always meet with Ryan Murphy first. He’s heavily into the costumes and the sets, the hair and makeup. When we started the project, we all meet so that we have the same tone for the show. The set of the hotel pretty much set the tone; that deco, run down dusty hotel, that had seen its better years.
The show takes place in 2015 and is a contemporary show. We really wanted to play against the old tiredness of the hotel meets the new technology of the hotel. Everything new in the world doesn’t fit in that hotel, so we really tried to show the juxtaposition between the two worlds. We used a lot of color, so The Countess wore reds and turquoises and cream. Sally had her leopard print coat with her deep plum and magentas and those velvet dresses underneath. Liz Taylor’s character was always in fuchsias, aquas and bright pops of color, and chiffon, things that had movement. As the hotel was stagnant, we tried to do lots of flowy stuff, a lot of things that showed movement in modern times.
This was Lady Gaga’s first season as The Countess who gave such a stellar performance. How did you separate Lady Gaga looks from The Countess? Was that easy to come up with costumes for her?
I did a huge couple of tone boards for The Countess. It was always about that regalness and that confidence that she had where she could wear a full on Balenciaga gown in the middle of the day watering her plants, and she wouldn’t seem weird. That she would be in full regalia: hair and makeup. In bed, she would wear a $200 hand embroidered silk kimono. It’s all about that confidence of the Countess. She owned the place. It doesn’t matter what she wore and when she commanded that presence.
The only thing that set the difference was that you knew she was out for the kill. So, if she had one of the gloves with the wicked nails, you knew she was going out for the kill.
How did you come up with that idea? Michael Schmidt, who I love, designed it. He and Loree Rodkin are probably the own two jewelry designers who could do something as incredible as that. How did he get involved?
To get woowoo, it was universally guided to tell you the truth. When I read it in the script, the inspiration came from Ryan Murphy loving the glove that Daphne Guinness loved in museum installations and that was chain mail and it was intricately designed. We could never have afforded it. You could buy it online for a million dollars. Michael also knows Daphne and we didn’t want to insult her by knocking off her glove, so we were inspired by it. The glove needed to have more practical uses as it would have to be worn every day by Gaga, and it needed to be flexible and have movement and not break each time. It needed moving parts.
I went to a few special effects houses and learned it was more jewelry. I went to one craft person and she said, “You need to meet Michael Schmidt.” Then I was at Max Field, and I saw a display with some incredible pieces and asked who designed them. He said, “Oh it was Michael Schmidt, you have to meet him.” Finally, Ariana Phillips who is an amazing costume designer, I emailed her and told her I needed to build this glove, and she said Michael’s name too. So, it was this three times dead ringer. I called him, met him and he knocked it out of the park.
Who got to keep the glove?
Fox got to keep it. Swarovski, they donated the 11,000 crystals per glove.
Was the fashion show written into the script?
That was written into the script because it introduced Will Drake who was a fashion designer who was buying the hotel. So, they needed a fashion show to introduce Tristan the bad boy. He was a model, and that’s how they introduced him through that show.
What was the biggest fashion challenge for you?
The glove, because I had to find someone who could manufacture it. That was the number one challenge. Gaga was on tour with Tony Bennett, so it was really hard to get fitting time with her, even with the glove. We had to get her to trace her hand, get measurements, take photos and send it to us. That’s how Michael started the glove. We started costumes on her measurements without her present. The first two episodes had 19 changes, all couture and we were shooting four episodes at once so it was overwhelming to come up with that amount of clothing, and I had never even met her. Not only the costumes, but this woman is perfectly curated in that she has the perfect jewelry, the perfect shoes, and it had to match the glove. We needed triples because they’d get covered in blood. It was trying to come up with enough on a TV budget in a very short amount of time. We had three days. We fitted on a Friday, and she went on camera on Monday.
That’s the thing with TV. There’s such a tight turnaround, and people don’t really appreciate that. It’s not always like film.
With that came, Who is The Countess? We could put clothes on a body, but who’s the character? How do we find that character?
What about dressing the men?
The tricky part about dressing the men is there’s not as much variety for men as there is for women, so taking those five men and make them all have their own look and personality was difficult. They all had similar bodies and looks. How did we make Tristan look like the bad boy. With Bentley, he’s a transformation, so how do we make these good looking, almost the same body types look so different? That was really a challenge. It meant really reading the script and finding their nuances. Tristan could rock the really low cut leather pants, and rock and roll shirt, and that faux hawk hair style. He could rock that Vivienne Westwood boot with the buckles which gave him that old school London look. Will Drake was in a lot of high-class Ralph Lauren, very sleek and clean, and mostly black to give him that New York designer look. Matt Bomer was in a lot of Dior and YSL, on a TV budget so we had to make it look like that.
How did this season compare to others ?
What’s fun about AHS is that season one was contemporary with flashbacks. Season 2 was all the 60’s in an asylum. Season 3 was witches and voodoo in New Orleans and contemporary with flashbacks. Season 4 was a freak show, shot in New Orleans and very technicolor. Last year was contemporary with flashbacks. Every season is delightfully fun to come up with all new storylines of characters. Season 5 was contemporary. What I was trying to do, was to keep everybody dressed was where they were dressed that you couldn’t tell whether they were contemporary or period.
Sally (Sarah Paulson), I would love to dress like that. Is she current or period? Iris, Kathy Bates is all contemporary clothes. We bought it all in the stores today, or made it, but she looked like she was from the 90’s. We really tried to play that game.
Now, I’m going to have to go back and re-watch this season. The costumes stay with you, Sally’s outfit. Many of what The Countess wore stays with you because it’s so striking.
Yes, a lot of Sally’s stuff was meant to look older, but her shoes were from Top Shop or the dance store. We spray painted them gold and put rhinestones on them, we mixed it up to add to that horror element.
Do you have a favorite costume from this season?
I really liked the green one shoulder dress with the matching turban. I thought it was really elegant and dynamic. It had a flair and it was made out of contemporary fabric. I thought it was bold and beautiful.
The magenta dress at LACMA was another favorite.
Now, you’re on Season 6.
I’m sworn to secrecy, but it’s the scariest of all. Really scary.