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Style & Design

'American Horror Story' costume designer on 'Coven' and working on Ryan Murphy's new series

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Image Credit: Michele K. Short/FX

We may finally know who reigns supreme on American Horror Story: Coven, but series creator Ryan Murphy is keeping everyone guessing about what’s in store for season four — cast and crew included.

“You’ve heard more than I have,” joked costume designer Lou Eyrich — who made the move to AHS after overseeing the wardrobe on the first three seasons of Glee — when told that Murphy had hinted that the next installment would be set in 1950 and that “Jessica Lange has already started practicing her German accent.” While the Costume Designers Guild Awards nominee claims she’s in the dark about the details, she did admit that she’s heard rumors season 4 could return to New Orleans in June.

What is it like designing for an entirely new time and place each season?

“It’s like doing a movie every week,” Eyrich told EW, adding that she only had six weeks to ready the wardrobe for Coven and about four days to prep each episode. “Ryan Murphy has a vision before we even get started. He shares his ideas with me and then I do mood boards and we go over each character and decide what their look would be. This [past] season he wanted each character to have an iconic look. It’s both fun and quite intimidating.”

Read on for EW’s exclusive Q&A with Eyrich on her favorite costume moments from American Horror Story: Coven.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What was it like working on Coven?
Lou Eyrich: This season was a lot different because… last season the whole thing took place at an asylum. It was all 1960s with flashbacks to the ’40s. This year was contemporary, but with flashbacks to the 1800s, 1600s, the 1900s, and it took place all over New Orleans. It was a completely different line of characters and story lines. It was like [having] a great big clean slate.

How does AHS differ from any other show you’ve worked on?
The big difference is, with all the other shows I’ve done, you get to build closets from season to season, you have a stash of wardrobe, like your own closet. You get to run in and [pull anything you need]. But because every AHS season is new, you’re starting over fresh with new characters. You don’t have that stash. Because we shot [this season] in New Orleans… I had not done a television series on location before, so [I had to] get to know a new city and where to find the things I’d need for an 1830s flashback or a Salem witch hunt. Where do you find stylized witch wear in New Orleans?

Where did you source pieces from in New Orleans?
We scoured the streets and neighborhoods. We made wonderful connections with great [local] vintage stores. We did have to order a lot online. A lot of the 1800s period costumes were shipped in from London and L.A.

Where will this season’s wardrobe wind up?
This is a Fox show, so they go to the Fox wardrobe department on the lot in L.A. Everything else goes into stock to be rented by other shows.

So some of the pieces could pop up on another production?
Oh yeah, that happens a lot.

When will you start prepping for next season?
Right now, I’m on Ryan’s next show called Open, which is an HBO pilot [starring Michelle Monaghan, Anna Torv, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Wes Bentley, and Scott Speedman]. That goes through March. I’ve heard rumors that the next season of AHS could start in June.

What can we expect from Open?
It’s contemporary, which is fun for me. The characters are highly stylized 30-something’s with a little edge.

Ryan has said that he tries to “do the opposite of what we’ve done before.” What is that like for you as a costume designer?
Completely thrilling. It’s like a dream. I feel so lucky because it opens up the doors for creativity. The sky’s the limit.

What type of direction does he give you and how involved is he with the wardrobe department?
He is 100 percent involved. He is completely involved in the vision — from sets to the props to the wardrobes and hair and make-up. He’s constantly e-mailing us, texting us saying, “I want the hair straight and I want heavy eyes and I want her to be super-stylized with a cape.” He’ll be that specific. This season he wanted a lot of hats. I remember in the beginning he said, “Lots and lots of hats!”

What can you tell us about next season? We know it’s set in 1950 and that Jessica Lange is practicing her German accent. What type of research will you do?
You’ve heard more than I have. I have not talked to Ryan about it yet, in all honesty. I’ve heard rumors that it’s going back to New Orleans, but that’s all I’ve heard. I can’t really even look forward right now. I left New Orleans a few days early, before we wrapped, and started on Open the next day. When it gets done, I’ll hopefully take a little break before the next season of American Horror Story.

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Image Credit: Michele K. Short/FX (3)

What did you most enjoy about Fiona’s (Jessica Lange) new look this season?
Last season, she had to wear a nun’s habit almost the entire time. So for her to get to start wearing Givenchy and Gucci and Lanvin shoes and Prada boots — it was so fun to watch the transformation. Jessica quite loved wearing all those wonderful clothes.

What inspired Myrtle Snow’s (Frances Conroy) look?
Myrtle Snow [has been] dressed in a maid’s uniform and last year she was the Angel of Death. This season, Ryan wanted her to be a cross between [iconic fashion editors] Diana Vreeland and Grace Coddington. It was fun. My team and I spread out across town in New Orleans looking for maxi dresses and capes and gloves and kooky glasses. Watching Franny transform into Myrtle Snow was a highlight.

Any other costume highlights from Coven?
When the Swamp Girl [Lily Rabe] meets Stevie Nicks. It was really fun coming up with a swamp version of a vintage Stevie. Also, Kathy Bates was amazing to work with. We had to strap her into that corset and she never complained. She was very much involved in her costumes. She had a strong opinion of colors and textures. She was wonderful.

How did you go about creating Madison Montgomery’s (Emma Roberts) look?
For Madison, Ryan Murphy’s input from the beginning was that she would have a signature fur. And so that definitely helped us come up with who the character was. To think, “Okay. She’s got this one fur that she takes from a photo and that’s her piece that she always wears.” Unfortunately, we started out with it, but then every episode had stunts. When there’s blood and stunts involved… it was a vintage fur. We couldn’t double it. So she hardly ever got to wear it.

How important is it to have multiple versions of a wardrobe piece on a show like AHS?
Being thrown against a wall, that means more [multiples] right there. You have to have one for Madison flying against the wall. You’ll pick an outfit and find out she was to wear a harness under the clothes. So we have one outfit that’s used for camera, one that’s up a size to fit over the harness, and then we have the stunt double who also has to wear the harness. Then you must have another one for the photo double for over-the-shoulder and for when you see her flying. Every little thing takes 2-4 for each person.

You’re nominated for a Costume Designers Guild Award for your work on AHS. What does that mean to you?
I’m excited. It’s amazing, I wasn’t it at all expecting it. That makes it even more awesome.


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