EXCLUSIVE! 'American Horror Story': 7 Things You Never Knew About the Freaky Fashion!
By Leanne Aguilera
Admit it — You've been terrified of American Horror Story's tales, but you've lusted over the fashion.
While FX's anthology series has featured dozens of uniquely horrifying characters over the past four years, there is one thing that has always remained consistent in the critically acclaimed one-and-done series: AHS' head costume designer Lou Eyrich.
Eyrich has been the fashion force behind nearly all of Ryan Murphy's iconic series. From Popular toGlee, and Nip/Tuck and the upcoming Scream Queens, Eyrich is a costume savant of the small screen world. In fact, the designer has already won an Emmy and four Costume Designer Guild Awards since 2009. Additioanlly, Eyrich is currently nominated again Outstanding Made for Television Movie or Mini Series for American Horror Story: Freak Show at the 17th Annual CDGA's.
Tonight at 10 p.m. on FX, America Horror Story: Freak Show will take their final bow with a jam-packed finale. To help send this season off in style, we at ETonline had an exclusive chat with Eyrich and sewed together seven things you never knew (but should!) about the fashion of Freak Show.
The season premiere of Freak Show brought fans one of the most iconic moments in American Horror Story's history: Jessica Lange — decked out in a powder-blue suit with matching eyeshadow — performing her version of David Bowie's "Life on Mars." It was soulful, it was over-the-top, and it almost didn’t happen!
Eyrich explained, "Elsa in her blue suit, that was an example where Ryan had wanted one thing and then came to me and said, 'Nope, Lou-Lou we're going to change it up — she's going to sing a Bowie song, and I want our take on that blue suit.'" With only two days to accomplish the task, Eyrich and her team raced all over to find the right mix of vibrant fabric and vintage buttons in New Orleans' limited stores.
"Throwing that together was fast and furious, and literally she was walking up on stage and we were still pulling the needle and threat on it," the designer said with a laugh. "Once it was up on stage with all the other freaks playing in the band, and contortionist leaning form the ropes, and the freaks making the little fake waves back and forth, and her riding in on the rocket — It just came together so magically that I couldn't have been happier."
Before Jyoti Amge — the 24-inch actress who took on the role of Freak Show's smallest woman Ma Petite — arrived in the States, the costume team at AHS had to get creative when designing her itty bitty dresses.
The solution? Eyrich bought a doll that was roughly the same size as Amge and used the toy as their template." It took a while for her work visa to be approved, so we had no body to work with," she said. "I had never met her so we did go buy a doll and learned the dimensions and such, and we had her measurements as well."
Not only was each of Ma Petite's dresses custom-made, the designer also revealed that her initial look for the character changed after meeting Amge. "I did have a different idea for her and then we decided to play on her ethnicity and it changed a bit," Eyrich said.
Freak Show was a unique season for many reasons, but most importantly, it was the first time the FX series referenced a past anthology tale and re-introduced a character we had already met. When Eyrich discovered that Lily Rabe would be returning as her season two character, Sister Mary Eunice, to take Pepper (Naomi Grossman) to Briarcliff — the asylum we know all too well — the designer almost had a mini heart-attack.
Why? Eyrich had to frantically rustle up Rabe's now-iconic, custom-made wimple that had not been touched, let alone seen, in nearly three years. "Thank god we had it," Eyrich said with relief. "Luckily the people at Fox have an entire archive room and I happened to be in LA that week and I went running in with my fingers crossed saying, 'Please tell me they're still there!'"
"We needed Pepper too," the designer continued. "We had to quickly find her costume as well from Asylum, so luckily that was all there as well including her socks and shoes."
The witchy third season, Coven, is known for its lavish looks and their countless ways of making an all-black outfit look effortlessly chic. In fact, it was largely for these reasons that Eyrich won an Emmy for her work on the magical season. Coming from last year's modern tale to Freak Show's 1950's setting, you'd be surprised to know that many of Coven's costumes were hidden beneath the big top.
"In Freak Show we used a lot of stuff from Coven," Eyrich confirmed. "We used pieces from Myrtle (Francis Conroy), and Marie Laveau (Angela Bassett) wore some of her same jewelry as she did in Coven."
"The gloves for Fiona, Elsa wore many times," Eyrich continued. "A couple of pieces that Cordelia (Sarah Paulson) wore in season three, we used on Emma [Robert]'s character Maggie in Freak show. We would grab things from the archives and then add a trim, or put a fur color on it, and we would just laugh all the time we just kept regurgitating our stuff."
We bet you were too busy covering your eyes whenever Twisty (John Carrol Lynch) — the psychotic killer clown — came on screen to notice his costume. (Hey, we did it too!) This is exactly why we were surprised to learn that the Twisty's dingy and tattered clown costume was one of the most difficult pieces of the season.
"Even though when you look at it, it looks very simplistic as a costume, it took a lot of time and thought," Eyrich confessed. "[There were] multiple conversations working closely with the special effects and the make-up [departments] all working together."
Despite the countless hours of manpower and aging the fabric with "the right amount of dirt and blood", Eyrich said Twisty's costumes ended up being one of her favorites. "It's funny because when you look at it, it looks so simple, but it really took weeks," she said.
6. Designing for "Freaks" Was a Show Within Itself:
Last minute changes happen "everyday" on the AHS sets, which added another layer of difficulty when dressing a guest cast filled with all different shapes and sizes. "Because we are an [anthology] ensemble piece, we're used to working with the same people over and over again," Eyrich explained.
"I know their bodies, I know what works and what doesn't work and this year there was a lot of people with special needs," she said. "A lot of my prep time was eaten up with how do you design for someone with no legs or short arms or 24 inches tall? So that was my biggest challenge."
Although this season proved to be puzzling, the end result was more than worth it. "My overall favorite thing is the freaks as a group," Eyrich said. "There was seven of them and because we knew that they would be together in the group a lot, I wanted them to look unique but also still blend in together. One of my favorite shots is where they're walking down the gravel road with the lanterns."
When it's time to get ready for a new season of American Horror Story, creator Ryan Murphy typically gives Eyrich a six-week head start, which — according to the designer — is actually "a lot" of prep time in the TV world. When the theme Freak Show was finally revealed, Eyrich's transformed into a whirlwind of ideas.
"Excitement and colors just started flying thought my head, and all the possibilities," Eyrich said. "Asylum was so bleak and was sort of one tone, and then Coven was mostly black. When he said Freak show it was just color and texture and I was really excited and there was just so much incredible research on it."
Eyrich explained that Freak Show's costumes were a mixture of vintage and custom-made pieces. "The Freaks all had to be custom-made because they all needed to have triples of everything, and you can't really find vintage in multiples," she said. "I did try to mix it all in so that it keeps that authentic look."
Looking ahead, the word "busy" doesn’t even begin to describe Eyrich's schedule. The costume designer is currently prepping for Murphy's newest Fox series, Scream Queens, which will feature Lea Michele, Ariana Grande, Joe Manganiello, and many more huge stars.
Eyrich is also scheduled to devote her fashion expertise to the first season of American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson, as well as the next season of American Horror Story. "We've got three upcoming projects and I just kind of go where Ryan wants me to go," Eyrich said of her hectic schedule. "I'd love to do all three, but I don’t know if it's possible."
And although Murphy has remained "tight-lipped" on the next chapter of the horror anthology series, we know one thing for sure: as long as Eyrich is armed with her needle and thread, the costumes will continue to blow us away.
America Horror Story: Freak Show airs tonight at 10 p.m. on FX. The 17th Costume Designers Guild Awards will take place on February 17, 2015 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.