Last week, we took you on a tour of Miss Robichaux’s Academy for Exceptional Young Ladies, a/k/a Buckner Mansion in New Orleans, one of the major shooting locations for American Horror Story: Coven. Fans were treated to a screening of this season’s second episode, a Q&A with actress Jamie Brewer and Emmy-winning costume designer Lou Eyrich, as well as a tour of the grounds. While we were exploring the nooks and crannies of the historical maybe-haunted house (and a display of the costumes featured in the gallery below), we also had a chance to speak with Eyrich about the look and feel of American Horror Story, from Asylum to Coven to Freak Show and beyond.
Creating a unique world for each of the horror anthology series’ standalone seasons takes quite a bit of prep work, and the characters’ costumes are a major part of that process. Eyrich shared, “First we meet and [Ryan Murphy] tells me the premise of it, and his vision and overall tone. Then I go away and I do my research, and then I do my boards for each character. Then we meet again, and we go through each board, and it’s like ‘Yes, but I was thinking this,’ and I have my iPad with me, and we’ll quickly Google it, and say ‘OK, let’s marry it between this or that.’”
Working on Coven required a ton of research, considering the show’s timeline ranged from the 1600s to modern day. When asked if she prefers styling for modern characters or vintage, Eyrich said it was a little of both. “It’s interesting, because I did Nip/Tuck for five years and Glee for four years, and I’ve had my fill of modern. So for season two, Asylum, it was so great to do a period show… [Coven] was modern,” she continued, “but I didn’t care, because I got to mix a lot of vintage, and we were always doing flashbacks to the 1800s, the 1900s, schoolgirls from the 1900s, the 1930s, the 70s – Fiona in the 70s. I did a flashback every show, so it was really that perfect mix of both.”
Coven also saw a guest appearance from music icon Stevie Nicks, who most certainly boasts her own style. In fact, the character of Misty (Lily Rabe) was greatly inspired by Stevie Nicks’ fashion sensibilities. Eyrich noted that when Nicks showed up on set, she came prepared. “She was amazing… she brought suitcases of stuff, and it was – ah! She brought relics from the past that were amazing, and she tried stuff on, and we talked about her character, what she would be doing in each scene. She was so into it, but she did end up wearing all her own clothes.”
Stevie Nicks’ appearance in Coven was just one of the many moments that catapulted American Horror Story to cult fandom. One now-iconic scene featured some fashion-inspired dialogue – you know the one. When Myrtle Snow meets her end (again) on the pyre, clad in a killer red gown, she screams her final words: “Balenciagaaaa!” Except… Myrtle wasn’t wearing Balenciaga in that scene. According to Eyrich, she was never meant to be. “Ryan said, ‘It’s not literal. She’s just saying it as a crazy Myrtle thing. A Myrtle-ism.’” The final dress was actual Carolina Herrera, and, as you’ll see in the gallery below, it was the perfect dress for Myrtle’s final moments.
When asked why she thought last season was so successful, Eyrich thought it had something to do with the wide range of powerful women on the show. “Maybe it’s because there was something for everyone,” she explained. “We had your nerd, your popular girl, your Hollywood starlet, Fiona the bitch, and Cordelia. I think everyone had their own personal favorite to identify with, maybe, and wanted to dress like them. Maybe it was the season of the witch!”
We then switched gears to take a look at this season’s costumes. If Coven was large witchy hats, steel-toed boots, and long black dresses, Freak Show is faded pastels and sun-bleached pageantry. The inspiration for this season is “faded glamour,” Eyrich decided. “Like, at one time Elsa Mars had this great freak show carnival, and now it’s a dying art, a dying breed. They’re out of money, they’re broke, they’re being thrown off the land – so we were going to do very dust bowl, sad, neutral tones. Just kind of beige-y and rosy. Then we started doing the fittings, and then we found out we were shooting it here, and a lot of it outside in the cool, green grass, and all the colorful buildings and character down here. We decided to shift it into very colorful, like Technicolor, the old movies of the 50’s, the Todd-AO, The Greatest Show on Earth – we started watching those movies, and it was so much more interesting to watch with these splashes of polka dots and stripes and shiny golds and greens. I’m really glad we changed it, because it’s much more interesting on the screen, in my opinion.”
This season has already seen its own fashion-inspired, scene-stealing moment: Jessica Lange’s powder blue suit from the premiere’s “Life on Mars” performance. “We took the Bowie suit from the early 70s, and we made it the 40s, and more feminine for her, so we gave the big shoulders and the big lapel, and we did a little Marlene Dietrich twist to it and put her in a tie, and did the androgynous thing. It wasn’t her favorite outfit. She got used to it, but at first she was like, ‘Wait, wait – what?’ And I’m thinking, ‘What?’ [Laughs] Now it’s become quite the sensation, I hear.”
Eventually we had to say goodbye so Eyrich could get back to work, but we couldn’t let her go without asking her for some Halloween advice. Namely, what her quintessential witch items would be: Well, of course, it’s all about the hat! And then every outfit starts with the shoes, so I think a witch shoe or a boot, pointed. And then, hat. Then again, like Coven proves, you can have so many different kinds of witches, like Nan in her pilgrim chic, with her little straw hats, or Queenie in her bad-ass jeans and fedora, and Taissa in her kind of Comme des Garçon look. I think that it’s fun when people show up today in costume and have their different version of what is a witch, but I like the long dress and the big witch hat.”