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CDGA Nominated Costume Designer Lou Eyrich Talks American Horror Story: Freak Show [Exclusive] 

Photo Credit: Michele K. Short/FX
Photo Credit: Michele K. Short/FX

American Horror Story continues to surprise and disturb me. I love that this anthology series gets to essentially reinvent itself every season and it’s always fascinating to see what Ryan Murphy’s creative mind will come with next. This series has taken us from a murder house in 2011 Los Angeles, to a Massachusetts asylum in 1964, to a coven of witches in 2013 New Orleans and finally, a freak show in 1952 Florida. Behind every piece of wardrobe, is costume designer Lou Eyrich. We talked to her exclusively via email about her long-term collaboration with Murphy, what kind of research she had to do for this season’s AHS installment and more.


TV GOODNESS: Congratulations on your nomination. You are in such great company. What does this kind of recognition mean to you?  

Lou Eyrich: “It validates the blood, sweat and tears that went into this project. It’s an honor to have our work recognized by the people I respect so much.”

TV GOODNESS: Let’s find out a little bit more about you. When did you know you wanted to be a costume designer and how did you break into the business? 

Lou: “I was living in Minneapolis and got introduced to designers who styled for bands and found myself touring on the road with them. Then I met a designer who hired me on a film; she inspired me greatly and changed my course. I became passionate about costumes and creating characters. I say this often, but I truly was in the right place at the right time and the perfect people entered my life to guide me.”

TV GOODNESS: I was looking at your credits and I noticed that you’ve worked with Ryan Murphy since Nip/Tuck. When he talked to you about the American Horror Story anthology series, was there anything in particular that made you want to do it?

Lou: “I was designing Glee at the time and the idea of spinning off into a whole new direction excited me. I loved the idea of telling a new story each season, but with (mostly) the same cast.”

Photo Credit:  Michele K. Short/FX
Photo Credit: Michele K. Short/FX

TV GOODNESS: Take me through your process. Is reading the script the first step or does it start earlier with something else? And then from there, how you go about crafting these looks/costumes?

Lou: “It starts with reading the script and meeting with Ryan. Then I put together concept / tone boards – research gathered from various places. Once I’m clear on what Ryan wants, we start the sketches, shopping, swatching and building. Fittings with actors is when it all starts coming together.”

TV GOODNESS: Can you talk a little about how you approach each season since they are so different?  

Lou: “The basic formula is mostly the same – the difference is really in the research and whether it’s contemporary or period.”

TV GOODNESS: American Horror Story: Freak Show has a very distinctive look. What kind of research do you do and how does that inform your designs?

Lou: “Luckily there is a lot of research on carnivals and freak shows. Chrisi Karvonides had a big box of research from Carnivale that was priceless to have. Also the movie The Greatest Show on Earth was a big inspiration, as it was the same era. I was trying to capture the feeling of the realness of a once colorful but now fading carnival, so the research heavily influenced the design of the show.”

TV GOODNESS: Other than the story concerns, do you have to keep anything else in mind when you’re designing or coming up with a concept for a costume?

Lou: “Time is usually an issue in TV, as is budget, so those elements definitely influence the design or concept of each costume.”

Photo Credit:  Michele K. Short/FX
Photo Credit: Michele K. Short/FX

TV GOODNESS: Following up on the question above, I’m assuming you work quite closely with the makeup department. Do they give you any direction or feedback on your designs?

Lou: “I absolutely work closely with them, as they complete the costume. We show them photos from each fitting and discuss the look – especially if there is a hat, hood or hair ornament involved. This was a heavy make-up effects show, so we had a lot of prosthetics to design around. They are an amazing team.”

Photo Credit: Sam Lothridge/FX
Photo Credit: Sam Lothridge/FX

TV GOODNESS: Is there an iconic look from this season that you’re especially proud of? Can you talk about it?

Lou: “What comes to mind is not a specific look but the tone of the group of “freaks.”  Each had their specific needs to be designed for and it was a wonderful lesson for me.”

TV GOODNESS: Where do you find your inspiration? What makes you excited to go to work every day and do this?  

Lou: “Honestly, Ryan Murphy inspires me greatly. He has a vision and a drive that makes me want to produce magic. Each of his projects excites me and makes me want to do my best work.

Photo Credit: Andrew Eccles/FOX
Photo Credit: Andrew Eccles/FOX

TV GOODNESS: What do you have coming up? Anything you’re allowed to talk about?

Lou: “I am prepping Ryan’s next show Scream Queens that will shoot in New Orleans. It’s a horror comedy with Jamie Lee Curtis and Emma Roberts.  It’s hilarious. It’s ambitious – like all of Ryan’s shows!”

TV GOODNESS: Other than finding out the results of your own category, what are you most looking forward to at the CDGA ceremony?  

Lou: “Celebrating with so many creative, amazing designers. The night always goes too quickly.”

TV GOODNESS: And, finally, what designer will you be wearing to the show?  

Lou: “A vintage Holly Harp gown with a 60’s Christian Dior turban. Still struggling to find a shoe!”

The 17th Costume Designers Guild Awards presented by LACOSTE will take place on February 17, 2015 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, and will be hosted by Golden Globe nominated actress Emmy Rossum. The awards presentation celebrates outstanding Costume Design in film, television and commercials.

A selection of Lou Eyrich’s costumes from American Horror Story: Freak Show.

All images courtesy of Michele K. Short/FX.

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