American Horror Story’s costume designer, Lou Eyrich, has worked with its creator, Ryan Murphy, since 1999 — and has been an integral part of creating the show’s distinctly creepy feel on all of its seasons, from Asylum to super-fashion-conscious Coven to this season’s Freak Show.
“We’ve developed quite a shorthand,” she says. “He’ll just say something like, I want it like Catherine Deneuve in The Hunger. And I’ll know exactly what he means. In my head, I’ll know what he needs.” So when Murphy told her he wanted the mood for American Horror Story: Freak Show to be “old, faded Hollywood glamour,” Eyrich knew just how to create the show’s dreary, rundown costumes. “The overall inspiration was carnivals and circuses from the late-’40s into the early ‘50s,” she told the Cut by phone. “We did a ton of research on freaks, and watched tons of movies from the early ‘50s, like The Greatest Show on Earth — we referenced that a lot, because we loved that Technicolor look.”
Establishing the faded color palette and the worn-down feel of the costumes at the beginning of the series was fairly easy — but, Eyrich explains, the fourth season, now four episodes in, has presented its own set of challenges. She’s had to costume conjoined twins, murderous clowns, and heartthrobs with lobster claw hands, and show three-breasted cleavages in a sexy way. “This was really outside of the box — I couldn’t just run to the mall and purchase an outfit, you know?” she says. “I had to really design for each freak.”
Click through our slideshow to see some of the standout looks from the first half of this season alongside Eyrich’s commentary on properly coordinating an outfit to a beard and why designing for two-headed women is actually kind of boring.