AHS's Costume Designer Talks Dressing Lady Gaga

Photo: Courtesy of FX.
When it comes to creating iconic looks, Lou Eyrich knows a thing or two. The award-winning costume designer got her start dressing rock stars like fellow Minneapolis homeboy Prince and then went on to create Lea Michele’s good-girl short-skirt-and-animal-sweater uniform for Glee. She eventually made her way to American Horror Story where she worked with such divas as Stevie Nicks and Jessica Lange, and now she's about to up the ante.

For the new season, American Horror Story: Hotel (which premieres October 7 at 10 p.m. on FX), Eyrich is transforming Lady Gaga into the part of a couture-addicted, blood-sucking countess who runs the haunted hotel in which all sorts of murder and depravity go down. And given AHS's history of cult-making, show-stealing fashion — think Lange’s satin blue “Life on Mars” pantsuit in season 4’s Freak Show or the glamorous gang of witches in season 3’s Coven — we expect things to be epic.

We talked with Eyrich, who has collaborated with AHS and Glee creator Ryan Murphy continuously since 1999, about what we can expect from the new season and what it was like working with Gaga. See what she had to say below.

How is Hotel different from previous seasons?
"Coven was very modern and stylized. And Freak Show, even though it was faded and worn, was very colorful. This season, the setting is a hotel, and it’s all burgundies and golds. It’s more high-fashion, but there’s a kind of timelessness — you can’t quite tell if it's modern or period. We mix a lot of old — '30s, '70s, '80s, and '90s — with different characters wearing clothes from different eras, so it feels like you’re stuck in time inside this hotel."
Photo: Courtesy of FX.
The owner of the hotel is Lady Gaga's character, who is this larger-than-life vampire. Was it tricky separating the two personalities?
"It wasn’t hard at all: Lady Gaga was so into her character — she’d done her homework — so it was really fun to collaborate with her. And this was a big opportunity for her to get to show herself as somebody other than Lady Gaga. So I think it was exciting for both of us to discover who the countess was."

What did you two decide?
"We wanted her to be very elegant, sexy, seductive, mysterious, and unexpected as well. Since she’s so fashion-forward, the first thing I did was look at the most recent runway shows. Then, to give her that aura of timelessness, I went through archives of my favorite designers — a lot of Thierry Mugler and Yves Saint Laurent, Vivienne Westwood — and Old Hollywood costumers, like Adrian [Greenberg] from the '40s. A lot of web surfing, a lot of vintage couture shopping. I didn't do much research of other vampire movies because I didn't want to be influenced by them."

I think high fashion works for vampires, since they’re often supposed to be seductive and sort of cosmopolitan. I definitely get that vibe from Gaga’s costumes, especially this one shocking-pink 1940s-style dress…
"Oh yes, Ryan wanted this dramatic gown with either a big, long train or a lot of extra fabric that would billow in the wind, because in that scene, she was going to be moving through this series of lampposts outside [the Los Angeles County Museum of Art]. The designer, Michael Costello, made the dress in a day, maybe two. Ryan wanted it in a brilliant color, like red, but we had just shot a scene in a red dress; I had Michael come up with some sketches, and Ryan loved the fuschia, so that’s what we ended up with."
Photo: Courtesy of FX.
What about the silver glove she wears?
"That’s her weapon — her character doesn’t have fangs, so the gloves have these little knives that pop from the fingers, and that’s how she gets the blood. It’s a leather glove covered with 1,000 Swarovski crystals designed by Michael Schmidt, who is a jeweler in Los Angeles. And Ryan wanted it to be like armor, though it also had to be fashionable enough to wear with her outfits."

Anything else you can share about the new season?
"Well, Gaga was so generous and offered to bring pieces in from her own personal archive. So let’s just say that her fans are going to get a big treat when they see something that I'm not going to give away!"

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