The Haunting of Hill House is a show meant to be watched, then rewatched with the Netflix version of a magnifying glass: ample use of the pause button and Reddit. Ever since Hill House premiered in October, bombshell revelations have poured in: There are ghosts lurking in the frames! The five Crain siblings represent the five stages of grief! Essentially, once the twists are unraveled and the scares jumped, then Hill House becomes a 10-episode playground of foreshadowing and clever winks.
Lynn Falconer, the show’s costume designer, knows this better than anyone. The characters' costumes are imbued with significance – and not just the Crains'. This applies to the ghosts, too. Falconer created costumes for Hill House's spectral residents throughout the 20th century, from the house's construction in 1918 to the Crains' stay in the summer of 1992 to the present day.
These are the biggest revelations from our hour-long conversation with Falconer, including the symbolism of Liv’s (Carla Gugino) robes, the ghosts’ backstories, and the potential for a second season.
On the story Liv's robes tell:
“The robes unfolded with the show's story,” Falconer said, adding another bullet point to the ever-growing list of things to pay close attention to in The Haunting of Hill House. Technically, Liv wears peignoirs, a type of sheer negligee that Poppy Hill (Catherine Parker) might have worn while brushing her hair in the 1920s, establishing a further connection between the two women.
The robes represent Olivia’s declining mental state. “If you were to line up their actual linear sequence, the robes signal what might be happening to Olivia until she perishes. She starts out in a super rich teal velvet robe, mediates with the green printed robe, and dies in something very light and whisper-thin,” Falconer said.
Falconer revealed a fascinating tidbit about Liv’s ghostly state. “Liv’s red robe is the green robe. It turns red when she becomes a ghost,” Falconer said. The color red connects back to the Red Room, which takes hold of everyone in the house. “It’s also about love. Love and family to me,” she added.
On the surprising connection between Liv and the "Bent Neck Lady:"
Of all the Crains, Nell and Olivia are especially susceptible to to Hill House's deviousness. So, it's fitting that the women's wardrobes align. When Nell travels to Hill House as an adult and changes into a gown, she selects a garment that Olivia had actually worn earlier on in the show.“Olivia wears the Bent Neck Lady’s gown in episode 1, when Hugh comes into bed. That gown becomes Nell’s Bent Neck Lady under-gown,” said Falconer. "Nell is continuing the tragic legacy of Olivia by inhabiting her mother's pieces.”
On the show’s most in-demand costumes:
Apparently, fans love Nell’s (Victoria Pedretti) wardrobe — especially her bohemian wedding dress and her long camel coat. “I get an email every day about that wedding dress,” Falconer said. Since the wedding sequence came up suddenly during the show’s shoot, Falconer was unable to design a dress. She and Pedretti ultimately selected a lace gown from Anthropologie’s bridal line, BHLDN.
You’ll have less luck tracking down Nell’s coat. “It’s from my vintage archives,” Falconer revealed. Falconer chose the coat because she senses it has a story of its own. “I don’t know who it belonged to. There were holes in it. It was moth-eaten. But it had a story – you just knew. It almost evokes Anastasia.” Some of Liv's dresses are also from Falconer's personal vintage connection.
hOn how to dress like Theodora Crain:
It’s easy: Everlane. In addition to being designed by the wardrobe team, Falconer said much of Theo’s (Kate Siegel) adult garments were sourced from Everlane. "Because she’s so sensitive to touch, she’s not going to wear crappy fabric. You know her stuff is good," Falconer said.
Siegel, who is married to director Mike Flanagan, was pregnant on the shoot. “We had to let out her pants a couple times towards the end,” Falconer said.
On the potential subject of season 2:
Hill House has an entire history we know nothing about — but Falconer does. A woman named Hazel Hazel, for example, is one of the background ghosts. Who knew? Falconer did!
Originally, show-runner Mike Flanagan planned to begin each episode of The Haunting of Hill House with a five-minute segment about the house’s history narrated by Steven (Michiel Huisman). So, Falconer had to create costumes for the house’s litany of residents-turned-ghosts spanning from 1918 to the modern day. “I’m literally sitting here and looking at two binders’ worth of research,” Falconer said.
However, these segments were slashed due to budget constraints, and the show focused nearly exclusively on the Crains. Upon hearing that Hill House’s history would be eliminated entirely, Falconer was broken-hearted. At the time, Falconer thought the house’s history was integral to the show. Her opinion changed when she actually saw the final product. “It works that the history isn’t explained a lot. Raising questions makes it more interesting,” Falconer said.
Flanagan already confirmed the Crains’ story is finished. With that in mind, Falconer guesses a second season, should it occur, might focus on the house's history. “There’s a good skeletal structure there for sure. What they wrote is so amazing. All I can say is that it’s a really cool story,” she said.
On the great glasses switcheroo of Hill House:
Real talk: Which of the Crain children need glasses? As a child, Luke (Julian Hilliard) wears glasses; as an adult, he doesn’t. The reverse is true of Steven. He doesn’t need glasses as a child, but wears them as an adult.
Ultimately, this wardrobe decision stemmed from practicality, not hidden symbolism. Julian Hilliard, who plays Luke, needs glasses to see. In fact, his thick glasses may have landed him the part of Luke. “His glasses and they way they looked on him were a very big part of why Flanagan loved this kid,” Falconer said. Though Falconer tried to establish connections between the siblings’ older and younger selves, she most struggled to bridge young Luke’s persona with older Luke’s state as a drug addict. “They were so powerful on their own,” she said. No glasses were necessary for older Luke.
As for Steven's wire-rimmed glasses, which he adopts as an adult (along with a slight Dutch accent)? Michiel Huisman requested that his character wear glasses. “A prop like that can be really helpful for an actor. Michiel felt it to be good for his character,” Falconer said.
On one last lingering mystery:
Pay close attention to Hill House characters' clothing, and you'll notice obvious links between eras. For example, Steven wears polo shirts as an adult and child, Nell always tends toward florals, and Theo's wardrobe is peppered with yellows.
Timothy Hutton, who plays present-day Hugh, requested something more concrete than repeated patterns: He wanted an item that both he and Henry Thomas, who plays 1990s Hugh, could wear. Just as Falconer was about to embark on a thrift store hunt for this mysterious garment, she come across a deep red corduroy blazer on one of the racks. “It was a godsend,” Falconer said. The blazer fit Hutton perfectly, and the wardrobe department built another for Henry Thomas (Young Hugh).
It was the perfect blazer. But where did it come from? To this day, Falconer has no idea. “I asked everyone on the team who procured that jacket, and no one claimed it. It was the haunting of the wardrobe department.”