So far in her enviable and unpredictable career, costume designer Lou Eyrich has styled Lea Michele into a perfectly prim schoolgirl, Jessica Lange into a vengeful nun and Angela Bassett into a voodoo empress.
And now, for her most daring stunt, she is tasked with costuming a man with lobster-like claws, a woman with three breasts, a two-headed woman and other characters with similarly peculiar appendages and proportions in “American Horror Story: Freak Show.”
Eyrich, 55, has collaborated with “American Horror Story” creator Ryan Murphy since 1999 and has received design awards and credits from esteemed television shows like “Nip/Tuck,” “Glee” and “American Horror Story: Asylum” and “Coven.” In other words, feel free to blame her for a majority of those big, black, floppy hats you’ve seen bopping around town and down the runway over the past eleven months.
With “Freak Show” premiering on Wednesday, The Post talked to Eyrich about her inspirations for the fourth installment of “American Horror Story,” why “Coven” struck such a chord with designers and viewers alike, and what it was like to shun the black and move into the Technicolor world of “Freak Show.”
Q. You’re facing a whole new set of design challenges this season with characters with two heads or claw hands, among many other things. How did those sorts of abnormalities play into your designs?
A. We had to work very closely with the special effects people this time around. To accommodate Evan [Peters]’s claw hands, we had to have the opening of his sleeve fit perfectly over his prosthetic, which took a lot of measurements for it to fit just right. It was really all about precision.
And then there was Jyoti [Amge], who’s just over two feet tall, and then we’ve got a character who’s over seven feet tall. I researched them online and watched how they move and talked to them about where they shop and then we all worked together. I did a lot of sketches to make sure that even with all those technicalities in mind, everyone — including stunt doubles — would look the part and feel great.
Q. Did you consider those things challenges to build around or did you find yourself getting inspired?
A. I would say they inspired me. We did a ton of research on carnivals and I thought it was so exciting. I will say the two-headed woman was a challenge that scared me. It had to be exactly right to make the visual effects work. Everything had to be very wide in the body and Sarah [Paulson]’s so slight that we had to find a way to make it look like she was a regular girl with two heads rather than an actress wearing a massive harness.
Q. Was there a place or theme that you drew inspiration from?
A. I definitely did a lot of research on Jupiter, Fla. in the ’50s and then a ton of circus and carnival and freak show inspiration came in too. When we first started, we did everything in dust bowl tones and it just wasn’t doing it for us so we changed it to Technicolor because when you look back at it, there really was all this satin and yellows and greens and bright blues.
Q. That must have been exciting given last year’s nearly all-black wardrobe.
A. It was like going into a candy store as a kid. Because it was all black last season, we decided to have nearly no black this time around. It’s not even overwhelming, it’s really just thrilling for a designer to have all these doors open up.
Q. When you go back to last year and “Coven,” I feel like that’s when a lot of people became aware of your work and the fashion on the show. Why do you think that is?
A. I thought about that recently and looking back, we were a few episodes in before we got to see anything and then people started calling me about what we were doing. It was just the timing. It was fun and chic and those big hats and the combining of the contemporary with the ’60s and ’70s. We were going to Forever 21 and Urban Outfitters so it was accessible to nearly everybody and we had that for all shapes and sizes. Everybody was included in this chic look and I think that’s what struck a chord. Also, the show had a lot of humor last year and it wasn’t as serious or scary as “Asylum” or “Murder House” and I think that humor brought in a lot of young people who were inspired by how these women dressed.
Q. Is there a general feeling you want viewers to get from your designs this season? Are they supposed to be whimsical? Are they supposed to be scary?
A.I would say that for this season, it would be more to spark that curiosity of the absurd and that feeling of when you were a kid and going to that carnival. That playfulness where you know around that corner, something’s gonna scare you. For this season, I would say the one-word descriptor I would use is “wonderment.” Last year, it was “stylish” and for “Asylum,” which was actually my favorite, maybe something like “caught” or “uncomfortable.”
Q. Any particular reason you consider “Asylum” your favorite?
A. I think because it was the first time that I got to do a whole time period in a long, long time. I also loved creating that environment and getting the audience into the ‘60s and staying there and then bringing characters they love to other periods. And I just really love Sister Jude [that vengeful nun played by Jessica Lange] and Lana Banana [played by Sarah Paulson]. I will say that I think this season, there will be a few characters that people will hold onto as their favorites too.
Q. Of all the shows you’ve worked on, is there a character or aesthetic or outfit that you hold particularly dear?
A. I would say that the pilot of “Glee” is a standout in that when I read the script, I thought it was just going to be another high school show and when we got to fittings and shootings and I got to meet all these cast members, I knew it was going to be big. You know, Lea Michele and Cory [Monteith] and Kevin [McHale] and Amber [Riley] and all of them. They were just special kids and so talented and getting to watch that show become a hit was amazing. That’s a standout for me. That first pilot and the feelings around it is just something so special that I don’t know if I’ll ever get to experience again.