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‘American Horror Story,’ ‘Carol’ Costume Designer and Director Teams Discuss Collaborations

These heavy-hitting costume designer-director duos consistently work together to bring television and film’s most stylish characters to life.

Lou Eyrich and Ryan Murphy:

Lou Eyrich is the reigning costume designer to beat in the Emmy race, landing an award the last two years for her morbidly chic looks on “American Horror Story.” Two-time Emmy-winning director Ryan Murphy also garners consistent noms for “AHS” — on the heels of celebrated past collaborations with Eyrich, like “Glee” and “Nip/Tuck.” The two are currently reviving sorority style in Fox’s “Scream Queens,” 16 years after first pairing up for 1999 WB series “Popular.”

“Lou was somebody that I had an instant affinity and shorthand with, so within quick succession, she became the lead costumer on all of my shows,” Murphy says. “She’s somebody I could talk to about a 1940s reference, and then about some current runway piece. So she can straddle ‘then’ and ‘now.’”

After Murphy presents his scripts, Eyrich will return after what he terms her “dream time” with a tone board of looks they refine. Says Eyrich, “For me, we make a good team because Ryan is so involved in the process. He gets the importance of getting it right.” Both count Elsa’s blue “AHS” suit as among their favorite fashions, which Murphy sees ample imitations of, particularly around Halloween time. “I’ll be like, ‘oh there’s a Countess! And there’s a Twisty! Chanel, with ‘Scream Queens!’” he says. “That’s how you know you made it.”

AMERICAN HORROR STORY: FREAK SHOW — Pictured: Jessica Lange as Elsa Mars.
Michele K. Short/FX

Patricia Field and Darren Star:

The popular pair made HBO series “Sex and the City” into a style sensation (along with Manolo Blahnik stilettos and Fendi baguettes). Now, Patricia Field and Darren Star are working with costume designer Jackie Demeterio to transform Sutton Foster’s 40-year-old character into her 26-year-old alias on TV Land’s “Younger,” and they attribute their success to some noted similarities.

“We both love giving the wardrobe a slightly heightened sense of fun and glamour,” says Darren Star, pointing out that Patricia Field is a Downtown storeowner and “style icon” in New York. “She is aware of trends before they happen.” Field credits the team’s communication and Star’s skill in developing a character. “Darren is brilliant at casting,” she says.

Unsurprisingly, both site moments from beloved “SATC” — which scored them Emmys, and which they later brought to the big screen — as highlights. Field’s favorite: “When we were creating the opening sequence which was televised at the beginning of every show.” Star fondly recalls their first day of work. “She brought in a Bettie Page book of dominatrix photos as inspiration. I realized then I was in for an interesting ride,” he says. “Also,” he adds, “seeing details she would bring to Carrie — like the ‘Carrie’ necklace, the flower, the poncho — and watching them blow up into fashion trends.”

Ellen Mirojnick and Steven Soderbergh

When Ellen Mirojnick, who’d wardrobed stars like Michael Douglas and Tom Cruise in classic movies “Wall Street” and “Cocktail,” teamed up with Oscar-winning “Traffic” director Steven Soderbergh for the 2013 HBO film “Behind the Candelabra,” both walked away with their first Emmys. How’d they do it? “Steven Soderbergh uses very few words. He is economical and brilliant on every level,” Mirojnick says. “Like having a great dance partner, the key is following his lead and trust.”

Credit: FilmMagic

She began by showing him a photographic series of pianist Liberace and his young lover Scott out on the town. “It was his positive response to these photos of the two men, dressed alike, almost ‘twin-like,’ that informed the direction I took,” she says.

A similar sort of instinctual exchange determined the path the pair would take for their next project, Cinemax series “The Knick.” “There was never conversation of creating an old-timey 1900 New York,” Mirojnick reveals of the show set at the Knickerbocker Hospital. “On the page, [Clive Owen’s character] Thackery was a brilliant yet arrogant surgeon, with a cocaine and opium addiction. It was Steven and Clive’s positive response to the white boots and a David Bowie-esque vibe that proved to be the improvisation that would lead us into that world.” She concludes: “His instincts begin the dance that I creatively thrive on.”

Sandy Powell and Todd Haynes

Before they crafted 1950s fashion masterpiece “Carol,” a New York-set romance which stars Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara and is poised for awards season acclaim, three-time Oscar-winning costume designer Sandy Powell and Oscar-nominated director Todd Haynes teamed up for 2002’s “Far From Heaven” and, their personal favorite, 1998’s “Velvet Goldmine.”

“I grew up in London during the glam rock period, a truly inspirational time for me, which I tried to imbue in my depiction of it,” says Powell of “Goldmine.” Adds Haynes, “The radical role costumes played in this era of gender bending theatricality in music, and the stylistic adventures we took in depicting it onscreen, allowed the imaginative process to exceed even the reality of the times.”

How did the duo approach “Carol?” “Todd is a very visual director and always begins every project with a look book,” says Powell, who studied ‘50s fashion magazines. “We both saw Carol in the narrow silhouette of the period as opposed to the more extravagant volume of the New Look from Paris,” she explains. Next year, they’ll tackle another New York period drama — “Wonderstruck,” set in 1927 and 1977 — and costumes will be crucial. “Sandy knows how important I feel the clothes are to every aspect of the film — not just the character and story, but the actual language of the film itself,” Haynes says.

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