‘American Horror Story’: How Costume Designer Lou Eyrich Created the ‘Freak Show’

Crafting a circus full of freaks was quite the ride for creative the team behind “American Horror Story,” but with consecutive nods for outstanding costuming, hair styling, makeup and prosthetic makeup, ever since the limited series’ offset at the 2012 Creative Arts Emmys, the “Freak Show” was in good hands with Ryan Murphy’s below-the-line team.

“Starting over each season is both a blessing and a curse,” admits costume designer Lou Eyrich, the 2014 Emmys reigning champ.

In anticipation of “American Horror Story’s” 2015 Emmy fate, Eyrich spoke to Variety about perfecting creepy costuming for the limited series’ fourth installment.

What are the challenges that come with changing the look season-to-season in an anthology series?

Prep is more intense, as creating each character takes time and often multiple fittings. However, creatively, it’s exciting to create a new look for actors you have been working with for several seasons. You never get bored. You don’t have the convenience of grabbing things from the previous season — as it’s another decade, another style, another location — that’s the biggest challenge. Budget wise, we take a big hit for that.

Which character was the most challenging to create? The most fun?

The most challenging would be our beloved freaks, as each one needed to be adjusted to their specific needs — Legless Suzy (Rose Siggins), Meep (Ben Woolf), Ma Petite, Amazon Eve, Toulouse (Drew Rin Varick), Paul the Illustrated Seal (Mat Fraser). Then, we needed to make quads of them all and age to look faded and worn.

Which character’s costume took the longest when it came to executing the piece?

Probably Bette and Dot (Sarah Paulson), as we had to work with the prosthetic heads and perfecting it took weeks. The dress designs look so simple, but it really was complicated.

Explain the creation behind Twisty. How did you approach creating the look for a clown, which is already one of the public’s biggest fear?

Ryan wanted a costume that looked like Twisty had been wearing it since the late 1930’s so we did a ton of research and then came up with a very simple costume that when clean, had a sweetness about it, yet when aged and dirtied, turned scary and sinister. It needed to be easily recognized as a clown costume. John Carroll Lynch did an amazing job at turning that costume into a scary clown.

How did the special effects and costuming departments work in conjunction to accomplish the character’s looks?

We worked very closely with the effects department — to name just a few, Jimmy’s claw hands, Salty (Christopher Neiman)and Pepper, Elsa’s wooden legs, the two heads, Desiree Dupree’s (Angela Basset) three breasts, Paul’s tattoos. They would send renderings of their ideas, per Ryan’s direction, and we would discuss how to build a costume that could hide or cover up the appliances. It was truly a team effort on a daily basis. The challenge was that they worked out of L.A., and we were in New Orleans, so we would often open a big crate with some crazy appliances and have a day or two to troubleshoot the costumes.

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