There’s a change this year for FX’s trailblazing “Pose,” set in the New York drag ballroom culture scene of the late ’80s. The third and final season begins in 1994, where the ballroom is all but a distant memory and AIDS is the leading cause of death for many.
Yet costume designer Analucia McGorty confesses an upcoming episode that takes place a decade earlier than the original timeline is one of her favorites. The installment, airing May 9, not only flashes back to the 1970s; it’s also an origin story for Elektra Abundance-Wintour, played by Dominique Jackson. It shows where Elektra’s strength and resilience come from and allows audiences to learn where House of Abundance started.
McGorty confabbed with series co-creator Ryan Murphy, who explained his vision, and had conversations with writer and co-creator Brad Falchuk and writer Janet Mock. The designer then began her collaborations with makeup department head Sherri Berman Laurence and hair department head Barry Lee Moe.
She immersed herself in 1970s New York, from the socioeconomic setting of the era to the drugs being used — as well as the proliferation of polyester.
In the episode, titled “The Trunk,” we meet Elektra in Manhattan’s pier area, filled with prostitutes and homeless people, but the character’s glitz shows through. “Elektra is still Elektra, and she needed to be that shining diamond,” McGorty says. “I wanted to take her full disco.” That meant a full head of hair with large gold earrings and something “over the top.”
“I wanted to make an outfit where she could walk into Studio 54 and be the most glamorous woman there,” the designer says.
Elektra’s dress was all flash and fringe, topped with her signature fur coat in cream. The look also included a bit of lingerie. “I wanted her body to look incredible,” McGorty explains. “I wanted to see the beautiful long legs. She’s showing her lingerie because she’s a prostitute.”
Elektra’s dress features billowing bishop sleeves, a favorite in the ’70s, which play a pivotal role later in the episode. It’s a moment when Elektra is still living at home as Dwayne and hasn’t fulfilled her authentic truth, but McGorty accentuates the character’s “over-the-top feminine side, so everything was pink and sparkly,” including that dress.
At the end of the night, Elektra returns home and swaps her high heels for slippers — not just any slippers but a baby blue pair trimmed with white. “She doesn’t want to be in men’s slippers, so she would take it to the very boundary of what her mother would accept,” McGorty says.
But her mother (played by Noma Dumezweni) is waiting to confront her. “I do not want a cross-dressing homosexual in my home,” her mom says, and rips a sleeve off the dress.
“I had to make sure it would tear well and come off her body,” McGorty says. “When she tears it off, she’s tearing apart the armor Elektra uses to feel feminine.”