Ryan Murphy’s groundbreaking FX series, “Pose,” opened up the TV series format to LGBTQ inclusion and diversity like never before with its dazzling depiction of ’80s African-American and Latino ball culture in New York. It served as an allegorical bridge of liberation and empowerment amid the rise of Trump, and costume designers Lou Eyrich and Analucia McGorty were key collaborators in creating the boldest costume statement of the season.
“Ryan had a vision from the beginning with his support team of [co-creator] Steven [Canals] and [producer] Janet [Mock],” said Eyrich, who also served as producer. “They bring such a wealth of experience and information so we were guided by them. To be able to tell this story during those dire times, and to have this place for people to walk in and feel safe and dance and dress up was vital. So we got to learn both worlds.”
“It is a little bit like ‘West Side Story’ with these [ballroom] battles,” added McGorty, who was mentored by Eyrich prior to being elevated to co-costume designer on the series. “But really the core of it is this intense sense of community that was so important for these families that you create because you need to be around those who love you to survive. And being able to tell that story, both in and out of the ballroom in the late ’80s and early ’90s New York, when poverty was a huge problem and the AIDS epidemic was rampant, was so inspiring.”
“Pose” explores the underground culture scene inhabited by non-conformists, who come together in a network of family units called Houses (Abundance, Evangelista, Ferocity) and compete for trophies as dancers and models, flaunting their stylish costumes. Putting such an immense and creative wardrobe together required scouring the local vintage stores, which McGorty excelled at as a New Yorker.
“Being a period show, there’s time when you need multiple things, so you have to find ways to shop modern and turn it into a vintage look,” McGorty added. “So we would have to run through the streets of the Bronx or Queens, where we’d be shooting, and go to those suit places and find jackets with lining that we could just whip ’em inside out, and we’d have a double and it wouldn’t look like a modern polyester suit.”
Elektra (Dominique Jackson), one of the standouts, is a mover and shaker among multiple Houses. She was modeled after Diana Ross (think “Mahogany”) in her costuming. “I think that one of the outfits Lou and I talked a lot about was her two-piece navy suit with this beautiful cream hat and a silvery scarf over her head underneath the hat,” McGorty said. “It was so glamorous, so subtle, and when she walked into the room, nobody could talk.”
“Ana designed a great piece for Elektra with the gold shoulders and the big gold-plated breast plate,” McGorty added. “It was very Cleopatra-inspired. Elektra is so glamorous and so beautiful and has this elegant sense of style, and I think that trickles down to some of the other girls that want to be mothers of the House.”
By contrast, the House of Evangelista is more scrappy, with Blanca, (Mj Rodriguez), Angel (Indya Moore), Papi (Angel Bismark Curiel), and Damon (Ryan Jamaal Swain). “They have no money so they throw together things they’ve been able to get from thrift stores and it doesn’t matter if it doesn’t match,” Eyrich said.
Angel epitomizes the tough, Cinderella-like rise to ballroom success. “We see her unfold a lot in the first season, when she’s street walking with the worn-out, feathery, pink coat that she thinks is so glamorous, but it’s hanging on by a thread,” Eyrich said. “She’s having to sell her herself on the streets, but this is her way, with her big fishnet stockings and her platforms and her short shorts. I love that hard side of her where she’s gotta survive on the street, but she’s very confident. That was one of the boldest outfits for me and the one that says the most about Angel. We did a collage for her, just grabbing images that said ‘Angel’ to us.”
“One of my favorite parts of the first season is when Angel and Stan [Evan Peters] are at a diner and Stan talks about her not being afraid to be who she is and that explains why this show impacted me so much,” said Eyrich. “Everybody involved feels that way and we got to explore that story line through what we do, which is also exciting, fashion-wise, wardrobe-wise, design-wise, and not be afraid to go there with such freedom and privilege.”