Elizabeth Olsen’s ‘Love & Death’ Costumes Take Her from Mom to Murder Defendant

Costume designer Audrey Fisher told IndieWire about telling the story of Candy Montgomery through her vintage clothes.
Elizabeth Olsen on Love and Death
Elizabeth Olsen on "Love and Death"
Jake Giles Netter

On the HBO Max limited series “Love & Death,” Candy Montgomery (Elizabeth Olsen) reinvents herself several times, beginning as a churchgoing Texas housewife and ending as a pariah on trial for a brutal axe murder. And her wardrobe is an integral part of her journey, which made working on “Love & Death” both a challenge and a delight for costume designer Audrey Fisher. “It’s always fun for a costume designer to create a character within a character,” she told IndieWire. Fisher designed over a hundred costumes for Candy; here are a handful of examples that track the character’s transformation throughout the show.

“Love & Death” begins in the summer of 1978, when Candy is a well-liked member of her Methodist community. Fisher researched ’70s fashions and scoured magazines like Cosmopolitan and Good Housekeeping to find looks for Candy, who she felt would be just a little more lively and alluring than most of the women around her — yet also sweet and warm. “I thought about the women she would have been looking to, like Cheryl Tiegs, and the TV shows she would have been watching like ‘Charlie’s Angels,'” Fisher said. “I tried to create looks that would show that she was trying to be super cute and a little bit sexy, but she couldn’t go against the norm so much. So occasionally I put her in a fitted T-shirt with her jeans, sort of that ‘Charlie’s Angels’ vibe, but when she went to church I would put her in more traditional dress. I was trying to show that Candy was a vivacious person inside of a sort of conservative community.”

Elizabeth Olsen's costumes in HBO Max's Love and Death
Love and DeathJake Giles Netter

When Candy begins her illicit affair with Allan Gore (Jesse Plemons), lingerie becomes a key component of Fisher’s storytelling; this is where Candy really begins to present herself to others through what she wears. “The lingerie that she picks is definitely for Alan,” Fisher said, noting that Candy begins with a peignoir set that’s a little old-fashioned and feminine but slowly displays more flesh as she grows more comfortable. “As the affair proceeded, she got more confident, so by the end, the lingerie is much more revealing.”

The lingerie also contrasts with what Candy wears in bed with her husband, Pat (Patrick Fugit). “There she’s much more covered and modest. It’s simpler and not as sexy.” Choosing the right “affair wear” was no small task, given that period lingerie is difficult to find in good condition. “It took so many racks. When I read the script and understood how significant all those affair beats would be, I just started gathering ’70s lingerie, which is very specific. It’s a lot of nylon, it’s a lot of polyester with a slimmer line. So I just started gathering and had four racks ready to go, and Elizabeth tried everything on and we were able to winnow down to her favorite pieces. Then we started to plug them in very systematically to create that storyline of moving from a sex kitten sort of peekaboo to a much simpler piece of lingerie that was body-conscious, comfortable, and beautiful.”

Elizabeth Olsen vintage lingerie on Love & Death
Elizabeth Olsen and Jesse Plemons on “Loive and Death”Jake Giles Netter

One of Fisher’s favorite outfits comes after Candy and Allan’s affair ends and she attempts to convince herself and the world that she’s OK. “That’s another costume within a costume,” Fisher said. “She’s trying to shake off Allan and pretend that everything’s fine, and find a little excitement in her own life. So she puts on that amazing sequined navy disco dress to go party. I loved the way that dress was used in the scene.”

After Candy is charged with the murder of Allan’s wife Betty (Lily Rabe), her lawyer insists that she transform herself into someone less striking to convey a certain image to the jury. “Her lawyer was trying to make her look like a docile housewife who could never do such a thing,” Fisher said. Designing Candy’s trial looks was one of Fisher’s favorite parts of the process, but also the point when she was most conscious of recreating the wardrobe of a real person.

Elizabeth Olsen vintage clothing as Candy Montgomery on Love and Death
Elizabeth Olsen on “Love and Death”Jake Giles Netter

Fisher compiled as much research as possible — primarily screenshots from news reports — and kept in mind that Candy was wearing a costume during the trial. She created a timeline and plugged all of her news footage and screen grabs into it, then tried to figure out how to recreate the trial looks in ways that worked dramatically. “[Director] Lesli [Linka Glatter] and I agreed that this wasn’t a documentary and I had a certain amount of latitude, so I would tweak the looks to make them right for Elizabeth. It was a long search, and ultimately nearly everything had to be built.”

Occasionally, however, the fashion gods smiled down upon Fisher and she would find an existing piece that worked perfectly. In the case of an oatmeal-colored coat that Candy wore in real life, for example, Fisher’s assistant designer Brie Harris was able to find an exact match on Etsy. “Sometimes you just get those messages from the universe, like a chef’s kiss — here’s the coat,” Fisher said. “That felt incredible.”

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