If you haven't yet seen Netflixs Hollywood do it Don't worry there are no spoilers in front of you – and if you haven't started yet, prepare to cut a block out of your schedule because you want to try this imaginative yet fulfilling eight-episode mini-series right away.
You don't have to be a die-hard fan of Ryan Murphy or his remarkable cast of recurring characters to appreciate the beauty of Hollywood . Although I appreciate Murphy's special brand of over-the-top television (see: Nip / Tuck The Politician and American horror story: Coven in particular), I knew Hollywood was my next must as soon as the first promo pictures were released.
The series takes place in Hollywood's studio system in the 1940s and tells an atypical story of young geniuses and rugged romantic protagonists who vie for glory and the creatives and leaders who put them in the spotlight. As fictional Camille Washington, Laura Harrier shows undeniable star power – she steals the show in more ways than one – but it was the costume design that piqued my interest first and for a second for the most impressive performance.
Last week I had the opportunity to contact costume designers Sarah Evelyn and Lou Eyrich, both long-time Murphy employees, and inquire about their work that creates the visual identities for this quasi-historical piece. Below are insightful answers, sources of inspiration, and even more evidence of their incredible attention to detail.
The time with the series not only illuminated what was, with precision replicas and vintage pieces from that time, but also what could have been, both in colorful interpretations of iconic outfits as well as in Hollywood itself. In fact, I found Murphy's self-described homage to Hollywood's Golden Age so thoughtfully executed that I am already planning a new watch through a more fashionable lens.
For fans of the Golden Age of Hollywood, it is often the aesthetics of that time that catches the eye. Which specific films from that time – or iconic customers – have guided your vision when creating the mood boards or treating the film with Ryan Murphy?
LE: Ryan comes to every project very aesthetically and has amazing ideas and references. He and I meet first to discuss the look of the show, and that's always the starting point. Ryan wanted to lean back into the golden age of Hollywood and saw gold and a warm glow as a continuation for the color palette that developed into what he called "harvest tones". [George] Hurrell's glamorous photography was also a starting point, and some of the classic movements such as Notorious ; Dark Passage ; Well, Voyager; Gentleman’s Agreement ; Rope; Casablanca ; etc. as well as some of the designers at that time such as Adrian [Greenberg].
We started with Ryan's instruction and continued digging. We never stopped watching movies from the 1940s, we added honest photos to films, we searched intensely for photos that show what we could call behind the scenes and in street style – Stanley Kubrick has some great ones in the 1940s Taking pictures of people on the street. and the book Jean Howards Hollywood contains great, honest photos of Hollywood outside of work, behind the scenes, and in more private spaces.
We also hired a researcher in NYC, a fashion historian, who helped us access archives that weren't immediately available and write resources that really mattered. It was these articles (and not photos) that gave us insight into color, nuances of style, as well as style and etiquette.
It is interesting how the colors used during the show become more intense the closer each character comes to the spotlight. For example, Henrietta, played by Maude Apatow, wears cooler tones throughout and prefers mainly white and blue, while the geniuses Camille Washington and Claire Wood, played by Laura Harrier and Samara Weaving, stand out in bright red tones and behind the scenes like Holland Taylor's Ellen Kincaid can often be seen in warmer tones.
Was the liveliness of the color intentionally concentrated so close to the stars? Did this come from historical research or fashion trends of the time?
SE: We are so glad you noticed the range. We loved the colors for this show. It wasn't based on historical research – it was a stroke of genius by Ryan Murphy. I think it underlines the ambitious character of the show, the dreamlike quality of some action points, but it is not dreamy, it is just… inspired.
Playing with color in terms of intensity wasn't necessarily a given strategy, but when you think about what a character does in a scene, if it's a brave one Right now, as designers, we tend to tend towards the stronger colors, while Henrietta was more of a subdued, less conscious, less developed character, and so of course she could go into something faded, paler, softer to reflect that and so on.
Regardless of the proximity of the characters to Tinsletown, red lipstick seems to be a requirement throughout Hollywoodland be. How did the high-femme makeup of the era affect costume design for different types of female characters?
LE: We loved working with the hair and makeup departments! We sent them photos with matching costumes and together with Ryan they determined the look for each character. Eryn Krueger Mekash and Michelle Ceglia have been the mainstays of RMTV for years, so everything fits together wonderfully.
Honestly, we worked with the contemporary fashion references when developing the female characters, and then the hair / make-up teams got the look with wigs, hairstyles and high-femme -Make-up perfectly improves the era. The same applies to the collaboration with the production designer Matthew Ferguson and the decoration of the set. Matthew has the most amazing eye and developed beautiful sets. We worked closely with them to make sure the costumes go well with the sets.
Thinking What are the design elements of Camilles and Claire's characters that differ when they differ play themselves (ie Camille and Claire at home in private rooms) compared to the studio lot and in character while working on the film?
What do these costumes in costumes say about the basic points and personal development of each character?
LE: Claire was our young Marilyn Monroe, Ava Gardner, Veronica Lake figure. She was the screen siren, and growing up in business (like her) reflects her clever understanding and maybe a little exhausted knowledge of what a woman needs to make it in Hollywood. In the beginning, this siren pose is their armor, their way of defending an enchanted life that was still painful (the bond of being female in the 1940s, controversial relationship with parents, absent father). As we see her character evolve and reveal her softer, more complex side in her friendship with Camille and her true strength in her insistence on justice, her silhouettes and colors became softer and more structured – exemplifying her lavender, foamy tulle dress at the Oscars . I would say that in the studio and in private rooms it was always the current version itself, wherever we were in its character arch, screen siren in the studio, siren mood at home.
Camille was our Katherine Hepburn, Lauren Bacall, Dorothy Dandridge. She was the effortless "It Girl" that made dressing look easy and didn't follow trends, but started it unwittingly. She didn't have much money since they wanted to make it in Hollywood. She was a natural artist, a natural rebel, but effortless, so we used more fancy colors, mixed and matched patterns, put on some knit dresses from the 30s that might not be the moment, but she made her look modern and she was wherever she went. That is part of their strength. She didn't dress differently on the studio lot because she was her authentic self. But for the role of Meg she dressed like a Hollywood starlet from the 1930s in intelligent ensembles that were designed for the character and not for Camille.
While most characters are fictional, some are, including Jake Pickings Rock Hudson, Michelle Krusiecs Anna May Wong, Queen Latifahs Hattie McDaniel, and Vivien Leigh by Katie McGuinness were big stars of the time. In some cases, how do you design or create costumes for people who actually existed?
Were there historical moments (like the Academy Awards) that you had to refer to, or could you take liberties and adjust the costumes to match the overall vision the show?
SE: If we recreated a character, but not an actual moment, we would take liberties. We looked intensely at the style of the character (like Vivien Leigh) and then found the magic in the dressing room with the actor – what garment Vivien feels on the actor.
When we recreate real people in real moments like Hattie, Ryan thought it was very important to respect the moment by recreating it exactly. There were many pictures of Hattie in her dress, but they were all black and white, so we went to our trustworthy and beloved fashion historian for help and she found a number of written reports detailing the color of the dress and cross It was noted that 1940s colors were used to ensure that we actually recreate them properly.
With someone like Rock before the late 1940s, there really weren't many pictures of him since he wasn't famous, so we researched his style and tried to take it backward to imagine what a midwest truck driver who would not have been aware of his star power would have carried.
While the entire series is a breathtaking visual piece, I have to admit Patti LuPone's character to Avis Amberg is a constant joy. The hats, the fabrics, the jewelry! What was it like not only designing for a Broadway icon, but also creating the look for a powerful female executive in Hollywood in the 1940s?
LE: Patti was a "regular" RMTV shows, and it's always a pleasure to work with her! However, this was the first time in the 1940s. It is such a game for everything and it was just a dream.
First of all, she can make any costume look good, and she commits herself from the time of the underwear to the big hats to the exaggerated jewelry to the Songs she sings in your taps, or the big, warm smile she gives you at dawn when you put her in a corset. She is really passionate and loving and caring and can support other creative people so well. It was really special. We want to be Patti when we grow up.
What was it like to design for the male characters? How were the matching styles of the 40s different from today? How did you differentiate between the creative (Raymond Ainsley from Darren Criss and Archie Coleman from Jeremy Pope), executives and actors?
SE: The suits were very different in the 1940s – a much excavated cut, large lapels, large, large shoulders and high-waisted trousers. Amazing, but different, and it may take some finesse to bring a modern body (large, long arms and legs and built out of workout) into a 1940s silhouette. For some of the characters, we would nuance a bit, maybe cut the legs and jackets a bit slimmer so that it looks 40s and sexy to the modern eye and not just an oversized suit.
For the executives we tried to keep it luxury, luxury, luxury. Dark, rich fabrics, traditional power patterns like pinstripes, crisp shirts and power accessories – cufflinks, tie rods, pocket squares, new hats etc.
For creatives like Darren, Archie, Jack and We made rock more structured layers and more casual cupboards. They didn't have the money, but they had the style. We kept it in suits for Darren / Raymond, but played with more texture, color and pattern. We would add a pink vest (a request directly from the Ryan Murphy Brain Trust) or a bandana. For Archie, we felt that he would really be an artist. He would be the type who creates style and a jazz baby. We looked at some of the jazz musicians who were hanging out on 52nd Street in NYC at the time. Jeremy looks so good when it comes to clothing that we really played around with more pieces and patterns from the 1940s and mixed and combined them. He is a creative rule breaker, and so was his fashion.
SE: Dressing Jack was a lot of fun. David Corenswet is a light bolt. He really loves costumes! Ryan saw him as a young James Dean, so that was our starting point. What would this guy wear who years later would make jeans and a T-shirt an icon? He would wear something casual, light, but it looked like a million dollars, and the lightness would make it sexy and purely American. He has opened many short-sleeved camp shirts with a button placket, so you can look a little like a tank or a well-fitting knit polo shirt in the American style of the 40s.
Jake / Rock was a historical character, so we did a lot of research on the actual Rock Hudson, but pictures of him only appeared in the late 40s / early 50s, so we had to find this guy imagine the Midwest, who had made a living as a truck driver. What would he have brought to fame during his ascent? We liked the idea of a khaki and some kind of popover shirt, a bit nerdy but actually cool, 1940's version by J.Crew.
Dressing Dylan [McDermott] / Ernie was great. Dylan is such a fantastic employee. He has so many ideas, puts on a costume and brings it to life. His character was very Fred Astaire / Cary Grant. We love him.
Similar to the contracted geniuses Camille and Claire, Rock Hudson serves as a contrast to Jack Castello, an aspiring artist romantic leading actor, played by David Corenswet. How did you use the costume to convey the differences between these two men vying for A-list roles in Hollywood? Was it more difficult to design for Hudson since he was a real person, or for Castello since you started from scratch?
SE: We obviously imagined Jack Costello as young James Dean and Rock Hudson as young Rock Hudson. Jack was a little more fashionable. He was a slightly '40s version of jeans and t-shirts, and for rock we tried to create a slightly neater country bumpkin look, but that was cute for him. If it had been today, Jack Levis and Rock would have been a bit more J.Crew.
Both have challenges. When you start with a real character, you get a definite direction, but then you feel the pressure to connect to history and portray that real person properly. Working on a fictional character has a less definite direction, but once you dig into it and find your way, it guides your style and becomes your North Star for choosing costumes. Ryan saw Jack as a young James Dean. When we had that, we were well oriented.
There are some memorable nude scenes (and several semi-nude scenes) throughout the series. How does the costume department matter when the need for clothing is minimal or non-existent?
LE: We were very fortunate to have a great intimacy coordinator who takes a lot of pressure off the costumes, but costumes play a role in nude scenes when we deliver them all kinds of clothing and cushions with which the actors feel more comfortable. I think our set people often just give more support and a guarantee of a safe space, but again we had a great intimacy coordinator who had really good relationships with all the actors and he did a lot of this heavy lifting. Even if it is a scene in which an actor changes from dressed to naked, or when the clothes come off or lingerie is present, this can be a technical challenge. How can these buttons be easily opened? How do we make sure these super-sexy lingerie ensure coverage and so on?
Lingerie and underwear were significantly different in the 1940s than they are today. Have you customized the lingerie we see? Were they an exact reflection of the styles of the time, using the same materials that would have been available then?
In an effort to reach the fixed-waist figure that was the Hollywood ideal, were "authentic" underwear used even when the characters were fully clothed?
LE: More or less we used traditional foundations, and we tried to make those that we made to be seen as true to time as possible stay. Yes, most of the actors wore the traditional 1940s underwear, but they were reproduction corsets / belts, garter belts and seamed stockings. Rago makes great repro belts. Stockings were surprisingly hard to keep in stock, but we ordered seamed stockings from Berkshire and What Katie Did. We're going to What Katie Did for underwear and a few other contemporary places that wear more traditional bras and underwear.
In terms of lingerie, this was often a time or something that our brilliant seamstress Joanne Mills made from antique lace and silky fabrics, as would have been the case in the 1940s.
What is your favorite costume from the series and why?
SE: I can't say – I don't have a favorite. I loved so many. I think the Oscars were really special and all these actors have endured some not so comfortable costumes for hours and made them look great. We tortured poor Laura Harrier, but she gave us everything because we loved this dress! Holland was a real favorite. Her own mother was an inspiration for that of her character. Patti, Jeremy, Darren, David and Dylan were great. Everyone, everyone made the costumes so special.
LE: The gas station uniforms were quite special. Ryan, Sarah and I had a good time designing them and worked really hard to get the 1940s silhouette right for our boys. Coordinating the colors, finding the right fabrics, it took a while; When we choose the hats and develop the jackets, we love these jackets. We also got all the tie rods and belt buckles made to measure.
Did you have any special outfits or accessories that you or the cast could keep after filming?
LE: We do not keep any costumes unless it is the entire RMTV costume inventory. Some of the performers asked about their costumes, yes, and Ryan runs a benefit auction that puts some accessories and clothing aside. I wish I had kept a gas station uniform jacket!
Can you recommend films or films to other fans of the Golden Age in Hollywood that have contributed to your understanding of the time?
SE: Yes! Casablanca; Dark passage; Woman of the year; Well, Voyager; The Lady Eve; Notorious; Killer; The Maltese Hawk; Rope; Gentleman agreement; The lost weekend; Gilda; A letter to three women: the red shoes; and so many more!
But this is a good start …
Next: Everyone dressed up with nowhere: A zoom photo shoot with Laura Harrier