Hollywood in the ‘40s stands as one of those captivating times in history where people and place fortuitously align in creating a magnificent cultural moment that is resampled for years to come. Director Ryan Murphy taps into this notion in his latest series, Hollywood, in which he pulls back the curtain on life in post-World War II Tinseltown and dissects the reality of the high glamour and high hopes of silver screen contenders.
The seven-episode series features a star-studded cast, including Darren Criss as a bi-racial Filipino director, Jeremy Pope as a black screenwriter, and Laura Harrier as a woman of color ingenue. These rich narratives are brought to life at the hand of Murphy’s trusted costume designers, Sarah Evelyn and Lou Eyrich, who resurrected the sartorial splendors of Old Hollywood. With lots of research under their belts, the duo created a range of looks that were as authentic to the period as possible, right down to the smallest of details, like how fabric should hang. Here, CR speaks with the designers about Old Hollywood fashion, collaborating in production, and just how costumes make a character come to life.
Why do you think this particular time in Hollywood was so influential on fashion?
Sarah Evelyn: “There’s something about the 1930s and the 1940s to me that felt like the beginning of the notion of glamour as we understand it now. The ‘30s and the ‘40s really brought these very modern moments, so a wide leg pant, bias cut dress, naval stripe–there has always been menswear meets womenswear–but the ‘30s and ‘40s informs our modern notions of fashion as opposed to a notion of fashion that would’ve been modern in the 1800s.”
Lou Eyrich: “That’s spot on, I would add that the timing right now adds to it. The series couldn’t have been better timing when we’re all wearing sweatpants. In an era of athleisure both before and during this pandemic, we’re wearing what’s comfortable. To be able to watch a show right now about Hollywood’s golden era—the Tinseltown, the excitement after the war, the colors, the saturation, the cinematography—is visual eye candy. Overall, [it’s] this hopeful, inspiring look coupled with the inclusion of all walks of life. Everybody was thrown into this exciting time of wanting to be a movie star, and everybody looked like movie stars. For me, that’s what Hollywood adds to fashion right now, that optimism, that glamour look of ‘I want to look like that.'”
Where do you begin when visualizing these characters?
LE: “It starts with Ryan. He has a vision. As he’s writing the characters, he’ll give visuals. Then Sarah and I went off and did the initial storyboard, then he’ll say yes or no. Then we meet with production designer Matthew Fergeuson, and after, start fittings.”
SE: “We meet with the production designer and hair and makeup as they’re getting their input, so we’re also hearing ‘oh he likes this for the hair’ and it helps us inform the direction that our research is going. Lou and I go on a deep dive, bring it back to Ryan, he refines it and tells us what he’s attracted to, and it’s really helpful to have this kind of visual conversation.”
What was it like adapting the looks of real life Hollywood figures as characters in the show?
SE: “Each character was a different experience. Rock needed to be developed because he was more of a central figure on the show than Vivian Leigh. Even Queen Latifah’s Hattie McDaniel, her 1940s Oscars moment was a historical moment being recreated, so we [sought] to recreate that as close as possible to give that moment the respect it was due. For someone like Rock, we wanted to create something a bit preppy, not very fashion directed but effortless, a little all-American. For Leigh, that was about making the magic happen in the fitting and seeing what dress made the actress feel like Vivian Leigh. Then for the Hattie dress we recreated, we had a lot of pictures of it from the ‘40s Oscars but they were all in black and white. By cross referencing color photos in written sources, we found she was wearing this blue color that we ended up making the dress out of. For things that were historical recreations, we researched until we were absolutely confident that we were as dead on as possible in what we were creating.”
What was it like with dressing the more spectacular characters such as Patti Lupone’s fabulous wardrobe as Avis Amberg ?
SE: “Patti collaborated with us about where her character was going and was willing to wear the traditional foundations that gave her that hourglass shape and to give us the fittings that we needed. She wears the costumes super well, because she could make these big shoulders and over-the-top hats work. Not everyone can wear a garment that big–it was really fantastic. Working with Ryan, she became the epitome of power and glamour. Her style icon for us was Joan Crawford–fashion forward, making trends glamorous. We probably made 80 percent of her stuff. The rest Lou found on a shopping trip to New York.
We also had a lot of fun working with Holland Taylor who was also very glamorous, maybe more restrained, but über chic. Holland was a great collaborator and remembered the clothing her mom wore as a very chic woman in the ‘40s and brought in photos of her mom. In addition to a couple other fashion icons of the day, like Norma Shearer and Marlene Dietrich, her mom became part of her character inspiration. We ended up making her a blazer that looked very much like a photo she had of her mother. Everyone was really excited about the way the costumes could transform them into these 1940s characters.”
While you both worked on bringing to life the magnitude of old Hollywood glamour, there are also several scenes that include some amazing uniforms. Can you speak to what it was like imagining the more industrial looks in the show?
LE: “Ryan had worked with the production designers on what the look of the gas station would be, so once we saw everything was white on white it was good to go. We had done our research of what uniforms had looked like at gas stations back then. People would wear coveralls with a shirt and tie. It was very formal. We were surprised by that and we loved it, so we had a dozen different ideas for Ryan. Once he picked the tone of what he wanted, which was the white shirt and pants idea, Sarah and I started pulling together a rack or two for fittings. Then [we sourced] fabrics to make it look like a period uniform, the way it would hang. It actually took us a couple weeks of finding the right fabric, washing down, trying to have that drape of that old cotton, gaberdine look.”
Aside from what you made from scratch, how much of it was sourced from vintage archives?
SE: “I’d say it depended on the character. For the last couple years, there have been so many period shows in production that it was actually a real challenge to find that much vintage stuff. Also, the ‘40s and ‘50s clothes are very old by now, and people were smaller in the ‘40s and the clothes don’t fit a modern body. For the main characters, 50/50 vintage and pulled from costume house.”
LE: “We sourced a lot of beautiful archival pieces in New York and San Francisco. Sarah and I did reach out globally for whatever we could get in good condition, but as Sarah said so much of it was in bad condition. We did have a good Ager/Dyer who was able to resurrect some original pieces.”
What was the most interesting fact you found while doing research?
SE: “The most interesting research we did had to do with the images you don’t often see, like the street style, because we were creating Hollywood glamour, but also Hollywood hopefuls–people that were aspiring to be in Hollywood but wouldn’t have had the money. We found these amazing images, for example, Stanley Kubric took a ton of images of people on the street and in private spaces in the ‘40s. Trying to find these worlds that were more obscure and seeing what nuance looked like in the ‘40s fashion, that was really amazing.”
LE: “I was fascinated when I started doing the research on the Christian Dior New Look. When it came out in February 1947, it was like a revolution. It was so new, especially coming after the war when everything was utilitarian looking. I was surprised because it didn’t really take off until the ‘50s. It wasn’t until ‘52 that the New Look came back and was actually accepted as fashion.”END
prev link: https://www.crfashionbook.com/culture/a32626342/netflix-hollywood-costume-designers-sarah-evelyn-lou-eyrich/
createdAt:Thu, 21 May 2020 12:03:12 +0000
displayType:Long Form Article