In the first episode of FX’s new TV show Pose, we essentially go to a Met Gala. We’re not talking the likes of an Anna Wintour affair, but the cast of characters—all then chosen family members of the House of Abundance—sneaks into a museum and pulls off a heist to steal royal costumes that look like they’re plucked right out of Louis XIV’s castle. Instead of walking the red carpet, they go to the ball—specifically the kind made iconic by the LGBTQ+ community of New York in the ’80s and ’90s. And from this point on, the costume bar for the show was set quite high.
The woman behind the character’s exuberant, high-fashion, and period-specific looks is Lou Eyrich. She’s not just someone who helped bring this first-of-its-kind Ryan Murphy series to life—she’s been his go-to collaborator for projects like The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story, Feud, American Horror Story, and Glee. Pose, however, is a project in its own league.
Pose doesn’t only celebrate underground ball culture that serves as a pivotal reference in LGBTQ+ culture, but it also employs a cast of predominantly gay and trans actors to tell the story in the most authentic way. Naturally Eyrich’s costumes are a huge part of that, both ones that speak to the individual characters—such as Blanca, an HIV-positive trans woman who sets off to become the mother of her own house; Elektra, her former house mother and, well, frenemy; and Pray Tell, the ballroom’s glamorous dandy emcee—as well as the over-the-top costumes of the competitive ball scenes themselves (hence: the museum heist).
Ahead we spoke with Eyrich about how she brought TV’s most exciting shows—both fashion-wise and culturally—to life.
What were your initial reactions and biggest challenges in taking on a project like Pose?
Ryan Murphy had been talking to me about this project for a year, so when it finally approached, I couldn’t wait to start creating. It was a very ambitious script costume-wise, so I was a bit overwhelmed, but I loved the project so much and was just so grateful to be included. We all did a ton of research and met the consultants in New York, and that’s how I was able to move forward with confidence.
What did you watch/read/do to make sure you got the costumes right for this story?
Mostly we bought a lot of books on the subject of balls and photography books from the 1980s in Brooklyn, The Bronx, Queens, Harlem, etc. And for the Wall Street scenes, I watched a lot of movies from the ’80s.
Did you consult with anyone to tell this story about the trans community and ball culture?
I didn’t have a lot of personal experience with the trans community and I had zero experience with the ball culture. But that was a big reason I took on this project: to learn. I fell in love with everyone involved in this project. [My costume team] worked hard to educate ourselves. We worked with the consultants and many of the actors who grew up in the trans community. The biggest lesson learned was that we are all here to discover who we truly are and to have the courage to act on that.
Is there any specific piece or outfit in the show that stands out as something special to you?
I had never worked in NYC or Brooklyn before, so learning where all the good vintage stores were for all the ’80s clothes took some time. I luckily had several crew members who grew up in New York and knew all the resources. We had a great time finding pieces for Pray Tell. His closet was from every corner of Manhattan, New Jersey, Los Angeles, Pennsylvania, and beyond. My co-designer, Analucia McGorty, drove from L.A. to NY and stopped in multiple cities to scour vintage stores for the show.
What was the collaboration process like on set?
I always like to collaborate with the actors. However, Ryan Murphy truly knows the characters and what he envisions for them, so the inspiration comes from him and the words on the page. Everyone truly wanted to tell this story in the most honest and beautiful way, so we worked closely together to find the characters.
We are especially thrilled to hear about how all the show’s profits are going back to benefit the trans and LGBTQ+ communities. Why is this detail of Pose important and meaningful for you?
I think I started this show as more of an opportunity to design something creative and gritty and real yet fun and explosively stylish. Yet I came away with so much more than that. An understanding of how important it is to express yourself and accept all for their personal journey. I made so many new wonderful friends on this project, and I’m so proud of them all for getting to shine in a big, bright way.
Watch Pose on Sunday nights at 9 p.m. ET on FX.