“American Horror Story”

September 18, 2017

Anna Wyckoff

As projects come and go, many Costume Designers pick up where others have left off, stamping their own unique signature on an existing series. But walking onto a project as distinctive as American Horror Story after several years of production presents its own extreme version of that process. With such a dedicated cast and unmistakable visuals, Costume Designer Sarah Evelyn Bram saw it as an opportunity and a challenge. “I think the only way you can ever start anything like this is to just hold your breath and dive right in,” she says.

Though AHS is an anthology that changes dramatically from season to season, one of the ways the show creates continuity between seasons is with the aesthetic. Maintaining and expanding upon the visual vocabulary was at the heart of Bram’s process. “American Horror Story itself is an established look,” she explains. “The inspiration starts there. Because it is a contemporary show I look to the people around me who inspire me. Then, for things that are made to order, or more fantastical, I always start with fashion history. Once I have the history, it all sort of takes flight.”

Considering implementing the design of the actual garments, the need for multiples is critical to accommodate performances and action. When recreating costumes made weeks or months prior, Bram often is uncertain if the fabric is still available. Still, she feels difficulties can add to, rather than subtract from the end result. She says, “I think sometimes constraints on design can end up leading to more amazing design. It can it makes it a diamond, once it’s been through the pressure.”

Having taken over the project from Costume Designer Lou Eyrich, Bram also had some fabulous shoes to fill, but she also had a wellspring of information at her disposal. “Following in Lou’s footsteps was absolutely daunting,” she says, “but with her in a supervising role as the Producing Costume Designer for RMTV [Ryan Murphy Television] meant I had her as a resource. That made for a really wonderful design experience since she’s exactly as awesome as you think. I was able to use her as a sounding board, a collaborator, and the costume ‘Cliffs Notes’ for the rich visual dialectic that she, Ryan, and all the other departments have created for the show.” Her conclusion? “Everyone should have a Lou.”

American Horror Story is streaming on Netflix.

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