July 1, 2016

Anna Wyckoff

When a television show captures the imagination, the last thing some would consider is how the costumes serve the story. For Emmie Holmes, the Costume Designer of Outcast on Cinemax, stealth is a state of mind; her tremendous efforts are invisible, and disappear seamlessly into the scene.

Because Outcast was based on a graphic novel, Holmes had a clear roadmap for the costumes. But as the series caught up to the comics, she had the fortune to move forward, improvise, and develop the world further. The dialogue became reciprocal when the novel’s art team, Paul Azaceta and Elizabeth Breitweiser, visited the set. “The most interesting part of the process is when Elizabeth said. ‘I love where you took the character and I’m going to start taking her darker and deeper in the future.’ It is really cool because now we are all swirling in the same atmosphere and inspiring one another,” says Holmes. Going into season two, she has discussed keeping this unusual dialogue open.

In order to capture the small town feel of Rome, West Virginia, Holmes stripped all the saturation out of the color. “A note that we received in the beginning is ‘we want the entire tone of the show to be muted but not grim.’ That is a very fine line. I feel when you achieve that muted nature it allows these horrific, shocking, supernatural elements to pop out in a bolder way. Also, subtracting color from our world allows us to choose specifically when we want to throw the color back in for more of an impact,” she notes.

The largest physical part of the costume department is dying and aging. Holmes doesn’t want audiences to feel like anyone on the show has the money to buy new pieces. Also, she doesn’t want any single item to be recognizable. “When we buy a new piece—we need many multiples and stunt multiples—we beat it up to no end. If it is a current garment, I don’t ever want you to recognize it. I want every piece to feel borrowed or thrifted. Even if we own twenty of them, I want you to think it is the only one in the world.”

The mechanics of horror adds another layer to the prep. Holmes not only thinks about what the garment looks like on a figure, she considers all of the potential stunt harnesses and wires which might get used. She says, “You have to think about how the actor how looks when they are standing or walking and when they are levitating, floating, or being flung across a room.”

Kyle Barnes (Patrick Fugit) is the comic book hero. Costume Designer Ane Crabtree designed the pilot and Holmes says she adapted her use of layering. “Kyle initially wore layers as his insulation from his world. Instead of stripping away all the layers, we decided to keep them and add to them because they are like armor upon armor. That is our main focus: keeping his guard and his protection as the fighter and the hero of the story,” explains Holmes. His wife Allison (Kate Lyn Sheil) is kept in smoother textures and slightly more color to reflect that she lives in a livelier city nearby. In contrast with Sarah, Amber, their daughter (Madeleine McGraw) is dressed in tones which visually connect her to her father. Holmes feels this reflects a child being forced to grow up before her time.

Throughout the plot twists in Outcast, Holmes’ understated costumes support the story and leave room for the audience to buy into the supernatural. She notes, “We are trying to make it relatable, we want everything about this show to feel really stripped down and real, because at the base of it we are anything but real.”

Outcast airs Fridays, 10 p.m. ET/PT on Cinemax.

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