Costume designer Lou Eyrich talks dressing Lady Gaga for 'American Horror Story'

From her infamous meat dress to the shiny red gloves she sported at the 2015 Oscars, Lady Gaga has always known how to make a fashion statement.

But on "American Horror Story: Hotel," which premiered on FX on Wednesday, award-winning costume designer Lou Eyrich called the shots on Gaga's garb.

The singer plays the well-dressed bloodsucking Countess who owns the hotel on the fifth cycle in the Ryan Murphy-Brad Falchuck anthology series.

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We talked to Eyrich (who worked on the pilot of Season 1 and all of Seasons 2, 3, 4 and 5) about what it was like dressing the singer for the part.

Tell me a bit about the costumes this season and how they differ from the past "AHS" series.

Every season has been like a specific era. Season 1 was contemporary, Season 2 was mostly '60s, Season 3 was contemporary with some 1800s flashbacks, Season 4 was all '40s and '50s.

This year the biggest difference for me is, even though it takes place in 2015, every character is from a different era so we have people from the '20s, '30s, '40s, '70s, '80s, '90s mixed in.

What was your reaction when you heard Lady Gaga was going to be on Season 5?

Ryan Murphy was talking to me about it way back in February. We were working on “Scream Queens” at the time, and the news didn’t really sink in ... but then when I got back to L.A. and we started doing research and prepping, it hit me. Lady Gaga is iconic, and she’s got amazing taste,  and she works with an incredible design team. 

There were a lot of unknowns, but it didn’t really scare me because I've worked with a lot of different people and Ryan has a vision, and we all follow his vision.

I tried not to let it freak me out because I'd heard wonderful things about her. I was open to the challenge of helping Gaga find the Countess character through her costumes. 

What was your first interaction with Lady Gaga like? What did she say about her look on the show?

I spoke with her on the phone first. She’d really done her homework — she’d watched a ton of vampire movies. She already knew all her lines. She was so excited by the opportunity to test her acting chops. I was very impressed by that and that she had a very clear idea of who the Countess was. There was no friction like, "Oh, boy, this is going to be a challenge." It was pretty much "OK, we are on the same page."

Because she was on tour with Tony Bennett, she arrived here in L.A. three days before she started working. That was a challenge because in the first episode she had nine changes; in the second episode she had 14 changes.

We were very prepared, and we had to really just nail the looks in that first fitting to make sure we had it. Also, all of the poster art and gallery shoots all had to be done in that first week. So it was really like 20 some outfits we needed for those first four days.

That part was very hard, plus we have 36 other characters to be designing and dressing for the first week. But I have a great team, and also Ryan is so hands on. It was an incredible experience.

What was kind of your idea behind Lady Gaga’s outfits for the show? Did you want her to be as out there as she is with her personal style, or did you tone it back a bit?

The whole thought process for the costumes came from the hotel setting, which has this very old Hollywood feel to it. 

And the countess has been alive for about 100 years, so we wanted to be able for her to span all decades easily with her outfits. Everything she wears is old but with a modern twist. The idea was old Hollywood glamor — '30s and '40s gowns, up-dos, diamonds. Just very elegant but at the same time eccentric.

It’s not who Gaga is and what Gaga wears, it’s more of who the Countess is. It's about staying true to the character, who owns the hotel and is a vampire. She's also elegant and refined.

Like Gaga, the countess is also a fashion icon but in an old Hollywood way.

Did Lady Gaga bring any of her own items from her fashion collection for the part?

She graciously has brought in some beautiful pieces from her own archives, things we could never afford on our show. It’s been such a treat. There are a couple of original Alexander McQueen pieces that were made for her when he was still alive that I find the most breathtaking because he was my favorite designer. 

Explain the Countess' silver glove.

These vampires don’t have vampire teeth. They use armored gloves with a very sharp nail that can puncture and cut; that’s how they can draw blood. We needed to build an armor glove that was an accessory that could still look good with an outfit.  The design concept came from Ryan. I went to the jeweler Michael Schmidt here in L.A., and he designed all the sterling silver skulls and the nails. 

What was the most fun part about putting her style together?

For me, the highlight truly was the day she walked in to the first fitting. She came in just so absolutely normal and approachable, like a breath of fresh air with lots of ideas but yet such an open mind. She was willing to collaborate and discuss. It was a four- or five-hour fitting, and it was really fun.

For more news on the entertainment industry, follow me @saba_h.


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