Interview: Lou Eyrich, Costume Designer for FOX's 'Glee'
By Geoffrey Brown
Lou Eyrich may not be a household name, but a lot can be said about this courageous, talented, quirky, and smart woman. She's one of the most influential costume designers in Hollywood—currently working on the hit show Glee—though she is much more than that. Eyrich has been working in film and television for nearly 20 years and has the street cred to prove it. While interviewing her, I found myself talking to her as if we were old friends, because that's her talent: She breaks down your barriers and gets to the heart of the person she's speaking with, or character she's dressing. She works with a team that she thinks of as family. Having worked with Ryan Murphy for almost 12 years—including Popular, Glee and the pilot episode of American Horror Story—they've formed an exciting creative partnership. Together, they work to set the tone for each script and every character. To perfect the overall look of the show, she coordinates with the entire crew—from hair and make-up to props and the choreographer. Lou will be honored this upcoming February at the Costume Design Guild Awards where Murphy will be presenting her this award.
Were you ever a stylist before becoming a costume designer?
I dabbled a bit in personal styling for a while, but I honestly didn't it enjoy as much as I enjoy being a costume designer. Being a personal stylist, you have to keep up with the trends, stay on top of the who, what, where, how, and when. It just doesn't interest me as much as working on a movie or a TV show. I enjoy this work because I get to help to turn fantasy and make-believe into reality. I get to help a character grow and develop through fashion, in an artistic way. I enjoy working with an actor, to help them find their characters' personal style, and help the viewers see the character the way they are supposed to be seen.
Who are some of your favorite designers?
I love Alexander McQueen. He's one of my personal favorites. He was able to provide art through his clothing. His collections were always so fresh, new, and, pushed boundaries. For Glee I love to get clothing from the stores Decades, American Rag, The Way We Wore, and Resurrection.
How do you keep each character true to them, without repeating outfits?
We (with the help of Assistant Costume Designer Jennifer Eve) try to mix it up; the characters are in high school and on a budget, so we mix-and-match, use the same jacket, pants, or shirt and work them into different episodes. When you have 14-plus characters, and those characters sometimes have up to 12 outfit changes per episode, it can get difficult. Though, we do try to re-use as seldom as possible.
What is your personal style?
My style changes every day. It's usually a boy-meets-girl type deal. I love cashmere sweaters, oxfords—just really clean and simple things. I'm working a lot so it's kind of hard to wear heels to work.
In five words, how would you describe yourself?
Passionate. Compassionate. Courageous—I learned I was courageous after I was diagnosed with cancer. I did have to take some time off, but I came out a fighter and developed courage—that's very important to me. I'm creative, and spiritual. I love to meditate, after a long day at work or if I'm stressed—I like to sit and meditate. Just think and reflect, it really does wonders.
What and where did you study?
I actually had no formal training. I was in Minneapolis visiting a lighting designer for a band, I met the band's stylist, and started to help out. I sewed and prepped outfits, and got the performers ready for shows. One day, the stylist for the band received a call to work on another project, and I stepped in and started doing fittings, designing costumes, and pulling clothing. I did that for about 6 years. I left school before I graduated and made costume design my main focus. I'm not telling anyone to drop-out of school and do what you want—an education is very important. It is so important to learn and actually be hands-on with your craft and what you want to do. You can practice and read about everything in school, but until you really get out there and try it you'll never know if you like it or not.
What are some of your favorite/not so favorite trends?
I will have to say I love movies and television that inspire trends: Bonnie and Clyde, Pretty Woman, and Gia just to name a few. The skirts, the dresses, the make-up, hair, and shoes, everything has influenced fashion in some way. I would love to also see (myself included) more originality. Not just going with the trends. The Satorialist—the photographs are so beautiful and unique—they truly inspire me. I think we should all take the extra 2-5 minutes and press to be more individualistic, and not what’s in a magazine. I think we should just all try to dress in a way that's true to ourselves, and put more effort into outfits.
Of all the shows what character do you relate most to?
Julia from Nip/Tuck. I am a mother, daughter, wife, and a professional, and you can struggle to find ways to express yourself. Jennifer Eve stepped in as co-designer when I needed it most. I was diagnosed with breast cancer right when Glee and American Horror Story started shooting. I really wanted to work on American Horror Story, but I honestly could not do both shows. I just love the creativity that Ryan Murphy imparts on his shows, the life and the enthusiasm that he brings to set. Then the viewers' get to see it on TV—it's amazing. I have been working with Ryan for close to 12 years now. Being around him and being able to work with him and bounce ideas off of him, there's just so much creativity going on, it's so much fun.
Why are costume designers so important and to the characters as well?
For me, the costumes have to feel natural on the character. It helps the viewer understand the them—but not distract. You get a sense of where they shop, where the clothing possibly came from.
What is more challenging: Dressing the men or women of the show?
I think the women. The guys are easier to define, in terms of character. Finn, Puck, Artie, and Kurt all have very defined characters. The women, on the other hand, are somewhat similar and that makes it hard to define their characters. Yes, they each have their own sense of style, but they all have that one common goal. They want to be popular, noticed, loved, have a sense of self, and they want to belong. That's the beauty of Glee, it breaks all of those molds. It teaches us how to be open-minded and how to love. This show has a lesson and moral in each episode, whether you realize it or not. Though, I think the main message that is sends is that it's okay to be different.