This image released by FX shows a sketch of a costume by designer Zac Posen used for the series 'Feud: Capote vs. The Swans.' Source: Zac Posen/FX via AP

Dressing the High-society 'Swans' in 'Feud' was an Adventure in Both Authenticity and Artistry

Brooke Lefferts READ TIME: 8 MIN.

Executive producer Ryan Murphy is known for creating vivid TV worlds where high drama feels completely normal.

Costume designer and producer Lou Eyrich has helped him bring these worlds alive, and their latest collaboration, "Feud: Capote vs. The Swans," peeks under the fur coats and behind the giant sunglasses to see the complicated lives of the elite set in 1960s and 1970s New York.

It's the second installment in Murphy's "Feud" series, and follows author Truman Capote from the 1960s through his death in 1984 as he charmed and befriended the upper ranks of Manhattan high society, including women like Babe Paley, C.Z. Guest and Lee Radziwill, whom he nicknamed "the swans."

Tom Hollander plays Capote, cavorting on the Upper East Side with co-stars Naomi Watts, Diane Lane, Demi Moore, Chloe Sevigny, Molly Ringwald and Calista Flockhart. The show is based on the bestselling book "Capote's Women: A True Story of Love, Betrayal, and a Swan Song for an Era," by Laurence Leamer.

It details the lives of the rich and powerful original real housewives of New York. The socialites trusted Capote and let him into their tight circle, only to be betrayed when he exposed their secrets in a fictional magazine piece.

This image released by FX shows Diane Lane as Slim Keith in a scene from 'Feud: Capote vs. The Swans'
Source: FX via AP

While Capote uncovered the skeletons in their closets, Eyrich uses other closet contents to show the women's wealth, style and glamour. The design team spent months researching the era.

Watts said Eyrich went to "painstaking lengths" to get it right. "She's a genius," Watts told the AP. "It was fun for all of us. We all love a bit of glamour, let's be honest."

The series -- available on FX and streaming on Hulu – dropped an episode this week based on Capote's famous Black and White masquerade ball, where 500 of New York's VIPs gathered at the Plaza Hotel in 1966 to drink, dance and show off their looks.

Eyrich said that after 24 years of working together, she and Murphy ("American Horror Story," "Pose," "Ratched") have their own language, and she knows how to translate his ideas into art.

"Ryan has it all in his head before we even have our first meeting," she said. "I don't do boards for him until we meet. A lot of the color palette will come from him usually."

This image released by FX shows a sketch of a costume by designer Zac Posen used for the series 'Feud: Capote vs. The Swans'
Source: Zac Posen/FX via AP

Once Murphy explained the tone he was going for, Eyrich's team began their research, scouring period fashion magazines so that when a scene takes place in a particular year, they knew which outfits and accessories would work.

"We got lucky finding a lot of great vintage. A lot of it is 40, 50 years old now, so, it's either faded or missing a piece, belt or jacket or something. So that's a little frustrating, but we can then use it as a template," Eyrich said.

Her team created original designs for about half the costumes they couldn't source.

Though the swans were style icons and wore only the best, it's interesting to note the absence of brand logos or flashy patterns. The clothes were classic and elegant, with fabulous jewelry, handbags and hats.

Eyrich said Watts, who plays Babe Paley, "got hit the hardest" as the main character besides Capote. She had scores of costume changes – a staggering 160 or so in just the first four episodes – stretching over two decades. Each costume was designed to fit the year, Paley's personal style and the plot moment.

Watts was a great partner, Erich said: "She wanted to make sure she felt like Babe. I loved the way she would look in the mirror and (say).. 'I think this is absolutely it.' That was fun to me."

This image released by FX shows Naomi Watts as Babe Paley in a scene from 'Feud: Capote vs. The Swans'
Source: FX via AP

Even costumes used only in short scenes or shot from the waist up show attention to detail.

"Some of them would be sitting in a chair, reading a newspaper and you never would see the whole outfit, but we dress it, you know, head-to-toe perfection," Eyrich said.

"I tend to be a little bit annoying with my detail, especially with tailoring," she said with a smile. "I could have used another year to really study it all, but you just don't get the time in TV."

As for Capote's costumes, Eyrich used them to show how the alcoholic writer was falling apart as the series progresses. While Capote initially wears bow ties and tight suits, he soon moves to turtlenecks and sport coats in the 1970s, paired with bell bottoms and Gucci loafers.

"He became more flamboyant, and then when he started to really become a drunk, things weren't matched anymore. He didn't tuck in his shirts... the sweater was buttoned wrong. He wouldn't bother putting shoes on," Eyrich said.

by Brooke Lefferts

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