TV & Movies

‘Pose’: How the Groundbreaking Series Sent Its Characters Off in Style

An Emmy nominee three years running, will the third time be the charm for ace costume designer Analucia McGorty?


An old proverb once said too much is never enough, and the eventful three seasons of “Pose” seemed to live by that credo. Especially the costumes since, after all, you cannot be timid when crafting the vibrant underground scene of drag balls, even when the narrative takes you into the less-excessive 1990s and AIDS is tearing through the environs of the largely BiPOC, queer and gender-nonconforming NYC community it depicts.

“I don’t think there’s any reason for us to look at honesty and truth as something that has to be depressing,” says costume designer Analucia McGorty, noting that the final season was not without its share of shed tears. “Even if it leads to something upsetting, I think there is real beauty in honesty and truth. So, I don’t find it challenging to add color to that, particularly.”

McGorty is nominated in the Contemporary Costumes category at the Emmys (“the seventh episode [set in the late 1990s] is our nomination so we landed in the contemporary category because of that”, she says), a slight change from the series’ past Period Costumes nods (which she shared), and the change in time and place offered an adjustment period for McGorty and her team.

“I really wanted to represent New York and the fashion and the pop culture of that time,” McGorty says. “I did not do a lot of black unless it was very purposeful. And that period of New York, I think women especially had more of a voice and a bigger influence on fashion and how their bodies were being depicted. I think there’s a lot more strength within that. A lot of structural and architectural looks that didn’t have to do with shoulder pads but more with the real form of the woman. They weren’t trying to create something that wasn’t an illusion of the hourglass, they had their actual bodies present, which I really appreciated.”

And the attire even informs the inner lives of its characters, as a fighting Pray (Billy Porter) finds himself in more dire personal health circumstances, and Blanca (Emmy nominee Mj Rodriguez, the first-ever trans woman nominated in her category) blossoms into her role as activist, healthcare provider and House den mother. But as with the other seasons, nothing stops them from utter fabulousness, even being drenched with water during a dazzling climactic werkfest.

“Oh, that’s all Diana Ross in Central Park,” McGorty offers with a laugh. “Ryan Murphy was very inspired by that concert, and we had a creative meeting with Ryan and [co-creator] Steven Canals and talked about how we wanted to pay homage to Miss Ross in that. We were using a very limited palette within that episode, and the colors that really pop are red and pink, and then we used black, white and gray when it was needed.”

Also, lots of shimmer. Says McGorty: “I love sparkle, and we really did hand-glitter and hand-rhinestone each one of those pieces you see. Even if you can’t see it, every shoe is done. Every moment has a sparkle, and we really wanted the lighting and the water to bounce off them and to really reflect the community. We didn’t want it to feel like a dream, or something so outrageous that people couldn’t see themselves in it.”

And what about all that precipitation on those jaw-dropping costumes? “We had multiples of four, and, I mean, my tailors are incredible. I can’t love on them enough, because they’re just phenomenal. I mean, it’s like Santa’s workshop!” McGorty says.

But the love affair gets to continue for McGorty, at least a little bit. “Full disclosure: I am designing the movie Billy Porter is directing right now [his feature debut “What If?”], and he’s this totally wonderful person who just constantly gives back. We’re filming in Pittsburgh, and I’m seeing the effects of the show first-hand. It really shows you how far TV and film reaches and how important it is to represent different voices and different stories.”

“Pose” is streaming on Netflix (Seasons 1-2) and FX Now (Season 3)

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