It is doubtful five-time Emmy winner Lou Eyrich could have done much better, awards-wise, as a costume designer had she studied the field in college.
“I studied fine art and music [at St. Cloud State and Minnesota State University, Mankato] but never finished because I left college to go to Minneapolis, the big city, and run my own Ragstock store. I worked part-time in Mankato at the Ragstock store to put myself through college. When I was working there they offered me my own store. So I quit college and moved to Minneapolis. My first [store] was in Bloomington. Then I moved to Uptown and then downtown at the [now defunct Ragstock] warehouse. This was back in the late ’80s. At the time, they had several stores; I oversaw all of them.”
The transition from Ragstock manager to the costume world was the result of “being in the right place at the right time. A friend I met in Mankato in college did lights for bands. He was doing lights for the Manhattan Transfer. I would go visit him on the road and got to know the costume designer and was just helping her. When she had to leave their tour to go do Kiss, they made me their designer.”
“I’ve never studied [costume design]. I do research for shows,” she said. “If I could go back in time, I definitely would have gotten my degree in costume design, but I didn’t know it existed, or that I had an interest in it.”
She has won and been nominated for nearly a dozen Costume Designers Guild Awards. Two of her five Emmys came this year, “which was awesome,” Eyrich said. The current place where she displays her Emmys is “a little ostentatious,” so she’s looking for a different spot around her home. “I like to kind of see them where I walk by every day and go ‘Wait. Did that reaaaally happen? Whose life is this? Whose trophies are those?’ It still doesn’t seem real.”
One of the 2018 Emmys is for costume design for “The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story” while “the other was my very first producer’s credit for ‘Versace.’ Ryan Murphy made me a producer last year, so I also get producer credit on his shows because I oversee all of Ryan Murphy’s shows for the costume departments. Right now, we have three shows I’m overseeing: ‘9-1-1,’ ‘The Politician’ and ‘American Horror Story.’ I think he’s upped the bar on television.”
Q: There were some incredible costumes in the “Versace”story on FX.
A: We custom made [almost everything] for “Versace.” We found some original Versace pieces online. So I would say with [Edgar Ramírez], we made about 75 percent — leather pants, leather shirts, lace shirts, we made all that. We didn’t make his underwear. For Penélope Cruz, as Donatella, we made a lot of her stuff. I worked with Darren [Criss] on “Glee.” The only thing we made for Darren were suits when he was dressed up for parties; when he took his victim shopping. Those were all custom made suits.
Q: When you were a little girl, did you dress up and sew clothes for Barbie dolls?
A: I did it with troll dolls and little felt outfits. I was always into period clothing, vintage clothing and would go to all the church sales. I loved wearing my grandma’s clothes. I always like wearing costumes and putting on little shows.
Q: That answers my next question: What is the era of clothing you like most?
A: To wear for personal life? Anything vintage. I don’t have a particular era. I love designing on a period show, compared to contemporary. I did “Feud” which was ’40s, ’50s, ’60s. I did the whole show, designed the whole show. I mean I have a team, an amazing team. I don’t do it single-handedly; on “Feud” there were about 14 of us.
Q: What were your “Feud” hours?
A: Let’s see. From about 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., so about 15 hours a day. We work on average 80 [hours] a week. It’s lots of times 90. Yeah. It’s crazy.
Q: But you got to hang with the inestimable Jessica Lange.
A: We’ve become good friends and bonded over our Minnesota roots.
Q: Who’s allowed to call you Big Lou?
A: [Long laugh.] That happened when I was working on the Paramount lot at “Glee” and there were two Lous. There was the transportation captain, Lou. I’m 5’5” and pretty petite and he was a bigger guy. It became “Well, I’m BIG LOU,” and it became a thing between us.
C.J. can be reached at email@example.com and seen on Fox 9’s “Buzz.” E-mailers, please state a subject; “Hello” does not count.