Creepy and weird. There’s really no other way to describe “American Horror Story,” airing Wednesdays on FX. But that’s what makes it so special. And if there’s a matriarch of creepy, weird and special, it’s certainly Constance Langdon (Jessica Lange), the southern belle neighbor of Ben and Vivien Harmon.
While rubber fetish suits and maids’ uniforms are de rigueur for other characters, costume designer Chrisi Karvonides (“Pan-Am,” “Big Love”) has given Constance a wardrobe befitting her refined past, but leaves plenty of doubt about when exactly that past took place.
“You never know if she is a ghost, if her heyday was in the ’80s, ’90s, ’60s. You just never know when she was in her prime,” Karvonides says. “We do know she was incredibly well-raised and she has this veneer of elegance, this facade. But you have no idea what her intentions are.”
Of course, there is never any doubt that Constance is a lady, and Karvonides focuses on colors and silhouettes that recall old Hollywood style blended with Southern sensibility. We also see flashes of the ’60s, recalling Sophia Loren and Fellini’s women of the spirits.
“I use a lot of larger prints, magnolias, larger florals,” Karvonides says. “But it’s never about the label. I want to know, ‘Does it enhance the story we are trying to tell?’ “
To that end, Contance’s clothing runs the gamut from Elie Tahari to Forever 21 and beautifully mirrors the emotion of the moment through the use of color and pattern. In a recent episode, Constance was painting very dark images as part of a back story and Karvonides found a dress from Tahari that perfectly matched the background of one of her paintings. She then added a $24 Forever 21 short polyester kimono to go over it (Constance loves kimonos).
Television imitating life imitating spooky art – it’s rare that clothing mirrors a character’s actions and feelings to that extent.
Other times, Karvonides goes with a lighter ensemble to show Contance’s fragility.
If only everyone looked as good while coming undone.