After just its premiere, The Assassination of Gianni Versace:American Crime Story (executive producer: Nina Jacobson) has transported its audience back to the mid-'90s through lurid cinematography, the Miami setting, and, crucially, costuming. And helping to sell the illusion is the sense viewers are getting that the American Crime Story costumes are really Versace.
The Versace fashion house decided not to cooperate with American Crime Story (associate producer: Linda Favila), and, according to The Hollywood Reporter, that proved to make the project more challenging for costume designer Lou Eyrich. Instead of sourcing from Versace directly, Eyrich acquired vintage pieces through dealers. The family couldn't stop the series' creative team from purchasing their signature designs, so, yes, many of the items worn by the actors in the series are authentic.
While Eyrich told The New York Post that American Crime Story "didn’t have the budget to get the pieces we really wanted," she and her team did take pains to make sure their version of Gianni Versace was costumed authentically. "Almost all of [actor Edgar Ramirez's] costumes were Versace. We sourced the jeans, the shoes and the shirts," Eyrich told the publication.
Co-costume designer Allison Leach was also responsible for bringing the fashion itself to life in slightly unconventional ways. "We used vintage Versace, re-created pieces, and expanded to other designers of the period — Donatella [Versace] was known for wearing Alaïa," Leach told Elle. Leach had access to "the largest U.S. collection of Versace" in L.A.’s Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising, and the costume designer said she found it "full of men’s safety-pin suits, metalwork, and a lot of leather," details that are highlighted in the series.
But without the cooperation of the Versace house or access to some of their most valuable pieces, some things had to be totally recreated. For example, a scene that took place at a Versace show had to be totally recreated, with the actual inspiration of the real 1997 runway collection. "We were very careful to show our utmost respect; I didn’t want to make it look like a made-for-TV movie," Eyrich said to the Post. "I want to pay tribute but not ever minimize."
So, some of the garments based on real Versace gowns, like many of the ones worn by Donatella Versace, were not exact copies, in order to be respectful of the family's intellectual property. For example, a famous bondage dress worn by Donatella was meticulously recreated, according to InStyle, but even in side-by-side photos, there are slight differences. "It’s such an intricate garment, and to get it to fit the way it does was probably the biggest construction challenge. We had to have three of them made," Leach explained to the magazine.
And often, the costuming helped flesh out the story being told in a given episode. Leach told InStyle that the 1997 runway show scene "very much represented the turning point in fashion from these happy supermodels with smiles on their faces and swagger in the hips to this more of a waif look... So there were instances of razor sharp black suits and dresses and then also the more colorful pieces and crystal mesh, which Gianni was famous for." But, ultimately, even though the costumes were chosen for maximum effect, a few things wound up on the cutting room floor, including a fringed top that was a big get for Eyrich and Leach.
As the series artfully mixes fact and fiction to create a compelling story, the costumes mix both authentic Versace and period-accurate recreations to create a stunning visual palette. Even without the cooperation of the design house, a faithful reproduction of the Versace aesthetic was achieved by Eyrich and her costume design team.