Love & Death details the story of Candy Montgomery in a quaint suburban Texas town where everything seems fine until it isn’t. In representing the personality of Candy (Elizabeth Olsen), one of the most revealing elements of her character is her clothing choices that often reflect her mental state at different points in her story. As a true crime, it is also a major responsibility to be true to the historical research process that is part of the show’s execution and design.
A central figure in bringing that vision to the screen is Audrey Fisher who is the costume designer for the series. Audrey discusses her robust research surrounding the events and documentation of the story’s subject and how that translated to costume design. She details how she approached sourcing versus creating distinct looks and her collaboration with Olsen to represent the essence of Candy honestly and authentically acting as a storytelling tool for the series as a whole.
Read our full conversation with costume designer Audrey Fisher for Love & Death below.
Hi, this is Danny Jarabek here with Awards Radar, and I am very excited to be talking with Audrey Fisher today. She is the costume designer for Love & Death and many other shows and series. So, thank you so much for joining today, Audrey. I really appreciate getting a chance to talk about this series, this miniseries. And how are you doing today?
Audrey: Great. Very happy to be talking about Love & Death costumes with you.
Yes, absolutely. Of course, I’m super interested in talking about costumes specifically with this show because it’s a huge part of the narrative, understanding these characters, and it really shines through in your work. Of course, this is a specific moment in time. It’s a moment that’s been told in many other adaptations. What was the research process like for you in the sense of recreating a moment in history?
Audrey: Yeah. Well, it is a big responsibility with a true story like this, especially one that’s so tragic. I feel like it would have been too distracting for me to pay attention to the previous productions. I was a little bit curious to watch the one from the late 80s. Is that when there was a TV movie version? I was curious about that one. Maybe I can watch that one now, actually. And I didn’t watch Candy. I have a lot of friends who worked on Candy for Hulu, but I decided I didn’t want to watch it while we were in production because I just didn’t want to sort of be distracted by the way they were doing things. My research always is very grounded in script, and in this case, also the source material. So, I relied heavily on Evidence of Love. There were so many great descriptions of Candy [Montgomery] (Elizabeth Olsen), her personality, her style. Of course, the very distinct descriptions from the police reports of the day of the murder, what both women were wearing, and then a lot of descriptive information about the day of the arrest in the summer of ‘80, and then, of course, the trial, starting in the fall of ‘80. So, it’s great to have that kind of source material that’s actually what these people were wearing. That’s an incredible jumping off point for creating a narrative and for creating costumes. So, I took all of that and then I looked for as much material from the trial, so a lot of news outlets, like smaller news outlets, in that part of the world, in Collin County. There were Dallas news outlets, there were local news outlets that were doing footage of the trial of all the different days. We sort of looked around for all this obscure footage, and I just did a bazillion screenshots of Candy walking in [and] walking out. There were no cameras allowed in the actual courtroom, so there are a few sketches. I think specifically there was one news outlet that sort of had shots of the drawings that were being done, of the illustrations, kind of, during the footage, so I also snapped those. So, I amassed all this detailed imagery of Candy coming and going on these different days. Then, I also stepped back to the day of the arrest. Also lots of images. Images of not only what she was wearing, but also, she was in a jumpsuit. She was put into a jumpsuit that night that she stayed overnight in jail, so I got a lot of visual information on the jumpsuit and had to create that. Had to build that from scratch. Then, of course, this has been a story in the news for over 40 years, so there’s a lot of material on the internet, a lot of family photographs from both families, so I definitely went as deep as I could to find all of those images. And those were incredibly helpful as well. They’re hard to date, but you can kind of tell with Betty [Gore] (Lily Rabe) the age of the kids indicates at what point in her life it was. And with Candy, I don’t feel like there’s much after the trial to be found, which also wasn’t as important for me to look at, but there was a good amount of snapshots I found before the trial. After I gathered all of that information, I really had to rely on the script and the way that the character of Candy was being portrayed. And the narrative by David E. Kelley, I had a lot of direction from his incredibly rich script. So, I just kind of started then looking at 70s fashion, mid 70s, late 70s, early 80s fashion, how people relate to fashion in smaller towns, like a suburban community, like a bedroom community, like all of these little towns around Dallas. I relied heavily on catalogues, Sears catalogues, Montgomery Ward catalogues, because that gives you a really great moment in time, like what was being sold in the fall of 1979. Then, I relied a lot on magazines, popular magazines: News Week, Time, Women’s Day, McCall’s, Redbook. Then, the fashion magazines: Seventeen, Mademoiselle, Cosmopolitan. Kind of racy. Did I say Time and News Week? Yes. People. Rolling Stone. You know? I tried to imagine all the magazines that Candy would’ve been leafing through at the doctor’s office or maybe she had a subscription to People. Just trying to imagine what she was looking at, what she found aspirational. The ads are really great. The cigarette ads. Ads for different products. It’s always great to see at the time what was considered edgy and aspirational fashion for the people looking through the magazines. So, you know, I basically tried to get as much real data and then understand as much as I could about the fashion of the era and then sort of roll it back to figure out what it would be like in a smaller town environment that had a very strong Methodist community vibe. Then I just had to start shopping.
Yeah, so you take all of this research from all these different places.
A huge pile of resources at your disposal that you’re sifting through. What is the process like for you then? And especially I’m curious to hear what are the types of looks that you know you’re going to try to source versus looks that you might want to create just from scratch. How does that work for you?
Audrey: Yeah. Obviously, as a designer, I want to create from scratch as many outfits as I can, but the reality of production is that things change quickly. Sometimes schedules get completely turned upside down, they lose a location, you get casting, the casting changes. It would be wonderful if we could just lay it out, one schedule, and all work from the same schedule for six months, but, of course, that’s absolutely not how it works. So, you have to be very flexible and prepared. Especially with Candy, the titular character, I planned, of course, there were certain outfits that I knew I wanted to build, but other ones I really wanted to build, and we barely squeaked it out because something got completely changed. So, I was planning, had the time, got the fabric and everything, and then suddenly it was pulled up two weeks, and we barely got it made. There are moments like that. But definitely in this production, I really had to focus on the looks that were recreations because that was really important to us to basically try to embrace what Candy in real life was wearing and approximate that as much as we could. It’s not a documentary, but we still wanted to honor the looks that she was wearing for all the different court days, for instance, and for her arrest. Those are the images we have that are real. When Candy was arrested, she was wearing a very early 80s white and blue striped T-shirt. Very casual, very sporty. And I found something so similar that I was satisfied with it. I didn’t have to have fabric made. I didn’t have to create it. It worked. It was all right for us to have one T-shirt. It was kind of a shorter scene. It didn’t have any stains. It was like, okay, we can use this. But then, for the trial, I tried to source a lot of pieces and find them, find vintage pieces that worked, but I really did create most of those looks, starting with the first day of trial. There were a lot of very distinctive pieces that she wore repeatedly that it was important to me that were almost exactly right. She wears this cream knit cardigan with a hood. Couldn’t find anything that was close enough, so we had it knit in Los Angeles based on different sweaters that we tried on with Lizzie. We took the hood from that one and the placket from that one, the belt from that one, the link from that one. We had to piece it all together. Also, it was a miracle that the other outer layer that she wears a lot is this beige striped hooded coat. Wool. We found it on Etsy, which was a miracle. We found a dead stock version.
Audrey: Not a version of the coat. We basically found a dead stock coat. The same one. Right size for Lizzie. Amazing. And we used that. That blows my mind. I imagine what if the real Candy watches the show and sees that and thinks, “Where did they get that coat? How did they find that coat?” My assistant designer was like, “I want her to watch it and think, ‘How did they get that?’” So, those moments are fun when you are working on a recreation, and you can get that special spot. That’s very satisfying. So, it’s always a mix. It’s always a mix of building, trying to save the time and the resources for the items that you really want to create and make, but oftentimes, that gets sort of taken away from you and you have to figure out a different way to do it. The disco dress is a good example. I thought we would find that. It was a pretty quick scene. Turns out it was such an important scene because they’ve cut it to sort of dovetail with so many other moments that I feel like that scene became much more important. On the page, it was like a quarter of a page, and then it becomes this massive moment. So, I thought we would find that. I thought we would source it from one of my vintage dealers or we’d get it from one of the many costume houses and we’d find something and try it and it’d be great, but we didn’t find anything that worked, so I wound up building it, and it was a very quick turnaround. Overnighting fabric, it gets lost by FedEx, we get another fabric, it’s barely enough, we have to use a different one on the hem. You know? Barely got a fitting with Lizzie. Didn’t get a second fitting. But somehow it always works out. The magic of costume design.
Of course. The magic of costume design and behind the scenes.
Talking a little bit about Candy specifically, of course. Something I really love about your approach to costumes in this series and how it actually is embedded with her character is that part of what she’s wearing a lot of times, even leading up to, of course, the murder, is very plot driven, too. I think a lot of what she wears is reflective of how she’s dealing with these relationships in her life, whether it’s what she’s wearing around her husband versus what she’s wearing around this other relationship in her life. So, how did you start to maybe reflect a little bit of what Candy is thinking and what her motivations are through her clothes, especially in her meetups with Jesse Plemons’s character.
Audrey: Yeah. I mean, I think Candy is very hyperaware of her presentation to the world. She’s very feminine, she’s very pretty, she’s considered one of the prettiest women in town. She’s sort of the head cheerleader type, right? Everyone sort of wants to be her. The women want to be her. The men all really like her. She’s flirtatious and fun and witty, and I think she really dresses the part. She kind of knows that she has that power and really leans into it. So, yeah. I mean, Lizzie and I in fittings, we were always trying to find the things that were really super flattering and pretty. She wears a lot of that beautiful fuchsia that just makes her skin sort of glow, makes her blonde hair look even blonder. So, there was that element of color. We chose colors that were very feminine and very pretty. She definitely always presents herself – like at church, I feel like she’s always wearing a really beautiful dress, and it’s maybe just a little bit sassier than the other gals’ dresses. She’s just always kind of cuter. A little bit cuter. Yeah. And for the affair, I feel like when she starts going to the hotel, she’s got this whole giant trove of negligees that she starts to parade out. And I love that. I remember with Lizzie, we sort of decided that when she would arrive, she would try to wear a pretty subtle, like, “I’m dropping the kids off at school” outfit, but we always tried to make it a little bit prettier on the days that she knew she was going to go meet Allan. So, instead of just a T-shirt, the first time she meets him she wears this beautiful, dark, peach, silk blouse that has a little pretty pattern with her very snug jeans and her nice little high-heeled wooden mule with a little trench coat. She sort of felt like she was being undercover, like film noir, like going to her meeting with her lover. So, we did things like that. Intentionally, the days that she was going to meet him, we sort of amped it up a little bit, not that anyone would notice, like, “Why is Candy so dressed up?” But she just felt a special way showing up. Then, all of that lingerie. I mean, we had so many options and so many color choices. Lizzie and I really sorted through everything and very carefully chose each piece and each negligee, each piece of lingerie, each bra, each nightie, to really reflect how she was feeling for each one of the rendezvous. And it starts out so, kind of, like, she’s just a cupcake. It’s like a fantasy, frilly, sex kitten. That pink and mocha lace. That’s the most elaborate, the height of the romance novel look. And then I feel like it sort of clarifies and simplifies. They become a little darker, a little more body conscious, as they become friends and also become more comfortable with each other and become more sexually comfortable with each other, too. So, that was fun to have that arc. Then, there’s the arc that starts the day that, basically, she goes to Don’s [Crowder] (Tom Pelphrey) and she’s wearing this super cute, low scoop neck black T-shirt with this fun design and her burgundy jeans. And she’s looking like she normally does, kind of sporty, kind of trying to be “normal Candy” even though she’s already committed the murder a couple of weeks ago by then, I think. So, she’s just trying to embrace her normal look in her normal life, and he basically tells her, “No more.” Like, you’ll be guilty. If you go to trial dressed like you’re normally dressed, looking all cute and confident and sassy, you’ll be guilty. Guilty. So, he says you’ve got to lose weight, change your hair, suddenly change your entire costume, your vibe. You’ve got to become this demure, vulnerable, sweet housewife who could never possibly manage this. Even physically couldn’t pull it off, couldn’t lift this heavy ax. So, that was fun to then get into all those looks, as a costume within a costume, stuff that really is different than anything we’ve seen her in before in those last episodes that are all the trial. They’re demure, her body’s not really being shown, a lot of long sleeves, necks up to here, the longer skirts. It’s just much more coverage, much more conservative. Sort of not intimidating. It’s like “nonthreatening Candy.”
Yeah. Well, one final question for you, and I have to ask, the murder look. How did you operate knowing that whatever you prepared for that look, you probably were going to have to have, I’m assuming, a lot of multiples. So, how did that process work for you? And for Betty, too. For Betty and Candy. How did you work through developing that look? Was it true to life? Was it something that you, I’m sure, had to make? Essentially, what was that?
Audrey: Yeah. Well, it started with the pretty clear descriptions in the book that were essentially from the police reports that describe what Candy was wearing that day and what Betty was wearing. I was going to say Betty’s corpse, but it’s true. It’s like, what Betty died in, what she was wearing. Pretty clear, but also not clear-enough-for-me descriptions. Just “a yellow T and red shorts” leaves a lot of room for interpretation. Same with Candy’s outfit, sort of “a burgundy top and jeans.” So, I basically relied on Robert Udashen, who was Candy’s lawyer in real life. He was there at the trial sitting next to her. He’s portrayed by Adam Cropper in the show. Anyway, he was our consultant. So, early on, I sort of befriended him, started emailing him, because I knew I would be pumping him for information. So, I took those two descriptions of these two very important outfits, exactly knowing I would have to have many, many multiples to handle all of the action, all of the fake blood, everything. And I basically had my illustrator, Karen Yan, do these illustrations. We tweaked things a little. I had a couple of different options for Betty’s T-shirt, for instance, but I came back to her with a pretty simple T-shirt with just a little crew neck and a short sleeve. Showed the illustrations to Robert and he said, “Yes. That essentially looks like what they were wearing that day.” Then, of course, showed them to Lesli [Linka Glatter], David E. Kelley. Then showed them to the two actresses. I said, “This is what Robert says. These were the looks, so this is what I’m going to start trying to build for us.” And they both said, “Okay, great.” It’s kind of nice when you know that you’re trying to approximate a real thing. You can all sort of agree, okay, this is what we’re doing. Here’s what we’re doing. It was one of the first things I started working on because it was one of those things. We couldn’t deviate. I had to be very clear and go for it. So, it was easy to get everyone on board. That’s when I started doing shape fittings with both ladies. In my very first fitting with Lizzie, we tried on different tunic tops. Different weights of fabric. A million jeans. Started working on the flip flops. And then it took a while before everything solidified. I had to get a fabric that I could get over 40 yards of so that I could make about 15 of the tops. We had to test it to see how it looked wet, if it went too dark. We had to make sure it still looked like a color instead of just going to only black when it was wet. The jeans had to have enough movement. She had to be able to move in them. We tried vintage pairs. We tried a new-to-look 70s pair. The flip flops, that was a whole journey trying to find one that was comfortable enough and that looked like a vintage flip flop. Then, for Betty, Lily was pregnant at the time, but, of course, much more pregnant when we actually shot the scenes, so I had to be a little more flexible with that outfit and with her. We basically mapped out the basics in that first fitting but had to keep refitting and refitting and refitting. Essentially, really deciding about a week before. I had literally the multiples of all the different options ready because that was the only way to handle it so that when we finally had that fitting about a week before, we really could land on the T-shirt that fit right that felt good and the jeans that fit okay and she could do all the movement in, the shoes that felt safe, because she was like, I don’t remember how many months pregnant, but she was pregnant. So, that was a whole other thing, making her feel safe and comfortable to do this really active, violent scene. Then, of course, all the multiples for the stunt women, and there was a body double. Anyway. So, yeah. It’s fun to talk about it because I feel like you watch the scene and you might enjoy it, you wonder how we did it, but you might not think about the fact that there’s literally a rack of 20 yellow T-shirts in multiple sizes because it’s her size and then her stunt woman’s size and then the body double on the floor and then there’s also a mannequin and there’s a this and a that. I love that part. I think that’s so amazing, the backstage stuff. So, yeah. That’s how that happened.
Yeah. I mean, I completely agree. I love hearing that backstage quality to it because everything that you do and the passion and energy you bring is what makes the show. And that’s why I love to give the opportunity for creators to share those stories. So, thank you so much for your time. I really appreciated getting to hear a little bit behind the scenes of Love & Death. And yeah, again, congratulations on the show and thank you for chatting with me.
Audrey: Thank you so much for helping to share all of the excitement of what goes into the costumes because, yeah, you’re right. I love it, I’m very passionate about it, and I love talking about it with people who are interested. So, thanks! I really appreciate it, Danny.
This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.