Creating A Story One Stitch At A Time

By Ali Inglese–9/21/12

The most important part of Chrisi Karvonides’ job is telling a story. “It’s not about fashion. It’s about finding elements that tell the story of a character,”she told WEBN in Los Angeles.

The three-time Emmy nominee is currently costuming Ryan Murphy’s psychological thriller “American Horror Story.”  The show encompasses multiple time periods. That means Karvonides is responsible for dressing everyone from Roanoke Indians to the Pope. She tackles challenges like creating a costume for the “Black Dahlia” by compiling research and referencing historical facts.

The composition of a character starts as soon as Karvonides is handed a script, and begins visualizing colors for different characters. Her costumes are influenced by multiple factors including camera angles and lighting. Even the color of the “American Horror Story” poster helped determine the early red, black, and white costume composition. From a Bobbi pin to a sock, each meticulous decision has a reason behind it. For Karvonides, “It’s a lot of detail in a very little amount of time.”

When working on the mini-series, she often only has between seven to ten days with a script. She describes the pilot as the most difficult, because characters are being started from scratch. When the series first began, she was responsible for creating 140 outfits.  As the season progresses her characters begin to develop a “closet,” but newly added characters will sometimes need to be dressed in less than a day.

For the next six months, Karvonides is taking a designing sabbatical. She will be launching a Costuming for Film and Television Program at the University of California Los Angeles, and she is planning on returning to the entertainment world in time for the spring pilot season.