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Interview with the Vampire Costume Designer Carol Cutshall Delves Into Season 2's Best Looks

From Dubai to the Paris stage, this season's costumes reveal the characters' shifting motives

Gavia Baker-Whitelaw
Delainey Hayles and Roxane Duran, Interview with the Vampire

Delainey Hayles and Roxane Duran, Interview with the Vampire

Larry Horricks/AMC

Spanning centuries of history, Interview with the Vampire's costumes play into the show's fascination with theatricality and disguise. Characters like Santiago (Ben Daniels) and Armand (Assad Zaman) present a curated image of vampiric elegance, performing on stage and in the titular interview. Elsewhere, Claudia (Delainey Hayles) is forced to wear an infantile baby doll dress as the cartoonish Baby Lu, clashing with her desire to be seen as an adult. And Louis (Jacob Anderson), still grappling with his identity, tries to blend in with the humans of 1940s Paris.

As with every other element of this twisted narrative, there's a hint of mystery to Interview with the Vampire's costume choices. Every flashback is colored by the biases of its narrator, down to whimsical details like Louis hallucinating Lestat (Sam Reid) in his favorite suit, claiming that he had Louis' initials sewn into the lining "so your name could always cradle my heart." Did he really? There's no way for us to know.

For two seasons now, costume designer Carol Cutshall has shaped the wardrobe of Interview with the Vampire, drawing inspiration from a dazzling array of sources. Cutshall spoke to TV Guide to shed light on some of Season 2's key looks.

More on Interview with the Vampire:

Assad Zaman, Interview with the Vampire

Assad Zaman, Interview with the Vampire

Larry Horricks/AMC

Armand's understated authority

When crafting Armand's aesthetic, Cutshall wanted to emphasize his power. The 500-year-old vampire spent most of Season 1 pretending to be Louis' human servant Rashid, dressed in softly draped black outfits, often with a plunging neckline — implicitly available to be bitten by his master. This encouraged us to see him as youthful and vulnerable, although we now know the opposite is true.

According to Cutshall, Armand's taste for open-necked outfits actually signals his position as "the highest predator on the food chain." When he switches to a more business-casual look in Season 2, his shirts remain unbuttoned at the throat because he has nothing to fear. 

"One of the things about Armand is he is so ancient and so powerful that he always presents himself as very open," she explained. "Whereas some of the other characters are very covered up, he's always very open because he really doesn't see anyone as a threat to himself."

Describing Armand's Rashid outfits as "very much the clothes of an employee of the house," she pointed out that signs of his true personality were there all along. "He didn't have any predators or any reason to be on guard, or be armored." By contrast, Real Rashid (Bally Gill) basically looks like a waiter, clad in plain black shirts buttoned to the neck.

Season 2 reintroduces Armand as the master of the house, in neatly fitted pants and shirts that echo his costumes in the 1940s and '70s. "It's the first time we really see him in a structured, collared shirt. That brings a little bit of authority. He is kind of the backbone of this business."

"Coming into Season 2, he is having to show [Daniel] Molloy that he's in charge. Being a little bit more crisp and authoritative. He's coming back in and asserting himself as actually running the show. He wants to show that he's in control, and that they're vying for control of the interview."

Jacob Anderson and Delainey Hayles, Interview with the Vampire

Jacob Anderson and Delainey Hayles, Interview with the Vampire

Larry Horricks/AMC

Louis' blue-collar makeover

In the controlled ecosystem of their Dubai penthouse, Louis and Armand share a subdued color palette of slate gray and black, often wearing coordinating outfits. These featureless shirts and hoodies represent a marked difference from Louis' early years in New Orleans, when he was a notably snappy dresser. Armand would probably argue that Louis' new wardrobe is proof that he can finally relax. But you could also interpret it as evidence of Armand's insidious control, dressing Louis to match the muted decor of their apartment.

"In the early 1900s, [Louis] was very influenced by some of the thought leaders and the creative leaders of the time," Cutshall explained. "Black creative leaders in the theater, in performance. Also the greatest poets, the greatest writers. It was very aspirational, and it was also a matter of survival." Throughout Season 1, "he could show no less than perfection in order to survive in the world that he was in," tying into the idea of "Black excellence as survival."

Season 2 reintroduces Louis and Claudia in ragged overcoats and scarves, trudging across war-torn Europe disguised as refugees. Once they reach Paris, Louis is "for the first time finding himself, and really trying to fly under the radar, and trying to blend in." He embraces what Cutshall described as "a real blue-collar look," including sweater vests and less formal suits.

"It's very much a different mode of survival, and one of the ways that he's surviving is by not standing out. But even in his blue-collar looks, he's still that same gentleman." While background characters may look more authentically scruffy in similar outfits, Louis "can't help himself but be impeccable in them, because of that survival instinct and that gentlemanliness from the time when none of these people were alive. He's still carrying it with him."

Delainey Hayles, Interview with the Vampire

Delainey Hayles, Interview with the Vampire

Larry Horricks/AMC

Claudia's New Look

Paris also offers Claudia a chance to revamp her image. Originally styled in childish drop-waisted dresses and schoolgirl outfits, she's now deeply self-conscious about her adolescent appearance, trapped forever in a 14-year-old body. By the 1940s she's keen to be seen as an adult, building a wardrobe of mature dresses, skirts, and blouses. Her human friend Madeleine (Roxane Duran) is a key player in this journey: a dressmaker who helps Claudia access a newfound sense of womanhood. (In the books, Madeleine is a dollmaker, a job with very different connotations.) 

"She's gone through so much emotional maturing, and she's gone through so much trauma and survival and loss," Cutshall said of Claudia's 1940s arc. "Her lived experience has far outgrown her physical. And she has gone through learning lessons of how to hide herself."

"In her lived experience, she's a young woman. She's really trying to try that on, she's trying to live that life."

One of the research sources for Claudia's makeover was a spread of images depicting a young woman in postwar Paris. "People were still starving, there was hardly any food, everyone was repurposing clothing. The French had such panache. Women would take any clothing and they could just turn it into something so glamorous."

This was the period when Christian Dior invented the New Look, popularizing a full-skirted, narrow-waisted silhouette that dominated womenswear trends through the 1950s. "Women were taking clothes and just belting it and pulling it together to give that new shape and that new form," said Cutshall. "That's kind of where Claudia is too, trying to find a new shape and trying to find a new form for herself."

"When she first shows up at the theater, when she finds Madeleine, she feels like she's being seen as a woman for the first time. That she's being seen and taken seriously. When she walks into that theater in her lavender dress, it's really like she's the brightest flower in the room. It's kind of the first time she's been able to step out and have her exterior mirror her lived experience or her interior."

However, this moment is soon overshadowed by the most disturbing costume of the season: Claudia's "Baby Lu" dress for the Théâtre des Vampires, a childish stage costume accessorized with frilly ankle socks and pigtails. In fashion terms, it's Claudia's worst nightmare.

"The thing about that dress is that she's come so far, and we're so darn happy for her. We really feel like she's evolved. And we also really feel like she may have found people who understand her. Then to see that she's forced to regress... that is such horror."

"Designing for Delainey and Claudia is a pure joy," added Cutshall, praising the surreal and theatrical nature of the Baby Lu concept. Her initial drawings for this costume were "very flat," reflecting the theater's use of projected animation. The goal was to make "a three dimensional dress feel very flat and like an illustration, but then building dimension into it. I had brilliant textile artists and painters airbrushing dimension into that dress." She wanted the outfit to resemble a children's storybook, as Claudia reenacts the same perversely immature story night after night.

Ben Daniels, Interview with the Vampire

Ben Daniels, Interview with the Vampire

Larry Horricks/AMC

The vampire Santiago

The Théâtre des Vampires introduced a vibrant new supporting cast this season, with stage costumes riffing on an amusing conceit: real vampires dressed as fake vampires. Backstage, these characters display an eclectic range of bohemian cabaret looks, dominated by shades of black and gray. According to Cutshall, the vampire Estelle (Esme Appleton) was inspired by Edith Piaf, while Celeste's (Suzanne Andrade) boldly patterned outfits were based on military dazzle camouflage. But the biggest star is, of course, Santiago.

"The starting point for Santiago, for his first look, was Fred Astaire. All those images of Fred Astaire leaping through the air and it just looks like he's flying. He's so debonair and so put together. It's taking that really light kind of effervescent showman and bringing fear and horror and grotesque into it."

Cutshall also looked to the iconic horror actor Vincent Price, along with several other 20th century stars of the stage and screen: Laurence Olivier, Rudolph Valentino, Kirk Douglas, Conrad Veidt, John Gielgud. "There was this incredible image of Peter O'Toole backstage, just in his suspenders and undershirt, and he's got this martini and a cigarette in one hand. It just was so gorgeous, and that really felt like Santiago to me."

Ben Daniels helped to shape Santiago's look. Daniels previously told TV Guide that he was the one to suggest his character's "startling" platinum blond hair, bleached for a role when Santiago was still mortal: "He never got to where he wanted to be, the leading man, and so had devised this tour of Hamlet," Daniels explained, noting that "L'Oreal created peroxide before the 1920s!" He imagined that Santiago's creator turned him into a vampire during that tour, immortalizing him as a bottle blond — a look borrowed from that Peter O'Toole Hamlet photo.

The other key elements for Santiago's look were Vivienne Westwood-style clashing patterns ("plaid upon plaid upon stripe upon stripe") and bondage, with Cutshall highlighting the harness he wears onstage. "Part of his tricking the audience was that he actually could fly. You know, this gag that he's got this rope that's carrying him up through the air." The rope harness adds a kinky undertone to Santiago's theatrical formalwear, often paired with an homage to Dracula's iconic red-lined cape.

Her final source for Santiago and the Théâtre was a little more esoteric: Czech filmmaker Karel Zeman, whose work combined animation and live-action performance in a similar way to the Théâtre des Vampires. "I was able to see a lot of his costumes, actual costumes there in Prague, and go to his museum," said Cutshall. The Théâtre des Vampires' pattern-clashing monochrome costumes were "very much inspired" by Zeman's fantastical films.

Sam Reid, Interview with the Vampire

Sam Reid, Interview with the Vampire

Larry Horricks/AMC

Lestat on stage

Continuing the theatrical theme, Lestat's most distinctive outfit this season is his Harlequin costume from Armand's 18th century memories. Like Louis, Armand remembers Lestat as a larger-than-life figure. But while Louis' hallucinations of "Dreamstat" dress him in familiar outfits from their time together in New Orleans, Armand's recollections bring us something new. 

"There were so many criteria that I felt needed to be represented there," said Cutshall of the Harlequin costume. "One of them was our time period, 1795. That's a very dicy, dicy moment in history. It's the beginning of the Directory," the short-lived French revolutionary government.

This version of Lestat is a theater star who dazzles human audiences with his charisma, paving the way for the Théâtre des Vampires. While the books cast him in the role of Lélio (a romantic figure in the stylized tradition of Italian commedia dell'arte), the TV show positions him as the more comical Harlequin. Sam Reid brings menace and sexuality to this clownish character, wearing a brightly colored costume that Cutshall described as "very flashy and dandy." 

"He's play-acting. It needs to be 1795, so we give him those huge collars and the luscious silks, taking a twist on an Italian Harlequin but building it in this silhouette of 1795." Echoing the diverse range of influences behind the show's other costumes, this outfit is rooted in history and theatrical tradition while still being unmistakably Lestat.

Season 2 of Interview with the Vampire airs Sundays at 9/8c on AMC.