Welcome back to Look of the Week! Celebrating the best in TV and film sartorial excellence, past and present across sci-fi, horror, fantasy, and other genre classics!
American Horror Story has served up killer looks season after season, covering a multitude of eras and themes across each setting. Coven might hold the "most stylish" title, but Hotel takes the crown for unbeatable glam. Paying homage to Old Hollywood, costume designer Lou Eyrich drew inspiration from Tinseltown to deliver a closet to die for. Eyrich deservedly won an Emmy and a Costume Designers Guild Award for her work on this season.
Lady Gaga's eye-catching collection of Countess frocks and deadly gloves took center stage, but she isn't the only character dialing it up sartorially. Angela Bassett's afflicted Ramona Royale hits many movie star notes across several decades, shifting from big dreams to vengeance-laced motives. A Ryan Murphy regular, we're celebrating Bassett's birthday (August 16) with a look at her fabulous turn as the immortal lover-turned-antagonist of AHS: Hotel.
Tracking the rich (and bloody) history of the Hotel Cortez, Ramona's introduction in Episode 3 catches viewers up on her life before she became another one of the Countess' afflicted exes. Ramona is a '70s blaxploitation movie star who tried to break into the mainstream after starring roles in Slaughter Sister, Silky Fine, and Bride of Blackenstein gave her a taste of fame — but not the plaudits or financial stability she craves (and deserves).
A flashback to 1977 reveals Ramona's movie highlights reel — including an excellent one-liner, "I don't get on my knees for no man!" — and her attempt to shift from B-movies to the A-list. She wears leather and bold prints while keeping weapons hidden in her hair, opting for a dash of disco in her off-screen look.
She notes in a voiceover that her films grossed at least ten times what they cost to make but she was not on the receiving end of the profits. Wearing a gold jumpsuit that looks tailor-made for the actress and matching jewelry, she meets with a film producer asking to read for him before he gives the part to Jane Fonda. Refusing to indulge her request, he gives her the brush-off because she is not a "serious" actress.
Rather than taking this any further, the Countess sends him packing with little more than a glance. She can't make Ramona's A-list acting fantasy come true, but she can shower her in art, literature, and fashion — while also giving her the gift of infinite time.
Shifting from the Pam Grier as Foxy Brown aesthetic, Ramona doesn't simply model herself on the Golden Age of Hollywood gowns that her ageless girlfriend has packed her closet with. Instead, Ramona keeps a sense of self throughout as she moves through the various leopard print, leather, and graphic pattern trends.
AHS excels at dishing out the backstory and succinctly depicting the passage of time. In "Mommy," the all-consuming desire can only last so long and the elevator is utilized to show the passion fizzling and the gulf growing between them. "She taught me I could be a lady and a badass," Ramona intones while we see the pair getting hot and heavy in the gilded space — Ramona sticking to a metallic palette. From 1978 to 1983, Ramona returns to her love of leather jackets (this time fringe) to the Countess all in white.
In the mid-'80s, similar nipped-in waists and bold shoulder silhouettes can't hide the discord, while gold leather spells the end of harmony. The next decade sees the Countess in a look that is inspired by her girlfriend, but Ramona is yearning for something more than this material existence. The animal print reads as a subtle link to Marie Laveau, the Voodoo Queen she plays in Coven.
Her acting days are behind her, however, Ramona still keeps a knife close to hand, stashing it in her knee-high boots. Rather than a weapon, she uses it to turn the man she believes is the love of her life into one of them. A dalliance that is cut short by the jealous Countess. Moving home, her glam lifestyle is replaced with being a caretaker but her style never diminished — a floral black and gold jacket that bears the hallmarks of Versace is a highlight.
Revenge gives Ramona a new lease on life as she mourns her father and the career she never got to enjoy. She laments that her old movies are now streaming for free on Hulu, which means a new gaggle of fans recognize her — and question why she still looks the same age as nearly 40 years ago. Louboutins, statement jewelry that mirrors the Art Deco style of the Cortez, and bodycon dresses show that Ramona has not lost her touch. For her final confrontation with her ex, she wears a gown borrowed from Liz Taylor (Denis O'Hare), who gripes that she looks better in it. It is a stunning look that matches the Old Hollywood aesthetic that runs throughout.
Beyond the AHS recurring roles, she has delivered regal flair in a 3D-printed crown in Black Panther, served up government power dressing in Mission: Impossible - Fallout, and never fails to impress on the red carpet. Bassett's position on the SYFY FANGRRLS Most Influential Women of the Decade list goes beyond her sartorial prowess, but that doesn't negate her ability to always impress in this department. Whether she is playing a witch, vampire, Freak Show performer, or actress, Bassett's timeless style is anything but an American Horror Story.