American Horror Story: Interview with Dawn Ritz Costume Designer

I had the chance to interview Dawn Ritz the costume designer for this years opening sequence of American Horror Story: Coven.  She talks about the inspiration for the costumes, the meaning of the sequence, how it was made and much more!  

See the opening at the start of each episode, Wednesday 10pm on FX, or check it out in the video below!
You can reach Dawn and see more of her work through her website, facebook or her imdb page.

ShopYourTV: What inspired the costumes worn in the opening sequence?
Dawn: I wanted to get a visualization of pure evil and put a face on it. The imagery that came to mind was the KKK in all black, also noted by the director, Kyle Cooper and creator Ryan Murphy.Witches, Voodoo, evil glamour, couture w/an editorial vibe. Ancient racist costumes from Seville, Spain (were a reference) as the Spanish penitents had a precise shape with a taller and thinner cone w/a precise point (their’s pointing towards heaven and God during Easter, ours is towards witchcraft and burning). Blending with early 1900s costume of the ku klux klan with a twist of a fitted cloak and half cape: defining shape for the witches.

ShopYourTV: Where did you find the costumes used, or were they made for the show? Tell us a bit about them 
Dawn: The costumes were mainly custom builds (exclusively made for AHS Opening Credits) including: the hooded penitents, the bag hoods (which ended up not being used), customizations and modifications of the capes, custom Gasoline Glamour spiked heals and gloves-to elaborate to the next level, custom made Miss G spiked mask and head piece-to bring in the darker shadow elements, and designer white flowy gowns (including Sheri Bodell) worn when you see the witches dancing in and around the stake at fire. The idea of the white dresses were to be evil and beautiful at the same time. To flow freely with the movement, I selected the sheer fabric to collect the moment of purity and glow under the lighting.
I am a firm believer in building custom one of a kind pieces specific to each project. Providing unique design and look to elevate the wardrobe and capture the vibe, which creates a unique twist and I think it clearly shows for with AHS’s opening sequence.

ShopYourTV: How does the opening give hints about this season of AHS? 
Dawn: What can we be in stall for, for the rest of season? Witches, voodoo, evil. Keep watching and the pieces will unfold! Each frame has its own special meaning, especially the ending….

Some say the Coven opening is the scariest out of the 3 AHS openings. Do you agree with this? 
Dawn: Absolutely. I think there is a special vibe that is captured. The piece was shot out in the woods. When the sun set-it was jet black-when you took a step, you can hear and feel that wood crackle, the creepiness would set in and you could feel the authenticity.

ShopYourTV: Ryan Murphy’s openings are amazing, how was it like working with him? 
Dawn: Ryan Murphy is a creative genius in many ways. While working on the opening sequence of AHS-I dived deep into the art and craft of the project, that my mind didn’t have a moment to think about the details outside of building and creating the looks for the piece. While shooting- and working along side Kyle Cooper the focus was on each moment to the next. There was pure magic on set!

ShopYourTV: How does working for AHS compare to other jobs you’ve had? What did you enjoy most about working for AHS? 
Dawn: AHS is a perfect fit compared to other jobs that I have! I feel that we attracted each other. I do believe my work is known to be eccentric. Funny story – I was meeting with Marilyn Manson’s assistant (to deliver some clothes to MM) the morning that I booked the job and told him that I was working on it – and he said that’s such a great show, one of our favorites!
Some of my past work and collaborations are with artist and celebrities with an “outside of the box” mentality, that tend to push the envelope in all directions (mentally, visually, physically) – I am one known to take chances and to deliver an above and beyond product, this [AHS] allowed me the opportunity to push the envelope even further.
I enjoyed costume designing for AHS-opening credits, especially the process on set with director Kyle Cooper, he is a master of his craft. It was such a joy being involved in a magical and pushing boundaries in all directions. I believe AHS speaks a level of artistic adventure on so many levels and I look forward to the opportunity to be a part of the show in the future!

ShopYourTV: Finally, what is your favorite part of the opening sequence and why? 
Dawn: I love the entire piece from beginning to end. I believe that it has an endless climax. It is a piece that owns it, as it’s own.
What are your favorite things about the AHS opening? Did you enjoy the costuming? Please comment below:


Hey I'm Chloe and I created ShopYourTV back in 2011 after leaving Uni for semester and being incredibly bored. My favourite TV shows are Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, Shameless and The Office - which aren't always the most fashionable but I'm always committed to covering as many TV Shows as possible!

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