How Pose’s Costume Designer Poured Blood, Sweat, and Glitz Into 3 Seasons

Analucia McGorty shares a behind-the-scenes look at the groundbreaking series before its final season premieres.

by Sabrina Cooper

Dominique Jackson as Elektra. Photo by JoJo Whilden/FX Copyright 2018 FX Networks.

The category is: three seasons of costume design realness. Analucia McGorty, the wardrobe wonder behind the critically acclaimed, groundbreaking series Pose, can barely contain her excitement for the third and final season—it’s palpable, even by phone, where she’s calling me from New York City. And in true Pose fashion, McGorty admits she wants to share the buzz when the season premiere airs on Sunday, May 2nd on FX. “I cannot wait for everybody to see it so we can all talk about it,” she says.

All the same, it’s a bittersweet farewell to the beloved drama, which follows a community of Black and Latinx LGBTQ+ and gender non-conforming dancers and performers. For three years, the cast has battled each other in ballrooms where judges score participants based on their wardrobe, movement, and star power. Set in the mid-1980s to mid-1990s in New York City amid the AIDS epidemic, Pose has always been about adopted family: the ups and downs between doting mothers, the sibling rivalries, and an overarching will to survive—all while having the most fun.

The first episode of this season takes place in 1994—and right from the get-go, McGorty’s passion is on display. Also evident is the growth of her relationship with the cast and crew, which has evolved into a family—and she expresses it through fashion-forward characters, particularly the queen of them all, Elektra, played by Dominique Jackson.

Dyllón Burnside as Ricky, Hailie Sahar as Lulu, Mj Rodriguez as Blanca, India Moore as Angel, Angel Bismark Curiel as Lil Papi. Photo by Eric Liebowitz/FX Copyright 2021 FX Networks.

“In the ‘90s there was a little bit more power for women. I definitely tried to bring that in with our characters,” McGorty says. “I went all out for her this season. It is Elektra beyond Elektra. I could literally put her in anything and she just screams glamour. It’s almost harder to bring her down in moments because she, as an actress and as a person, is just royalty. I wanted to make it look like she was in a fashion magazine at all times, even if she’s standing on a corner—even when she’s a dominatrix.”

Without revealing too much plot detail, McGorty also discussed the designers she chose for each of the characters. Yves Saint Laurent and Chanel jewelry will make cameo appearances this season, and of course, some Azzedine Alaïa pieces will have grand entrances. “Alaia is everything and Elektra is perfect for that,” she adds.

McGorty’s tremendous respect for characters like devoted House Mother, Blanca, (MJ Rodriguez), who embodies the heart and soul of Pose, is on display through the costumes this upcoming season. For the show’s final turn, the costume designer wanted Rodriguez to her fully become Blanca, visually.

Behind the scenes of Pose. Bottom middle: courtesy of Lucy Shapiro; all other images courtesy of Analucia McGorty.

“She absorbs the clothes and turns into Blanca when she puts them on,” McGorty says. “She’s very much our tomboy: She’s mother, she’s no-nonsense but she has this beautiful, softer side. The other characters tease Blanca’s character saying she’s Mother Teresa, but she does have this heart of gold—but she’s tough. She has to be able to show that in the clothing.”

And if there were ever any doubt to how committed—and literally connected—McGorty is as costume designer, look no further than her approach to dressing the resident dandy, Pray Tell (Billy Porter). For some of his bespoke looks in these last episodes, McGorty sourced garments from her own closet. Coincidentally, both Porter and McGorty wear the same size and she’s a fan of suiting in her own wardrobe.

“Everything he has is tailored and impeccable. He still does the Fred Astaire mixing with patterns,” she reveals. “I never think about gender when I’m dressing him. I almost dress Billy like I dress myself.”

And then there are peak moments for McGorty which have stood out during Pose’s entire run. Next to Elektra, the camera has adored Angel since the show’s very beginning. Comparing her to the likes of It girls like Madonna and Edie Sedgwick, McGorty can recall how she felt when she witnessed Angel in full wardrobe from the first season.

Dominique Jackson as Elektra. Photo by Macall Polay/FX Copyright 2019 FX Networks.

“Seeing her come to life on the piers in those pink lace-up boots, ‘70s shorts, and a leather-daddy cap—that was like, oh my god, I know this girl,” McGorty recalls. “It’s that girl who has no awareness of how beautiful she is. No awareness of how amazing and bright and smart she is but she oozes it. And everyone else follows her around with their tongue out.”

While McGorty’s creative vision shines in front of the camera through the cast, her dedication to her craft and to Pose can be seen behind the scenes. She does her due diligence in establishing a close network among the crew in ways that would seem oblivious to the casual observer. Case in point? She actively pursued open lines of communication with other teams: not only hair and makeup but also the director of photography, grip, electric, prop, and even sound departments. “I give swatches of fabric to our DP and our grip and electric so they have it before they’re setting up the shot,” she says. “It works so great because we all care so much. We all want it to be the best it could possibly be.”

Pose has brought audiences to laughter, frustration, tears, and everything in between, it’s unimaginable to think this will be its final curtain call. But for all the history the show has made and the extraordinary realness of its narrative and visuals—there’s no denying it leaves behind a glittering legacy. “This is the dream show,” McGorty says. “It’s a hard thing to say good-bye to these characters even though they did a perfect job of completing this series.”