Feud: Capote Vs. The Swans Fashion Features Vintage Givenchy & Custom Zac Posen

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In Ryan Murphy’s second installment of the Feud anthology, Breakfast at Tiffany’s author Truman Capote (Tom Hollander) faces the fallout after revealing the secrets of the doyennes of the New York City haute monde: Babe Paley (Naomi Watts), Slim Keith (Diane Lane), CZ Guest (Chloe Sevigny), and Lee Radziwill (Calista Flockhart), otherwise known as The Swans. But while some viewers will be tuning in for the dramatized events that got Capote kicked out of high society, others will be paying attention to the Capote Vs. The Swans fashion — designed by Murphy’s go-to fashion collaborator and producer Lou Eyrich and her New York City-based co-costume designers Leah Katznelson and Rudy Mance — spanning from the 1950s to the 1980s. 


“I’ve been studying The Swans forever because Ryan’s been obsessed with them forever,” says Eyrich. “We’re always using The Swans in our references [for the other shows], but this time it was digging much deeper.” 

The challenge was to illustrate each character’s distinctive style while also making them complement each other in group scenes, like the one featuring the foursome sauntering in slow-motion down the stairs, like a posh all-girl group, at CZ’s black-tie Thanksgiving soirée or lunching at their off-Fifth Avenue local, La Côte Basque (which provided the title for the scandalous 1975 Esquire excerpt from Capote’s book, Answered Prayers, that featured thinly veiled characterizations of The Swans).

To create the looks, Eyrich and her team sourced designer vintage as much as possible, tapping their ever-growing list of dealers and collectors while also scouring Instagram and TikTok. “[Sourcing] was a full-time job,” says Eyrich. They also — for episode three, which reenacts Capote’s legendary 1966 Black and White Ball — brought red carpet designer Zac Posen on board. “I’m such a Hollywood buff,” says Posen. “I was living my best Hollywood [costume designer] Adrian, Edith Head, Irene Sharaff fantasy.” 

Ahead, Eyrich discusses each of the Swans’ wardrobes, while Posen reveals the inspiration behind the opulent masquerade gowns.

Capote Vs. The Swans Fashion: Babe Paley’s Queen Bee Elegance

Before marrying the chronically philandering head of CBS, Bill Paley (Treat Williams), in 1947, Babe Cushing worked as a Vogue editor. Thanks to her refined sense of fashion, she graced the International Best Dressed List in 1958, famously wearing ​​dazzling Fulco di Verdura and Jean Schlumberger jewels (portrayed as guilt gifts from Bill in the show) and designs from haute couture houses like Balenciaga, Valentino, and Givenchy. 


“She didn’t need a lot of fluff. She’d have earrings, maybe a brooch, an Hermès scarf. Everything was very simple, but extremely chic and polished… Everything matched: the gloves, the purse, the shoes, all the time,” says Eyrich, who referenced society photos and books like Swans: Legends of the Jet Society by Nicholas Foulkes and Bill Paley’s memoir before creating a palette of creams, caramels, camels, rose pinks, and pastel blues for Watts, whose meticulously put-together wardrobe meant to also serve as an armor and a facade as her character’s personal life deteriorates.

In a standout fashion moment in the premiere, Watts attends a runway show and fitting at the Givenchy atelier in Paris. Eyrich hunted high and low (including in the Parisian house’s archives) before finding the boat-neck, cap-sleeve black dress that exhibited Hubert de Givenchy’s trademark wasp-waisted silhouette in a collector’s collection: “We were trying to find something show-worthy.” 

Capote Vs. The Swans Fashion: CZ Guest’s Refined Country House Aesthetic

To contrast Watts’ character’s cosmopolitan elegance, Eyrich dressed down Sevigny — in houndstooth blazers, crisp button-ups and fine-knit turtlenecks — for scenes featuring the socialite tending to her sprawling garden and finely bred horses at her Connecticut estate. “We made her more practical, but she always had her pearls,” says Eyrich. To portray the Salvador Dalí muse, Eyrich used a lot of American designers, including Geoffrey Beene, Bill Blass, and Ralph Lauren, as well as vintage pieces from European brands like Lanvin, Pierre Cardin, and Céline.

Sevigny’s strongest look comes in episode two. While at the Guests’ ultra-swanky annual Thanksgiving in Palm Beach, the Swans don beachside hues: Watts in a vintage cream jumpsuit and gold belt and Lane in a raspberry metallic silk gown. “We tried to use fruit colors, like tangerines, and just more softness because they were in the Sunshine State,” says Eyrich. “Then, a little bit of an icy feel because they’re starting to shut Capote out.” Eyrich — who referenced Guest’s couture gowns in the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s archives, plus photos from the ’60s and ’70s — dressed Sevigny in a custom-designed lilac caftan ensemble, with billowing ruffling at the fluted sleeves and toward the hemline: “This is her home. It’s a hostess dress, so to speak, so we chose a caftan, but [designed into] more sophisticated, upscale evening wear.”


Capote Vs. The Swans Fashion: Slim Keith’s Statement-Making Separates

“Slim was a trickier one,” says Eyrich. While the California-born model’s tailored and slightly sporty fashion aesthetic was well documented in the ’50s and ’60s thanks to her work with high-society photographer Slim Aarons, documentation of Slim proved sparse by the ’70s. This proved a challenge for Eyrich, especially for the private at-home moments depicted in the series.

“Diane Lane, who loves to be in the costume process, and I talked a lot about it,” says Eyrich, landing on a wardrobe built around tailored, flowing pants. “A little bit menswear-inspired, and married into more feminine,” says Eyrich, referencing a photo of Slim in a long wrap-front gown. “She didn’t wear the soft silky dresses, but more structured, belted and chic, and with boots rather than a heel.” 

Eyrich and her team custom-built a majority of Lane’s closet, including lots of jewel-toned collared or bow blouses, high-waisted pants and one dramatic wool cape for a trip to Connecticut. Eyrich also incorporated Slim’s beloved brands, like Gucci, Lanvin, and Dior, plus homegrown designers Geoffrey Beene and Bill Blass.

Capote Vs. The Swans Fashion: Lee Radziwill’s Forward-Thinking Style

Despite her old-world European nobility bonafides, Lee — or Her Serene Highness Princess Caroline Lee Radziwill, thanks to her marriage to Polish Prince Stanislaw Albrecht — was a fashion trailblazer. “She was the most photographed, so she was always conscious of her look,” says Eyrich. Following events depicted in the show, Lee continued developing relationships with influential designers, serving as a Giorgio Armani brand ambassador and becoming friends with  Louis Vuitton’s then-new enfant terrible creative director Marc Jacobs in the ’90s. 


In the show, the Boston-Brahmin-debutante-turned-socialite wears bolder statement pieces than the rest of the Swans, like a leopard print coat and a squiggly pinstripe Galanos dress and vest. “For [Flockhart], we really focused on the contemporary designers of the time period,” says Eyrich, counting off names like Adolfo, Hermès, Halston, and Guy Laroche. Flockhart’s edgier style progression also telegraphs Lee’s forward-thinking mindset that’s more prepared for the relaxation of fashion — and societal standards — in the ’80s. “She was fine wearing jeans on the street,” says Eyrich, referencing photos of Lee in the late ’70s. “We never put [Watts], [Sevigny] or [Lane] in jeans.”

Capote Vs. The Swans Fashion: Black and White Ball

To costume design show-stopping ensembles for the episode depicting the famous Black and White Ball — which was inspired by the Ascot Race scene in 1964’s My Fair Lady and called for women to wear black or white looks — Zac Posen studied everything from old WWD and Vogue clippings to dusty CBS video footage and decades of fashion sketches. “Like, one of those crime shows,” jokes Posen. But, instead of precisely recreating each look, the designer leaned into Murphy’s soaring vision. “Ryan’s like, ‘I want a lot of drama,’” says Posen, who coined a new term: “Ryan Murphy Fabulosity.” 

Posen also wanted to convey The Swans’ competition with each other in vying for Truman’s — and high society’s — spotlight during what the NYT described as “the most exquisite of spectator sports.” So, he cleverly incorporated swan-referential clues into each of their elaborate ensembles. 


For Watts, the designer evoked “Queen Swan” through a mélange of references, including Da Vinci’s drawings of the majestic birds and Art Deco illustrator Erté’s black-and-white illustrations. He also replicated an element of Babe’s real-life look to symbolize her growing dissatisfaction with Capote: “Babe’s [ivory Zibeline] dress was lined in a crimson.”

With no photographs of Slim to reference, Posen, who makes a cameo as Lane’s fedora-masked walker at the gala, took full creative license for the character’s look. “[It] was carte blanche. It’s totally made up,” confirms Posen. “What would she do? There’s all these great photos of [Slim] in pants. She traveled the world. So I designed a tuxedo jumpsuit.” The black-and-white blocking on her opera cape was a nod to the look worn by Bill and Babe’s daughter, Amanda Burden, who borrowed a starburst stripe-paneled gown from My Fair Lady, designed by Cecil Beaton. “I wanted this graphic color,” says Posen. “The cape is a silk taffeta that catches air and inflates. It’s more understated, loose, louche, too cool for school — and it’s Diane Lane.”

For Radziwill’s look, which included a mod metallic sequin and bead-embellished set by Italian designer Mila Schön, Posen stayed true-ish to real life. “She’s a marker of the time period,” he says. “She’s the futuristic swan.” Conjuring “film magic” through Flockhart’s sculpted robe, Posen concocted a “decoupage” of gold, silver and ivory embellishments, like mesh sequin and horsehair. “I found this bizarre plastic metallic trim that I would layer and braid,” he continues. “It looks incredibly rich and decadent.”

Finally, to interpret CZ’s gown, designed by her favorite American couturier Mainbocher, Posen revisited a mid-century “classicist” style with “a little Charles James-y there.” Amplifying CZ’s equestrian pursuits, Posen embellished the back of Sevigny’s gown with two florets that resemble “horse prizes.” He also draped the bottom of her strapless gown to resemble a swan’s neck. “It’s supposed to look evil,” says Posen. “Gorgeous, deliciously evil aquatic birds, each one of them.”

The Real Housewives of New York have nothing on these wild swans.


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