SPOILER ALERT: Do not read if you have not yet watched the penultimate episode of “Pose,” which aired May 30 on FX.
“It’s been a journey to get here,” Angel (Indya Moore) says to Lil Papi (Angel Bismark Curiel) on the penultimate episode of FX’s “Pose.” It’s the opening line of her wedding vows, but it also describes the creation of the very dress she is wearing.
“We were down for seven months and I had a lot of time to think about” the wedding dress, costume designer Analucia McGorty tells Variety. “When I finally got the script, I had this insane idea that I’d been ruminating [on] for a while about making a dress that was mechanical and that would physically bloom.”
When Angel first tries on the dress at the bridal salon, it is more in line with ‘90s fashion trends than the extravagance typically seen on “Pose”: an asymmetrical, strapless v-neck satin gown. Though beautiful, its simplicity (combined with a run-in with a transphobic shop owner) hints that more is to come on the big day. Cut to the wedding and as Angel sets foot onto the aisle, her entrance is not just announced by music, but the blooming of soft, fuchsia petals; flowers embellish the front of the gown and its train.
Before McGorty received the final season scripts, she spent much of her time filling sketchbooks with endless wedding dress possibilities. Her conversations with Moore and constantly gazing at the blossoming tree outside her house left the costume designer inspired by nature.
“With how ‘Pose’ is written and the arc of everybody’s stories, they’re blooming into who they are. It’s a process of seeding that flower until it blooms to be the beauty, the potential it always had,” McGorty says.
But to build a fashion moment of this magnitude required all hands on deck. Particularly in light of the pandemic, McGorty sought to incorporate small businesses in any big project she and her team did in New York City. For the functional component, they worked with Monkey Boy Productions — known for working with “Saturday Night Live” — to locally build the dress’ mechanics. As for the floral design, they collaborated with M&S Schmalberg Flowers, a family-run business that is the oldest fabric flower company in the United States.
“We knew they were struggling because the wedding industry had gone away, and we knew that all of the fashion industry had gone away,” McGorty explains. “So we wanted to make sure we incorporated them in helping us make all of the handmade individual flowers for the dress.”
The dress’ development took two months to finalize, and required “a lot of testing.” McGorty worked with the dress a number of times to ensure the mechanics were in working order, but it didn’t prepare her for the magic of when Moore did a rehearsal of the full look. Describing it as a “cosmic connection,” McGorty recalls everyone crying, hugging and dancing.
“This is sort-of a love note to Indya Moore,” McGorty says. “We have a lot of conversations about finding serenity and nature and growth, and I feel like [Indya] has taught me a lot about growth and the world and listening, and I wanted to create something that was a tribute to that and to [them] as a person.”
In addition to portraying a larger narrative significance and meeting “Pose”’s typical standards of grandeur, the escalation of Moore’s wedding dress was also necessary for the bride to stand out in a crowd of dozens of other bridal gowns. Elektra (Dominique Jackson) gifts all the women guests — all from the ballroom community — wedding dresses of their own. It’s an extension of her gift given to Angel and Papi to throw them a lavish ceremony. She explains the need for such indulgence in Episode 5, also capturing the significance of why Angel’s dress had to be so special.
“Your bride is unlike any other. She will be the first, the first from a community that has been excluded from happily ever after. You’ve been to the balls and seen the girls walk bridal runway,” Elektra tells Papi. “That category was invented, like all other categories, in order to give us a chance to experience what the outside world gets to live.”
Blanca (Mj Rodriguez) adds, “When all those girls sit in that fancy ballroom, they get to watch one of their own walk down a real aisle in a real wedding dress, not for some plastic trophy, but to marry a real man who loves her. They will realize they can do it too.”
Angel’s attainment of the ultimate romantic fantasy is moment of unencumbered joy for the whole ball community. One of the character’s biggest struggles throughout the show has been accepting that she is worthy of love. The wedding finally serves as confirmation of this — sealed by an “I Swear” serenade— and that Papi is not going anywhere.
“This season has had a lot of ups and downs for her. You see her kind of falling apart a little bit,” McGorty says. “And then you slowly see her start to come back into herself and have that fun, flirty, innocent love that is always pouring out of Angel. And we really wanted to show that with the wedding dress, and have that pop and fun. That moment, it does make her look like a woman. It’s not a princess dress. It’s very much like she looks like a woman ready to walk into the rest of her life.”
“Pose” airs on Sundays at 9 p.m. on FX. The series finale will air on June 6.