Sometimes, the clothes we wear can cover up a dark truth.
Take one look at HBO Max's new miniseries, Love & Death, and you'll find yourself asking how Texas housewife and churchgoer Candy Montgomery (played by Elizabeth Olsen) became the prime suspect in the gruesome death of Betty Gore (Lily Rabe)—her neighbor and affair partner Allan Gore (Jesse Plemons).
While Candy appeared to look like an ordinary housewife, she was actually wearing her own costume IRL.
Costume designer Audrey Fisher told E! News that through her own in-depth research of the true crime story, she noticed a pattern: The accused axe murderer used fashion as a cloak, masking who she really was underneath.
"I had to work backward with Candy because the only visuals that we have, that show the real woman, are from the trial," Audrey shared in an exclusive interview. "And she was wearing a costume for the trial. Her lawyer, Don Crowder, wanted her to look more demure and vulnerable as if there was no way this sweet, little housewife could have done this horrible deed."
There was a delicacy, the costume designer noted, in highlighting the many facets of Candy in the show before and during the trial.
"The way that I came to understand this woman is that she was the belle of the ball, she was the head cheerleader," Audrey explained. "Everyone wanted to hang out with her. Everyone wanted to be her."
And before Betty's tragedy plays out in the series, Candy was fun, flirty and fearless with her fashion, noted the costume designer, which is quite bold considering she's not only living in a small Texas town but is also part of the Methodist church.
"She's the tip of the spear in her community in looking cute and wearing interesting clothes," Audrey said. "But she's always at the church, taking care of business, so she has to span both worlds. She always looks just right. That's who Candy is."
In the miniseries, audiences also come to understand that it's vital Candy presents herself as a Good Samaritan after she's been accused of bludgeoning Betty 41 times with an axe.
"In the trial, Don is like, 'You can't be cute, sassy Candy or you'll get convicted. You have to be the churchgoing, sweet wife,'" Audrey shared. "She really is playing all these different parts throughout the show."
Although Audrey took a few creative liberties for the trial looks—switching up the silhouettes, necklines and patterns that were actually worn in court—she stayed true to the murder scene clothes Betty and Candy were described wearing in the police reports.
"I had illustrations made that show these outfits because we had to build them from scratch and have many versions for the blood, the stunt women, the body doubles," Audrey said. "I showed them to our consultant, who was actually there at the trial, Robert Udashen—he was one Candy's lawyers—and he signed off on those illustrations. He's like, 'That looks like what they were wearing.' And to have that voice, it's a magical thing—almost like having a crystal ball."
Yet her job still required her to walk a fine line between creating pieces for dramatic effect and respecting the fact that they represent real-life devastation.
"When you're dealing with something so tragic, gory and intense, you have to be mindful about trying to represent the characters on-screen," she pointed out. "You have to approach it very respectfully and humbly."
Audrey—who created 120 costumes for Candy's role alone—also looked at her through the lens of a character within a character. And while the clothes in film and television often drive the story forward, the costume designer noted that Love & Death changes the dynamic by almost camouflaging the ominous events that will transpire.
"It hides the fact that there's this rotten seed in this community," Audrey said of the attire. "It all seems wonderful and like a nice picket fence. But, in fact, there's this deep, dark secret that's brewing."