Entertainment | January 28th, 2022

‘Euphoria’ Is Dominating Fashion Storytelling

By: Kayla Delcham
‘Euphoria’ Is Dominating Fashion Storytelling

HBO’s explosive teen drama “Euphoria” chronicles the day-to-day struggles of high school students as they navigate heavy drug abuse, hypersexuality, identity and relationships. The trauma is surreal and triggering, but it’s how the storytelling is intertwined with the fashion of each character that enthralls viewers. 

Diving right into the first season of “Euphoria,” the audience is introduced to Rue, the show’s high school addict-slash-narrator, played by Zendaya. Her intentionally grungy yet cavalier aesthetic is a byproduct of her nonchalant, self-destructive habits that develop as the series progresses. This is just one way Heidi Bivens, the head costume designer of the sensationalized series, portrays storytelling through her costume choices. 

“Bivens curates the outfits for each cast member in a way that explains the character’s personality and life story,” said Nadia Wilson, a fashion enthusiast and member of Images Modeling Troupe. 

Bivens admits that she decided to play safe with the costume selections in the first season of Euphoria. “I really tried to be conscious of making it realistic, so that the audience couldn’t really pick the story apart like, ‘Jules could never afford that purse,’” Bivens said via Interview Magazine. “I know I sort of pushed the boundaries with some of the risqué looks that might not normally be allowed at school, but in general, I tried to be really consistent with what kids can actually afford.”

Photo courtesy YouTube | Euphoria (Cassie & Maddy)

In the first episode of season two, viewers are welcomed from their homes into a New Year’s Eve house party and the eccentric energy pulsing through the room definitely reflects the costume choice. As an attempt for Bivens to shy away from the simplicity and realism of the outfits in season one, the costumes explore the creativity of her imagination and establish a portent for what’s to come. The use of old-school and modern pieces curates an unrealistic aesthetic for each character. The clothing is darker and more monotone to reflect some of the tougher challenges that the characters face during this season. 

“Makeup artist Donni Davy has looks this season that are way more refined and subtle. You’ll see less chunky glitter and neon liner, and more fine shimmer and raw looks. She’s calling it a grown-up euphoria that matches the character development,” said TikTok creator and Euphoria enthusiast Cat Quinn.

@catquinn will you miss wild #euphoriamakeup or are you excited for a new #euphoria? She says we can still expect looks but they’ll be more like #eastereggs ♬ Still Don’t Know My Name – Labrinth

Photo courtesy HBOMax (Jules)

For example, there is a huge development in Jules, played by Hunter Schafer. In the first season, her aesthetic was bright and frivolous, revealing her carefree nature. However, grappling with the heart-wrenching betrayal of Nate Jacobs and the love carousel she experienced with Rue, trauma has forced Jules to conform to an aesthetic where she is less susceptible to experiencing the inequalities that come with appearing secure in her identity. 

Almost immediately following her getaway to LA, Jule’s ditched the bright neon highlights and pastel eyeshadows and is now starting to adopt more of a subtle urban look. This side of Jules was snuffed by the small-town eyes that watched her every move. However, the exposure to a big city lets Jules grow up and be more free and fluid with the way she dresses. She is no longer confined to this aesthetic of an “e-girl fantasy.”

Photo courtesy HBOMax (Rue)

While Jule’s liberation in LA was a blessing for the growth of her character, Rue’s development took a plummet when she felt stranded at the train station. Rue’s aesthetic has remained consistent yet the absence of her late father’s notorious burgundy hoodie that Rue rocked faithfully in season one has been put in retirement. To viewers, this hoodie is a security blanket, and its disappearance signals that as Rue is appearing to make strides in her recovery, her stability isn’t truly intact. She’s spiraling from her relapse while manipulating the people closest to her under the guise that she has moved on.

“The details in the costumes that the director chooses provide insight into the character and can lead to multiple interpretations of the character,” said costume designer Jan Tinkley. “Usually, a change in appearance can be used to indicate a change in the character mindset, perspective, and/or personality.”

Photo courtesy HBOMax (Maddy & Cassie)

Then there’s the messy love triangle that is unbeknownst to Maddy (Alexa Demie), which involves her best friend Cassie (Sydney Sweeney) and Maddy’s insufferably toxic ex Nate (Jacob Elordi). Cassie’s cycling through a major identity crisis where she’s enduring four-hour-long full-body morning routines just in hopes to be noticed by Nate for half of a second. Her clothes are tighter and more revealing clothing and her makeup have become more dramatic to imitate the woman that she guiltily believes Nate really loves: Maddy. 

“Doniella Davis (Euphoria’s lead makeup artist) has done a phenomenal job in allowing the Euphoria makeup to assist in the storytelling. This woman is a genius because the subtle details in the eye makeup, the eyeliner, and the glitter choices, really do impact how the characters are received on the screen. It’s really so beautiful seeing characters, like Cassie and Maddy, tell the story,” said fashion journalist Aiyana Ishmael.

Photo courtesy HBOMax (Kat)

Despite the reported decrease in air time due to the onset drama that Barbie Ferriera experienced, the fashion designers have still carefully matriculated the aesthetic they want character Kat Hernandez to radiate. In season one, fans raved over the shift in confidence that Kat showed as she started to wear more tight and revealing clothing to break the stereotypes that have plagued plus-sized women in our society. However, even her clothing still reflects the inequities plus-size women face in fashion when their edgier clothes are confined to mainly graphic tees and skirts. 

In “Euphoria,” the ungodly lives of teenagers are on full display and their clothing highlights every facet of their emotional rollercoasters. Whether it be something as simple as removing Rue’s favorite hoodie or changing Jule’s whole color palette, “Euphoria” captures how fashion largely pushes the evolution of the story.