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Euphoria Costume Analysis

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

Euphoria has become one of the most popular and influential TV shows of the decade. The cast have now all become household names, and the show itself has made a major splash in pop culture. Although people seem to have very controversial opinions of the plot line of Euphoria- there is something that I’m sure everyone could agree on. The costume design and makeup are exquisite. Every single character has their own unique personal style. Although it doesn’t make sense that many of the characters wear designer pieces in high school when they are supposed to come from poor families, the outfits the characters wear are used as very important storytelling devices. Their clothes show us aspects of their personality, how they are feeling in a particular scene or moment, and in some cases even hint at the future for that specific character. My favorite part about Euphoria by far is the makeup and costuming, so for my second her campus article, we’re going to continue down the style route and do a costume analysis of some of the main female characters. I could also talk about the male characters, but women are cooler and I don’t feel like taking time to analyze a t-shirt and jeans. I have a life, which may be shocking considering my last article was a literal historical analysis of a corset.

Anyways, let’s dive in. Before we break into our leading ladies, I want to set the scene with a general intro to the world of Euphoria hair and makeup. Euphoria makeup artist Doniella Davy, hairstylist Kim Kimball, nail stylist Natalie Minerva, and costume designer Heidi Bivens work together to create a unique and boundary-pushing aesthetic that matches the overall tone of the show.

****POSSIBLE SPOILER WARNING FOR SEASONS ONE AND TWO OF EUPHORIA. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.****

The Clothes

In order to create a one-of-a-kind distinctive look, Euphoria costume designer Heidi Bivens polls clothes for the characters’ wardrobes from all different places. Some items are vintage, some items are streetwear, and she likes to sneak in a designer item here and there. “Using vintage comes naturally to costume designers because, if you think about it, we are trying to build people’s closets right? When you open yours up, you don’t have all new stuff from Bloomingdale’s and Nordstrom, but you have a collection of pieces that you’ve acquired over a long period of time, for many different reasons, from so many different places. This is part of the method behind closet-building as a costume designer. We have to find pieces that have history, that aren’t brand new.” (Harpers Bazar)

As I said in my intro, these designer pieces are unrealistic, but Bivens reasoning behind them makes me kind of love the choice. In season two we saw Maddy in brands like Jacquemus and Amina Muaddi, and Lexi dressed in Miu Miu. Each main female character wore at least one designer piece in season two. Bivens told Harpers Bazar, “I allowed myself to do that because by then, it had become clear to audiences that Euphoria was not set up to be visually realistic, as some teen shows are.” (Harpers Bazar)

The Makeup

Makeup artist Doniella Davy has literally changed the landscape of makeup because of Euphoria. That sounds a bit dramatic but really think about it for a second. How many Euphoria-inspired makeup looks do you see in a day or week? SO. MANY. Doniella explained to Allure that she has always worn very fun and colorful makeup. “Every day, I leave the house with my lids covered in a different color of glitter or Technicolor liner drawn in fanciful shapes around my temples. And someone always has something to say. Usually they ask me if I’m going to a festival of some sort or if the stars sprinkled atop my cheekbones are tattoos. I’ve gotten used to the shock value my makeup tends to have because I’m presenting myself to the world in a way that feels authentic to myself. I don’t need anyone’s approval.” (Allure)

Her goal as the head makeup artist on the show is to help the viewers understand the characters on a very deep level. “There’s subliminal emotional messages always in all the makeup”, she says, and you can feel that in each moment of the show.

With all of this in mind, let’s analyze some of the main female and how their styling aids their storylines.

RUBY “RUE” BENNETT

Background: Played by the queen Zendaya, our narrator and fallen hero Rue Bennett is a complex character to say the very least. She is diagnosed with OCD, ADD, general anxiety disorder, and possibly bipolar disorder as a young child. Around the age of ten, her father is diagnosed with an unknown disease. By the time Rue was 13, she was taking care of her father after school every day, as her mother was working extra jobs to cover the medical bills. One night, due to her father being “too out of it” to notice, Rue started taking some of her father’s Oxycontin to get high alongside him. When Rue was 14, he passed away and she is left without a father and an addiction problem.

Her Costumes: Rue as a character does not really go through a major drastic evolution during the two seasons. She spends the entire show thus far fighting, or giving in to her addiction. Her clothes reflect that, and her style doesn’t have any major shifts between season one and season two because she has not grown as a character. She is being held back by her drug use. She is often seen wearing biker shorts, baggy jeans, oversized t-shirts, and sneakers. Her style is best described as comfortable and effortless. Her clothes also reflect hints of androgyny which hints at her struggles with gender identity and sexuality to the viewer very early on. I also think that Rue is dressed very casually to help the audience separate her from the actress Zendaya. Zendaya Is known for being incredibly glamorous and has an amazing personal style. She is known for it, so it’s interesting to see her dressed down when she’s in character and helps the audience keep the two separated.

Her Makeup: For the most part, the star of the show, Zendaya’s Rue, don’t really wear makeup. When she does, her face is covered in glitter. Her use of glitter is subtle and emotive. Originally, Doniella did not even plan on Rue wearing any makeup at all! However, the director Sam Levinson wanted her to wear makeup in order to push the usual stereotype of a drug addict by having her be put together sometimes. The only times she wears makeup is when it adds to her story. Her makeup is often messy and dark, reflecting her lack of control of her life. The biggest example that comes to my mind is her makeup worn to the carnival in season one. She has on smudged eyeliner, and glitter triangles under her eyes.  “That [look] naturally gives a moody emotional effect, kind of like tears,” Davy explains. “I wanted it to touch on the stuff Rue goes through in episode three. She does a lot of crying in that episode, so I wanted to bring that into episode four.(Allure)

JULES Vaughn

Background: Jules is a new girl in town, who quickly catches Rue’s attention before their first day of junior year. While Jules tries to help others with their problems, especially Rue to stay sober, she often ends up thin, mostly due to her past experiences with addiction and concepts related to gender identity and struggles with many complicated romantic relationships with other characters.

Her Costumes: Jules is known for her very colorful outfits. She begins the series wearing lots of pastel colors, mirroring her character’s more naive and hopeful outlook. As she begins more overwhelmed and upset during different events of the show, her color palette becomes darker and more saturated reflecting negative emotions like stress and anxiety. While most other characters have aesthetics and a limited color palette, Jules wears a little bit of everything. To me, this represents the fact that Jules contains similar personality traits to other characters. she is a mix of the colors of all of the other female characters because there is a piece of each of them in her in my opinion. She has Maddy’s sexuality, Kat’s creativity, Cassies romantic mindset, and more. When season 2 rolls around, Jules still wears a variety of colors. However, they are more muted and toned down than in the first season allowing the audience to see that some of the negative events of season one have permanently affected her and her sense of self.

Her Makeup: Jules wears extremely dramatic and fun makeup most of the time. Just like she uses her clothes to show her personality, she also tells the world who she is through her makeup. Jules struggles often with her sense of self, so her looks are works of art that are supposed to make you evaluate the way you frame masculinity and femininity. Her makeup isn’t supposed to be assumed as androgynous, either. She’s simply Jules. “I did want to keep her makeup from looking too feminine because I wanted to create a whole new look for her that didn’t fit into a stereotype and was its own nuanced version,” Davy explains. Jules’s makeup is often unfinished intentionally. Often times she’ll have eyeshadow and no mascara for example. Doniella Davy explained to Allure, “Her character is so cool because she is self-assured. Even though she makes mistakes and gets herself into trouble and into painful situations, she’s so brave. Her everyday makeup at school is meant to be totally cheeky and playful.

KAT HERNANDEZ

Background: Kat at the start of Euphoria is fairly quiet and self-conscious. She finds a sudden wave of confidence and sense of self due to losing her virginity and pursuing some other activities to help her make money (if you know you know). As her confidence builds, her wardrobe and attitude change as she takes control of her body to prove that she does have control in her life and owns who she thinks she is. On the outside, she is confident, sexy, and very nonchalant but it is all a front. In actuality, she is very sensitive and empathetic. She has a fear of not being accepted, so sometimes she may push people away who have her bests interests at heart.

Her Costumes: At the very start of season one, Kat’s color palette is dark most of the time and her clothes are fairly simple. This represents her lack of confidence in herself and shows the viewers how much she wants to fit in and fly under the radar. She wears a lot of skinny jeans, baby tees, and sneakers. However, as season one progresses Kat has a MAJOR style shift. Once she loses her virginity and begins ~~~working~~~ (again, if you know you know and if you don’t google it), she starts to dress significantly edgier. She reclaims her sexuality and her wardrobe becomes full of punk elements including chokers, tights, leather, animal prints, and platform shoes. Kat is clearly playing a character though- you can just feel it. She thinks that this version of herself is the one people will find attractive. When this change happens, she also completely stops wearing her glasses which I think is a metaphor about her being blind to her true self and her needs. By season two, Kat’s wardrobe tones down as she struggles to find a way to express her true self.

Her Makeup: Just like her style, Kat’s makeup also becomes more and more edgy throughout season one. However, no matter how edgy Kat gets, her looks “still have this quirkiness that’s not just trying to be attractive,” Doniella Davy says. That slight quirkiness in her makeup is the last thread that connects Kat post-makeover and her true self. Her makeup includes fun colors like purple and green. Her pastel-blue eyeshadow and bright lipstick paint the picture of someone who is composed and confident — everything that viewers know Kat is not in season two especially. Kat’s makeup direction reflects how in modern society it is normal to look good even when you don’t feel good. She better get a better plotline in season three and more screen time or I will cry.

LEXI HOWARD

Background: Lexi is Cassie’s younger sister and Rue’s level-headed childhood friend who tries her best to support her through her struggles with addiction. In season one, she is only shown to the viewer as Cassie’s sister and Rue’s childhood friend. She is not really her own individual character. She is shy and is an incredibly small character until she steps into the spotlight (literally) in season two. Lexi breaks my heart a little. Everyone else in the story has something major going on in the life that consumes them. Lexi doesn’t have the types of issues that attract attention, she is literally just dealing with everyday things like an attention-seeking older sister and loneliness. People are constantly overlooking her and asking her for advice rather than helping or supporting her. They only ever talk to her when they need something. It’s so sad. Don’t worry though, she gets revenge in her own theatrical way.

Her Costumes: Season one Lexi and season two Lexi are two completely different people. When doing my research, I was shocked at how quiet she is in the first season and how HUGE she becomes by the end of season two. Without spoiling anything, just know that she really puts on a show. In season one Lexi mainly wears black, but by season two she has a 70’s color palette of oranges, reds, and yellows. The first time she wears red is after she meets her love interest Fezco, which obviously represents that she is in love. Similar to her personality at the start of the show, Lexi’s style is quiet and uncomplicated. She often wears elements of a preppy wardrobe includes collars, plaid, cardigans, and Mary Jane shoes. I believe her preppy style is a visual representation of the fact that she is the most book-smart out of all the girls in the show. Her wardrobe is more conservative than Cassie’s because she is the less experienced sister when it comes to boys and romance. On Halloween for example, she dressed as Bob Ross rather than something sexy or romantic. She does not want to be sexualized like her sister has been. The first time Lexi speaks her mind and her true feelings is at the winter formal. She wears a blue long satin dress that isn’t preppy at all with a choker. This outfit completely disconnects with what she usually wears, and I believe it represents her finally stepping out of her shell. I love a grunge choker moment, I think it is a perfect time for her to experiment.

Her Makeup: Out of all the women on the show, I would say that Lexi is the least experimental when it comes to her makeup. This directly plays into the fear that Lexi has of only being seen as a “pretty face”. She wants to have a real voice and let everyone know she is smart, and I think she believes makeup will contradict that narrative. Usually, she has simple eye makeup with no glitter and a nude lip. In season two as she finds her voice though, she wears a red lip on multiple occasions when she is trying to seem mature to others. She wears lipstick when she interacts with Fezco for example because she wants to be seen grown up to him.

Cassie HOWARD

Background: People either really love or really hate Cassie. She is a very polarizing character. Cassie is Lexi’s older sister and Maddy’s best friend. She comes across as innocent, but by season two the audience is shown that she is desperate to be loved and that eventually causes her downfall. The sweet and popular Cassie has difficulty navigating relationships as rumors of her sexual history circulate in the school. She eventually finds a fondness for Mckay, a former football star at their school whose struggles on the college field cause problems in their relationship.Following her break up with McKay, and major breakdown caused by an overwhelming fear of being alone, Cassie finds superficial comfort in a secret relationship with one of her best friends’ exes. (big no no)

Her Costumes: Cassie’s wardrobe is the most “basic” out of all of the girls. I strongly dislike using that word, but I do not mean it in a negative way. By basic, I mean that Cassie wants to blend in and follow trends. She wants to be seen as pretty, and she wants to be accepted. She wears a lot of simple outfits including baby tees, jeans, shirts with lettuce hems, and more. Picture Hollister or Forever 21, and you will definitely be able to picture what I mean. She dresses very much like the stereotypical “girl next door” which reflects how she wants to come across to men as innocent and pure. Out of all of the main female characters, Cassie has the most consistent color palette. 9 times out of 10 she is wearing blue, pink, or white. I think the white represents innocence and sympathy, the blue represents her empathy, and the pink represents her femininity. and desire to be loved. The only times she wears darker shades of these colors is when she is going through something or in a bad mood.

Her Makeup: In season one, Cassie’s makeup directly correlates with her clothing. It is simple and falls in line with her idea that she needs to look conventionally attractive. She plays it safe and does not often experiment Just like how she doesn’t experiment with her fashion. I think because Cassie always likes to be in relationships rather than being alone and facing her own problems, she has never had the space to spend time with herself. Little things like learning how to do makeup and figuring out what you like on your face are something you do to build a relationship with yourself. I think that she misses those little steps because she is constantly worrying about pleasing others. I think if she was able to figure out what she wanted, her makeup would become more fun. The only bold makeup look that she does in season one is on Halloween because she knows that it is socially acceptable for her to go a little crazier and wear a dark eye shadow. In season 2, her makeup does become slightly more experimental. She wears eyeliner, and more colorful eye shadows to match her pastel clothing color palette. However, it is not experimental for herself- it is part of her attempt to get the attention of her friend’s ex-boyfriend. I’m not going to say his name because it is a major freaking spoiler, but if you’ve watched the show you know whom I’m talking about. She thinks the only way to get someone to like her is to look like someone else. It’s heartbreaking.

MADDY PEREZ

Background: If high school is a war zone, Maddy is most definitely on the winning team. Maddy is the girl that everyone wants to be. She is a confident cheerleader who is cold out the outside, but deep down is an incredibly empathetic human being. Maddy grew up entering every beauty pageant her mother could find. Even after that stage of her life came to an end, Maddy’s confidence never wavered. She realized she was beautiful at a young age, and her looks became her superpower. She is a performer at her core. There is so much more to her though, underneath her fire outfits and sizzling personality, there is a very strong young woman who will not let anyone stand in her way. She is complex, emotional, sexual, sensitive, loyal, and kind. She is also not afraid to slap the living crap out of someone who deserves it.

Her Costumes: Maddy is not afraid to use her sexuality and confidence to her advantage. She knows that she is hot. She knows how to make herself feel empowered through fashion, and she does just that. Don’t get it twisted though- she does not dress for the male gaze alone- Maddy’s closet is carefully curated for men and women. Maddy’s number one outfit choice is a two-piece set of some kind. If you are watching Euphoria, there is a solid 90% that Maddy will wear a two-piece set at one point during the episode. It is her signature look!! These matchy-matchy looks not only reveal how much Maddy plans out her wardrobe, I think they also reveal to the viewer that she is a creature of habit. She sticks with what she knows and what is comfortable for her. It also hints at her romantic relationship with the most annoying TV man ever, Nate Jacobs. Just like all the other leading ladies, Maddy pulls a lot of her outfits from a particular era in fashion. Her outfits pull inspiration from the 90s and early 2000’s, but I believe that these two combine to make a one-of-a-kind aesthetic that only Maddy can achieve. Her clothing also often references different celebrities of that time period. (For example, a lot of her clothing gives me Aaliyah vibes, and some of her matching glittery sets remind me of Selena). She loves strong women, and the viewer can feel that. Maddy wears more designer brands than anyone else on the show

Her Makeup: Maddy probably has the most distinct makeup out of all the female characters. If I just saw a picture of her eye makeup alone, I would know 100% it’s Maddy. That is what makes her so special- she knows who she is, and she knows who she wants to be. She uses makeup to express herself just like she uses her fashion. It all feeds into how she wants others to perceive her. Maddy typically is wearing a full-winged eyeliner look with some sort of bling and a full face of makeup. Her makeup is always perfect- nothing is left up to chance. Since she does not do pageants anymore, school is her stage. Her outfits always match her makeup, which matches her nails. She wants everyone to know that she is on top, and uses makeup to give herself strength. She is creative, and pushes boundaries with her makeup choices. In episode 5, Maddy’s façade falls away when she’s seen without makeup for the first time. This is the first time to the audience that Maddy is “a real teen going through real pain,” Doniella Davy says. “Just because she looks the most together doesn’t mean she is. Showing her completely broken down without her wall of beauty she puts up was really important in conveying the emotional truths that are Maddie and what make her as equally deep, complex, and relatable as the other characters.” (Allure)

WORK CITED:

https://www.harpersbazaar.com/uk/fashion/a39370869/heidi-bivens-interview/#:~:text=Euphoria’s%20costume%20designer%20Heidi%20Bivens,and%20is%20also%20incredibly%20covetable.

https://www.allure.com/story/euphoria-head-makeup-artist-interview

Emma Cahill

Stonehill '24

Emma Cahill is a Sophomore at Stonehill College majoring in Communications with a focus in Media and a Minor in Studio Art. She is a 5 time published fashion photographer, and spends her free time online shopping and figuring out how she is going to make the world her bitch.
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