Euphoria costume designer Heidi Bivens on finding each character's personal style — and which look was all Zendaya's idea
There's a really smart reason why Cassie is all over the place with her style.
If Moondog from The Beach Bum was your hot girl summer icon, you have Heidi Bivens to thank. The costume designer dressed Matthew McConaughey in those floral caftans, the girls of Spring Breakers in their neon bikinis, and helped form Jonah Hill’s mid90s skating aesthetic. She’s now at the helm of Sam Levinson’s Euphoria, the HBO breakout teen drama, starring Zendaya, as a teen addict struggling to get clean while navigating the minefields of high school. While Bivens says it’s her first experience working on a TV show, her complete mastery of dressing Rue, Jules, and co. would never let that on.
In creating the aesthetics of the teens of Euphoria, much like creator Sam Levinson‘s approach to the storyline, Bivens drew inspiration from people she knew, taking real life and embellishing it. Using those IRL references allowed her to begin to form the shells of these characters, but after being used to working primarily in film, Bivens says she wasn’t used to creating in the way that TV allows one to do. “It was interesting to work where we would be surprised by story developments and then be able to build on the characters [with the] new information we’re getting. There’s this limbo in trusting the story, trusting the director, and the writers. That was a new experience for me because I’m used to working on features where I know what the ending is and I can visualize it,” she says. But that discovery allowed for a more communal experience, which really helped to inform the aesthetics of the characters.
That unfolding of the story allowed for Bivens to create arcs with the clothing she chose for many of the characters from Kat’s (Barbie Ferreira) transformation into latex sexpot to Cassie’s (Sydney Sweeney) sartorial flip-flopping — primarily because Cassie doesn’t know who she is. Bivens says, “Sam [Levinson] and I had a meeting, we were trying to come up with an idea of who to model Cassie after. And it occurred to us that the reason why we’re having trouble nailing Cassie was because she’s kind of floating. [She’s] the kind of girl that would like to try on lots of different trends, whether it’s because her friends were doing it or because she thought it was sexy or because someone told her it was a cool brand or whatever. [Cassie] I think represents a lot of what we’ll see on Instagram which is teens trying on lots of different personas in trying to find themselves.”
While Bivens obviously worked closely with hair and makeup to create the full aesthetic of each character, many of the actors she worked with were also instrumental in helping to create their look. Bivens notes that she worked really closely with Hunter Schafer, who plays Jules, especially because Schafer herself is so keyed into the fashion world. “She had very specific ideas about what could work for Jules. So she would DM me any, ideas and I picked up the ball and ran with it.” Bivens wanted to make sure that Jules and the other characters on the show had a balance of creative design while still seeming accessible to teens. She specifically mentions designer Lou Dallas — one of CFDA/Vogue’s Fashion Fund finalists, whose work Bivens used often including in Jules’s Winter formal look — perfecting this vibe.
And while so many of the outfits on Euphoria are incredibly enviable (hello to Rue’s very purposefully gender-neutral wardrobe), there’s many that really push the envelope — pretty much the full wardrobe of Alexa Demie’s sharp-tongued cheerleader Maddy. Bivens mentions Demie as another strong collaborator when it came to Maddy’s wardrobe. “She has a fierceness to her and in terms of how she lives her life. She’s a badass and she has specific ideas about what Maddie should wear.”
A couple of Demie’s outfits from the season really make their mark — her strappy purple number from the carnival, which Bivens explains was originally from the Australian brand I.AM.GIA. but was only available in black or white but they allowed Bivens to build the look herself in a deep purple hue. And some of the actors even brought their own accessories on set. Like scene-stealer BB, played by Sophia Rose Wilson, who punctuated her many one-liners with a massive vape pen — which was the actress’s own.
The show has also allowed Bivens to stretch her own creativity and go out of the box from the impeccable Halloween costumes (those film references to Ms. 45 and True Romance were Levinson’s which he didn’t change despite some light cajoling from some of the cast) to Detective Rue in episode 7. The heavily noir-themed scenes to uncover what was actually happening between Jacob Elodi’s sociopathic Nate and Jules had some help from Zendaya, who suggested to Bivens that Rue wear little boys Hanes tank tops, which Zendaya does in her real life. So Bivens bought a ton of them and dyed and styled them to fit into Rue’s wardrobe.
And in the season one finale, Bivens got to go all out to create the winter formal looks, many of which she built. While all the characters looked fantastic, Demie’s Maddy per usual, went to the next level. “Sam had given me permission to just go for it and not worry about what was realistic like what teens would really be allowed to wear to a formal,” Bivens says. While it maybe not approved high school dance attire, it was Rose McGowan’s 1998 MTV VMA’s naked dress that sparked the source of Maddy’s formal look.
Bivens is currently working on a new Jennifer Lawrence film between seasons of Euphoria, which has been picked up for a second season. And while she’s outfitting JLaw right now, she’s beginning to think about what could be fun to do for the next season. “Well we’ve done a formal, we did Halloween, [so maybe] spring break?”