Heidi Bivens’ Declassified Guide on How to Dress for Euphoria High

The HBO show’s popular second season has laid out some of TV’s most talked-about wardrobe choices, but what’s the story behind those looks?

Euphoria came back with its new season last month, and ever since, the Internet has been in a frenzy of 90s fashion and 2000s era rap hits.

The HBO show, directed by Sam Levinson, doubled its viewership this season, and broke the HBO record for highest number of viewers on an episode premiere. More than that, it broke HBO Max (the streaming service site crashed as millions tuned into the premiere).

Now every Sunday, the Twittersphere is awash with Euphoria reaction gifs and memes. Everywhere you look you see screengrabs of the luscious, over-the-top visuals, the glamorous makeup looks, and above all else the fashion: pastel tones, skin tight tank tops, and all the sheer, leather and bold-printed looks of “Euphoria High.”

Just like the rest of the world, V were dying to know what makes the perfect outfit for Euphoria High. How do you pick clothes that match the comedy and drama the new season provides? So we went ahead and asked the expert herself, Euphoria costume designer Heidi Bivens. 

The answer is creating outfits for a show as unexpected as Euphoria means embracing the unexpected in your day-to-day life. Bivens is driven by her gut, and extracts inspiration from Instagram (or even the clandestine photos of strangers’ outfits that she snaps on the street). But some patterns do emerge. Jules’ (Hunter Schafer) wardrobe is built on a mish-mash of designers and centers on layering to create that sense of whimsy. In this season’s New Year’s Eve episode, you saw her in an Orseund Iris skirt, a mesh top from Maroske Peech, and a beaded top from NIHL. Lexi Howard (Maude Apatow), one of Euphoria’s more reserved characters, is looking sophisticated yet playful, donning several Miu Miu looks this season. Maddy (Alexa Demie) is, of course, still the queen of the two-piece set—some of which Bivens built herself specifically for the show. 

Read on to find out the story behind some of the most shocking outfits from the show (like Cassie’s iconic Oklahoma look), to see the vision boards Alexa Demie created for Maddy this season, and to learn how the creative freedom on Euphoria’s set let Heidi Bivens create the fashion movement that is Euphoria.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. 

V Magazine: I have to start by asking you, as the mastermind behind these amazing looks featured in the show—what are your favorite looks of all time from either season? And what was the story behind those looks? 

Heidi Bivens: I’ll start with season two. The New Year’s Eve party in the first episode really gave me this set piece, with the ensemble cast, to be able to do something really special. I got to think through the psychological aspects of each character and what they would choose to wear on New Year’s Eve. It’s a night where people stop and actually put some thought into how they’re going to dress. So with that said, it was fun to think,  “What would Rue wear on New Year’s Eve? What would Maddy wear? What would Nate wear?” Jules, in particular. I love Jules’s look. Some of my favorite looks for Lexi come up this season as well. 

Back from season one, Maddy was always someone that really shined. Going into the carnival episode, that also gave me an opportunity to dress the ensemble, and focus on how each character would dress. Especially with that really breathtaking long shot that Marcel Rév, our Director of Photography, did for that episode. There was a lot of thought about how the colors would look on camera. With Maddy, we used that bright purple, that even at night in low light, you are still able to see the color.

You know, I.AM.GIA had that two-piece in black and I got permission from them to build it myself in purple. I loved how it created this lasting image that I think is burned in most of the fans’ minds of Maddy, of her clapping and calling Nate’s mom the c-word. I mean, that was like such a wild television moment. 

V: What is the process of picking the character’s style look like? And do you work together with the cast to pick colors, themes, brands? I know that you talked about vision boards and fabric shopping with Alexa Demie. But I was curious if you have a set process. 

HB: It’s just such an instinctive thing. Like walking through life, I’m driving in my car and I’m at a stoplight and I’ll see someone on a street corner and I’ll roll down my window and steal a shot of them. Or I’m on Instagram looking at stuff and I go down a crazy rabbit hole and I find small companies, people making clothes on their own without any real support, just young creatives in the world. So to be able to give those people an opportunity for an audience to see their stuff on the show is really exciting to me. 

I do moodboard and usually I’ll moodboard because I need to communicate an idea to my team. I was given full trust by the studio and also Sam Levinson (show creator). I’ve talked about this before, but I can’t say it enough. I mean, that was really the greatest gift. I don’t think (that kind of full trust) happens often on projects, so it truly was a blessing that I was able to just do my thing. 

V:  You’ve stated that you hope the fashion in Euphoria makes people dress in more adventurous ways. What are some of your tips for young people trying to define or discover their personal style? 

HB: Well, I think young people should look toward sustainable fashion, look to vintage and repurposing fashion. Rather than, you know, shopping fast fashion, which we all are guilty of sometimes, aren’t we? But I think as consumers, young people have so much power that they don’t often give themselves credit for. 

V: Definitely, I couldn’t agree more. I want to talk a little about the characters. Let’s get into Cassie this season, as she’s had a true breakthrough in terms of style. You’ve mentioned previously, the softer color palette represents a desire to be loved and fit into feminine ideals. I was curious about how you picked the outfits for the scenes in episode three, where she’s waking up early to impress Nate, that iconic Oklahoma outfit that’s so sort of pivotal to her character development this season. I was curious what made those stand out as “the outfits” for you? 

HB: Well, I wish we could see the whole outfits head to toe. I mean, I never really know what we’re going to see when I send someone to set. It could be full-length, or a quarter of an inch of their shoulder, or it could be nothing, just their face. There are so many outfits this season that we didn’t get to see, in fact, that A24 is talking with me now about putting a book together of the style of Euphoria, which I think would be really exciting.

With Cassie’s series of looks trying to get Nate’s attention, we knew that there needed to be a crescendo visually. I think the hair and makeup department did an amazing job bringing that home because you don’t always see a ton of wardrobe. The idea was that we would start tame. Cassie’s style, but a little elevated. Then, each day we would just get either sexier, brighter or more character-y—like a caricature of herself. By the fourth look, I knew that we had to do something that was really going to bring us into this fifth Oklahoma look. So, I pitched the idea of having Cassie wear something that was similar to what Maddie would be wearing. I just love leaning into the comedy of it all and it was so fun for me. I think we were all sort of collaborating together on how to lean into the comedy in that scene. I think it was even Sydney’s idea to use that big padded face mask. And it all worked in the end, thankfully, in that I think we get the laugh there. 

V: Yeah, I don’t know if you’ve seen it, but there was a very long, very popular Twitter thread (by costume designer Nylijah, @lifeofbeauty on Twitter) analyzing all the slight differences between Maddie set’s and Cassie’s set. It’s very popular. I’ll send it to you. 

HB: Thank you! Please do send it my way!

V: Now we have to get into Alexa Demie. You shared working with her is really fun because she understands the potential for her character to be iconic, which I thought was really interesting phrasing. What do you think makes Maddy’s fashion resonate so well with fans? 

HB: It’s interesting because Alexa herself—as a person, not a character—really sees the attention of her fan base in a way that is so fascinating. She doesn’t post a lot. She’s very private. She’s very sort of sophisticated in her the way she approaches media. I think that she’s an old soul and I think she understands the weight of what fashion can do for people. Fashion and style is like watching a fantasy movie. The viewer has an opportunity to transport themselves, to project, to imagine. I think she’s partially able to do that because her looks are so out there, the style is on the extreme end rather than the reality end of the stick. But I think a lot of it is just Alexa as well. I’ll give her credit there. 

V: This season of Euphoria is all on film, and you wanted the whole season to be beautiful. How do you plan how the outfits will look together? Is it hard to make distinct character styles that still look cohesive as a whole?

HB: I didn’t intentionally make a whole lot of decisions based on the fact that we were shooting on Kodak Ektachrome film, but there were times when I wanted the colors to read more saturated, and shooting on Ektachrome helps with that. For example, Lexi’s story this season packs a punch a whole lot different from first season and I wanted to allude to that from the first episode back. Hence why she is a bold saffron gold and fuchsia pants for New Year’s Eve. The second episode, first day back at school, she’s in a bright pink and red argyle diamond-patterned sweater. The film stock helped to pump up those colors and cause them to appear even bolder.  The idea was to give the audience a visual cue that if you thought Lexi was the wallflower, you’re going to think again.

V: After last week’s episode, we cannot forget about Rue! She’s not wearing her dad’s sweater as much this season. You had this sort of hypothesis, that maybe that’s even related to the shame she’s feeling around using drugs again. I was curious if you could expand on that?

HB: Well, to be completely frank, the original decision of not using the hoodie as much has everything to do with me putting myself in the place of the audience. I think, as the audience, I wanted to see something other than the hoodie every day, all day every day. But when I think about the sentimentality of the hoodie and how in this season Rue is really trying to block out any conscience she has, it makes sense. I mean, that scene with Storm Reid’s character, Rue’s sister, where Rue’s gaslighting her? Rue’s really becoming borderline diabolical with how she’s deceiving her friends and family. And so I think that this hoodie that she really clung to and wore so often in season one, after she had gotten out of rehab, was clean, and on a good track (shouldn’t appear so often) now that she’s going to the real dark places. To me, instinctively, it just didn’t make sense to have this hoodie be with her every step of the way. It’s a reminder of her father and a reminder of someone who loves her. So it’s, like the sense of conscience which she’s trying to block out.

For more on Heidi Bivens, check her out here!

Euphoria is now streaming on HBO Max every Sunday at 9 PM EST!

Discover More