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Euphoria: A Microcosm of Gen Z Fashion

Scarlett Billinghurst analyses the show taking over pop culture right now for Lippy

Euphoria: the edgy, aesthetic coming of age drama, has come back to HBO for its second series this winter, with the Emmy nominated costume designs reminding us of how significant the show has been in defining Gen Z fashion.

Since its first episode Euphoria has been making waves, becoming known for encapsulating the expressive, non-conforming fashions of generation Z whilst also setting a host of new trends. The references to dating apps and sexting seem to be a realistic portrayal of the way that teens actually communicate in the digital world, making the show even more popular amongst its young audience. However, Euphoria has been criticised for its apparent glamorisation of drug use, sex and violence amongst the teenage characters and how this could promote copycat behaviour in viewers.

Euphoria’s costume designer, Heidi Bivens, is no stranger to creating dynamic, youthful looks on screen. The pink balaclavas and neon bikinis seen in 2012’s Spring Breakers - that went on to become one of the most popular Halloween costumes of the 2010s - are another example of Bivens' highly coveted work in a coming-of

age drama. It’s therefore no surprise that her costume designs for Euphoria have not only encapsulated an entire generation of fashion but have also become so prolific on social media. Since the release of the first series in 2019, the show has slowly been going viral on Instagram and Tiktok. Users recreate makeup looks and outfits inspired by the characters, with the ‘Euphoria look’ becoming a widely recognised style in itself amongst Gen Z.

When designing the costumes, Bivens was keen to assign each character a signature colour which in turn has made it much easier for fans to recreate their favourite character’s look. Maddy is most often seen wearing purple, known for being a statement of royalty and wealth, traits that Maddy aspires to embody as seen in her penchant for social climbing and her relationship with Nate. In her more vulnerable scenes, often around Nate, Bivens styles Maddy in a lot of pink to symbolise how she changes parts of herself to fit Nate’s fantasy. Perhaps the most famous look of the entire show is Maddy’s purple trouser and bralette set from I.AM.GIA, worn to the carnival in episode 4. The set, originally sold in black, white and red, was custom made in purple specifically to be worn by Alexa Demie’s character.

The look generated so much buzz that I.AM.GIA decided to release the purple version on their website, selling out almost instantly.

Kat - known for her sexually empowered persona - is seen most often wearing red, a colour strongly associated with lust. Whilst becoming more comfortable with her body and sexuality, Kat has started to see herself as someone who could be desired, reflected in her fondness for bold red makeup and outfits. With the body positivity movement becoming so significant amongst Gen Z, powered in part by social media, Kat’s character and fashion choices reflect a journey that many young people relate to. This is shared by Jules, a character shrouded in uncertainty regarding her gender expression and sexuality. Jules’ character development in terms of her clothing reflects a movement from encapsulating the male gaze, wearing pinks and pastel colours, towards Jules becoming her own person wearing mostly greens and oranges. The feelings Jules discusses about believing she is an accumulation of other people’s perceptions of her and how this has skewed her gender expression is a topic widely discussed by Gen Z, with Tiktok fuelling a movement of young people dressing in unconventional ways to combat typical gender norms.

Bivens was heavily inspired by streetwear and vintage when choosing the iconic outfits for the show. The subtle nods to vintage styles are representative of how Gen Z - due to their easy access to social media - now have a constant stream of content from the past to peruse through. This, alongside concern for the environment, has led to a huge increase in thrifting and vintage styles amongst young people. The Halloween episode is perhaps the best example of this vintage inspiration in action. From Cassie dressed as Alabama Worley in True Romance (1993) to Maddy’s interpretation of teenage prostitute Iris from Taxi Driver (1976), the fondness for niche references to old school films in Euphoria reflects Gen Z’s love for all things vintage.

Euphoria has not only become known for its outlandish costume design; the impact the bold make up looks have had on Gen Z is undeniable. From glitter tears to silver gems, Doniella Davy’s genius looks have gone viral on a number of occasions, seeing a surge in website such as ASOS selling their own interpretations of the infamous silver gems.

With over 2.4 million people tuning in to watch the series two kick off, making the show more popular than ever, Euphoria is set to take the Gen Z fashion scene by storm once again.


Words by Scarlett Billinghurst


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