Euphoria: a fashion & beauty phenomenon

Imogen Smillie and Lizzie Yockney discuss their favourite outfits, makeup looks and scenes from Euphoria so far.

multiple writers
24th February 2022
Image: Instagram @euphoria

Whether you love it or hate it, it is hard to deny the influence that Euphoria has over pop-culture today. The first episode of Season Two drew 13.1 million viewers over HBO’s platforms, the music that features in the show (created by the incredible Labrinth) still dominates TikTok for you pages, and there is a myriad of online quizzes that can tell you which Euphoria character you are. It is also undeniable to recognise just how influential Euphoria has been, and continues to be, in the worlds of fashion and beauty in its representation of Gen Z, and it will be interesting to see how far-reaching this influence will be. 

Other than the intense and often traumatic plotlines, one of the most significant elements of Euphoria is its aesthetics. Though probably unrealistic for most highschoolers (see the ‘Euphoria high’ TikTok trend), the characters’ style and makeup looks, as well as the cinematography, craft meaning into every scene. Unlike most real-life high school students, Euphoria’s teens aren’t stuck in a stiff uniform, and they are not subject to strict no-makeup policies. Instead, they wear designer clothes and bold eyeliner. It is refreshing to watch something so visually rich, as you can almost see the trends emerging as soon as they appear on-screen. Not only are the aesthetics entertaining to watch, but they also offer a deeper understanding of the show’s characters and the raw storylines that Euphoria depicts. They are a visual marker of the characters’ identities and their mental states. For a fashion nerd and a TV geek, who are also both English students who love a bit of symbolism, the level of detail woven into every character and scene makes for compelling viewing.  

Not only are the aesthetics entertaining to watch, but they also offer a deeper understanding of the show’s characters

For those who haven’t seen Euphoria, the series follows Rue (who is played by the Emmy award-winning Zendaya) and her struggle with drug addiction after the passing of her father. The show also follows the lives of Rue’s classmates, depicting their struggles and triumphs, as well as their relationships, which are tested as they navigate their way through high school. As cheesy as all of this sounds, the lives of these teenagers are simultaneously relatable and incomprehensible. It is therefore unsurprising that opinions of this series vary so much and are so polarising. However, mere intrigue has brought viewers together for this emotional rollercoaster of a TV show, and whether you are a fan or not, Euphoria is definitely something for the history books. 

Here is a round-up of our favourite scenes, outfits and beauty looks from the series so far, and why we think they are so significant. 

Image: Instagram @zendaya

A gut-wrenching motif throughout the show, is the use of the burgundy hoodie. Quite a juxtaposed piece of clothing in comparison to the other character’s style, its significance is massively highlighted. In Rue’s introductory scene, at the very beginning of the show, we see her father wearing an identical plain burgundy hoodie. After his passing, it is a staple piece that Rue wears, alongside her baggy t-shirts and bike shorts. Through this, her connection with her father is not only talked about but physically shown, perhaps also visually depicting the riffs between Rue and her mother. Throughout her struggles with drug use and her complicated platonic and romantic relationships, the colour burgundy can be seen, showing poignant moments in Rue’s life. For example, in the scene at the very end of Season Two, in which Rue is lifted up by many dancers, who are all wearing burgundy, in the ‘All for Us’ routine. Furthermore, the singer Labrinth, who sonically narrates the series, makes a physical appearance in Season Two, wearing a burgundy suit and holding Rue in his arms. In both of these moments Rue has just relapsed and felt the need to use again. Perhaps this colour will continue to be a source of comfort for Rue in remembering her father and also in reminding the audience of the moments where Rue is at her lowest in life, as the drama around her unfolds. 

Image: Instagram @euphoria
Image: Instagram @zendaya

Inspiring my 2020 Halloween costume, Rue becomes a detective in Season One - well not actually. As a way of showing her inquisitive nature about her classmates, Episode 7 shows Rue and Lexi investigating the attack supposedly caused by classmate Nate to protect his girlfriend Maddy. Rue wears checked trousers, a white vest top, brown suspenders, a police badge, and gun with her hair tied up in a messy topknot. Smoking an excessive number of cigarettes, the style perfectly represents that of a 1970’s cop show, once again highlighting the quirky nature of the show as a whole. Perhaps as the narrator of the show, this is one of the few episodes that truly encapsulates Rue’s true personality. 

Image: Instagram @donni.davy

Season Two has definitely brought more attention to Sydney Sweeney’s character Cassie, who we see in the midst of an identity crisis after she vows to be her own person but struggles when she begins to harbour feelings for her best friend, Maddy’s, boyfriend. In Season One, we gain an insight into Cassie’s psyche through a flashback narrated by Rue, which shows how she has been sexualised by others from a young age and has been the victim of revenge porn. Cassie has been influenced by the people around her and their opinions of who she is have shaped her own perception of herself. This trend continues in Season Two, as Cassie frantically tries to catch the attention of Nate (said best friend’s ex-boyfriend). We see her wake up at 4am every morning to complete an extreme three-hour beauty routine in which she scrubs herself raw, rolls her face with a multitude of beauty tools, applies multiple facemasks, and tries out several different hairstyles. This ritual is both exhausting and thrilling, as she imagines achieving her goal of Nate noticing her. She also transforms herself through her clothes, wearing a cropped lilac jumper and jeans in one scene and an ensemble that causes much confusion as to whether she is auditioning for Oklahoma or not, in another – as Euphoria makeup artist Doniella Davy wrote in her Instagram post after the episode aired, ‘she’s giving country music star’. Nate finally notices her when she is wearing a custom ‘Maddy Lookalike’ outfit by Seth Pratt – a matching Y2K-inspired turquoise cropped cardigan and flares that makes her look uncannily like Maddy. Indeed, Maddy joins Cassie in the hallway wearing a very similar ensemble. In another Instagram post, Davy showed sketches of the makeup look she did on Sydney Sweeney for this particular outfit, dubbing the look ‘Cassie trying to be Maddy’. Davy also adds how Cassie’s eyeliner, a bold wing with rhinestones, is a direct reference to Maddy’s makeup at the carnival in episode four of Season One. This mirroring of Maddy’s style and the echoing of her previous looks is intentional, as it is a visual representation of Cassie’s insecurities and her desire to be anything other than herself in order to impress others, or more specifically, to catch the attention of Nate.  

Image: Instagram @lexi_euphoria

Speaking of Cassie, the relationship between her and her sister, Lexi, is communicated visually through their individual styles. As theorised by oldloserinbrooklyn on TikTok, the styling choices are ingenious, as Cassie is often styled in Prada and Lexi in Miu Miu. It is often said that Miu Miu is the ‘little sister’ of Prada, as it was created in 1993 by Miuccia Prada, 80 years after her grandfather founded Prada, and Miu Miu is viewed by some as having a much more naïve aesthetic. This symbolises the relationship between the Howard sisters, as especially in Season One, Lexi is often overshadowed by Cassie. However, just as Miu Miu has come into its own in the past decade, both a part of and independent from Prada, Lexi seems to be emerging as a key figure in Season Two. Ironically, my favourite outfit of Lexi’s is not by Miu Miu, but the custom Batsheva look that she wears to the New Year’s Eve party in the first episode of Season Two. Her mustard milkmaid corset top, paired with red ruffled-hem trousers, are reminiscent of Lexi’s style in Season One, but are more elevated, which is symbolic of the character coming out of her shell in the current series.  

One of my favourite aspects of the show is the use comedic relief - because let’s face it, after the topics discussed in this show, we all need a bit of a laugh. Rue, who is arguably the narrator of Euphoria, breaks the fourth wall in some moments to give more context to the show, and perhaps also to allow the audience to laugh at the absurdity of what they are watching. When talking about unsolicited nude photographs being sent around the High School, the scene switches to Rue talking directly to camera, and giving a presentation in the classroom on said pictures. And yes, it is as graphic as you would imagine! But despite the crudeness of this moment, Rue shows her personality, and we see a side to her without drugs, which as a viewer, is quite eye-opening. This gimmick is re-done in Season Two, but this time Rue conducts her presentation on how to hide being an addict. This very different topic is closer to home for our Rue, but the scene is just as quirky as ever. A similar style is used when Lexi becomes the narrator, explaining how in order to escape her reality, she likes to pretend that her life is a TV show of which she is the creator, director, producer, and star of. The camera pans out as Lexi walks off set and becomes the director of her life ‘behind the camera’. Creator Sam Levinson cleverly creates a scene in which Lexi is doing an interview, as if she is a character on a show, discussing the part she plays and how her ‘character’ truly feels. To enhance the scene, Rue is then seen in the actor’s chair, a supporting role in Lexi’s life. High on drugs, Rue portrays the perfect Hollywood diva, ironically playing herself. I like to think that these sorts of scenes represent the modern era of television, in which we see fairly non-sensical scenes incorporated with the overall modern themes discussed throughout and is a kind of play on reality TV. Perhaps this is one of the many reasons in which Euphoria has become so popular, as it is hard to forget such bizarre moments amidst the darkness of the show. 

Image: Instagram @euphoria

It would be impossible to talk about every single significant fashion, makeup, and scene in Euphoria, as there are so many. To be honest, we could talk about this series forever and ever. The aesthetics of this show are so strong and so instantly recognisable and have enticed many people to watch. It is such a phenomenon that it is hard to miss. However, especially with the release of Season Two, criticisms have emerged that the show is prioritising style over substance – the element that made Euphoria so popular in the first place is potentially its downfall. Indeed, often with pop-culture spectaculars, Euphoria generates a lot of conversation, especially as to whether the age of the characters is inappropriate, given the depictions of sex and violence. Further, it has been argued that Euphoria’s beautiful aesthetics in fact glamorise the trauma that its characters face.  

However, especially with the release of Season Two, criticisms have emerged that the show is prioritising style over substance – the element that made Euphoria so popular in the first place is potentially its downfall.

Whether you love it or hate it, it is clear that Euphoria has created a lot of noise within pop-culture and the fashion and beauty communities, especially online. With Season Two coming to a close now and a third season being confirmed for production, Euphoria is still as popular as ever. 

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