The second season of Euphoria is officially on the air, bringing with it loose glitter, bisexual lighting, and Maddy’s iconic AKANA black cut out dress. As a Gen Z cultural flagship, the fashion of Euphoria perfectly emulates the current cultural mindset of exuberant self-expression and subversion of classic styles, in a period where alternative fashion has never been closer to the mainstream. Euphoria’s massive cultural impact lies not only in its knack for reflecting and visually reimagining a gritty yet vibrant youth culture in the face of wider social restriction, but also for fully exploring the expressive nature of fashion and clothing within its narrative.
Maddy’s premiere dress is a clear example of the character’s overall style – her classic it-girl aspirations are reflected in a balance between simplicity and meticulous co-ordination. Twin-sets (I. AM. GIA. has made several appearances throughout the series, naturally) featuring feminine pastels and sharper cut-outs illustrate her shifting priorities, and throughout the series her clothing choices shift from subtler and effeminate to bolder as her own self-empowerment grows. The iconic plum set that Maddy wears in the infamous carnival argument is a peak in her own self-confidence, her refusal to change for Nate and his family presenting a wholehearted rejection of the quiet girlfriend trope that had served as a central conflict between the pair. Her reimagining of femininity (presented through fashion most succinctly and recently in her safety-pin charm tank top), from fresh and demure to vibrantly defiant, reflects wider cultural narratives of embracing feminine power outside of the constraints of a patriarchal society.
Switching gears, Rue’s style in comparison is much more low-key, exploring effortless grunge styles that act as a canvas to explore her emotions regarding drug use. Rue often opts for slouchy androgynous styles, mutes colours, faded plaid prints and mixing of traditional men’s and women’s pieces to construct a style that shields her from the judgement of others, a protective cocoon she is almost swimming in to keep suspicion about relapse off her back. Rue’s interest in embracing femininity seems directly tied to her endeavours to attain a relationship with Jules, and although some feminine staples fade with oncoming relapse. Her iconic scuffed converse high-tops are a key symbol of Rue’s character as a whole – her tomboy flair, tainted with risk-taking and self-destructive behaviour, with a hint of almost child-like excitement that peeks out in the right circumstances. In the newest season, Rue appears to be sporting a darker colour palette, which seems to be somewhat of a harbinger for things to come later in the season. Even in a much simpler style, key themes in Rue’s character still jump out through these costuming choices.
Much like Maddy, Kat has one of the most drastic transformations of any of the characters in Euphoria, although her goal of embracing her personal power is not a journey all that much different to Maddy’s. Kat’s relationship with sex, from writing X-rated fanfiction, losing her virginity and embracing her sexuality through an increasing number of ‘pay pigs’ is expressed both literally and symbolically through her change in appearance. In one of the opening scenes of her feature episode, Kat is embarrassed that her own clothing isn’t on par with her friends, but once her camming brings her monetary success, she is able to completely revamp her wardrobe, expressing her internal change in perspective and increase in self-esteem outwardly. Harnesses and mesh layers and texture-stacking blend to create tactile outfits that reflect Kat embracing her newfound sexual experience, and reflect wider layering trends that most commonly found in modern alternative trend cycles.
The balance between character storytelling and allegorical messages presented in Euphoria are captured no better than in through the visual narrative presented through the meticulous curation of the costuming department, which of course has created somewhat of a symbiotic relationship with current trends, both taking and providing new styles. It’s clear that Euphoria is here to stay, not only because of its compelling narrative, but also because of the sheer power of its influence over the trend cycle.