Heidi Bivens Gives Us the Dirty on Euphoria’s Costume Designs
In the age of social media outrage, it’s rare for a costume designer to take the kind of risks that Euphoria’s Heidi Bivens does. From the anime-eqsue looks she creates for Jules [Hunter Schafer] to the BDSM-inspired accessories that Kat [Barbie Ferreira] wears to class, Bivens’ costuming decisions are relentlessly racy, sparking a new genre of dressing for Gen Z-ers the world over.
But this should come as no surprise. Not only does Euphoria’s creator Sam Levinson have a taste for fantasy (which only escalates over the course of season 2), but Bivens herself has major history in the world of high fashion. After getting her start in the ‘90s, first as a journalist and then as a stylist for magazines like Paper and W (she also recently styled Billie Eilish for Interview), Bivens made her foray into costume design as an assistant on the set of The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind—the film that inducted the manic pixie dream girl into the fashion lexicon. In the years since, she’s earned a reputation for dressing young characters who grow up fast on productions like Jonah Hill’s skatepark coming-of-age drama Mid90s and Harmonie Korine’s drug-fueled technicolor fever dream Spring Breakers—a cult classic filled with neon balaclava-and-bikini looks that make it the only recent work of cinema to rival Euphoria’s outrageous underage fits. To get the full story on the fashion this season, fellow stylist and Interview editor-in-chief Mel Ottenberg got on the phone with Bivens to discuss mood boarding, skinny jeans, and dressing teenage characters in designers they could never afford.
OTTENBERG: Hi, Heidi Bivens.
HEIDI BIVENS: Hi, Mel Ottenberg!
OTTENBERG: It’s really fun to be talking to you about Euphoria. I’ve wanted the dirty for forever.
BIVENS: Thank you for being a fan! From the very beginning, your posts about it gave me a lot of joy. It’s the best when the people I admire get a kick out of what I’m doing.
OTTENBERG: I feel the same way about my work. So, I have to say, this new season of Euphoria really shits on season one. I’m a huge Heidi fan and I’m a huge Sam Levinson fan, but woah, this new season is really good. As a sober person who has, as you know, an illustrious past in partying, let me tell you—this is not an after-school special. It’s not a cautionary tale, either. It’s just tea, just stories, and they’re very strong. I like how it’s not trying to be something with a message. It’s about some really major stuff, and it’s unapologetically sexual, unapologetically confusing, unapologetically glamorous. It sucks you in like a vacuum.
BIVENS: I think this season is a lot darker. It delves into these character’s realities—which represent some people’s experiences, not everyone’s. We’ve always been concerned about selling a lifestyle that is Euphoria, or glamorizing a certain kind of lifestyle. Zendaya once said to me, “There’s two versions of Euphoria: the TikTok version, and the real story that digs a lot deeper.” Part of the motivation behind the storyline this season was to get really deep, and to move away from some of the social media versions of what Euphoria was becoming.
OTTENBERG: Yeah, and it so shows, especially with the clothes. You’re rediscovering the characters and they’re still the same, but there’s so much more to each of them. We get more major as we move through our teenage years anyway, so it makes sense.
BIVENS: In terms of style, I played it safe the first season. I really tried to be conscious of making it realistic, so that the audience couldn’t really pick the story apart like, “Jules could never afford that purse.” I know I sort of pushed the boundaries with some of the risqué looks that might not normally be allowed at school, but in general I tried to be really consistent with what kids can actually afford. This season, that went out the window, because I just wanted to have fun. Maude Apatow’s character, for example, is wearing Miu Miu. Like, she can’t afford Miu Miu, her parents aren’t buying her Miu Miu, but I said, “Fuck it. She looks great in it.”
OTTENBERG: First of all, your attention to detail kills me. Babe, you’re giving me Ann Roth for the apocalypse. It’s like a whole fantasy, but it’s believable.
BIVENS: You’ve done film. You would approach the work in the same way. I came from the fashion world, where stylists think of a look from head to toe. That experience has benefited me so much moving into film. I treat every scene like a still—I look at screen-grabs of the monitor for each scene, and I’m picking apart the details. I often have to remind myself that this one thing that’s bothering me in this one frame is going to change in a second, because the person’s actually moving and not frozen in time.
OTTENBERG: Can we talk about the New Year’s Eve fashion? Fucking Cassie’s NYE look—who makes her panties?
BIVENS: I think they’re Cosabella, but I’d have to check. With the first season, if someone asked me, “What socks was Cassie wearing in episode three?” I could answer in a heartbeat.
OTTENBERG: It’s healthy that you don’t know.
BIVENS: This season, even though I really respect all these designers I worked with, I have this kick-ass assistant costume designer who took the reins on calling clothes in, and taught me about a lot of brands that I hadn’t heard of. Angelina Vitto is her name—she’s going to take over for the third season. Because of her, I was able to come in and look at the racks and put together looks by just responding to the colors and the textures and the silhouettes, and not so much the labels.
OTTENBERG: So you are basically Maude in that later episode.
BIVENS: Oh my god. I was asked to do a cameo and basically play myself. I really prefer being behind the scenes. Angelina stepped in instead, so that’s a little surprise Easter egg.
OTTENBERG: Who makes Cassie’s dress?
BIVENS: House of CB. I used the same designer for a look for Cassie in the first season.
OTTENBERG: It’s so good. You and I have so many of the same references. You’re giving Bully so hard. We love 2004. We love the Steven Klein Larry Clark cover of The Face…
BIVENS: I think Cassie as a person, in terms of her style, she’s looking at TikTok, she’s looking at Instagram for fashion references. I was very set on the profile for the other characters, but Cassie I couldn’t really nail. I was trying to figure out why, and Sam and I realized that it’s because, from the beginning, she doesn’t really know who she is. She’s looking at other girls and being like, “Oh.” Ru isn’t looking at what other people are wearing. She’s going to wear what she wants to wear. Cassie is a little bit more mall culture, a little more accessible.
OTTENBERG: Cassie’s incredible. Her fashion arc is killing me.
BIVENS: She’s also in white Prada heels from The Real Real. So that’s the high-low mix, but it’s somewhat realistic. A girl like Cassie could buy those shoes on The Real Real.
OTTENBERG: What is Maddie wearing on New Year’s Eve? Her look is perfect.
BIVENS: That was an original look that I commissioned from this designer Aiden Euan, he has a line called Akna.
OTTENBERG: Her dress looks like it should be from… what’s that slutty brand that’s genius? That brand that Cardi B wears all the time? I’m kind of obsessed with it, and now I’ve forgotten it.
OTTENBERG: That’s it. FashionNova for 2022. Genius.
BIVENS: FashionNova will come out with their own version of that dress, without a doubt.
OTTENBERG: No shade on FashionNova—if you’re reading this, I want to work with you. Also, Jules’ outfit is fab.
BIVENS: Jules’ look is a combination of designers. The skirt is Orseund Iris, I believe. The lavender sheer bodysuit is Maroske Peech, they’re amazing. We use a lot of their stuff on her. The gloves we had made. The sheer halter is NIHL.
OTTENBERG: I also love how Doniella Davy [Euphoria makeup artist] is remixing the makeup looks with Jules.
BIVENS: It’s more artistic this season.
OTTENBERG: Is Rue wearing a Gilden long sleeve t-shirt?
BIVENS: Rue’s look is all thrifted. She’s wearing a vintage thermal from a thrift store with a John Paul Gaultier vest over it, and the pants are vintage Roberto Cavalli. I was still trying to be at least a little bit real with how I sourced the pieces.
OTTENBERG: That’s very True Romance, like, Gary Oldman—you’re giving the people what they want. We don’t want just realism on the show, we need your full fantasy. The details are so hot. Kat’s also killing it this season—what is she wearing for New Year’s?
BIVENS: Her looks are so fun. We did a custom dress with Mimi Wade. Mimi Wade made this dress for a previous season, and I asked her to remake it for me. She couldn’t because it was too expensive, so I printed the fabric and got the pattern from her and remade it myself.
OTTENBERG: What kind of inspiration, be it fashion or movies or eras, were you thinking of? What are we mood boarding here?
BIVENS: The mood-boarding thing is interesting. In these jobs, you’re expected to mood board, because you have to show the director and your team the visual direction you’re taking. But honestly, the way that I get ideas is so random. It’s not like I’m coming to social media and finding stuff. I’ll be walking down the street and see someone who has amazing style, or an image that catches me by surprise. I’ll save images to my phone, and over time that evolves into the inspo. I mood-boarded when we started the second season, before we shut down for COVID, and when we restarted I didn’t really return to it. A lot of what we fit before we shut down is what we ended up using on the show.
OTTENBERG: You fit everything in March of 2020, right? When you went back to all those looks, were you actually like, “All of this still works?”
BIVENS: Jules’ NYE look is a perfect example—we fit that on her in February of 2020. When it was time to shoot the New Year’s Eve episode a year later, Hunter asked me, “Are you sure this is the look?” We’d fit so long ago, and fashion had already changed so much. She obviously has so much access to fashion, and was wondering, “Is this the move?” I had fallen in love with that silhouette and that look on her, so in my mind I was like, “That’s the look.” I’m glad that she trusted me on that. But we did collaborate on the accessories. Hunter made the star choker she wears in the episode herself. She had this star trim, and I gave her a dark green sheer ribbon, and she sewed it on set and put it on the day that we finalized that look. She loves being involved in that way, and it makes everything better because she’s so creative.
OTTENBERG: So there’s no particular mood board, just vibes, and lots of thrift stores around L.A.
BIVENS: My assistants always laugh at me, because I don’t like to look at anything or know what I have until I get in the room. Then I look through all the racks—a lot of people would say it’s a very last-minute approach. A lot of designers and stylists want to know what’s coming in, but I just like getting it all together and then looking.
OTTENBERG: Where do you go to get cool jewelry in L.A.?
BIVENS: I love XIV Karat.
OTTENBERG: That’s my favorite place.
BIVENS: I pulled some things for Maddie and Minka Kelly’s character there this season. I really think that the fans are going to be excited about all these new characters.
OTTENBERG: New girl with the lips, she’s fucking genius.
BIVENS: Did you look her up?
OTTENBERG: I just started watching at midnight and I didn’t go to bed until 3:30. [Laughs] I’m exhausted.
BIVENS: Chloe Cherry is amazing—she was very fun to dress. We’ve also got Dominic [Fike]. Then we’ve got Fezco’s grandma.
OTTENBERG: As someone who is always attracted to the cool girls, the show’s too good. We’ve ignored all the boys.
BIVENS: Let’s talk about Nate and his dad.
OTTENBERG: Chili dad is my favorite.
BIVENS: Eric Dane is a lot of people’s favorite.
OTTENBERG: His storyline is very exciting.
BIVENS: It goes deep, and a lot of people will be surprised by his breaking point.
OTTENBERG: How did you dress chili dad?
BIVENS: This character has expensive taste and money. In the first season, he wore a Margiela shirt. He’s the kind of guy who likes a good fit, and doesn’t want to give dad vibes. But he comes from a conservative background, so that’s reflected in the clothes. But fans are going to learn a lot more about where he came from and who he is. He’s going to let it all hang out at some point.
OTTENBERG: He is hot. Let’s get some denim credits on Nate. He’s basically only wearing one outfit the entire season, as far as I’m concerned.
BIVENS: I know well, I wanted to do more with him this season, but Sam was really specific about wanting him to remain this traditional masculine jock. He still needed to fit that bill.
OTTENBERG: It’s hard to do an outfit like that. It’s a struggle to dress in the right kind of simple, subtle way, especially someone with that many bad vibes.
BIVENS: Jacob’s great, because he has good personal style. It’s easy to fit him, I basically collect as many Nate garments as I can find, and he goes through the rack and uses his instincts to pull out his favorite stuff. I used denim from Jeanerica, and Calvin Klein. [Laughs] At the beginning of the season, I told all my shoppers, “No skinny jeans. We’re not doing skinny jeans.” But somehow, a pair of slim jeans were accidentally put in Jacob’s trailer. I got a text from my costumer with a picture—Jacob had written on a paper hanger, “No more skinny jeans, please!”
OTTENBERG: Heidi, these men. These men with their skinny jeans. As a single man, you’ll invite someone over and they come into your house wearing jeggings. I’ll be naked with them post-in flagrante, and I gotta tell them, “Okay, let’s talk about your jeans. You are an insanely handsome man with an incredible body. You need to stop wearing the jeggings.” Men are wearing some fucked up stuff. Nate looks good. Is Nudie the brand to get these guys out of the hole?
BIVENS: Every brand is still making a “slim jean.” Every brand is still guilty of perpetuating this skinny jean trend.
OTTENBERG: Thank you, Jacob Elordi, for resisting.