watch

Euphoria Season 2 - The real symbolism of Cassie’s looks

In season two of Euphoria, Cassie Howard goes through some major changes, and so does her style. Euphoria’s makeup and fashion looks are influential and iconic, but they also have a deeper meaning, reflecting what’s going on with the characters. So what’s the secret emotional meaning underneath each of Cassie’s season two looks?

TRANSCRIPT

Cassie, Cassie… What is going on, Cassie? Season-two-Cassie goes through some major changes, and so does her style. Euphoria’s makeup and fashion looks are influential and iconic, but they also have a deeper meaning, reflecting what’s going on with the characters. So what’s the secret emotional meaning underneath each of Cassie’s season 2 looks?

Dressing like Maddy

When Cassie becomes determined to catch Nate’s attention, she changes her style to be more like his ex Maddy’s, and even just completely copies Maddy with this Y2K-esque matching set and mini handbag. As Vogue writes, “Matching sets and flashy suits are an easy, impactful shorthand for the queen bee” - think Cher Horowitz, or Blair Waldorf – and Maddy’s no exception. A set says “I have my life in order,” projecting the sometimes obsessive need for control Queen Bees have. So it’s ironic that Cassie tries to adopt Maddy’s signature confident look when she’s clearly spiraling out of control.

Cassie’s makeup changes too – her usual day look is bare-faced and glowy, but after falling for Nate she starts echoing Maddy’s heavier and vampy-er looks. She even does the laid down edges like Maddy, which for white Cassie is not a great look. This approach works, at least to briefly catch Nate’s attention, but it’s an insight into just how quickly Cassie is losing herself and trying anything (even ripping off the best friend she’s betraying) just to get a passing glance from a guy.

“For those three hours she spent getting ready, she only thought about one thing.” - Rue, Euphoria, 2x03

Dressing like Jules

Cassie also starts looking a bit more like Jules, perhaps sensing Nate’s secret attraction to her. By the end of season 2, Cassie’s skin is paler, and her hair is straighter and blonder, like Jules’ is. Her bright graphic eyeliner and some of the brighter colors she wears also remind us of Jules. Donni Davy, Euphoria’s makeup artist, said, “The goal was to sort of shift her whole vibe to be Season 1 era Jules x Maddy x Cassie hybrid that would appeal to Nate or possibly to his subconscious.” Nate fantasizes about Cassie turning into both Maddy and Jules while they’re together. And after Cassie tells Nate he can dress her in season two’s second-to-last episode, in the finale her bright hair and makeup colors evoke Jules, while her matching outfit has a Maddy vibe.

“Am I everything you wished for?” - Cassie, Euphoria, 2x07

So he’s clearly not over his breakup with Maddy and harboring a strong attraction to Jules, which is complicated by Jules’ history with his dad – and Cassie’s insecurity stems from knowing Nate’s not fully hers.

“We got to play with so many really cool looks because I was all these other characters that I thought Nate wanted” - Sydney Sweeney, HBO

Dressing for Nate

After the earlier sequences of Cassie adopting a punishing hours-long beauty ritual to appeal to Nate —

“It was her way of telling him that she was his.” - Rue, Euphoria, 2x03

— later in the season Cassie explicitly tells Nate he can basically make her his doll.

“You can control what I wear, what I eat.” - Cassie, Euphoria, 2x07

And we get a dreamy, light-sodden scene where Nate is dressing Cassie up. The fantasy is symbolic of their relationship – he makes her into whatever he’s craving at the moment; she wants nothing more than to be controlled and possessed by him. Nate likes girls to look feminine and innocent, so we see him tie a baby blue ribbon in Cassie’s hair, and put her in a dress that, if you look close enough, has pom poms on it. CBR writes, “[the dress] was a piece from the Moschino 2022 Spring collection designed by Jeremy Scott…[which] received some online backlash when it was released because it appeared to be infantilizing women. The collection was also a take on the 1950s housewife and suburban life, reflecting Nate’s fantasy of getting Cassie pregnant - which many fans think she is.”

The Oklahoma Costume

In season 2, Cassie is lost and looking for a role – after trying to look like Maddy, she’s basically flailing around for anything Nate might like. One particularly random look that happens to coincide with school Oklahoma auditions makes Rue think Cassie’s literally playing a character.

Rue: Wait, are you in the play?

Cassie: Oh my god, do I look like I’m in Oklahoma?

- Euphoria, 2x03

Euphoria’s costume director Heidi Bivens said to Vogue, “I think what you see her trying to emulate is what she wishes she was, and so, more than a lot of the other characters, I feel like Cassie’s clothes are a costume.” By the finale, it seems as though there’s almost no Cassie left in Cassie. Her hair isn’t bouncy anymore, and she’s deathly pale – she looks, as Donni Davy put it, “unwell.”

“I’m the one who falls in love. I’m the one who gets hurt.” - Cassie, Euphoria, 2x08

Her appearance is also a little robotic, like she’s a Stepford wife, again maybe echoing Nate’s fantasy where Cassie and he have a perfect family. In trying to fit the role of Nate’s girlfriend, Cassie suppresses her own identity. And it’s almost eerie when Maddy says…

“Well she certainly looks the part.” - Maddy, Euphoria, 2x07

The Desperation Swimsuit

Some outfits don’t take an expert to decipher. There’s Cassie’s gray depression sweats and then, of course, there’s the Desperation Swimsuit. Cassie sees Nate fawning over Maddy on Maddy’s birthday and…reacts. In a different color that swimsuit would totally be a Maddy thing – straps and cutouts are her style, but on Cassie, it’s a cry for help.

Pink and Baby Blue

Cassie’s baseline style is youthful and feminine. Almost everything she wears is light pink or baby blue - little girl colors. And little girl hairdos, too – pigtails, double buns, braids. But her form fitting silhouettes and deep cleavage are feminine and sensual. These two sides of her style reflect how in life, Cassie’s in a constant push and pull between innocence and sexiness.

“We should just pick the hottest, most confident bad bitch version of ourselves and be that for the rest of the school year.” - Cassie, Euphoria, 1x04

Her nature is sweet and immature, but she’s used to being perceived as a sex object and knows that that’s part of her power. Cassie’s makeup looks communicate the same combination of innocence and sensuality. Donni Davy, speaking of the episode where Cassie first hooks up with Nate and betrays Maddy, said, “We loved keeping her skin dewy with super flushy cheeks and lips for this episode. We were always bringing her lip color out beyond her lips to sort of look like ‘make-out/cry’ lips,” and she described the tiny rhinestones framing Cassie’s eyes, “As the night goes on, her anxiety-terrified-totally-freaked-out eyes are framed by this delicate, like innocent, twinkle. She wasn’t really trying to do what she did…right??” As the season goes on people (like her mom) call her out on this contradiction – how she keeps maintaining innocence and powerlessness over her situation, but is clearly making the choice to sleep with her best friend’s guy.

Cassie: I’m not the bad guy! Everyone keeps looking at me like I’m the bad guy but I’m not the bad guy!

Lexi: Well, you’re not the good guy.

- Euphoria, 2x06

Maddy v. Cassie Showdown

The plot of Cassie and Nate’s secret relationship culminates in a showdown between the two best friends – and that’s reflected in the contrast between their looks and the evolution of their styles. Just look at how sleek and immaculate Maddy looks even after the fight, while Cassie’s look is completely messed up. And in general, while Cassie tries to pull off Maddy ‘looks’ in season 2, she’s fighting a losing battle, because their essences are completely opposed – Maddy is controlled and mature, while Cassie is childish and a mess.

“I just wanna die!” - Cassie, Euphoria, 2x06

Maddy’s trademark makeup is heavy and bold, with sharp, lethal wings. Cassie’s season 1 and early season 2 looks are more natural, glowy, and soft. Maddy wears a lot of sleek, tight updos and ponies, signaling how put together and in control she is, while Cassie wears her hair in loose golden curls. In season 2, while Cassie is copying season 1 Maddy, Maddy moves on to ’90s styles which are edgier and more on trend, maybe reflecting the influence her very fashionable new mentor Samantha has on her.

When Maddy wears hypersexual clothes it’s almost like it’s not even about sex, but about flaunting the confidence it takes to pull off that kind of outfit. But when Cassie wears sexy outfits, perhaps because of the shape of her body and the way it looks like it might spill out of her clothes, she ends up looking almost too sexy, or sexier than she had planned, as though her own body isn’t quite under her control. So we see that the control Maddy has and Cassie lacks extends to how much agency they have over their own image. Cassie spends season 2 pretty much at the whim of her heart’s urges, and her costumes and makeup reflect this scattered, disorderly emotional state. Whereas Maddy and other characters are dressing to express themselves, Cassie is just blindly trying everything she can to be loved - but through totally erasing herself, she’s not making that possible.

Nate: Aren’t you afraid people are gonna look down on you?

Cassie: At least I’ll be loved.

- Euphoria, 2x07

As Heidi Bivens said, “She’s still trying to figure out how to present herself to the world.” Hopefully, in season 3, we’ll see a new Cassie style that’s actually about who she is.

“I feel fine. Do I not look fine?” - Cassie, Euphoria, 2x04

Sources

Davy, Doniella [@donni.davy]. “OH CASSIE…” Instagram, 10 Jan. 2022, https://www.instagram.com/p/CYj8ILLvZyw/?utm_source=ig_embed&ig_rid=f20f2701-7c4f-4d0a-8977-6fd3908e0cc4.

Davy, Doniella [@donni.davy]. “Umm is that you in there Cassie?...” Instagram, 3 Mar. 2022, https://www.instagram.com/p/CaqSVCxJxfB/?hl=en.

Spellings, Sarah. “The Harbinger of Cassie’s Breakdown? Her Matching Outfits.” Vogue, 28 Feb. 2022, https://www.vogue.com/article/cassie-outfits-euphoria.

Stewart, Jamila. “The Clothes on Euphoria Show Just How Much The Characters Have Changed.” Vogue, 10 Jan. 2022, https://www.vogue.com/article/euphoria-season-2-costumes-heidi-bivens.
Watson, Averie. “Euphoria Costume Details Reveal the True Nature of Cassie and Nate’s Relationship.” CBR, 21 Mar. 2022, https://www.cbr.com/euphoria-cassie-nate-costumes/.