If you were to get all your friends together in one room — wishful thinking thanks to the pandemic — it’s unlikely that any two members of the group would dress the exact same; yet, after years of friendship, their looks will appear harmonious next to each other. Such is the case on HBO’s new Victorian-era show The Nevers, which centers around a group of women in London who get shunned to an orphanage after they suddenly develop supernatural abilities following a mysterious event. The strong friendships portrayed on the show, formed as a result of the new reality and being rejected by society, is what drew Game Of Thrones costume designer Michele Clapton to the project.
“I loved the idea of this group of strong women, all incredibly individual, with [their own] strengths and weaknesses,” Clapton tells Refinery29. Though all very different, she wanted their costumes to complement each other, which led her to create a carefully curated color palette for best friends Amalia (played by Outlander’s Laura Donnelly) and Penance (Ann Skelly).
“I had the idea to darken Amalia's color palette and play on the softer tones of Penance's,” says Clapton. For Amalia, she chose hues like burgundy, dark brown, green, and blue for her costumes, in order to symbolize her tough exterior and fighter mentality. Dresses and coats in the moody hues became the expected getup for the brooding and daring character. Just because she’s rough around the edges though, doesn’t mean that Amalia’s style is overlooked though. From fighting off attackers in a lavish gown at the opera to riding away from the scene of a crime in a hand-painted corset and skirt, she never sacrifices her fashion. “Though Amalia is quite tough, there's this idea that she actually really loves her clothes and they are quite feminine, but they are really strong,” Clapton says.
In contrast, Clapton created a softer color scheme for Penance: neutral colors like camel and oatmeal combined with pastel pinks and blues. Penance’s style leans into the cottagecore aesthetic, with puff sleeves, embroidered lace, and bow and floral details. Even when she’s in her workshop, her workwear appears delicate thanks to Clapton’s use of soft materials in various shades of light gray.
The duo’s abilities are polar opposites, too — Amalia has premonitions, while Penance can visualize energy currents, which she uses to create inventions like motorcars and tasers hidden inside of umbrellas. “You're often not best friends with your girlfriend because she's exactly like you, and I like that element,” Clapton says while explaining the different costume choices for the two.
That same sartorial dichotomy is present in the other friendship at the center of The Nevers. The orphanage’s newest member, Myrtle Haplisch (Viola Prettejohn) — whose ability allows her to understand every language, but only speak an incomprehensible mixture of them — comes from very little money. Yet, she quickly forms a bond with Primrose Chattoway (Anna Devlin), a former member of high society who was sent away by her parents after becoming a giant. While Myrtle often wears subdued colors that try to hide what appear to be hand-me-down dresses and outerwear, Primrose’s high society past is reflected in her lavish and extravagant pastel-colored, tulle-covered dresses.
Though the bonds present in the orphanage will be inevitably tested throughout the first season of The Nevers — constant threats of danger will do that to friendships — if Clapton’s costumes are any indication, they'll only get stronger with every new challenge.
Watch The Nevers on HBO this Sunday at 9pm EST.