Transforming Westworld’s Powerful Women

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The female hosts of Westworld show the most significant of the many role-reversals between seasons one and two. The women who were literally constructed to please wealthy male patrons have rebelled and become truly terrifying figures of unmerciful vengeance.

With production staff told little of where the series might go, the costume design that is so essential to character development required a lot of educated guess-work.

“I don’t know where these characters are going or where they’re going to end up, so I had to come up with a new way of designing for this format — creating costumes for what I call episodic films,” said Westworld costume designer Sharon Davis. “There are so many things to consider on this show: timelines, characters, uniforms. One question we asked is, ‘How can we make it look like the future?’ But the thing is, clothes really don’t change. In designing for the not-too-distant future, I wanted to keep it vague. I kept it monochromatic, simple, with flowing lines. Settings change, new technology arrives, but I believe we ultimately look the same.”


“In Season 2, we made Dolores look more rugged and durable while having Maeve, who’s still finding herself, continuously change clothes. She’s still searching for something so we had to make that search fit into her wardrobe,” she said. Dolores’s outfit is actually made from her iconic blue paisley dress with the top ripped off to better fit her new hard-edged “Wyatt” persona, with a fitted white bodice as a top and a heavy bullet holder around her torso. “She’s the best for the word deconstruction,” Davis said. “This is her more evolved, more human-thinking character for her rebel place in where she’s going with her anger. I felt if we totally changed her clothes, there was no place where she would’ve done that, and it would’ve been strange,” Davis said. “So why don’t we deconstruct what she has on?”


Plenty of us may not even recognise Angela from when she greeted William in a sleek and futuristic white dress. Davis wanted to give Angela completely different clothes as opposed to deconstructed looks from her previous outfits. “I looked at all of season one and there are snippets of her in different types of Western clothing,” Davis said. “I pulled from all of her looks and developed her one look, and added a coat. The crown is made from bones.” The final look with long flowing hair is all about independence and new-found liberation. “It’s to represent her freedom,” Davis said. “It’s her free will and her choice of hair.”


Maeve is out of the Mariposa brothel business and focused on locating her daughter, so Davis reflected that newfound maternal instinct in Maeve’s clothing. “I wanted to calm down her sexuality for the season. She looked amazing in the first season, but it was so sexually charged,” she said. “I wanted everyone to see that she’s on a different mission now.” Yet, there was one part of Maeve’s Mariposa days that Westworld’s creative team insisted Davis incorporate in all of her outfits, whether she was in Sweetwater or wearing kimonos in Shogunworld: “The only notes I specifically got were if we could keep her red colors somewhere in whatever she wears.”

Of course Lee should really be seen as part of Maeve’s look having started as a rugged giant and snappy dresser who is now under Maeve’s authority. “He’s now under Maeve, so his status is completely gone,” Davis said. Apparently making “She’s like, ‘Okay, I’m taking you around, but we can see you everywhere we go.”

All images by HBO.