Inside Westworld With Costume Designer Sharen Davis
Sharen Davis, whose Oscar®-nominated costume designs can be seen in films such as Dreamgirls and Ray, came aboard Westworld for the series’ sophomore season. Right out of the gate, the veteran stylist knew it was no ordinary project, and that there would be plenty of visual challenges that came along with a host rebellion. Here, she describes why she and her team look to the past to design the future, and how the “badass” women on screen helped inspire her designs.
HBO: How long have you been designing costumes? And what was it like jumping into Westworld Season 2?
Sharen Davis: I’ve been designing for feature films for 25 years. My major was actually acting, and now I act with costumes. I love science fiction and period films, and I love a good puzzle; Westworld has a little bit of everything, so I was really excited to get this job. I knew there were many elements and secrets I would have to learn about — especially the mysteries of the Season 1 finale. It was extremely difficult. And when I opened the first script of the second season, my jaw dropped. It’s so completely different from Season 1.
HBO: How do you tell a character’s story through costume?
Sharen Davis: In film, you get a script in which you know the beginning and end. You can arc a character based on costume. I can take my acting experience, live the part, and determine a character’s highs and lows. With Westworld, there is no way to do that. 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.
HBO: How do you design for different timelines?
Sharen 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.
HBO: Tell us about Dolores’ and Maeve’s new looks this season.
Sharen Davis: I was really intrigued by the badass women in front of the camera on this show. At the end of Season 1, we see Dolores and Maeve become sentient and branch out in two different ways. I had to deconstruct what the actors knew about how their character would look. 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.