‘Sex Education’ Season Four Explodes With Color and Queerness

SEX EDUCATION SEASON 4 - Credit: Samuel Taylor/Netflix
SEX EDUCATION SEASON 4 - Credit: Samuel Taylor/Netflix

In its fourth and final season, Netflix’s Sex Education gets a makeover. Sex therapist sidekick Eric (Ncuti Gatwa) tries on a glittered kilt. “It girl” Ruby (Mimi Keene) dons a pride pin. And Cavendish College’s queen bee Abbi (Anthony Lexa) puts on a quilted coat while her partner Roman (Felix Mufti) sports a fresh set of acrylic nails.

With Moordale Secondary School closed for good, the sexually agitated students start at Cavendish College, a student-run, queer-centric, prismatic-colored school that promotes a gossip-free environment with yoga breaks and gender-neutral facilities. Each and every season, the show has remained candid about sexual exploration and fueled honest dialogue about intimacy. And an explosion of style, courtesy of costume designer Daniella Pearman and makeup designer Emily Bilverstone.

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From the beginning, Sex Education has merged vintage fashion with modern styling. When Pearman joined the crew in the fourth season, she aimed to continue its timeless looks by scouring vintage shops and independent sellers throughout Manchester and Liverpool. Like the school’s sustainable business practices — “Why be mean when you could be green?” — Pearman incorporated beloved looks into the cast’s wardrobe.

“We want it to keep that mishmash of eras that has made Sex Ed such an iconic show and keep that,” Pearman says, “but sort of develop it slightly to add that sustainable green feel.”

Thaddea Graham as Sarah Owen and Asa Butterfield as Otis in 'Sex Education' Season Four.
Thaddea Graham as Sarah Owen and Asa Butterfield as Otis in ‘Sex Education’ Season Four.

Abbi sports a patchwork coat made from a recycled blanket, Pearman explains. And background actors had access to a truckload of pastel-washed T-shirts and pants to choose from, which they swapped and recycled on each film day.

“That’s what happens in real life. You do borrow things off people or you rework something that you might have had for years,” she says. “I still wear pieces that I bought twenty years ago. I still wear pieces that I nicked off my mom in the Nineties.”

As Otis (Asa Butterfield), Eric, and others start at Cavendish, the student attire and school halls burst with vibrant patterns. Pearman calls the pastel-pride tones refreshing compared to the autumnal, muted colors associated with Wallace University, the Ivy League college Maeve (Emma Mackey) is attending.

“We wanted to collate it so it was this beautiful, joyous place to be in and be around,” Pearman says.

Roman (Felix Mufti) and Abbi (Anthony Lexa) in 'Sex Education' Season Four.
Roman (Felix Mufti) and Abbi (Anthony Lexa) in ‘Sex Education’ Season Four.

This is especially important for Eric, Otis’s unapologetically queer best friend, who struggles with his identity and his relationship to the church just as he is metaphorically invited to the cool kids’ table at Cavendish and attends his first queer party. Green has always been a staple in Eric’s wardrobe, Bilverstone says, and reintroduced the color in a winged eyeliner and eyelash-extension look.

“It was a Grace Jones-inspired Eric from Season One. He’s better at using more color and he’s gotten bigger and bolder with his eye makeup,” Bilverstone says.

Sex Education is synonymous with shattering the gender binary in styling. Bilverstone shared that Felix Mufti, who plays Roman, already had decorative nails prior to joining the cast.

“They were three times as long as Roman’s nails,” she offers. As an extension of Mufti’s style, Bilverstone added an “A” for Abby to each nail set.

Not every character underwent a drastic makeover. Otis sticks to his red-striped jacket from Season One, and Maeve still eats and sleeps in black. Ultimately, Bilverstone and Pearman enjoyed remixing cuts, patterns, and colors for the show’s grand finale.

“If you walk down the street, people are weird and wonderful,” Pearman says. “Everyone has their own style. You don’t all want to look like a mannequin.”

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