When talking to Vanity Fair, makeup artist Stephen Lyne described Cosima Niehaus as “The girl who has gone her own way completely since high school. Her perspective is: I am my own person. I am an alternative to all of you.” Cosima embodies and holds onto this strong sense of self as she is one of the first clones to become self-aware and contact other clones. As a Ph.D. student in experimental evolutionary development, she can understand their origins in a way the others can’t and not allow the reality of their conception to shake her sense of self like Alsion. Cosima’s story primarily revolves around her study into their biology created by Dyad Institute through Project Leda and the cause of the deadly respiratory diseases affecting many of them, including her. Her search leads her into a fight with the corporation that created them, an on-again-off-again relationship with girlfriend Delphian. But ultimately, a family that understands and accepts her.
Through all of this, Cosima is not afraid to express her defiant, nerdy, punk, laid back California girl attitude through how she styles herself. Cosima’s style is well established in the first season. Her style is unique. I imagine her style inspiration comes from a youth spent as a goth or scene kid shopping at Hot-Topic while also being raised in the very laid back setting of a houseboat around San Francisco. This esthetic is represented through the muted colors, crocheted lace tops, subtle patterns, and funky scarfs—her array of jewelry and accessories express her free spirit. However, much of the time, this is covered up by her lab coat. The lab coat is her most crucial piece of costume because it represents her ultimate goal of finding a cure to her illness. As eye-catching as her wardrobe is, Cosima’s hair and make-up are what allow her to stand out.
Cosima’s hair also got some outside inspiration from inside the wardrobe department, “This lovely lady who is in wardrobe had her hair white blond with these dreadlocks and she always kind of wore it like that. In my mind she was like Cosima, so I tried my own version of it.” Lead Hairstylist Sandy Sokolowski shared this inspiration with Vanity Fair. With Glamour, she shared how she managed to make such a heavy-looking piece as light as a feather, “I use an old theater technique where we build a cage with wire and crepe hair and sew appliances to it. Although it looks substantial, less is more, and it’s about the movement of the hair.”
Cosima’s makeup is a staple of her look with heavy eye makeup and simple lips. This lack of lipstick creates a visual mark of how sick she is getting. The paler and more chapped they become the worse off you know she is. The most defining features of her makeup are her arched drawn eyebrows and heavy eyeliner. Lynch found the inspiration for his look in a student of his, “She would draw on extreme brows that went sky high or they were really arched. It’s that heavy eyeliner that is extended inward and outward at the corners.” He used this inspiration framed with a pair of thick Cat-eye style glasses to drawn your attention to her eyes, the one part of each that can’t be altered on the clones. But for Cosima, her eyes are a symbol of her intelligence and search for knowledge.
It’s this search that allows Cosima to create the life she wants for herself. A life full of love and family and freedom from those who sought cage her in. Next week we’ll ver-off course a little a take a look at the clones that were breed to live in a cage, the Castor boys.
Want to know more? Check out my sources.
Miller, Julie. “Here’s How Orphan Black Transforms Tatiana Maslany Into a Cast of Clones.” Vanity Fair, 2015, http://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2015/04/orphan-black-clones.
Trudeau, Tessa. “On the Orphan Black Set: We’ve Got All the Costume Details!” InStyle, 2014, http://www.instyle.com/fashion/costume-department-insider-orphan-black.
Shapouri, Beth. “How Much Cosima’s Wig Weighs and Other Shocking Hair Secrets From Orphan Black.” Glamour, Glamour, 12 Jan. 2016, http://www.glamour.com/story/how-much-cosimas-wig-weighs-an.
Cosima is only called upon once to impersonate one of her sisters when she finds herself at one of Alison’s campaign events while Alison’s m.i.a.