Why ‘The White Lotus’s’ Portia Is TV’s Best-Dressed Character

Gerard Ortiz

Alex Bovaird, the costume designer for The White Lotus, is 1 of the finest performing on television now. I nonetheless feel about that blue and white striped polo that Shane (Jake Lacy) wore in the opening scene of the first period. You see the polo, the way it’s just a minimal much too cosy and probably appears like some thing his mother acquired him for Xmas, and you get it ideal absent, prior to he even opens his arrogant very little mouth: God, that dude is an asshole.

Bovaird’s costumes are documentarian, anthropological. They are not fantasy the way a Pat Subject costume is, or aspirational the way that Sandy Powell’s operates of artwork for Martin Scorsese’s period of time movies are. They never even take a seed of actuality, as Heidi Bivens does on Euphoria (or Mona May well did with Clueless), and grow it into a fantastical entire entire world. Alternatively, Bovaird’s costumes are alarmingly precise, giving that exact same pit-in-your-belly experience that demonstrate creator Mike White’s dialogue elicits. When Daphne and Cameron, a thirty-a thing wealthy couple displaying their newly abundant pals Harper and Ethan how the other 50 % lives, wrestle to recall irrespective of whether or not they’ve voted, it occurred to me that I may explain them to mates as these types of: “They gown like people who are so keen to disengage with entire world occasions that they can’t try to remember in these politically manic situations whether or not or not they’ve voted!” In other text: place with each other but not elegant in any exceptional way. He’s grabbing a minimal Casablanca silk blouse from Mr. Porter to look the section for their Sicilian vacation, and possibly he has a fancy check out she, on the other hand, purchased everything in the Vacation resort Vibes edit on Net-a-Porter two weeks in the past.

Portia (Haley Lu Richardson), the Gen Z assistant to White Lotus’s pseudo-ingenue Tanya (Jennifer Coolidge), dresses like she has the Depop doldrums. She wears sweatpants yanked also superior with a baggy Tommy Hilfiger cropped rugby that also has a bungee all around the waist (one particular of individuals wacko professional garments that hopes to hit nine tendencies at once). A burning coil of morality indicates she doesn’t want to store at Shein like some of her mates do, so she’s cobbled with each other stuff from online secondhand web sites and a couple of Instagram thrift shops. Portia does not costume like a character from Euphoria she attire like a misplaced younger lady who watches Euphoria. Ouch.

HBO.

Her costumes are most likely Bovaird’s greatest development, this time or very last. (Perhaps Nicole Mossbacher, the rich woman manager tech executive with her specifically edited but somehow promptly acquired trip wardrobe in period one, will come in next.) What Bovaird has gotten so right about Portia is that she is not a devotee who life for manner but is a woman from a technology for whom style, or the approximation of it, is exercised like a god-given right. Or possibly it is even more essential than that: colors, prints, and a kind of postmodern bonanza of thinly understood cinematic, Tv, and tunes references are like drinking water and air, the foundation of any wardrobe.

Portia’s apparel epitomize her younger person’s lament: she is determined to date anyone, she suggests at one particular issue, “who is completely ignorant of the discourse” for the reason that she’s so “sick of TikTok and Bumble.” And nevertheless, as her slapdash wardrobe tells us, it is impossible for her to log off. No matter whether which is a own dilemma or a generational just one is a dilemma only she can remedy.

Mia and Lucia, two sex employees who take advantage of the sex-addicted Hollywood incredibly hot shot performed by Michael Imperioli, lust immediately after sequined minidresses and Alessandro Michele-ified Gucci rompers that belie that basic belief that proudly owning a selected dress or pair of sneakers will alter your existence. Even Harper, the adhere-in-the-mud lawyer performed by Aubrey Plaza, appears to have a relatable appreciation for garments. She could come to feel ambivalent about her and her husband’s newfound prosperity, but she of course built a several buys ahead of the journey that advise she expended her twenties scrolling by influencers on Instagram even if she may possibly roll her eyes at them. (That model that can make her white dress has a take note on their web site that “Our mission is to provide monetary empowerment to disadvantaged women.” One particular can see how a girl like Harper, freshly responsible about her monetary protection, may locate that an desirable excellent in a slash-out micro-mini gown.)

Portia, on the other hand, is ambiently mindful of vogue. What appeared severe not so extended ago is now just primary. She wears a ludicrous sweater vest with swans swimming on it with distressed cut-off jean shorts like any one else wears a T-shirt and baseball cap. While her outfits search so chaotic that they counsel cultivated style and dedication, she essentially has no time to care about how garments cling to her physique, nor does she seriously treatment she’s a great deal far more intrigued in adorning herself with piercings, her nails with acid eco-friendly polish, her hair with bleach (properly, when she feels like it. A small root is amazing). When she wears a shirt printed with cartoon images of gals that appears like a Wet Seal knockoff a few or 4 years eradicated from Gianni Versace’s groundbreaking Spring 1991 selection that set Warhol screenprints on couture gown, a single doesn’t get the sense that she’s hunting to university us on the spirit of Gianni. She’s just huffing the omnipresent and vague vibes of nostalgia. It isn’t that Bovaird is suggesting Gen-Zers are unstylish in reality, she dresses Portia to recommend that they are just about way too classy. (And let us be apparent: some of the most elegant people today in the entire world belong to Gen Z.) Instead, she tracks via Portia how garments that looks chaotic and inscrutable to everyone more mature than 28 are most likely reflecting a feeling of chaos and confusion within.

white lotus portai

HBO.

All more pitch fantastic: no a single states a matter about her clothes. Neither her carefully woke suitor nor her hilariously distasteful a person compliment her exposed abs or her wonderful hair you never even hear the more mature adult men make remarks about her visual appeal. The a single trace we have (at minimum so considerably) as to what other individuals make of her clothes is in the latest episode, when Tanya tells her they are heading to Palermo on their new pal Quentin’s yacht and she’ll “need to carry some cute matters. Do you have some cute matters?” And when Portia suggests yes, Tanya replied with outstanding Coolidge rudeness, “You absolutely sure?” In the face of this sartorial generational divide, older generations more and more find it ideal to just shut up. But in some cases, a boomer simply cannot aid herself.

The joke only grows a lot more perverse when we see what Portia categorizes as “cute factors,” like a stretchy blue tube best and matching pair of bellbottoms she wears on a date with Leo. Probably her TikTok feed served her somebody dissecting the Spice Girls aesthetic, double best-knots and all. (I liked that, in 1 minute, we see her turn her experience away from the digital camera, revealing the volume of snap clips it took to protected her hair like that. Like: “the boundaries of my have hair duration be damned! I’m accomplishing this Spice Women design!”)

white lotus portai

HBO.

Only a several decades ago, a substantial-driven boss could possibly need that her assistant wear a certain uniform or at minimum adhere to a costume code now, of training course, even the most impressive persons know you can’t actually inform persons what to have on. (Hence: crop tops in the business office.) The deficiency of clothing way from Tanya adds to the perplexity of her work generally, mandates like “wear a blazer” or “always don black” are a key way that a new employ the service of allows navigate their boss’s requirements and priorities. Without the need of this sort of strategies, it is unclear to Portia what she’s even staying compensated to do. Is she Tanya’s good friend? Her therapist? Her sidekick? If her career is simply just to browse Vanity Good in the dark whilst her boss sleeps nearby, you can’t blame her for dressing like an additional in a Disney Channel new music movie from 2003.

white lotus portai

HBO.

What will make a costume great? I assumed of this also in my (admittedly very Tárdy!) viewing of Tár, whose costumes the online has been salivating above due to the fact its launch virtually two months ago. I was surprised at the notice the clothing received supplied how significantly understated brands like The Row and Yohji Yamamoto are employed The Row, in particular, is typically criticized on the web for on the lookout far too monotonous or peaceful. What is putting about their appearance in Tár is that you see how exclusive, how fashionable, how profound the clothes are. Observing the clothes relocating in the globe this character inhabits—in the driver’s seat of a Porsche, wandering all around a gorgeous Brutalist condominium, or lecturing obnoxiously at a young and naive student—makes us comprehend the clothes more, and in convert, the character sporting them. When I noticed Portia get on that yacht in the printed handkerchief gown with the sparkles and a pair of Converse sneakers, I could just image her typing into Poshmark “vintage Cavalli,” and then probably, “vintage 90s mall gown.” (It’s truly a more recent gown, from the model French Relationship.) Whether Bovaird believed of factors with that level of element does not definitely matter. If a costume designer implies to us that a lot of a character’s interior everyday living offscreen via the work of fabric and print alone—that’s an amazing accomplishment.

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