In Sunday’s episode of The White Lotus, middle-aged heiress Tanya McQuoid gives her frazzled personal assistant a well-meaning wake-up call: “Get your shit together, Portia.” The remark was directed toward Portia’s poor taste in men and lack of direction in life, but could just as easily have been a nod to her questionable sense of style.
Fashion Twitter has been dragging and debating Portia’s outfits for weeks. Vogue “chaotic and clearly algorithmically informed” ensembles as “bad but perfect.” Harper’s Bazaar a more generous assessment of her “ambiently tasteless clothes,” declaring them “masterfully textured costumes.”
Clinically depressed and chronically online, Portia—played by Haley Lu Richardson—is an amalgamation of Gen Z stereotypes. Stranded in Sicily, where she’s being forced to vacation with her codependent boss, Portia waxes poetic about wanting to escape the trappings of social media. But her beaded phone chain and suitcase filled with influencer-favorite brands like Stussy, Aries, and Brandy Melville suggest otherwise. The chunky Crap Eyewear sunglasses Portia sports in multiple colors over the course of the season feel like an Instagram impulse purchase.
“She’s young, she doesn’t really know who she is, and she’s trying on different ideas,” Emmy-winning costume designer Alex Bovaird explained to . “Sometimes she dresses more dainty, and sometimes she dresses like a boy. She did bring a couple of nice dresses because she knew she was going to dinner, but the price point is $100–$200 or cheaper.”
London-based, Emma Chamberlain–approved label House of Sunny is behind the Swan Lake sweater vest Portia sports in the first episode, as well as the knit halter dress and cosmic print set she wears later on dates with Jack, the British bad boy played by Leo Woodall.
Lost in the sea of time and trends, Portia looks perpetually out of place. She wears knits in summer. She juxtaposes digital-age fast fashion with Depop vintage finds from the ’90s and early 2000s. Bovaird told Vogue she sourced pieces, including the below Y2K psychedelic print dress, from shops like Zoo Vintage in Rome and Los Feliz in Barcelona to mirror the way 20-somethings seem to be “dressing in a very haphazard, random way and borrowing things from different eras.”
“Our idea with Portia was that she doesn’t fully hit the mark,” Bovaird continued. “She really tries and some of her outfits are cute, but some of them are…naff? When we see her at breakfast, she’s half-dressed and looks like she’s given up, and then when she’s on dates with Albie or Jack, she’s trying harder, but she always looks scattered—and deliberately so.”
In another look, Portia pairs a vintage Tommy Hilfiger polo with knockoff Doc Martens sandals and a ’90s-inspired crocheted bucket hat. Richardson revealed to that costar Theo James teased her relentlessly about those “ugly-ass” white sandals, but the hat is a handmade creation of her own. Richardson has been crocheting for years and regularly wears an “even crazier” rainbow version of the hat off-screen.
Something about Portia’s appearance is always askew, be it her sandals or her chartreuse manicure. It’s a fashion formula Bovaird likened to Coco Chanel’s adage on accessorizing. Instead of looking in the mirror and taking at least one thing off before going out the door, Bovaird and Richardson would throw every outfit off-kilter by adding a garment. Take, for instance, the extraneous shirt tied around the waist of Portia’s Zara crochet minidress in the third episode.
“I was like, ‘We need to add something that throws this off,’” Richardson recalled. “Then we got this long-sleeve shirt with some contrasting, not-compatible pattern and tied it around my waist. Then it felt like Portia.”
In moments, Portia nearly manages to pull off impressive feats of power clashing. I still can’t decide if the zebra-print bikini top and striped bolero combination Portia selects for a beach club outing is egregious or inspired.
Bovaird admitted to weaving several motifs into the cast’s clothing and accessories, such as florals, fruit, and animals. “There’s this Fellini-esque surrealism, too, with some strange prints and this colorful, dreamlike, psychedelic aspect to some of the outfits,” the costume designer noted in .
“There are also face prints that echo the Testa di Moro, the ceramic heads we see everywhere,” she added. “In one scene, Portia wears a top with brightly colored faces on it, and that’s a Custo Barcelona dress that we cut up to make a tank. It’s trippy. She looks a bit like a raver.”
“I hate Portia’s wardrobe, but then I look in my closet and I’m the exact same,” Richardson confessed to . Case in point: the feather-sleeved Moschino minidress and knee-high boots Richardson wore to the premiere. Or the Marques Almeida patchwork slip dress she wore to GQ’s 2022 Men of the Year Party.
Triggering that reflexive cringe—the “ick” that precedes a moment of perfect clarity—is what White Lotus creator Mike White does best. Inevitably, the fucking play is about us. “I think that’s what this show is all about,” Richardson concluded. “Making people reflect on their own lives.”