What The White Lotus is wrong with Portia’s Gen-Z wardrobe | Fashion

IIt’s hard not to hate the characters of The White Lotus, the HBO show set in a fictional luxury hotel chain in Sicily for the second season. They are rich and almost all attractive, and yet miserable; an unbearable combination. Every week, viewers jump between who the most obnoxious guest is. Portia (Haley Lu Richardson), Tanya’s Gen Z assistant, Jennifer Coolidge’s impeccably acted “psycho” boss, tops many viewers’ lists. Fresh out of college, whiny and addicted to doomscrolling on social media, she feels relatable, if a bit confused. Also receiving his share of the vitriol? Portia’s wardrobe.

Right off the bat, Portia’s clothes make her look out of place. Against the grandeur of the hotel, she wears a knit cardigan covered in swans, paired with awkward length denim shorts. His look takes things a step further when seen alongside his employer, Tanya, who is wearing a floral print bodycon dress by Dolce & Gabbana. Portia uses a backpack while Tanya wears the same bag throughout each episode, a hot pink Valentino shoulder bag with a visible gold logo.

Portia and Tanya in the opening scene of The White Lotus
Portia and Tanya in the opening scene of The White Lotus. Photography: Fabio Lovino/HBO

Many of Portia’s pieces appear to have been found on Depop or in charity shops. Her sweater vest is from Instagram-famous brand House of Sunny, a tie-dye sweatshirt that reads “No Problemo” is from Aries when she could have made her own beaded jewelry. While that seems pretty typical of Gen Z, who are conscious of where their clothes are made and care deeply about the environment, something about her look isn’t quite right. Also: why was she wearing a sweater under the Sicilian sun?

The TikTok pages for you are awash with instructions on how to achieve the “clean girl” aesthetic — dewy skin, a slicked back ponytail, and a capsule wardrobe that reflects that. Take Matilda Djerf, the insanely popular 25-year-old Swedish influencer with enviable hair (she has over 2 million Instagram followers) who couldn’t look past Portia’s loud and chaotic wardrobe. Portia has no plain staples, beiges and neutral tones that you can pair with just about anything. She has contrasting elements and just seems to put them together. This is how she achieved her signature look, worn the first time she met Jack (Leo Woodall) at the hotel bar: a zebra print bikini and a Technicolor bolero.

Portia in a scene from The White Lotus.
Portia in a scene from The White Lotus. Photography: Fabio Lovino/HBO

So why is she dressed like that? One answer is that it’s a fictional show and it’s costumes chosen by a costume designer. Then there’s the separation between accuracy and what works on TV. Compared to the other female characters in the series, especially Daphne (Meghann Fahy) and Harper (Aubrey Plaza), who, although not much older than her, seem to dress according to the resortwear section of high-end brands, she is the antithesis of luxury. Although the clothes Portia wears aren’t cheap – House of Sunny and Aries pieces cost over £100 – they suggest she’s the one working for someone wealthy.

Unsurprisingly, people on social media (myself included) have spent years dissecting what women wear, but barely mention men. Albie (Adam DiMarco), Portia’s adventure at the start of the trip, also just graduated from college, but her outfits haven’t sparked the same outrage. When men don’t have their tops, Hawaiian shirts and pool shorts get pretty boring. Maybe we don’t talk about it because there’s nothing to say?

If she’s the product of a digital-native generation she claims to be — whose style stems from TikTok trends — since when has the algorithm been spitting out ill-fitting clothes with clashing colors and patterns? The answer is, it doesn’t – but its lack of a distinct style is basically the point.

Going out alone… Portia dines alone.
Going out alone… Portia dines alone. Photography: Fabio Lovino/HBO

Portia’s dress sense seems a bit lost, and you get the idea early on that she might be feeling that too. She doesn’t really know herself yet. Her crochet bucket hat and beaded choker is what makes her feel fun and free, but also tries to scream, a little too loud, I’m not like you.

She is at that crossroads in life where the structure of education has disappeared and she finds herself with the prospect that working for someone like Tanya could be her future. It’s something a Gen Z audience watching will be able to relate to. Thus, she uses her clothes to try to assert herself, to show that she is somehow different (even if her actions suggest otherwise) in a sort of “choose me” way.

Portia in purple Aries 'No Problemo' sweatshirt
Portia in Aries brand sweatshirt Photography: Fabio Lovino/HBO

So what should you wear? Had we seen her in a neutral Skims dress (the brand owned by Kim Kardashian), Portia would have seemed more obvious to Gen Z, but it wouldn’t have quite matched her character. She may not look typical of her generation, but mistakenly, she doesn’t feel like it either. As for sweaters in the heat, it’s just bad packaging.

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