Warning: Spoilers for episodes one through three of ‘The White Lotus’ season two below.
Checking in for the second installment of “The White Lotus,” billionaire heiress Tanya McQuoid (Jennifer Coolidge) has upgraded from “Petal” to “Blossom” elite perks status at the fictional luxury resort chain. But this time around, in picturesque Sicily, the body count exponentially rises — along with the debauchery, excess and sexy power plays from a new group of rich globetrotters behaving badly.
Obviously, the fashion hits pinnacle heights, too, thanks to costume designer Alex Bovaird, who earned an Emmy nomination for her Hawaii-set work in season one of Mike White’s HBO hit series.
“In ‘The White Lotus,’ we do reality, but we up the ante,” she says over Zoom from Iceland, where she’s filming “True Detective: Night Country.” “It’s not quite ‘Sex and the City,’ because it’s more grounded. It’s somewhere in between realism and total fantasy.”
At this point, the Agatha Christie-esque precursor boat ride introducing the cast of characters has become a Mike White signature. In season two, though, the viewers play the role of season one’s terrifying Zoomer duo Olivia (Sydney Sweeney) and Paula (Brittany O’Grady), conjuring up our own snarky presumptions about the guests, like finance bro Cameron (Theo James) and his perpetually-smiling wife Daphne (Meghann Fahy), who are vacationing with Cam’s bully target and college best friend Ethan (Will Sharpe) and his tightly-wound spouse Harper (Aubrey Plaza). Who’s the power couple in this dynamic?
“I definitely infuse [the themes of the show] into the costumes, play with people’s expectations and switch around ideas with the characters,” says Bovaird. “You’re never sure who to side with.” As the mysteries unravel, the cast of suspects and victims also undergo a fashion evolution of their own.
“Everybody has a bit of Italy in their wardrobe,” says Bovaird, who brought plenty of high-end Italian brands into the mix. “Everybody has a bit of playful cheekiness. Everyone has their sexy version [of their style], as they find themselves and their mojo.”
Pour yourself an Aperol spritz as Bovaird takes us through key costume moments in season two — with non-spoiler teasers for some spectacular style in episodes four and five — ahead.
Cameron’s Euro-Bro Shirts and Short Shorts
Alpha dog Cameron was clearly not happy about losing his luggage, but he has the funds (or extended credit, anyway) to buy a complete replacement wardrobe once he lands in Sicily. (That is after he exposes himself to Harper, under the guise of borrowing Ethan’s swim trunks.)
“We wanted to be completely method about it,” says Bovaird.
Cameron starts his wardrobe replenishment mission with a brocade blazer over a jaguar-printed polo-and-shorts set, all by Etro. He immerses himself in local sartorial culture with outfits that are decisively European, as opposed to the more conventionally-macho, American perception of what’s considered masculine clothing.
“It said a lot about Cameron that he just didn’t give a crap because he’s so confident that he can just pull off anything,” says Bovaird. “For an American man to buy those loud prints and bold colors and floral shirts, it’s not usually something you would go for, especially in Europe.”
To send the wives off on a shopping trip to nearby Noto, Cameron dons a pink floral shirt with a massive “Gucci x Liberty” logo on the back. “It’s a little crass to be wearing that, but it’s just what was sold in the resort shop,” says Bovaird.
He and Ethan then kick off a day of toxic masculinity-fueled competitive jet skiing, substance abuse and extramarital dalliances. Later, during a tense lunch, he exults in his suss behavior — and essentially discloses his prior evening — with an animated cocktail-themed shirt, featuring olives, lemon twists and cocktail umbrellas, by Casablanca.
Bovaird actually took inspiration from Jean Smart‘s boisterous boat racing-themed pink set, also by the Paris-based and Moroccan-made label, in the lesbian cruise episode of “Hacks” (costume designed by Emmy-winning Kathleen Felix-Hager). “It’s a resort explosion,” says Bovaird, while also pointing out the shirt is on-brand Cam and “super expensive.”
Daphne’s Hamptons-Mom-on-Vacation Style
“She’s this ‘Zen mommy’ — you know, a ‘Hamptons goddess’ type,” says Bovaird of Daphne, who definitely brands herself as living the vitta perfetta with hubby Cameron.
Even though Daphne probably mingles within the same Manhattan circles as Shane (Jake Lacy) from season one, Bovaird didn’t want her to be as “buttoned-up” as his formidable society mom Kitty (Molly Shannon). So, Daphne begins the soon-to-be deadly holiday in her East-Coast-elite wardrobe of floaty and floral pieces by Cynthia Rowley, Tory Burch, Ramy Brooke and Zimmermann — i.e. “her beach-y Hamptons favorites,” per Bovaird.
Whilst on vacay, Daphne hits the tony boutiques, too. By her day-turned-overnight revenge jaunt to Noto, she debuts a pretty amazing blue- and white-striped crop top and pencil skirt set by Prada. Reunited with Cameron back at The White Lotus, Daphne continues to “up her game” with a gold brocade two-piece by Dolce & Gabbana.
Harper’s Old-Hollywood References
Socially-conscious lawyer Harper feels like she and Ethan — who just sold his tech company for major coin — are “larping as rich people.” She’s also hellbent on uncovering another mystery: the cracks in Cameron’s and Daphne’s supposedly flawless marriage.
Upon arrival to The White Lotus Taormina, Harper’s sailor-referential vintage skirt suit and yellow logo-less Bottega Veneta Arco tote counter Daphne’s “yummy mummy” Gucci X Ken Scott silky floral blouse, Gucci skirt and LV-branded raffia bucket bag.
“She has an old-school Jackie Kennedy and Audrey Hepburn, classic ‘Roman Holiday’ vintage vibe,” says Bovaird, also confirming Harper’s seafaring motif. “We kept thinking that she was very classic and classy — and she’s a bit snooty.”
Harper shows her sharp edges and initial inflexibility through streamlined, architectural shapes and pared-down details, like the vintage grey-green Moschino Cheap and Chic pleated mini-dress — that is until she reluctantly heads to Noto with a calculating Daphne for what turns out to be a surprise (but totally planned) 24-hour excursion. (Daphne’s distractingly large and thoroughly-packed Louis Vuitton duffle should’ve been a clue.) Having needed a new change of clothes, Harper returns the next day to a hungover Ethan in a “beachy, bohemian, flow-y, floaty” dress, appropriately by Poupette St. Barth, which Daphne gave her.
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Harper’s and Daphne’s Sartorial Connection
While in Noto, Harper and Daphne actually bond a bit (also encouraged by copious beverages and some powerful gummies). Daphne lets down her walls and, to Harper’s short-lived delight, alludes to tensions in her marriage, largely due to Cameron’s philandering.
“They do start to blend slightly,” says Bovaird, about their styles going forward.
In episode five, the two couples tour wineries in the Sicilian countryside. Harper tries to push everyone’s buttons while downing copious amounts of wine. Her bold baroque-print corset tank and straight-leg Pepe jeans feel like an alternative version of Daphne’s flared trousers and neutral-toned Ulla Johnson bustier top.
“We wanted to play with the idea of likability with the costumes, too,” says Bovaird. “That’s the point where you’re like, ‘Well, whose side am I on? Harper’s kind of a bitch — she’s the stuck-up one, but she’s thinking that Daphne is. It was fun to put them in something similar.”
Later at dinner, Harper’s sleeveless, white, gilded-button dress with unexpected side cut-outs by My Beachy Side kind of reflects Daphne’s peekaboo-paneled metallic blue romper by Ramy Brook. “Because when you start off, as an audience, you’re supposed to empathize with Harper and Ethan and judge Cameron and Daphne — but as it progresses, you’re like, ‘Hmm, Ethan and Harper are kind of getting on my nerves ,and they don’t actually have a great relationship. Daphne and Cameron, who’s to say they don’t have a better relationship?”
Lucia’s and Mia’s ‘Pretty Woman’ Moment
Enterprising Taormina locals, sex worker Lucia (Simona Tabasco) and aspiring singer Mia (Beatrice Grannò), savvily play to the resort guests’ lack of impulse control to help fulfill their dreams. Once they outsmart jaded manager Valentina (Sabrina Impacciatore) to freely roam the resort, they finagle their way onto “big Hollywood muckety muck” Dominic (Michael Imperioli)’s tab to shop its fancy shops.
At one point, Lucia and Mia have their own “Pretty Woman” moment in the boutique where Cameron started his shopping spree. “They psych out the shop lady and buy expensive clothes that they normally wouldn’t be able to afford — and so they can fit in a little bit more at the hotel,” says Bovaird, who actually shopped their sparkly silver dresses from London-based Parisian designer Clio Peppiatt. “They get progressively more glamorous.”
Lucia, who’s “a bit of a chameleon” and morphs her style depending on whom she’s spending time with, also pays ode to the 1990 Julia Roberts flick through her black- and white-striped, pink-skirted cut-out mini.
“We just tried to go for glitz, glamour and a little bit of ’90s Italian fashion,” says Bovaird. “I love the early-’90s Moschino collections. [Franco Moschino] was a very cheeky fashion designer, and I think it’s a very cheeky show.”
Portia’s Confused Gen-Z Aesthetic
In between dealing with her mercurial and overindulgent boss’s demands and juggling her own romantic adventures abroad, Tanya’s long-suffering assistant Portia (Haley Lu Richardson) searches for fulfillment and excitement. Her eclectic, mix-and-match wardrobe reflects her unpredictable moods and intentions.
Bovaird imagined that Portia searches for her own self-identity through “different looks,” like the “Swan Lake”-themed knit vest by House of Sunny and denim cut-offs she wears to sit amongst Tanya’s extensive luggage on the Taormina ferry, or the tie-dye sweatshirt reading “No Problemo” from Aries to peruse the breakfast buffet. Accompanying Tanya to the beach club in a later episode, Portia wears a perfectly-mismatched outfit of a thrifted striped knit shrug, zebra-print bikini top (by Italian swim designer Reina Olga), white jorts, sandals from the nearby market and athletic socks.
Embarking on an adventure of her own in nearby Palermo, Portia dons an adorable psychedelic-patterned bandeau top and pants, also by House of Sunny. “It’s super ‘White Lotus,’ like a little trippy,” says Bovaird. “We had this Fellini thing, too, where people look a little outrageous and strange.”
Portia’s erratic style also reflects her dynamic with Tanya.
“There’s supposed to be an echo with Tanya thinking that Portia is a young version of herself and a little bit lost,” says Bovaird. “There’s definitely a not-always-put-together element to them — although, Tanya looks more put-together in season two. In season one, she was a bit of a more of a hot mess; now, Portia is a little bit of a mess.”
Tanya’s Fantasy Vacation Wardrobe
Tanya — now Tanya McQuoid-Hunt — heads to Taormina to meet husband Greg (Jon Gries), who’s distracted, at best.
“She’s definitely trying harder,” says Bovaird, who elevated Tanya’s Hawaii caftan aesthetic, starting with an oversize floral-print sheath dress by Dolce & Gabbana and a pink Valentino bag for the ferry ride. “She’s channeling Brigitte Bardot and is consciously trying to up her game to keep her man interested.”
She imagines that Tanya shopped exclusively Italian brands, including Versace, in preparation for the couples trip. The costume designer also supported Ukrainian designer Andreeva with a blue crochet, feathered robe dress, which garners Tanya a pivotal compliment.
Perhaps out of guilt, Greg helps Tanya live out her Italian cinematic dream of becoming Monica Vitti while zipping along the mountain roads on the back of a Vespa and enjoying “pasta vongole with giant clams,” as she redundantly explains. Of course, Tanya is stylistically — but definitely not practically — dressed for the occasion, in a precariously diaphanous tea-length dress, with spectral drawings of turrets, spires and stupahs by Alice Temperley, and platform peep-toe heels by Jimmy Choo.
“We settled on something a bit more classic Tanya, but romantic,” says Bovaird, who accessorized her with a “’60s Monica Vitti”-referential headscarf. “We just wanted something that would look really awesome on the Vespa and would be super romantic and dreamy and, again, had this strange Fellini print.”
In episode five, Tanya makes an appropriately grand entrance in another spectacular Italian designer ensemble: a silver lamé plissé low-plunge gown by Alberta Ferretti, with intricate panels of lace, covered by a majestic opera cloak. Bovaird spotted the shimmering look on the Fall 2022 runway, reached out to the Italian design house and had it custom-designed especially for Coolidge and the show.
“We wanted something very dramatic,” she says.