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‘The White Lotus’ Costume Designer Breaks Down the ‘Pleasurable, Juicy’ Looks of Season 2

When she found out that Season 2 of “The White Lotus” would be set in Sicily, costume designer Alex Bovaird knew she’d have to up the ante.

“When people, especially Americans, go to Italy, they dress up a bit more. They bring their A-game,” she says, nodding towards the more beachy and casual wardrobe seen in Season 1, when the series’ rich and morally bankrupt characters cared little about impressing the Hawaiian people surrounding them.

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Season 2 also traverses further outside of the White Lotus hotel than Season 1 did — again, because wealthy Americans are more likely to take a holistic interest in a Western European country than in the Pacific Islands, where the resort was treated like it was the entire world (and because Season 1 was shot in a COVID bubble). And the more locations there were, the more the costumes varied.

“But it’s the same general flavor that [series creator] Mike White likes, which is, you know, ‘Go big. Go bold,'” Bovaird says. “It’s supposed to be really pleasurable to watch. Mike is interested in entertaining and pleasing as well as having things to say, so he wants the frame to be … juicy. And interesting.”

Speaking with Variety, Bovaird broke down some highlights from the glitzy looks of Season 2 by character.

Lucia and Mia

Lucia and Mia White Lotus Season 2
From left to right: Lucia (Simona Tabasco) and Mia (Beatrice Grannò) in Season 2 Episode 3

Lucia (Simona Tabasco) and Mia (Beatrice Grannò) have the widest ranging wardrobes in the series, since they’re working class girls who get to play rich for the day. Lucia is a sex worker who manages to bring her best friend, Mia, along for her White Lotus adventure. They start off in cheap skirts and t-shirts, upgrade to still cheap but more showy ensembles when they go to the hotel for the first time, then finally upgrade to designer fashion when Lucia’s client, Dominic (Michael Imperioli), allows them to charge whatever they want to his room.

“There’s an echo of the movie ‘Pretty Woman.’ The dresses get sparklier and sparklier as they go through the series,” Bovaird says. Their haul from the hotel gift shop includes swimswuits by Dior and La Perla, sunglasses by Prada and Dolce & Gabbana and a wrap dress by Moschino. “They’re dressing up as their version of rich Italians.”

In Episode 3, with the money Dominic has paid them, Mia convinces Lucia to buy a dress she’s been dreaming of from a high-end shop window. The dress is by London designer Clio Peppiatt.

“They’re fantasy dresses. They glitter. And they end up in the pool that night, so it’s just fun to see the girls stomping around and sparkly, glittery dresses getting drunk and passed out with their makeup running around their eyes.” So to add to the comedy as well and then in the street where they’re they’re a little basic, just something that bit more normal little mini skirts and shorts and T shirts, but with the cheeky little Italian style.”

Tanya

First look of Jennifer Coolidge in HBO's "The White Lotus" Season 2
Tanya (Jennifer Coolidge) in Season 2 Episode 2

Played by fan-favorite Jennifer Coolidge, Tanya and her new husband Greg (Jon Gries) are the only characters to carry over from Season 1. Getting married has only upped Tanya’s misery, however. After some bickering and bad sex on their first night of vacation, Greg asks Tanya to describe her dream Italian day, and she imagines herself as the famous actress Monica Vitti getting swept away by a handsome man on a moped. He makes her wish come true.

“We went in a few different directions. It had to be practical, because she goes on the moped, but we wanted to lean into the fact that her primary vision for this day was romantic and nostalgic,” Bovaird describes. “So we found that pink dress. It’s by Alice Temperley, and it has Japanese pagodas and castles on it, and it doesn’t really signify anything. It just has a Fellini-esque strangeness to it. We added a scarf by Alberta Ferretti and tied it around to be extravagant, and and that seemed to do the job. And she wears Jimmy Choo high-heeled shoes with rhinestones on them. A little impractical, but that’s how Italians go around on their mopeds sometimes, ready for the night!”

Later, we learn that Greg only did all of this for Tanya because he’s about to break the news that he’s leaving their vacation early. The movie star costume makes her open-mouth sobbing that much funnier.

Harper

Aubrey Plaza White Lotus Season 2
Harper (Aubrey Plaza) in Season 2 Episode 3

While Tanya has a Monica Vitti dream, Harper (Aubrey Plaza) has a Monica Vitti nightmare.

Harper is at the White Lotus on vacation with her newly rich but seemingly down-to-earth husband Ethan (Will Sharpe) as well as Ethan’s finance bro-y college friend Cameron (Theo James) and his wife Daphne (Meghann Fahy). For the first two days, she’s unsubtle about how annoying and superficial she finds Cameron and Daphne, but in Episode 3, she decides to make an effort. That’s reflected in her switch from a darker and more casual look to a pastel green day dress. She also wears a silk scarf as a headband, and the pushed-back hair makes her appear more girlish and open. Regrettably, she ends up with a trip to the nearby town of Noto with Daphe, and moves the scarf to her neck as she becomes more guarded again.

“It’s a moment where she feels she’s gonna dress up, but it’s still in scene for her,” Bovaird explains. “She likes vintage. A big inspiration for us was Audrey Hepburn. It’s an opportunity for her to go out and about and show her sweet side to Daphne, who she doesn’t think she has anything in common with. And there’s a replica of a scene from a [1960] film called ‘L’avventura,’ and Monica Vitti is in it and walks past all these Italian men who all follow her. We did a very similar thing with the locals eyeballing Harper. And the dress seemed very ’60s and good for the scene.”

(White further breaks down the reference to Michelangelo Antonioni’s film with Variety here.)

Cameron

Theo James White Lotus Season 2
Cameron (Theo James) in Season 2 Episode 2

Cameron presented unique conditions in terms of costuming; the character’s luggage gets lost on the way to Italy, so he has to shop for all-new clothing once he arrives. In Episode 2, after yelling loudly enough on a phone call with an airline employee to make everyone uncomfortable, he and Daphne go shopping and land on some outlandish pieces, including a two-piece set by Etro with a leopard printed on it under a floral blazer.

“It’s super fun to be able to put a character in clothes out of circumstance, but also very challenging because Cameron is so cocky that he doesn’t give a shit what he looks like,” Bovaird says. “He buys a bunch of random stuff, and it’s sort of great, but also super random and Italian and not his vibe. A lot of American men would be too shy to walk around in something like that because it’s not American style at all, for guy like Cameron anyway. Most of the designers he wears are Italian. It was it was a bit of a method costume designing [like method acting]. I was actually able to buy a lot of the clothes there, because they really suited that moment. It was close to Taormina.”

Portia

Haley Lu Richardson, Jennifer Coolidge White Lotus Season 2
Haley Lu Richardson, Jennifer Coolidge White Lotus Season 2

Portia (Haley Lu Richardson) is Tanya’s personal assistant, dragged along to Italy thinking she’d get to enjoy the vacation before realizing Tanya expects her to stay in her room all day. Along with Lucia and Mia, she’s one of the only characters with a tight budget, and her clothes reflect that.

“I do try and keep in mind the demographic of the character, so she doesn’t have expensive clothes. Even her Versace-esque platform heels are definitely not Versace. She’s young, she doesn’t really know who she is, and she’s trying on different ideas. 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. Lots of vintage and thrift store finds.”

At one point, Portia monologues to Albie (Adam DiMarco), her awkward admirer, about how much she hates being so tied to her phone and social media.

“There’s a brand called House of Sunny, and she wears two or three pieces from there,” she says. “The sweater vest that she arrives in and a dress at the end of Episode 4 and a two-piece in Episode 5. It’s from the U.K., and it’s one of those brands that they advertise to you on Instagram, and you’re like, ‘Okay, okay! I’m gonna buy you now!'”

The Fortune Teller

Depressed after Greg leaves their vacation, Tanya asks hotel manager Valentina (Sabrina Impacciatore) to send a fortune teller to her room, hoping for some reassurance. Soon enough, there’s a tarot reader (Katia Gargano) at her door, and Tanya is pleased by the look of her — curly hair, lots of rings and necklaces (from Toko Jewels in Rome) and dark pencil eyeliner that allow Tanya to stereotype the woman as someone who will take her money to tell her exactly what she wants to hear. But when the cards point to some deep problems in her marriage, Tanya sends the reader away so she can have another crying fit.

“She looks like a quintessential fortune teller. Mike wanted her to wear all black so that she had a witchy vibe, because she brings this ominous [energy] to Tanya, but with the lighting, it wasn’t really doing it for us. So I added the shawl, and it gave us a flavor that reminds me of the ladies in New York who sit in those psychic boxes. They all dress slightly into the trope, because that’s what people want. People don’t really want to pay someone sitting in the jeans and sweatshirt to give them a fortune.”

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