The White Lotus’s second season has lived up to its critically-acclaimed first instalment in many senses: Mike White’s razor-sharp depiction of the deluded one percent, this time sunning themselves on the beaches of Sicily instead of Hawaii; barnstorming performances from a talented set of newcomers to the series; the triumphant return of Jennifer Coolidge’s deranged heiress Tanya, funnier and more tragic than ever before; and the impeccable costuming which ensures that we know exactly who all of these characters are before they’ve even said a single word.
The latter is the work of Alex Bovaird, the costume designer behind the rough-and-ready ensembles in Andrea Arnold’s American Honey and the Easter Egg-filled looks in Jordan Peele’s Nope, who also outfitted the likes of Coolidge, Connie Britton and Sydney Sweeney in kaftans, Piaget bracelets and ironic sweatshirts for the satire’s first outing.
This time around, in the grand surroundings of the San Domenico Palace hotel in Taormina, she was tasked with dialling up the glamour – and, in some senses, the absurdity – when dressing its latest residents: Portia (Haley Lu Richardson), Tanya’s indecisive Gen Z assistant; Jack (Leo Woodall) the charming Essex boy who catches her eye; Albie (Adam DiMarco), a Stanford grad who also vied for her affections; Lucia and Mia (Simona Tabasco and Beatrice Grannò), two sex workers hired by the latter’s father (Michael Imperioli); financier Cameron (Theo James), his ditzy wife Daphne (Meghann Fahy), his entrepreneur friend Ethan (Will Sharpe), and his wife, the hard-as-nails lawyer Harper (Aubrey Plaza). As they bed hop and bar hop, their lives become increasingly intertwined and their lies – some more elaborate than others – slowly unravel.
As the show continues to air on Sky Atlantic and Now, Bovaird gives us a character-by-character breakdown of their looks – and reveals the details to look out for which could give us a clue to their fates.
In season two, the story moves from Maui to Taormina. How did that change your approach to the costuming?
We kind of upped our game this season in terms of people dressing up and peacocking. There’s a level of artistic licence, but we thought about the notion of people putting on a costume to go on holiday and imagining who they could be. With it being set in Sicily, we also wanted to infuse a bit of Italy into everyone’s wardrobe. There are a lot of pieces by Italian designers, colours inspired by the blues, yellows and oranges of the Sicilian landscape, and a lot of fruit motifs. There’s this Fellini-esque surrealism, too, with some strange prints and this colourful, dreamlike, psychedelic aspect to some of the outfits.
One of the strangest characters is still Jennifer Coolidge’s Tanya. How did you want her to dress for this new environment?
I think she fancies herself an Italian Brigitte Bardot so, when she packed – or when she, you know, got her personal shopper to help her get some frocks for Italy – she got a whole rack of Dolce & Gabbana. She wears a lot of floral prints too, and she’s got Valentino purses, and she’s always teetering around on high heels. She’s dressed up, head to toe, and trying really hard to show off her assets because she fears that her husband [Jon Gries’s Greg] is maybe not who he says he is, or not really into her. In Hawaii, her look was more loungy.
There’s also, of course, the scene where she goes on the Vespa, and that’s her trying to be the most romantic version of herself. She wears this Alice Temperley dress which has this odd print on it, with pagodas and temples, and an Alberta Ferretti scarf. We had her try on a variety of things for that scene and we could’ve gone with something that was more practical for the Vespa, but in Italy, you do see people hopping on bikes in their dinner frocks. We wanted the look to be comedic, but not too silly.