Everyone is raving about HBO's sensational original series The White Lotus, and Modern Luxury's VP of Fashion and Creative Director, James Aguiar, is no exception. The scandalous, binge-worthy show follows two families, one human train wreck and a handful of resort employees as they navigate the tumultuous side of tropical getaways.
The drama is heightened by each character's signature style, and Aguiar can't stop thinking about how the fashion dresses up the dialogue—and it's got him doing some wild self-reflecting, too.
The White Lotus Courtesy of HBO
The season finale of the highly binge-able HBO Max series The White Lotus is seared into my brain for so many reasons, but I can skip No. 1 and go straight to No. 2. (If you watched it you know exactly what that means.)
While there is much to “unpack” here—pun intended—it got my mind racing through all of the resorts I have been lucky enough to visit. I may not always be a privileged guest (I am usually working in some capacity), but the fact of the matter remains: style matters and resort style can say exactly who you are even before the first aloha leaves your lips.
Why all of a sudden does one change everything about themselves when a holiday beckons? Does the promise of sun-kissed skin require corals and turquoise to enter your wardrobe where every shade of black usually exists? Must we blend in to the natural flora and fauna with hideous prints like the chameleons scurrying by as we make our way to our private cabana? Who exactly am I when a piña colada served in a coconut is in my hand?
What struck me about the brilliant choices made by series costume designer Alex Bovaird was not what was said but more importantly how it was unsaid. The clinical uniforms of the staff meant to serve took on an almost sanitarium feel once we realized the varying states of cray-cray each guest brought in their matching luggage.
The oversized hats of newly wed Rachel (Alexandra Daddario) determined not to be a “trophy wife” but so clearly protecting her porcelain skin and insecurities from the sun. The disaffected bohemian looks of Olivia (Sydney Sweeney) and Paula (Brittany O’Grady) who clearly put a lot of effort into looking bored. The quip that “we also have a book stylist that picks out our books” might not be as far off as we think.
The overdressed Tanya (Jennifer Coolidge) gives new meaning to the term "day-to-evening” in ruffles, silks, sequins, feathers and plunging necklines dressed for cocktail hour at 8:00 a.m.
Also, a huge shout out to douche-frat-bro Shane (Jake Lacy) for single-handedly bringing norm-core back to the forefront with his starched shorts and bought-in-the-hotel boutique Aloha shirts. Special mention must be given to his Frankenmom Kitty (Molly Shannon) who clearly prays at the altar of Lily Pulitzer and serves Palm Beach realness with zero hint of irony.
Lastly, without question, the single sartorial statement comes from the wound-tighter-than-tight hotel manager Armand (Murray Bartlett) in his never-ending parade of linen suits that begin to rumple and wrinkle the more the character loses his grip on reality. (To be fair linen is a great fabric for his operatic finale for his “best seating ever” as he flits from each guest with the confidence and experience of a ballet dancer.)
This resort that appears to be beautiful by picture-perfect postcard standards—complete with an always-present instagramable-worthy filter—quickly becomes sinister and eerie. It plays out as a southern gothic novel in paradise. It’s Tropical Gothic, if you indulge me. Better yet: Trop-Goth.
That’s a term that I just invented and am determined to make happen in the fashion world. If it doesn’t stick, at least we have season two to look forward to and a whole new way of dressing for the vacation of our nightmares.
Watch The White Lotus, now streaming on HBO Max.
Photography by: Courtesy of HBO