Why Portia in ‘The White Lotus’ is a ‘weird girl’ style icon
Portia's haphazard personal style proves she's a true pioneer of the 'weird girl' aesthetic
words Sophie Lou Wilson
When season 2 of The White Lotus wrapped up, the most controversial moment wasn’t finding out who the dead bodies were, or wondering who had actually fucked who. No, the biggest question on most people’s lips was what the hell was going on with Portia’s wardrobe? There’s no doubt that the 24-year-old personal assistant had some of the most divisive on-screen style moments since Emily in Paris.
For many, her mismatched outfits conjured every TikTok trend since 2020 spat out and rolled into one. Bold sweater vest? Check. Choker? Check. Crochet bucket hat? Of course! All at once? You bet. Looking at the visceral hatred directed at these outfits online, you’d think that everyone had forgotten the obsession with the quirky, maximalist weird girl fashion trend that swept up the internet this year. So, we’re calling it now. Portia’s fashion wasn’t bad. She’s a weird girl style icon, actually.
Consider for a moment how you would feel about Portia’s outfits if they were worn by weird girl fashion pioneer Bella Hadid or queen of sweater vests Emma Chamberlain. The term weird girl was initially coined on Twitter this spring and the hashtag has since amassed 1.2 million views on TikTok. The aesthetic feels like the natural endpoint of TikTok trendcore as it combines several microtrends into one look – sound familiar?
The weird girl aesthetic was even named TikTok trend of the year in Lyst’s 2022 fashion report. It’s hardly a niche trend then, but like many digital fashion aesthetics, it clearly hasn’t translated into most people’s wardrobes just yet. But Portia has the weird girl look down, so perhaps she’s simply a misunderstood fashion icon ahead of her time (filming for The White Lotus started in Sicily in February 2022 and wrapped up in summer.)
According to The White Lotus costume designer Alex Bovaird, Portia’s wardrobe reflects the fact that she’s lost in life. Her outfits are made of haphazardly sourced vintage or vintage-inspired pieces that suggest she’s grasping at every single aesthetic in the hope that something will work and give her a sense of identity. It’s true that obsessively following trends can be a sign that you’re searching for security or approval, but experimenting with fashion is also a rite of passage in finding your personal style, and that’s true of every generation growing up, not just Gen Z.
Weird girl style is about dressing how you want in defiance of what anyone else might think. At the end of the day, Portia’s a character in a show so social media pile-ons about how ugly her style is won’t hurt her, even if actress Hayley Lu Richardson admitted that some pieces came from her own wardrobe. However, the weird girl aesthetic can be just as divisive in real life. When the trend was first acknowledged, self-confessed weird girls were up in arms about the fact that they’d always been picked on for dressing differently, but it took Bella Hadid appropriating it for it to be deemed cool
Were some of Portia’s looks a little offensive to our eyes? Yes, but the whole point of the weird girl aesthetic is that it’s supposed to look kinda ugly and mismatched. It’s about layering whatever with whatever and having fun with fashion rather than following a strict set of rules. If you want to wear a tiny striped cardigan over a zebra bikini, go for it. Portia might be cringe, but she is free!
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