The biggest mystery of the second season of “The White Lotus” is supposed to be who died in the finale. But all season long, it was continually heightened by a more urgent level: What was Portia wearing?
Halley Lou Richardson’s fresh-out-of-undergrad character first appeared on screen wearing a charreuse-and-aquamarine patterned sweater with a choker; Later, a cropped Tommy Hilfiger rugby shirt clashed dramatically with her plaid linen pants. Then…she’s wearing a zebra-print bikini top? With a rainbow sweater – a sweater on it? When she appeared on screen in a Lee Peeps shirt — after a live set with cosmic-psychedelic bandeau-and-flares Spice Girl — Twitter users thought all about it. And what was the twisted bucket hat all about?
Younger and more fashion-conscious audiences insisted on making costumes; Older viewers were distraught. Harper’s Bazaar declared, “Portia is TV’s best-dressed character,” and The New York Times declared, “The Misfires Are the Point.” The show’s costume designer defended her style choices in an interview with “W,” saying, “Portia is consumed by TikTok and ‘the talk.’ …so we thought it would make sense that she’s trying hard and following a mish-mash of trends.
For what America was seeing on screen for the first time, Johnny Cirillo – the street style photographer behind the popular @watchingnewyork Instagram account – spent months watching young people in New York’s most beautiful neighborhoods. “Pre-pandemic, I noticed a lot more monochrome. Top and bottom beige, top and bottom white, top and bottom black. After the pandemic, things got a lot louder,” Cirillo said. But his recent photos are a show of plates and ’90s-style pattern-clash, he says, “hot pinks and electric blues and bursts of bright reds” – not to mention more skin. Before, he says, “You didn’t see too many bras over the top, or loose clothing.”
Portia, in other words, was many Americans’ first vision of Gen Z beauty. In 2020, as society suddenly crawled down the tunnel of Covid-19, millennials were still the dominant force in fashion; The oldest members of Generation Z were under the age of 23, independent consumers. Now, as more Americans step into the light at the other end, their twinkling, twinkling eyes are taking over as Gen Z takes over and visibly relaxes the dress code of adults, mixing mismatched patterns and colors and images into chaotic combinations. And putting recently invisible body parts back on display. On city streets across the United States, today’s youth have different looks; Kylie Jenner wannabes have given the mansion to the disciples of Ella Emhoff. Excited and world-weary at the same time out of a pandemic, both are ready to re-engage in the world as they once knew it and set it all on fire. As Cirillo puts it, “I think people have come out of their shells.
Maybe some people felt it happened quietly, a subtle change in the air. But it blew like the wind against Emma McClendon. McClendon is one of America’s few real authorities on cool pants; In the year She wrote a book on them, “Denim: A Fashion Frontier,” in 2016. So you can imagine McClendon coming out of her northern epidemic hideout this fall to start a new job teaching fashion studies at St. John’s University in Queens. She realized that her pants were not good.
The 36-year-old ex-Museum Institute of Technology student started a class by engaging her students on the topic of denim. Immediately, the whole thing came in. Flares, low belts, wide legs. And most importantly, long enough to throw the fabric down and send the overlap on the shoes. Apparently, McClendon’s slim, tailored, cropped-to-the-ankle pants, to her professional look, were covered up in…well, more casual and more theatrical styles. Listening to her students and looking at their clothes, she was “thinking” — McClendon paused for a moment, recalling — “’Wow, my pants aren’t on yet.’
Soon, she saw orderly chaos around her. Her students’ clothing choices were wild, loud, strange; Their costumes are unremarkable, often thin and jumbled with funny people. To McClendon, the student body—sometimes even the student—looked like a loud pastiche of late 20th-century styles. They were mini skirts. Slip dresses. Nipples, especially when paired with giant rays. Tower, studded sole boots and loafers. Skirts on men, cargo pockets on women. Tailored items of every color, shape and era. “A ‘Clueless’ outfit is like meeting a construction worker. In, like ‘Working Girl’. And then there’s the grunge ’90s look,” says McClendon. “A few years ago, if you’d asked me, there’s a lot of things that I would have said, ‘That’s not coming back.’
A return to monochrome – “mom jeans”, turtlenecks, androgynous straight silhouettes and a general fusion between menswear and womenswear – has been very hot for a while. Even the crop tops were demir. Thanks to the sky-high waistlines of that era, “what you got was a cut in the upper[midriff]rib area,” says McClendon.
Post-pandemic, it’s open season again on belly buttons. and other parts of the body. Sex is back in style, and so is gender: menswear and womenswear are once again separate, though who can no longer be considered safe to wear. “What we’re seeing are clothes that we often think of as oversexed,” McClendon said. But they are playing in such a way as to avoid sex. (See: Steve Lacy and Lil Nas X’s outfit love. Emma Chamberlain’s “dad jeans.” Bella Hadid and Kaia Gerber’s cargo pants.)
Many young people’s daily routines are a combination of both ends of the gender spectrum. “When I wake up in the morning, feeling sexy or sexy and confident, I want to wear something more feminine,” says Breanna Gentner, 18, of Chandler, Ariz. and a first-year student at Parsons School of Design. As she feels more relaxed, she turns to more masculine styles for comfort.
On the day Gentner spoke to The Washington Post, she wore red lace underwear over an Ed Hardy shirt. “I definitely wanted to take those underwear and the likes, give them a new meaning,” says Gentner. “And you know, be promiscuous without needing to be relegated to a sacred place.”
Cirillo said young people in America’s urban centers are restless and taking new risks during the pandemic. “When people put on their masks, they were showing off a little bit more,” he said. “It was almost like this secret identity: I always wanted to do it, but I didn’t have the courage to pull it off.” Then they trade their streamlined, comfortable, safe-for-work silhouettes for bold, one-of-a-kind, often thrifty finds. Which, perhaps not coincidentally, is a practice that Gen Z has revived with his own hands.
Dressing to make you happy or boost your confidence — or hell, to feel something again — has recently been dubbed “dopamine dressing,” says Rachel Tashjian, fashion news director at Harper’s Bazaar and author of the popular newsletter Opulent Tips (also). A Harper’s Bazaar story calls Portia the best-dressed character on TV). Or as Dit Refstrup, creative director of the Danish luxury brand Gani, calls it, “Covid revenge clothing.” Ghani is working to meet the demand for a “sexier look,” Refstrup said. “Many have missed out on so much and have a great desire to go a little wild.”
Brands, to their credit, have done their best to keep up with dramatic changes in what consumers want: Ghani has announced collaborations with iconic 90s and 2000s names like Levi’s, New Balance and Juicy Couture. At the first sign of the pendulum swinging back to baggy pants, J.J. Cru introduced his instant favorite, the Giant Chino (made for men but loved by everyone). Everlane started selling casual drape pants for women (or “poodle pants” as Vogue calls them). Both brands confirm that they have had trouble keeping styles in stock; Everlane’s waiting list is sometimes 6,000 consumers long.
In short, after the pandemic, “many people started dressing in such a fun and expressive way. That’s how I would broadly describe Gen Z’s style,” says Tashjian. “Now, even minimalism is very freaky,” she added with a laugh; It is volatile, eccentric, personality-driven. “Like Le Corbusier went to Brancusi!”