‘The White Lotus’: Mia’s Shredded ‘California’ Shirt Came From a Thrift Shop in Rome

Before Season 2 of HBO‘s The White Lotus ended, fans pored over the storyline to figure out who would be found dead in the Meditteranean Sea. But the sartorial choices of the hotel guests also became fodder for internet discourse. Clothes say a lot about a person. No one’s journey was exemplified more by what they wore than Mia (Beatrice Grannò).

Costume designer Alex Bovaird earned an Emmy nomination for the first season of The White Lotus. She fulfilled the same role with Season 2 as Mike White took the show to Sicily. Recently, Bovaird explained where Mia’s clothes came from and how she designed her aesthetic. 

Alex Bovaird felt the ‘California’ shirt represented Mia’s personality and story arc on ‘The White Lotus’

One of Mia’s signature looks is this ripped-up shirt with “California” printed on the front from Episode 4, “In the Sandbox.” She revealed to The New York Times that she bought it from a thrift store in Rome.

The top made thematic sense given Mia’s increased comfort in the hustler lifestyle with her best friend Lucia (Simona Tabasco) combined with her desire to see more of the world outside of Italy. 

“I just thought it had a certain, “I’ve been up all night doing drugs, then I go to another party on the beach” quality to it,” Bovaird said. “Mia and Lucia are both dreaming of getting out of Sicily. Lucia particularly wants to go to LA.”

The White Lotus scene with Lucia and Mia in the lobby
Lucia and Mia in The White Lotus | HBO via Youtube

Mia’s journey is reflected in her clothes

Bovaird particularly enjoyed coming up with the fits for the younger characters on The White Lotus. She got inspiration from influencers and brands popular on Instagram to create over 70 looks that allowed the Gen Z cast members to “[express] themselves in a really adventurous, chaotic way.”

As extravagant and meme-ready as some of the outfits are, she kept the fashion choices of all characters grounded in reality. For Mia and Lucia specifically, Bovaird wanted to communicate that they arrived at the hotel from a different background. Mia and Lucia were using what they had to attract potential clients and make money. 

“They dress a little bit off-key as well. It’s very colorful and haphazard but in a bit more Eurotrash way,” she explained. “They end up buying clothes from the little shops on the corso, so my approach was, ‘What would they buy if they had the money and they were trying to fit in?’ In the evening, they get sparklier and sparklier as they go along.”

Mia learned to use her sexuality to get what she wants

In The White Lotus, Mia is initially supportive but wary of Lucia’s sex work. She fronts as if she doesn’t want to participate in the activities — until she sees how much money and opportunity exists.

Mia takes to sex work so convincingly that Lucia semi-seriously refers to her as a monster. She agrees to sleep with the hotel piano player Giuseppe to help advance her dreams of playing music professionally. After she accidentally puts him in the hospital after a case of mistaken Viagra, Mia turns her attention to the grumpy manager Valentina (Sabrina Impacciatore). 

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The two women had very little interaction, but Mia is emotionally intelligent enough to pick up on Valentina’s repressions. She offers to provide sexual favors in exchange for the now-available piano gig.

It is a purely transactional relationship and a clear example of Valentina abusing her power to fulfill her own desires. But in a series defined by twisted relationships, it is also one of the few that is emotionally honest and beneficial for everyone involved.