For my 21st birthday I decided that one of the things I would most like to do in the entire world, was sit in a run-down diner on Huntington Beach in California. Why? Because it was one of the key locations in The OC, the 2003 drama surrounding the lives of the rich teenagers of Newport Beach, California, and a TV show that I then considered to have changed my life.
Was I being dramatic? Yes, probably. But a whistlestop tour of all the places that Seth, Ryan, Summer and Marissa frequented was my birthday wish. The Bait Shop, the Cohen’s House, the pier and even the place where Marissa (spoiler alert) got into that fatal car crash were all part of the tour.
I was 10 when The OC premiered and I’m just as obsessed with it now as I was then. So it’s on that note that I feel that I’m qualified to write this piece on the enduring fashion impact that The OC had on our lives and why we should still all be trying to dress like Marissa Cooper.
The OC was one of the first of its kind, a teen-focused drama where fashion was at the forefront. The characters captured the sartorial aspirations of a generation and the Y2K wardrobe of micro minis, Juicy Couture and endless camisole tops has made its way back on to fashion’s front line some twenty years later. It feels impossible to round up all of the amazing looks that the show produced, but just picture plenty of slogan T-shirts and boleros and you’ve pretty much captured the essence. But here’s some of my favourite looks from the show and how you can make it work for you right now.
In the immortal words of Luke Ward “Welcome to The OC, b*tch.”
Coop’s Daytime Cool
As expected from someone who turned to shopping as a form of therapy, Marissa Cooper cultivated a wardrobe that was envied by tweens and teens the world over. Her personal take on fashion carefully straddled a line between Newport Beach preppy and an off-beat Bohemian (ish). AKA, sometimes she’d eschew her trusty Ralph Lauren polo for a nice halter top, and boy does that formula still work right now.
With the runway re-emergence of anything that’s distinctly 2003 it’s easy to find cute cowl neck tops that wouldn’t look out of place at the Newport Yacht Club.
For a wearable take on this trend, find a floor skimming skirt (low-waist optional) for the ultimate sunny day look.
Indie Rock Superstar
Remember when Hollywood director/actress Olivia Wilde played Alex, the manager at the music venue The Bait Shop that played host to The Killers and The Subways? Her indie rock girl style shook up the preppy Newport teens and sent the main cast into meltdown. She ended up having a thing with both Seth and Marissa and was behind the iconic “Group Hang”. Now Alex’s signature, the slogan band T-shirt is back, with iterations at Anine Bing and Ganni.
This time around, avoid anything too pristine, the band tee is being worn extra small, or supersized. Wear yours loose over a denim mini, then lazily tie a neck scarf for a little extra fun. Here’s how to make it work for 2023:
Summer’s Seasonal Evening Wear
Jonathan Anderson featured the anthurium flower throughout his spring/summer 2023 show for Loewe, Magda Butrym has been including flower corsages and brooches on her collections for a few seasons and Kendall Jenner wore a Ludovic de Saint Sernin dress with blooms perfectly placed on her chest, so that probably means that flower adornments are back in a big way this summer. But who did it first?
Summer Roberts at Cotillion, that’s who. Take your styling cues from my personal Orange County MVP and incorporate floral embellishments into your evening looks. Fashion tip, don’t go overboard on the flowers, one is enough. Here’s how to do it…
Kirsten Cohen’s Tailored To Perfection
When she’s not fending off gossiping Newpsies (Newport mums) or stretching in her yogalates glass, Kirsten Cohen (Seth and Ryan’s chic mother) was running the Newport Group. Which meant her character took a more polished approach to style. Normally Kirsten could be found wearing tailored blazers fitted smartly over silk camisoles.
Personally I’d ensure everything was a little oversized to create a laidback workwear look. Kirsten would always sport a pair of stiletto high heels, but maybe this is the time to keep it casual with a chunky pair of trainers?
The Day Dress
“Who are you?”
“Whoever you want me to be…”
And I want to be that girl that throws on a pretty day dress for a summer party and looks effortless and chic, AKA Marissa Cooper season 1. The Cali-girl-next-door rules apply here and the sartorial ideal is to appear like you’ve hastily flung on your dress after just slow-walking out the salty surf. Start with a mid-calf-grazing midi and work up from there. If you fancy splurging a little more on the perfect dress, start your search at the three R’s, that’s Rouje, Rixo or Reàlisation Par. Alternatively Mango and Nobody’s Child have more affordable alternatives. For the evening, add some height with heels.
The off-duty Newport Beach resident, in between tanning and attending THE most dramatic school on earth, apparently spends their time slouching around in cargo pants or oversized denim. Whilst the low-waist reigned supreme in 2004, we’re not going to insist on that, because no. Swap out your pants for knee-grazing shorts or a cargo skirt, then juxtapose with a pretty top. Bring this look into 2023 with a flat loafer and socks, in the style of Bella Hadid, then finish off with chic colored sunnies and some sculptural jewelry.