If you watched The O.C., you know that fashion played a huge role on the show. The hit series, which ran from 2003 to 2007, centered around four teens in Orange County as they navigate their messy, drama-filled lives in high school. Ryan (Ben McKenzie), Marissa (Mischa Barton), Summer (Rachel Bilson), and Seth (Adam Brody) each had their own style that clearly defined their personalities. There was Marissa, the easy-breezy California girl who loved mini skirts, Chanel bags, and halter tops; Seth, the adorkable nerd with an insane graphic tee collection; Summer, the popular fashionista who wasn’t afraid to take style risks; and Ryan, the bad-boy hunk who spent the whole series in a beefy white tank top.
The O.C. perfectly captured what rich, Californian students would wear to class at the time. (Fun fact, however: its costume designer Alexandra Welker said many of Marissa’s Chanel bags were fakes in the earlier seasons, due to a limited costume budget.) But even though I never thought we’d wear layered tank tops ever again, Y2K style is trending again. TikTok stars are embracing the look, and brands such as Juicy Couture and Von Dutch are even making a comeback. But while the 2000s may be having a revival, I wondered: do the clothes in Orange County still hold up? Or are they a bit too true to what Y2K style was—foibles and all?
Yes and no. Below, 17 fashion thoughts I had re-watching the series.Photo: © WB / Courtesy of Everett Collection
1. I’m watching the scene where Marissa first meets Ryan in season one, episode one. He’s smoking a cig outside wearing a white V-neck tee, and a bomber jacket with a hoodie underneath. “Who are you?” she asks. “Whoever you want me to be,” he replies. He’s got that nonchalant bad boy style down pat.
2. In this episode, Summer is walking in a charity fashion show. She’s wearing a Pucci-esque mini dress that is both so 2000s and very now. Her bump-it hairstyle, though? Let’s not revisit that, shall we.
3. Back to Marissa. I feel like she has a different purse in every scene. How many bags do you need, girl? And they are always gigantic.
4. Here’s Marissa at her locker with the biggest Chanel tote I have ever seen (a fake, likely). How many binders could you possibly need for your classes? This is high school, not college!Photo: © WB / Courtesy of Everett Collection
5. I love this saucy look Marissa is wearing to the carnival, too. A pleated denim mini skirt, red tank, and rainbow-striped cardigan? So cute. All she needs is some cotton candy.
6. Marissa got all the hype for being the most stylish character on the show, but I personally think Summer had better style. It’s a little bohemian, it’s a little Californian. Her outfits are like eating an organic, dairy-free yogurt with $20 granola sprinkled on top. But, like, with a Dior saddle bag.Photo: © WB / Courtesy of Everett Collection
7. Summer’s style got weird when she went to Brown University, though. This is someone who once proclaimed her main interests are “tanning, shopping, and celebrity gossip.” Suddenly she becomes a radical activist who wears graphic tees that read, “More trees, less bush.” I’m all for character development, but this sartorial choice comes out of nowhere.
8. Speaking of smart, let’s talk about Seth. I love that he is supposed to be the lovable nerd of the show, but somehow he has the coolest outfits. He would for sure be a TikTok e-boy today. Where Ryan wears tight tees to show off his muscles, Seth wears graphic striped sweaters, or comic book tees with long-sleeved shirts underneath them. He’s the blueprint for Celine!
9. Seth’s love for messenger bags has got to go. (Though, I am also guilty for rocking a camo-print messenger bag during the mid-2000s.)
10. I just had a high school flashback of the time I bought an argyle-print sweater from American Eagle because Seth had one on the show. Yikes.Photo: © WB / Courtesy of Everett Collection
11. Onto Ryan. When the man isn’t getting into fist fights, he sure cleans up nicely! At the cotillion (season one, episode four), he’s wearing a tux, white shirt, and white bow-tie. He’s even wearing white gloves. For an anti-fashion man, he sure knows how to rock white tie.
12. Okay, time to dissect the famous prom episode, from season three, episode 23. What did a stylish prom dress look like in the naughties, you ask? For Marissa, it’s a casual Chanel dress from the spring 2006 collection. The strapless, babydoll silhouette feels a little dated now, but I do love the giant flower at the bust. It reminds me of the Carrie Bradshaw dress that Eugene Alexander designed.
13. I actually feel like Taylor (Autumn Reeser) ate up everyone at prom. Her silky red gown with a draped bust line feels totally modern and timeless. Give her the prom queen title!
14. There are a lot of celebrity cameos on this show. I forgot just how many. Loving Chris Pratt as Summer’s hippy friend at Brown in season four. His knit beret and Bode-esque jacket totally fit the part.Photo: © WB / Courtesy of Everett Collection
15. Paris Hilton is in episode 22 from season one, wearing a pink floral dress. “It’s the autograph of the 21st century,” she says as she snaps a flip-phone selfie with Seth. That’s hot—so is her dress.
16. I will say, the fashion got a little more streamlined in these later seasons. Spoiler alert: once Marissa was killed off, the tone of the show definitely shifted, and the fashion got a little more serious. Marissa’s sister, Kaitlin (Willa Holland), did bring some style spunk though—a little punky, East Coast attitude thrown into the mix. She sure loves the color black!
17. Speaking of the Coopers, I also want to end by saying Julie Cooper (Melinda Clarke), Marissa’s mom, is so underrated during this whole series. First of all, she’s gorgeous. Secondly, she commands every single room she walks into, whether it’s in a pink Juicy Couture tracksuit or a groovy, off-the-shoulder top. Clearly Marissa got all her fashion sense from her.Photo: © WB / Courtesy of Everett Collection