Fall is in full swing, which means it’s officially Gilmore Girls season. For those who don’t rewatch this show yearly as soon as the leaves start changing, you’re missing out; with its cozy Carole King theme song, sweeping shots of New England foliage, and constant cups of coffee being poured, it’s the definitive fall show.
I’ve been periodically mainlining all seven seasons of Gilmore Girls (in this house, we do not acknowledge the revival) for years now, but on this year’s rewatching, I couldn’t help but be distracted by one very important detail I hadn’t really noticed before: Lorelai Gilmore’s wardrobe.
Lorelai has always been the heart and soul of Gilmore Girls, lighting up the lives of her daughter, Rory, her best friend, Sookie, her hot diner crush, Luke, and everyone else around her, but—with all due respect—how did I never notice how idiosyncratic her clothes were? Lauren Graham, the actress who plays Lorelai, has a preternatural ability to pull off clothes that shouldn’t work.
To be fair to Lorelai, she wasn’t the only one dressing with wild abandon at the time. The early aughts were fashion chaos: a time in which shrugs and Uggs reigned, jeans were slipped under skirts, and absolutely everyone ignored that famous fashion dictum, often ascribed to Coco Chanel, of looking in the mirror and taking one thing off before leaving the house.
Back then, we were all pattern-heavy, graphic-tee-wearing, low-rise-jeans-embracing maximalists. While the sartorial pendulum has often swung between the minimal and the over-the-top, there was a historical reason for the more-is-more trend in the United States. Gilmore Girls premiered in 2000, just a year before 9/11, and the seasons that aired after the tragedy reflect the national mood, at least when it comes to conspicuous consumption; in early seasons of Gilmore Girls, Rory and Lorelai squeal about Sephora, steal each other’s clothes, and shop almost as frequently as they eat at Luke’s Diner. (Lorelai’s outfits come down to earth a bit in later seasons, possibly mirroring the nation’s tentative return to normalcy.)
“Fashion and fashion consumerism were key factors in the short-term economic and emotional recovery of the United States after September 11,” writes Minh-Ha T. Pham in her essay “The Right to Fashion in the Age of Terrorism,” and nobody embodied that can-spend spirit more than Lorelai Gilmore (with the possible exception of Carrie Bradshaw, who urged her friends to go shopping and “throw some much-needed money downtown” in a 2002 Sex and the City episode.)
Aside from her outfits’ political context, Lorelai’s style choices can also be ascribed to her atypical mother-daughter bond with her precocious daughter, Rory. The show’s premise is that Lorelai might be the mom, but she acts more like the daughter, and her clothes reflect that, making her look something like Jennifer Garner’s character in 13 Going on 30: a teen girl who turned into an adult woman overnight—a description that applies, albeit less literally, to teen mom Lorelai, who had to be responsible for herself and her daughter at just 16-years-old.
Given that context, maybe it makes sense that Lorelai tends toward pinks, pastels, patterns, rhinestones, and ironic T-shirts; for the show’s first few seasons, she’s dressing as the teenager she never really got to be.
Without further ado, let’s take a look at some of Lorelai’s most definitively early-aughts outfits from Gilmore Girls’ first few seasons.
Take A Tour Through Lorelai Gilmore's Oh-So-Early-Aughts Wardrobe