welcome to the O.C.

Welcome to my thinkpiece, bitch.

Come with me as I overzealously reflect upon the spaghetti strap wonderland that is beloved teen drama “The OC” (2003-2008).

The plot follows bad boy Ryan as he narrowly avoids juvenile detention and is pseudo-adopted by a wealthy Orange County lawyer and his family. Ryan then strikes up a tumultuous romance with Marisa Cooper, the privileged, yet troubled girl-next-door with suspiciously beach-y hair.

But the plot isn’t really relevant here, what is relevant is the fashion. Or really, what is not relevant, to anyone now or in the years 2003-2008. Because while the core of the show’s fashion retains some semblance of what actual teens wore then, it’s also coming through a surreal lens of what TV producers seemed to think that super wealthy suburban Californian teens would wear. Which is why things like this happen:


Post 9/11 fashion is all about futility! I’m talking throw a big old sparkly belt on top of that mini skirt even though it isn’t holding anything up.

I am gonna go ahead here and present my thesis that the decorative/impractical fashion that we see in the OC is not inherently evil when done for personal pleasure/aesthetic, but it is when you realize you are being subliminally forced by a dystopian society to believe that you need to wear not 1, but 2 polos at the same time.

Hi Marissa, I would like to discuss the implications of carrying such a tiny purse.

If you are alive in the year 2004 and you’re going out for the night, not only are you wearing nice jeans w/ a shiny going-out top, but you probably have a tiny ass purse digging a hole into your armpit. Or you have the option to carry the tiny plastic or pleather handle of the purse in your hand, and if you have a drink in the other hand then you are stuck with no hands.

And because you are at a bar, there is a man talking to you for some reason and you probably don’t want him to talk to you but you are inhibited by your tiny purse and so you can’t cross your arms in order to exhibit proper disinterested body language. And he’s talking about his job and for some reason you’re trying really hard but you can’t seem to grasp what his job is. Focus really hard on making your face look disinterested or interested, but no one can read it, no one is looking at it, it is as if your expression has become an optical illusion where you notice all the things around it except it.

And yet, you have no choice but to carry the tiny purse, because your low-rise jean pockets are too tiny to fit your necessities, and the tiny purse is the only option. And the man keeps talking, and your purse is in your hand like an extension of you, or like an alien body that requires constant physical support. A drain.

It’s the same as how you could possibly have jeans that are embroidered to hell and back, but still distressed. Beads a nd stitch work and lettering and so much stuff piled on and at the same time they are embellished they are ripped to shreds. Simultaneously destroying and patching back together.


A lot of statement necklaces in Orange County.

So, whats the statement?

Sometimes it is a big hunk of turquoise, sometimes it is a flat slab of sterling silver. My statement necklace hangs heavy and cold on my sternum like a stethoscope. On some days I match my statement necklace to my outfit, but on other days I go for contrast – if Im wearing an orange sweater, I wear a purple necklace to make it pop. I wear a square pendant to make my boobs look more round.

I wear my statement necklace to PTA meetings, to a business luncheon, to the beach, to the spa, to court, to brunch.

The statement necklace can be worn for any occasion, as long as the statement is obtuse, as long as it is large enough to distract from your face, abstract enough to avoid definition. There is no statement, other than I was able to get out of bed today and put this blight around my neck.


And I still can’t let go of this tiny purse concept. You can’t even fit a tampon in there. And it’s different than something like high heels which are inhibiting physically, but can give power in a way, increasing your physical height over someone.

Where is the power in the tiny purse?

Where is the power in any of this?

I was a teenage girl at the time as well and I can say confidently, not with me, and not with Marissa because she dies in a car crash in season 3, no spoilers.

words by Laura Payne