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This sort of contains spoilers, but nothing that important.
When I tuned in to watch Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life over the weekend, I was excited but hesitant. I was prepared for the second coming of the television show I loved so much in high school to feel distant, surreal. I was prepared for it to be bad.
Here’s what I was not ready for: The triumph that is Paris Geller’s ass-kicking yet distinctly tender wardrobe.
Under costume designer Brenda Maben’s direction, Lorelai has some good moments in Stella McCartney, and Rory breaks up a series of ill-fitting T-shirts (representative of the unmoored state of her career and life) with some Self Portrait. But it’s Paris, Rory’s high-strung academic rival and semi-BFF at Chilton and Yale, who steals the show.
Now in her 30s, running a successful fertility clinic (“I’m the Pablo Escobar of the fertility world”), and undergoing a divorce from her college boyfriend, Doyle, Paris has the money to buy nice things and the calculation to know how to project power through clothing. At the very least, she knows how hire a personal shopper who does.
It’s not that Paris is suddenly a fashion plate — she never was — or even that her clothing is particularly remarkable. It’s that she now dresses with a stylish easiness that many millennial women will identify with and the tactical thinking of a presidential candidate. In late November of 2016, that feels pretty damn on point.
When we first meet her again, Paris is wearing a white cowl neck shirt under a black, slightly metallic collarless jacket reminiscent of the Nina McLemore suiting favored by women in Washington. It’s slim and impeccably tailored, with sleeves that end just below the elbow for a “getting to work” vibe — a look that works equally well if you’re Elizabeth Warren or just leaning across your glass top desk to pitch a potential client on her fertility options.
Paris wears a belted coatdress with black stockings, pumps, and a more cheerful ochre scarf to visit Stars Hollow. On her cell phone, evidently discussing Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie’s childrearing agenda, she might as well be on the campaign trail. Her newly cropped hair, by the way, is more than a little similar to Claire Underwood’s.
For revisiting Chilton with Rory, Paris chooses a “Hillary Clinton does J.Crew” look: trim black pants, black pumps, and another collarless jacket, pale pink this time, with small ruffles at the shoulder seams. It’s sharp and commanding but possesses a touch of softness, reflective of her capacity to terrify a classroom full of high schoolers and then have a breakdown of the imposter syndrome variety in a matter of minutes.
And that’s the beauty of Paris’s new lease on fashion, and of Maben’s work as a costumer. Her wardrobe is simultaneously armor against, and a manifestation of, her deep vulnerabilities. In short, she is all of us when we get dressed.
When she’s having that panic attack in the women’s restroom at Chilton, having just been thrown back into a lonely, brokenhearted teenage mindset at the sight of former high school megahottie
Chad Michael Murray Tristan, she whips out the briefcase she’s been toting around: “Check out what’s in my briefcase. Nothing. I brought it because I thought people would think I was more important because I was carrying a briefcase. I’m a phony.”
Maybe, but just a few moments later, Maben delivers a supremely restrained dose of sartorial vindication in the form of a visitation from Chilton mean girl Francie Jarvis, who strolls into the bathroom wearing round-toed pumps and a fit-and-flare dress. Faced with a typically paranoid outburst from Paris, Francie tosses back, “I’m sorry, did I just step into 2003?”
And then she walks to the mirror and sets down a Takashi Murakami x Louis Vuitton cherry blossom purse from 2003. Listen closely: That’s the sizzle of a self-inflicted burn you’re hearing.
Paris, for all her continued neuroses, has evolved more than she realizes. She may feel like a phony, but she’s pure 2016.