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Style Will Never Be Better Than It Was on ‘The Hills’

Thanks to Lauren Conrad, Heidi Montag, Whitney Port, and Audrina Patridge, I know what peak fashion looked like

The Hills celebrates its tenth anniversary on May 31st. Tenth! How long ago 2006 seems now, how coy and fancy free! Before the economic collapse, before Leo was an Oscar winner, before chokers became trendy (again), we had Lauren Conrad in Los Angeles, trying to find her way through her early twenties with a few MTV-approved friends.

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With their weekly parade of fabulous mid-aughts fashions, these women — Lauren Conrad, Heidi Montag, Whitney Port, and Audrina Patridge — represented the last true moment of style and grace in pop culture. In fact, I don’t know why styles keep evolving when they should have stopped in 2009, when Lauren Conrad left the show. Thanks to The Hills, I know what peak fashion looked like. It looked like Lauren Conrad in a white Alberta Ferretti dress at the Crillon Ball. Since then? All downhill, baby.

Think about it: What good has fashion given us since the days of The Hills? Color-blocking? Please. Peplum? Come on. Athleisure?! Don’t make me laugh! The flattering fit of a layered tank, the cascading silhouette of an empire waist, the subtle slouch of a hobo bag — these are the sort of chic details we just don’t see anymore. Fashion was not just the hobby of The Hills girls, it was their chosen field of work: Lauren and Whitney sat in a windowless room at Teen Vogue for two years, and Heidi Montag had a song called "Fashion." It’s clear that their style was the apex of vogue as we know it.

Still don’t believe me? Let’s break it down by girl.

Lauren in typical work attire: a headband, pearls, and a going-out top. Photo: MTV

Lauren Conrad, the star of the show who's now known in some circles (of my brain) as the high priestess of high-functioning hangovers (after a recent reviewing of the series, I’m confident Lauren was hungover 89% of the time) regularly wore tube tops — and made them look CLASSY! Lauren’s style was simple, effortless, and what some Spencer Pratt fans might describe as "basic" — but never boring. Lauren favored Chanel accessories, wore heels to class, and often hit Les Deux in flowy and shapeless but colorful frocks (all the better to hide a mic pack, I’m sure). Lauren also never met a ruffle she didn’t like. In a standout scene from the fourth episode of Season 2, Whitney Port rifles through the Teen Vogue closet for something to wear and finds a nondescript pair of pants. "Maybe with a little ruffle top of something?!" Lauren shrieks with delight, no doubt thanking the good Lord for yet another possibly dowdy ensemble saved by ruffles.

Need another example? For her first date with Brody Jenner, Lauren went for the most early-aughts pairing possible: calf-length leggings under an empire-waisted tunic, accessorized with some impossibly high heels and her signature Chanel bag. It was flattering, chic, but California casual! What straight, red-blooded American male wouldn’t delight in seeing his date for the evening dressed like this? Ten years later, Lauren’s outfits from The Hills still look better than anything people are wearing on the streets or down the runways today.

Justin Bobby and Audrina, the original star-crossed lovers. Photo: Chris Weeks/WireImage

And don’t even get me started on her HAIR! Every season you thought there was no way Lauren’s hair could get better, yet it did! This is the woman who single-handedly made barrel curls seem doable to us less-dexterous folk. Her beachy waves made "the beach" seem like a good thing, instead of the shark- and syringe-littered hellhole we all know it is. And not even Blair Waldorf herself could compete with Lauren’s headband collection. With options ranging from classic to bedazzled to croc-embossed, the options were endless, and Lauren never seen to suffer from chronic headband headache syndrome. How? How?! Who cares! She looked incredible! And I'd be remiss if I didn't mention her ladylike ombré dye job, which every college-aged blonde I knew at the time copied — and might still be copying. I don’t know, I don’t have Facebook.

Audrina Patridge had the edgiest style of the group, because she interned at a record label and was brunette. Audrina wore the lowest-slung jeans imaginable, a lot of black, and plenty of band tees. She wasn’t afraid of showing off "the girls" and was often drawn to Jennifer Love Hewitt-esque sweaters too long for most mere mortals' limbs. And although it may have been slightly generic, Audrina's rocker-chic look was totally timeless. Punk may be dead, but Audrina’s Misfits T-shirt will forever live on.

Say what you will about Heidi Montag’s surgical decisions, but her personal style was much like her original, non-tampered-with face: so cute. Heidi had an office job at Bolthouse Productions (shout out to Brent Bolthouse for managing to come across as the least douchey club owner in the world) and thus often chose more professional attire than the other girls, including crisp white shirts with tucks that would make Jenna Lyons take notice.

Lauren and Heidi, best friends forever (except not). Photo: Jeffrey Mayer/WireImage for Sasha Knight

Whitney Port’s style was very "model who doesn’t identify as a model." In other words, she wore a lot of boring shit that looked amazing on her because she’s tall, but would look like carpet rags on a normal like me. Whitney had such a fabulously nonplussed look that on two (!!) separate occasions, she was coerced into modeling for Teen Vogue, the second time by Andre Leon Talley himself. Whitney kind of botched those opportunities but then got her own spin-off, The City (starring famous Olivia Olivia Palermo, another true arbiter of style) — so luckily, being tall and beautiful never got in the way of her fashion dreams.

Even Kristin Cavallari, who was a Hail-Mary later-season addition, brought a sexy, slinky style to the show that has aged impeccably well. Kristin was the Vegas to Lauren’s Santa Barbara; when she wore a leather jacket, she meant it.

Unfortunately, without Lauren around as the series' moral compass, The Hills began to sour, and was eventually cancelled in 2010. But we'll always have those first precious few seasons to remind us of what true fashion looked like. So I beg of you, designers, store buyers, and regular shoppers all: Stop looking forward for your style answers. The answer is in the past. The answer is hidden ... in The Hills.


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