Gilmore Girls A year in the life fashion: An interview with Costume Designer Brenda Maben


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It’s been nearly 10 years since Lorelei, Rory and the rest of the characters from Stars Hollow graced our TV screens. And for young women, and their mothers, who grew up in the early 2000’s, the Gilmore Girls revival was one of the most anticipated TV moments in the last decade. One of the most significant returns for me wasn’t Alexis Bleidel, or Lauren Graham, but Brenda Maben who reprised her role as costume designer in the Gilmore Girls reboot.

Last week, I finally finished watching A Year in the Life, on Netflix, and was overflowing with Gilmore Girls fashion questions (including where to get Paris’ amazing pink, ruffle jacket.)

Brenda and I chatted for nearly an hour about how the Gilmore Girls afford their clothes, where they shop and the one person in Stars Hollow who will never change.

You dressed Lorelei and Rory for the original Gilmore Girls series. How did you draw from their past style, and how has it evolved?

Brenda Maben: When Rory lived in Stars Hollow, she was basic and didn’t care about clothes. She cared about reading and her books, and when you’re so concentrated on something that’s not yourself, what you look like takes second chair. She didn’t have sophistication. Now that she’s in her 30’s, and all that going back and forth to Europe and being around Logan and her grandparents has influenced her.  Her style changed when she went to college, but when she goes back to Stars Hollow, she still has those basic pieces. She slips back into what she’s used to.

For Lorelei, she’s a little more sophisticated, but there’s still her kookiness. She’s not wearing as many tee shirts with sayings on them. There was a point in Lorelei’s time that she was a little…bedazzled. She used to wear a lot of blazers with dresses, but now it’s more about leather, which is appropriate. It’s a throwback to the earlier episodes, but a step past it.  We stayed away from jeans. She did wear a pantsuit with texture that was like an updated version of her jeans and jacket.

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Do you think Lorelei and Rory’s fashion evolved because of their lives or because it’s simply the style for 2016? 

Brenda Maben: Kind of yes and no. When I go about these characters, I don’t give any creedance into the fashion world. I go for who they are and their characters. Back in the old days of Gilmore Girls, Lorelei wore leather jackets in a couple of different colors. The one she wore this time was keeping with that rock and roll image that she has from back in the day. I was really thinking it was a nice progression, because it was leather, it was like a motorcycle jacket but the leather is softer and that happened in 2016.

Where did you shop for the show?

Brenda Maben:  Everywhere. Neimans, Saks, Barneys, every little boutique. In LA,  some of my good old standbys aren’t there anymore, so I shopped in Chicago. There’s an incredible men’s store in Chicago’s Logan Square called Meyvn. I found this incredible vest by Engineered Garments and turned it into a dress. I told Julia Goldani  (Sandee) her to put her legs here and her arms there and she just rocked it.

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I spotted Lorelei and Rory wearing some high end brands. Lorelei in DVF, Stella McCartney and Derek Lam; Rory in Self-Portrait, Burberry and she carries that incredible leather handbag. So, is something going on in the Gilmore Girls’ lives, or should viewers just suspend believe that an unemployed freelancer could afford such lavish brands? 

Brenda Maben:  Lorelei is wearing DVF, but on top of it she’s wearing a Guess coat. She’s been really successful at the Dragonfly, but she still shops at the mall. She carries a Chloe purse, but she carries it a lot. You know, with bags, you buy one good bag and you keep using it. You don’t bag swap, you have your one go-to bag.

With Rory, she went to England, and she wears a Burberry coat because it’s British. That’s the coat, and that’s her coat. And she has that really expensive Jamah bag, but maybe her grandmother, or Logan gave it to her. Or maybe she said, “I’m coming up in the world. I need to buy a bag.” If Rory’s going to make a big purchase, it’s going to be an American brand. It’s why Rory carries a Jamah bag. She’s going to buy American.

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How much input do Alexis Bleidel and Lauren Graham have in their characters’ style evolution?

Brenda Maben:  I had conversations with them. Lauren said “I’m making a lot more. The Dragonfly is successful and my wardrobe should reflect that but it should still be fun because she’s a fun girl,”  and I agreed. With Alexis there were things that we both agreed on, she would look more sophisticated because she’s been traveling to England and hangingout with Logan. We wanted her to be age appropriate but we totally agreed that when she went back to Stars Hollow she’d fall back into that familiar way of dressing.

Have any characters not changed?

Brenda Maben:  Luke is Luke and I wasn’t about to change it. When you go back, don’t you always want to when you go home and find that guy that you liked or that place you ate at? Going home is comforting because that’s the one thing that hasn’t changed. That’s Luke.

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What were some of your favorite looks?

Brenda Maben:  For Emily, I really liked her fall look. She had on a tee shirt and an amazing cashmere sweater. I love the softer, gentler, laid-back woman, not the uptight DAR person. In Nantucket with her, you can see the water and you see her in this cocoon, cashmere sweater. It’s where she is, right in this moment.

For Lorelei she is wearing a Tess Gilberson sweater which is a throwback. She always loved horses.

For Rory, I liked her in her AG Jeans, that Burberry coat and a scarf that I knitted. I always put her in scarves that I knitted. There is one in almost every show.

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I love little details like that. The ones viewers don’t know that backstory. Are there any others?

Brenda Maben:  When Jess first appeared on Gilmore Girls, the key thing was that he had to have a pocket because he had to be able to put his book in his pocket. He’s a bad boy and a trouble maker, but the thing Rory loved about him was he loved words and he always had a book. On the exterior he was a bad boy in a leather jacket, but on the inside he was a book loving guy who turned it into a business. Time has matured him. He’s still a hardass, but he’s softer.

Do you know what Rory’s lucky outfit looks like?

Brenda Maben:  It was circa old Rory with a bit of a twist. It would have been a cross between the blue rhinestone sweater she wore to dinner and the red Anthropologie dress she wore at her Sandee Sez interview.

Want more? Follow Brenda Maben on Instagram and Twitter

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2 thoughts on “Gilmore Girls A year in the life fashion: An interview with Costume Designer Brenda Maben

  1. Anonymous

    I love that you asked how Rory afforded such expensive stuff. That drives me completely crazy when shows/movies have their “poor” characters wearing $1500 shirts.

  2. Tiffany

    Great interview! Thanks!


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