If there were ever a time to champion smart, independent, self-starting, successful, "nasty" women who steadfastly support each other, it's right now. (A little hope and optimism doesn't hurt, either.) So the impending four-part return of "Gilmore Girls" on Netflix on Nov. 25 arrives at a welcome time.
It's been almost a decade since fast-talking best friends and mother-daughter duo Lorelai (Lauren Graham) and Rory (Alexis Bledel) Gilmore graced our TVs with their witty, lightning-fast dialogue and inspiring relationship that brought me to tears more times than I can count. (Last we saw Rory, she was leaving on a bus to cover Senator Barack Obama's campaign trail for an online media outlet. Sigh. So much has changed.) The cast and writer-creator Amy Sherman-Palladino reunited at the ATX Festival in Austin last year, setting a much-anticipated reboot in motion. (Side note: I waited for four hours in the scorching Texas heat to score one of the last nosebleed seats left in the theater and it was totally worth it.) The show's return is all the more exciting given that Sherman-Palladino left "Gilmore Girls" before the seventh season — and never had the chance to finish the series with those "final four words."
Plus, with a highly binge-able quartet of 90-minute episodes — aptly named "Winter," "Spring," "Summer" and "Fall" — fans finally have a chance to revisit wacky Stars Hollow and see where the Gilmores, all the boyfriends, Paris, Doyle and the lovably eclectic Stars Hollow residents ended up nine years later. Also returning: costume designer Brenda Maben, who was on the show for all seven seasons — first as costume supervisor and then designer beginning in the fourth (when Rory goes to Yale).
Maben's background includes textile weaving, cutting and sewing, so she was essentially Lorelai's ghost-designer — creating all the kooky Stars Hollow costume extravaganzas, like the Festival of Living Art, which is Maben's "all-time favorite." (You know, when Lorelai didn't flinch, even when Sookie's baby pager went off.) She was also the mastermind behind the theatrical Old Hollywood finery in the famous Life and Death Brigade, "You jump, I jump Jack" scene and that USO-themed DAR party that led to the satisfying Gilmore-Huntzberger showdown.
When Sherman-Palladino secretly started work on "Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life," she called Maben, but with scant details. "Amy says, 'something's coming,'" explained Maben over a Skype call from Prague. "I didn't ask what because I love working for Amy because I love her writing. When she told me, I was like, 'ah, yes!'"
The initial fittings turned into such a "class reunion" that it was near impossible to get through a day of work. "Sometimes you would have two or three fittings back-to-back and one actor would be coming out and the other one would be coming in and it would be 40 minutes before we got into the next fitting," laughed Maben. "Everybody's hugging and laughing. It was great."
The story line for the four-part installment has remained top secret, but several key points have emerged, after parsing through the images and fast-paced trailers and analyzing those precious few cast interviews. Rory has been traveling the world — with stints in Brooklyn and London (with Logan?!) — and returns to Connecticut for her grandfather, Richard's funeral. (Edward Herrmann, the beloved actor who portrayed the Gilmore patriarch passed away in 2014.) And Lorelai is apparently in the throes of a "midlife crisis," per Graham.
In September, Sherman-Palladino leaked the script for the first scene, which takes place in the hallowed town gazebo, with that familiar pop culture-laden banter (Goop mention, check). "That was a little nerve-wracking for me because it sort of sets the pace," says Maben about creating the looks for the long-awaited moment.
"Well, just imagine you haven't seen your mom for a while and you and your mom are very close and it's cold outside," she says. "[Lorelai is] not dressed casually because the [Dragonfly] Inn is doing well. I mean, they haven't sold it." Cryptic.
Maben did, however, emphasize that Lorelai and Rory's signature aesthetics haven't shifted that much in nine years. "They're more successful now, so their clothing is just a little more successful. But still basically the same feel," Maben explains. Graham and Bledel also weighed in on their characters' style evolutions.
"The whole premise of Lorelai was that she would look through fashion magazines and see something and then recreate it in her own style," she added. So, "I really concentrated on not [dressing her in] what everybody else wears." Maben also avoided labels when dressing Lorelai, although did use a lot of Diane von Furstenberg wrap dresses in the later seasons of the show's original run. "[Graham] has a pair of fantastic looking legs and so she could really rock a dress," Maben says.
Even though Rory spent time in hipster Brooklyn, don't expect to see her in clogs or vintage denim overalls. Instead, the globe trotter has more of a "European" influence to her wardrobe. While Marc Jacobs was a go-to back in the day, Maben mostly sourced designer pieces from consignment shops this time around. "I never thought that Rory was a trendy person," she says. "[She has a] good, solid, classic style that you could wear from year to year and not look outdated."
All of Rory's boyfriends — cute, dopey Dean (Jared Padalecki), bad boy-turned-indie book publisher Jess (Milo Ventimiglia) and hot rich bro Logan (Matt Czuchry) — also make appearances (some more substantial than others). While Maben hates to play favorites, she's pretty much Team Dean. "I love them all," she says. But, "It's like having kids. Your first born is a little special because he's the first one and the other kids come along and you love them all, but… "
Maben won't confirm whether or not grown-up Dean is back working at Doose's Market (one of the trailers shows him in the store, though it's unclear whether he's working or shopping), but she will say that "he's keeping with his original personality," sartorially speaking, and his style is "reflective" of where he is in life. "Maybe not so much the jerseys or any of that stuff because he's an adult man now," she adds.
Speaking of hoodies, "Jess is still basically Jess," says Maben about Rory's second boyfriend's moody, all-black aesthetic. "He's a nonconformist kind of guy, so he's not wearing a suit and tie. On the other hand, Logan is rich to begin with and his clothing still reflects that."
Of course, there are some bombshell surprises: mainly, a recently widowed Emily Gilmore (Kelly Bishop) swapping out her DAR-appropriate Chanel bouclé suits and pearls for distressed jeans and a Candie's baby tee that looks like something stolen out of Lorelai's closet, circa 2002.
"It was quite interesting because I had to find the right shape for her," says Maben (who also dressed Bishop as an alterna-Emily Gilmore in Sherman-Palladino's canceled-too-soon "Bunheads"), about the fit of the denim. "The jeans are Madewell and the shirt was custom-made." (Not Kohl's.)
But don't expect any sartorial epiphany moment for cantankerous diner proprietor and Lorelai's on and off — and now back on — love interest Luke (Scott Patterson). Will his uniform of a plaid flannel and a backwards blue dad hat evolve in any way? "No, that I can say," laughs Maben. Fun fact: the costume department keeps least 20 blue caps on hand for Luke at all times.
Like many Gilmore super-fans, Maben was a "little nervous" about revisiting the show, but overall really damn excited.
"It's like you have a second chance to really sit down and think about how these characters evolved. What would they wear now because it's 2016? A lot has changed from when we finished to right now," she says, remembering Rory and Lorelai's early to mid-aughts denim evolution. "It was just really exciting. I saw it as a challenge. And I was just really super looking forward to seeing everybody." Us, too. Us, too.
'Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life' premieres on Friday, Nov. 25 on Netflix.