In 2003, Fox aired The O.C., which they thought would just be a “filler” summer series. To the amazement of everyone, the show became an instant smash hit and soon the must-watch tween show around. The cast were soon stars and that included Rachel Bilson. As Summer, she started off a selfish rich gal more into shopping and living a high life and appeared somewhat dumb. But Bilson made the character warmer and deeper, showing Summer wanting to be a better person. Her relationship with the nerd Seth (Adam Brody) was a great part of the show, even when it slumped in its third season. The show sadly ended after its fourth year yet Bilson remained a favorite. She made a great comeback in the CW series Hart of Dixie and would add motherhood to her duties which cut into her filming work as well as her marriage to Hayden Christensen which ended in late 2017.
However, Bilson is making a comeback, having done a few episodes of the country music series Nashville. She’s now preparing to grace ABC in the summer mystery-comedy show Take Two as an actress who becomes a real detective. What makes Bilson a favorite is her style, simple and when she dresses up, she looks fantastic. The woman is terrific with a pair of jeans and simple shirt but a floral pattern dress is also a standout. Helping is her great humor off screen and how she can seem so down to Earth despite her beauty. Here are 20 pictures showing off Bilson’s amazing simple style and why, after all these years, she’s still the favorite gal of the entire O.C. cast and shining in any role.
20 White beauty
While Bilson is best-known for The O.C., she also has another loved TV role. In 2011, Bilson started the CW series Hart of Dixie. She played Zoe Hart, a surgeon who loses out on a big internship because she doesn’t connect to patients. She’s confused when she inherits the practice of a doctor in a small Alabama town then discovers he was the father she never knew. Curious about her true roots, she decides to work in the town and was soon involved in some of the funny events and that included a love triangle. The show won a passionate fanbase for its fun Southern humor and Bilson’s lovely charms carrying the series over
There were some who criticized Bilson, claiming she couldn’t be believable as a doctor. Bilson hit back by teaming up with Funny or Die for a “gangsta rap” video that trashed those critics while also poking fun at how her doctor wore designer clothes. It showed Bilson’s fun humor but this pic showcases how Bilson does have a fantastic style. The white dress is gorgeous. It is tight on her body, and has some added fun thanks to the straps around her neck.
19 Street Chic
Like many a celebrity, Bilson has become known for having great fashion choices, and a lot of the time it's because she gets freebies. She explained to Women’s Health that, “It’s a splendid irony that once you can afford things you are given them for free. I’m lucky to get some great fashion gifts, but it’s crazy. My favorite is a Helmut Lang black blazer that goes with everything. My most valued stuff is jeweler that was my grandmother’s. It’s nothing fancy but it’s my favorite because she was my favorite. She died seven years ago. It was very hard, we were extremely close.”
That style carries to Bilson as it’s clear how she shows off a lot with her great outfits just walking down the street. The dark shirt is loose but still lovely with her dark jacket matching it. The jeans are torn yet still showcase how it looks fine on her and the high boots fit it well. There’s also the cool “chain strap” for her purse that fits the urban motif and the style of the shirt is a nice one for her as well. Bilson sure does enjoy some of those freebies and manages to make them work for a great look that makes just a walk down the street look like a million bucks.
18 Blazing Style
Bilson has always stuck to her own beliefs when it comes to beauty. That’s just increased with motherhood as she talked to Women’s Health on how she makes sure her kids know not to be judged on just appearance.
“People ask me who else’s body do I want?! I don’t like that question. I’ll take my own, thanks. What message is that sending to other women? Be happy with who we are. Especially in LA!”
She does add she likes a good style to herself and staying healthy is needed as a mom (“you can only sleep so much!”) but doesn’t go out of her way to put on an “unrealistic” body image.
This picture shows Bilson shouldn’t have to worry about that too much. She is clad in a great outfit with a lush blouse that fits her well and goes nicely with her skin tone. The dark blazer shows how Bilson loves that style of outfit and can always make them look great. The matching black pants are just as great and the gold necklace is the perfect topper. It shows that despite her talk of not wanting to put on a bad image, Bilson always looks absolutely amazing and shines as well as Summer ever did, albeit with more clothes.
17 Belle of the Ball
Bilson is famously private about her personal life. She married Hayden Christensen (best known as Anakin Skywalker in the Star Wars prequels) and they had a very long marriage going and have a daughter together named Briar Rose. The two separated in September 2017 with rumors of how there had been problems. Bilson seemed to acknowledge it in an interview months earlier with Women’s Health and admitting that there were problems.
“Communication’s caused a lot of problems lately. It’s really important to communicate from the beginning – set it up for the relationship to succeed. Then friendship is crucial, getting to know each other and having each other’s back. Because look at us: we all accept behavior from men that we wouldn’t from friends. Especially in the beginning.”
Bilson doesn’t want to discuss it more, much preferring to keep her private life just that. But it doesn’t seem to be affecting her style much as shown by this great outfit. The floral pattern of the dress is a great style, highlighting its lush design and letting her legs show off. The sheer bit for the cleavage keeps it from being too skin-baring and shows how Bilson is moving on from her breakup well and still manages a gorgeous look in any setting.
16 Blast From the Past
Bilson admits in various interviews that she had a tough time at first adjusting to the sudden fame of The O.C. There was going from an unknown to on magazine covers, not to mention the object of lust for quite a lot of men. But Bilson has done her best to handle it and even saw it as a great move for her life. As she told Lovel,
“I don’t like incorporating the word failure into my vocabulary. I say you look at everything as a positive, find the good in it. I remember not getting a part when I was first starting out and I was crushed but if I had gotten that role I wouldn't have gotten The O.C......"
Bilson did have to learn to “open myself up more” as suddenly magazines like Maxim were calling for her to do photoshoots in her underwear. She handled it well and this pic from 2004 showcases the great beauty and appeal she had. It’s one of her more covered-up outfits with the purple top and then shorts, her lush hair framing her gorgeous face and looking terrific. It shows that over a decade after the show went off the air, Bilson is still as beautiful as she was back then and this is why she remains a major favorite.
15 Well To Do
Bilson has admitted that her family life has cut into her career. She told In Style that she takes a long break between projects as she puts her family first and that,
“I don’t want to be away from them too long. So it has to be something I really believe in and want to put my best work into.”
While Bilson was never a huge movie actress, she did show up on The Do List. The 2013 comedy had Aubrey Plaza as a high schooler out to become a woman and getting into various whacky misadventures along the way. Bilson told USA Today she was drawn to the comedy because it was set in 1993 and thus “folks had to actually talk to one another” about things and not as knowledgeable about adult content.
Bilson played Plaza’s older sister who rocks a variety of 90's fashions while carrying on in various ways (such as hooking up with a goofball just as her parents walk in on them). The movie wasn’t a huge success but Bilson looked amazing on the red carpet for it. The blue dress for the premiere is great with her top billowing downward with nice patterns. The short skirt helps show off her great legs and her hair is nicely set up. The movie was set in the time before social media but Bilson showcased how she can be a great looker in any decade.
14 Choice Outfit
Bilson has long been known for a laid-back style. She talked to Women’s Health and how she’s nothing like Summer in terms of how she spends her days.
“In my downtime, I’m a homebody who hates going out. I have such a good group of friends. We all grew up here and like to hang out, so I cook comfort food. I’m half-Italian, so my signature dishes are homemade gravy with meatballs or a mean turkey meatloaf or roast chicken with vegetables."
She continued with, "And I like to be creative with salads. My mom is a mad salad creator, putting random great things together. Think kale – I know! – sour cherries, avocado, sea salt and lemon. Yum.”
This picture shows that Bilson's routine sure does help her shape, and she has no problems flaunting it. Attending the People’s Choice Awards, she has an aqua green top with just a hint of her belly, but is sure to not be too showy. It leads to a matching long skirt, covering up her legs but in a nice way with an orange stripe that fits it. The floral pattern helps, an exotic look for her but it all comes together. It shows how Bilson’s healthy eating contributes to her great looks and this is one outfit anyone would choose as among her best.
13 Party Favorites
Bilson is known for a great singing voice but doesn’t get the chance to show it off too much. It does seem surprising she’s yet to do any animated movies but she says she has tried. In an interview with MTV, Bilson claimed she lost on the role of Anna in Frozen but admits she doesn’t mind as “Kristen Bell hit it out of the park.” She stated she auditioned for the role of Rapunzel in Tangled and that she tanked her my audition.
"I sang “Hallajeulah” by Leonard Cohen, people are asking “are you crazy?!” When the host said she must have come in second to Mandy Moore, Bilson cracked “I didn’t come in second, more like 25th.”
Still, something about Bilson shows she can work for family fare very well. Attending a party for a friend’s kid, Bilson looks radiant with her purple patterned dress, not showy enough to have around for kids but still stylish in any setting. Even with her hair bunned up and glasses covering her face, Bilson looks gorgeous and amazing and can fit in with families well. She’s said she’d love to be a Disney gal sometime to make her daughter happy and perhaps inspire a few parties of her own down the road.
12 Mom Mode
While not a huge rating winner, Hart of Dixie was a good show for the CW, its first three seasons showing great humor and fans loved Bilson’s performance. The fourth season, however, had to be put off as Bilson became pregnant in real life. Thus, they rushed production for just 10 episodes to debut at mid-season and had to write Bilson’s pregnancy into the show with her Zoe also becoming pregnant. The season finale had Zoe giving birth and marrying her long-time love Wade. But just after the finale, the CW announced the series had been canceled and there were complaints that Bilson’s pregnancy may have been the reason. On an Instagram post, Bilson denied those claims and said that as far as she was concerned, the show had a great send-off to wrap things up.
Bilson has shown a new style since motherhood, adapting to different outfits for a post-baby body. She’s also become much more involved in family charities as shown by attending an event for the No Kid Hungry cause. Bilson is up front on how much she cares and shows off great in this outfit. The pink dress with the floral patterns is gorgeous and the way it flows over her to show off legs and curves showcase her great form off. Bilson has been upbeat since the show ended and shows how motherhood has just enhanced her style.
11 Casual Chic
Before The O.C., one of Bilson’s first roles was on the long-running cult hit Buffy the Vampire Slayer. She played one of the “Potentials,” who were girls destined to be Slayers that Buffy organizes together to protect. Naturally, so many young and attractive women was a wild sight and one episode opens with Xander imagining a pair of them (one being Bilson) who are trying to seduce him. It was a brief role but Josh Schwartz was a fan of Buffy and thought Bilson would be a good pick for The O.C. Bilson has done well with her style since then. She told People that,
“Accessories can make or break an outfit. You can have a white t-shirt and jeans on and a really cool, chunky necklace and it makes it that much cooler.”
This image shows Bilson doesn’t need to load up on accessories to look terrific. She’s wearing a simple black shirt yet it looks amazing on her along with jeans that fit her nicely. She’s carrying a large sweater coat in one hand in a way that makes it look like a nice cloak to give the outfit a boost. The necklace across her throat isn’t too eye-catching but just enough to get attention. It showcases that Bilson can have a “stripped down” look but still be incredible and that she’s come a long way from her first TV part.
10 Country Rock
She doesn’t get the chance to show it off much but Bilson has a great singing voice. A couple episodes of Hart of Dixie showed it off and she also did a number for Nashville. Bilson posted a video on her Instagram page of her in the recording booth to show she was singing for real. Bilson enjoyed her time as she is a fan of country music and it allowed her to change her style up a bit. As she told Women’s Health,
“I like to think my style carries over from location to location, I always go for comfy basics and may add a little flair depending on what I’m doing. If I still had a pair of cowboy boots I would probably rock them in Nashville.”
She may not have the boots but this appearance at the Country Music Awards shows Bilson sure can get the rest of a country motif going. The beaded top has a lovely style with the ruffles and cuffs and it could have come off “school marm” but Bilson makes it work. The black leather skirt is terrific with the zippers and metal beads and mixes with the blouse well. She doesn’t have boots but the shoes look good on her and her bright smile shines well to show Bilson really can bring her beauty to any spot she goes to.
9 Work of Art
Bilson is known for promotion of Chapstick and various other items that rejuvenate the lips. She told StyleCaster, “I’ve always been that way, even as a girl getting into makeup. I was never into the heavy coverage or anything like that. I’ve always liked a little Chapstick on your lips, maybe a bronzer, or blush and some mascara. Maybe even a little eyeliner if you’re going really crazy. I’m pretty low-maintenance in that respect. I find less is more when it comes to my face. I feel like it changes my face when there is makeup on it.”
As this picture shows, Bilson’s face is good enough as it is. Attending an event for Refinery 29, Bilson has a nice white blouse on with the black “tie” helping it stand out more. It combines with a simple black skirt to show off her legs and her nice smile shows how the light lipstick shows her features off well. Bilson has been known to go makeup free for posts on her Instagram page and out in public as she doesn’t feel the need to slap on a ton of makeup just to run an errand. It helps that her natural beauty shines no matter what to add to her appeal.
8 Oh Baby
Bilson isn’t one to talk about her private life too much. However, she gushes about how being a mother has changed her and loves her daughter dearly. It also means changes to her clothing style as she acknowledged that both during the pregnancy and in the aftermath, she needed to alter her outfits a bit, even for red carpet events. She explained to People,
“I needed to wear a dress that I could wear a nursing bra with—all of my clothes need to be able to accommodate a nursing bra. Plus, I love the colors.”
She also shares other bits such as her Instagram with a beautiful photo of a Los Angeles sunrise saying,
“It’s amazing what you see when you have to wake up at 5 am to change a diaper.”
It’s also helped enhance Bilson’s already great curves in new ways. For this event, she wore a fantastic dress that is a bit tight but not in any weird way. It shows Bilson’s love for floral patterns which go about her dress. The black belt definitely lets it stand out more. With her shoulders bare, Bilson’s lush hair can flow free. The fact that the dress has pockets is a definite plus. Overall, this outfit showcases that motherhood has just enhanced Bilson’s already great appeal and she looks more amazing than ever.
7 ABC Gal
After an absence, Bilson is returning to TV this June in the ABC series Take Two. The pilot was shot in February 2018 and was such a hit with the network that they rushed it into production for a summer series. Bilson plays Sam Swift, who spent a decade playing a cop on a hit TV show. However, her career hits the skids after a public meltdown. To research a comeback role, she follows a private eye (Eddie Cibrian) and accidentally helps him solve a case. He hires her as his partner just for the publicity before finding that her acting talents and experience playing a cop actually give her good skills. The show comes from the creators of the long-running hit Castle and the trailers promise Bilson having fun with her actress getting used to real crimes.
Bilson seems ready to push it, showing up at the annual ABC Upfront presentation and looking great. The dress is a lovely floral pattern over herself and the addition of the leather jacket makes it stand out more. It’s much like Bilson’s character on the show, mixing Hollywood flair with a street toughness that can make the mystery-comedy a success and show how Bilson can shine on TV at any time.
6 Jean Jam
One thing that makes Bilson so popular is that she keeps in touch with her castmates. She is still good friends with Adam Brody and Ben McKenzie (it’s probably no surprise she’s not in touch with Mischa Barton) and gushes about them in interviews. In early 2017, she posted a photo with her Hart of Dixie co-stars Jamie King and Wilson Bethel with King calling it “portrait with a woman I love.” Bilson is also good friends with Kristen Bell with the two doing a dual interview with BuzzFeed talking about their friendship and how it felt to both be moms. Bilson stated,
“My priorities have definitely shifted. Sleep's a priority. It doesn't exist, but it's a priority. I actually haven't worked since I had my daughter — for me, career is definitely on the back burner. It just has to be worth it to spend time away from her. It's her world, I'm just living in it is the best I can say.”
This picture shows how Bilson goes for a much more low-key style. She famously wore a pair of $40 pants in public, showing how being a mom takes up way too much time for her to waste on prettying herself up. Yet even in a cheap pair, she shines as shown with this loose black top, the torn jeans, and high boots. She may be busier today with motherhood but Bilson shows even a low-key appearance is high style for her.
5 Just a Morning walk
Bilson has been making sure to stay in shape. That was already important to her due to her looks and her job but has taken off more after motherhood. She told InStyle that,
“Pre-mom you have a little more time to put yourself together. Now, being a mother, it’s literally whatever’s on the floor—and that usually consists of wearing the same thing for a few days in a row … Everything has to be easy, comfortable, accessible these days.”
Thus, Bilson tends to go for a more laid-back style in her outfits, saying it’s just easier to toss something on than spend hours primping herself up.
This picture shows a great look for Bilson for a simple morning errand. The light top is sheer but not too much so and mixes with the torn jean shorts which allow her great legs to be shown off nicely. The long white coat is a terrific addition, helping her stand out even more and the open toe sandals are comfortable enough for a nice walk. It shows how Bilson can make just a morning coffee run look terrific. So for all her talk on a “simple style,” Bilson still retains a lot of Summer’s style.
4 Always Summer
With TV revivals and reboots all over the place, it’s inevitable that fans have pressed for a return to The O.C. Many have wondered what the characters are up to and would love to see them coming back together. Creator Josh Schwartz does seem intrigued but cites how hard it would be to get the cast back together. In one interview, Bilson seemed open to it as well. However, she later told Women’s Health,
“I think that Josh let that book close. We leave it where it is. Sometimes when you bring shows back maybe you’ll be disappointed and maybe it won’t be what you’re expecting. You can still have that nostalgic feeling toward the thing you like so much.”
It’s obvious why fans would love to see the show back as Bilson could still be terrific in the part. This photo from an event shows a gorgeous style to herself. The floral top is a great style, a hint of her belly but still terrific and highlights her curves. That leads to a pair of nice jeans that are very stylish and the flower pattern on the catwalk at this fashion show is a perfect backdrop. So while Bilson seems unsure, many fans would adore seeing Summer returning at any time.
3 Spectacle Smart
After taking some time off for her family, Bilson returned to TV in 2017 by joining the cast of Nashville. The series had just rocked fans by killing off Connie Britton’s main character Rayna James which left her Highway 65 label in trouble. Enter Bilson as Alyssa Greene, a Silicon Valley ace brought in to help the label’s marketing. Bilson joked about the character being true to her as “I know nothing about country music, just like my character.” The character did clash with others on her views but had good bits and even a scene at a bar that let Bilson show off her singing chops. However, the character was always intended to have a brief arc as the rest of the label gets upset with how Alyssa is running things and she ends up fired.
But Bilson was a bright spot in the season and it helped that she got a great look. The professional outfits are good but the dark jacket looks top-notch, a business look that still has a laid-back feel to it to win folks over. The glasses look gorgeous on her, pushing her smarts but not taking away her amazing appeal. Bilson gushed on her social media about how much she loved the show and the cast and crew accepting so while her character didn’t last long, it was a great highlight of the series.
2 Cuffed Up
In 2013, Josh Schwartz talked to Entertainment Weekly about The O.C.’s 10th anniversary and was pressed on what the characters would be doing today. He mentioned that Seth and Summer still would be married but have no kids yet as Seth is busy with his filmmaking. Meanwhile, with her family losing their cash due to a Ponzi scheme, Summer would now be traveling the world and leading environmental protests.
Schwartz explained he just adored the irony of the gal who had been all about fashion who is now spending time on the world, and putting off motherhood until “the world zeroes out its carbon footprint.”
It’s ironic to think of, given Bilson still maintains a great fashion look not unlike Summer herself. The tank top is terrific with her light jean-style pants and shows her great mid-riff off. The unique fur cuffs add a nice touch to it, a flash of elegance with her great pout making it look better. Bilson is involved with real-life charities and causes so the idea of her playing an advocate Summer makes total sense. This pic shows she could also have a Summer who’s still into high fashion even when fighting for others. This is yet another reason why Bilson made that character such an icon for teens.
1 Wonder Woman
You can’t do a list of the best Bilson looks and not include this. The O.C. was notable in how it played with the classic clichés of teen shows. Summer looked to be the typical rich gal with a bubbleheaded personality and selfish. But she grew as the show continued, revealing she was far deeper and just putting on an act to fit in. She connected with Seth, the goofy nerd and before they knew it, were falling in love. This led to the now famous moment in a “Chrismukkah” episode where Summer brings Seth into a room as “Santa Baby” plays in the background. Unzipping her dress, Summer reveals a stunning Wonder Woman costume. More than one viewer had to agree with Seth’s moan of “I’m going to pass out.”
As he explained to Bustle, Adam Brody hadn’t seen Bilson in the outfit before shooting so his reaction was genuine. Executive producer Stephanie Savage said she picked the outfit to show Summer growing up. “Wonder Woman is someone Summer would be familiar with. It would be in her consciousness as a powerful icon of feminine beauty and strength.” It all paid off in one of the most iconic moments of the series and one that put Bilson on the map.