The Gossip Girl Reboot Costume Designer Reveals the Fashion Callbacks to the Original You Might’ve Missed
Including Kate Keller's perfect throwback to Serena's style.
Creating a legacy of iconic fashion looks for a six-season-running hit show is one thing. Doing it again a near decade later, with the added pressures of social media and the anticipation of dedicated fans, is quite another. That’s the challenge costume designer Eric Daman was tasked with when he signed on to return for this year’s Gossip Girl reboot. Although he has an impressive resume, having also worked on Sex and the City and the 2018 film Love, Simon, among other projects, Daman says that as excited as he was to take on the reboot, he also felt worried.
“I feel like it’s amazing that [the characters] have lived on the way they have and people still enjoy them so much, so I really wanted to be a part of this new story,” he explains, talking to HelloGiggles in August amidst filming for the second half of the show’s Season 1. But at the same time, he adds, “I was having quite a bit of anxiety and buildup of like, ‘How can we do this? What is this going to be? What is this going to look like?'”
Daman says he was stressing over how to create a perfect “symbiosis between the two worlds” of the early aughts GG and Gen-Z takeover GG. “I wanted to make sure the fans feel like we’re respecting the original, but I also want to give them this fresh new look,” he explains. But when the pandemic started, production halted for eight months—and when Daman returned to set in late 2020, it was with a new perspective.
The reboot, he realized, wasn’t meant to be a one-to-one remake of the exclusive reign of Blair Waldorf and Serena Van der Woodsen, but an opportunity for something new. “I just looked at [the reboot] as a brave new world, the new world order that it’s supposed to be,” Daman says. “And not so attached to like who Serena was, what a certain necklace was, or what the vibe was from the original and just really turned that page.”
The result? A completely reimagined show filled with Instagram-influenced fashion, gender-fluid style, more accessibly-priced clothing items, and a tasteful sprinkling of references to the original. It’s true that some things remained the same in the reboot, which takes place eight years after the infamous GG blog site went dark and follows a whole new generation of NYC private school teenagers. There’s still social hierarchy, unfair class advantages, and sex scandals to boot. But there’s also the portrayal of Gen Z—a generation defined by breaking barriers—and that was largely reflected in many of Daman’s styling choices.
For example, he notes a strong fashion moment in Episode 1, in which he styled Max Wolfe (the openly pansexual playboy most akin to Chuck Bass, played by Thomas Doherty) in a see-through lace Paco Rabanne blouse. It was technically a women’s blouse, but “gender is dead, as far as clothing is concerned,” Daman says. However, he adds, the same styling wouldn’t have worked on Chuck (Ed Westwick) in the early 2000s. “If I would’ve put that same blouse on Ed Westwick, it would’ve looked like pirate drag,” he says. “It wouldn’t have had the same sexy ease that exists now in the way Max carried it and the way that we look at gender and clothing.”
This fluidity also extends to Akeno “Aki” Menzies’ character (the pink-haired, questioning bisexual teen played by Evan Mock), when Max encourages him, in the same episode, to wear one of his dad’s vintage designer pink silk sets to a fashion show. It’s safe to say, Chuck and Nate could never.
Another aspect of Gen Z fashion that was prioritized in the reboot was the accessibility factor. In the premiere, main character Zoya Lott (the middle-class and comparatively less-privileged teen played by Whitney Peak) is spotted wearing a pair of Adidas sneakers. In another episode, Luna La (one of influencer Julien Calloway’s friend-publicists, played by Zion Moreno) is spotted wearing a sub-$100 Free People dress. Both items are ones that designer-obsessive Blair Waldorf likely wouldn’t be caught dead wearing.
“[These choices] speak to this generation—Gen Z is so focused on being idiosyncratic and it’s not all about the labels,” Daman says. “It’s not all about the giant logos, so [we wanted to] nod to what’s going on with this generation and be inspired by their views and how they shop and how they dress.”
Gen Z does shop with a purpose, as many members have a vested interest in brands’ missions and sustainability when spending their money. This was reflected most notably in the costuming for Zoya, the most social justice-minded of the new lot. Daman says much of Zoya’s apparel, especially her graphic tees and tote bags, were sourced from BIPOC-owned bookstores and brands, including: Revolution Books, Adanne, Word Up, Community Bookstore, Philadelphia Printworks, All Riot, Melanin Apparel, and bAnchored. Daman also worked to create a Black Swan Records tote, representing the historical and cultural significance of the first black-owned recording company in Harlem, which lasted from 1921 to 1923.
“Having an independent, sociopolitical voice with [Zoya’s] clothing has been awesome, and that’s a very big change from the original,” Daman says.
We’d be remiss, however, if we didn’t also mention some of the reboot’s fashion similarities (and callbacks) to the original. One of the most obvious is a moment in Episode 1, when Zoya shows up to the steps of The Met wearing a scarf as a headband—an iconic mainstay of former show lead Blair’s style. Yet when Luna makes a remark about how painfully uncool headbands are now, Julien (played by Jordan Alexander) helps her sister Zoya by refashioning her headband into a necktie—a swift transition marking the initiation of the new order of things in Gossip Girl 2.0.
Another Easter egg was planted in the opening scene of the new series, which features teacher Kate Keller (played by Rookie Mag founder Tavi Gevinson) riding in on the train. “Kate first arrived dressed almost identically to when we see Serena the first time [in Grand Central Station] and there’s a very similar train shot with their tan jackets and a French sailor-striped t-shirt and a little neck kerchief,” Daman explains. “I thought it was really cool to kind of line that up and really tie together those images.”
Another major callback to the original comes in Episode 5, when two characters come to the Halloween party dressed as Serena and Blair from two notable scenes in the original show—Blair’s cotillion and Serena’s finale wedding. “The cotillion dress was one of the first dresses we ever built in my old [costume] shop, the original shop,” Daman explains, “So to be able to go back and resource and rebuild that and try to be as true to the original as possible—because we didn’t have access to the original dress—was a really awesome dive into the past for me.”
He adds that they also had a local jeweler recreate Blair’s necklace from Chuck for the scene. And for Serena’s wedding dress, they reached out to designer Georges Chakra for access to the original work. “They had it in their archive and someone went into the archives somewhere in China, and FedEx’d it,” Daman says, “Which if you’ve seen that dress, it’s gigantic. So it was no small feat.”
Daman says there were also some common threads and references to both old and new trends when building the fashion mood boards for each character. For influencer Julien’s style, he looked to obvious references like Instagram stars and big-name models of today like Kaia Gerber, Bella and Gigi Hadid, and Sofia Richie. He also pulled inspiration from South Sudanese-Australian model Adut Akech, wanting to infuse that “international runway model vibe,” as he did with Kate Moss for Serena’s character in the original. Plus, he adds, “a lot of early Destiny’s Child, Beyoncé, and Rihanna, informed Julien’s world.”
For another one of Julien’s friend-publicists, the vintage-prep-styled Monet de Haan (played by Savannah Smith), Daman says he was largely inspired by a hybrid of ’90s Naomi Campbell and Stacey Dash’s character Dionne Davenport in Clueless. “[Monet’s style is] a little bit heavy-handed on the Chanel accessories, but still feels very glamorous and kind of Gen Z at the same time,” he explains.
With the second half of Gossip Girl Season 1 set to air in November, we can be sure to expect many more iconic fashion moments, a continued death to restrictively gendered clothing, and merges between new and old style. Daman, who says that the reboot, “opened up new doors that [he] never would’ve been able to experiment with on the original,” hopes that the characters’ style resonates with viewers.
“I’m hoping that the fashion fantasy that we’re serving puts a smile on [viewers’] faces and they enjoy it this time around as much as they did the original, and that they feel inspired and confident and excited about what we’re doing with the clothes,” he says.