Gossip Girl’s costume designer, Eric Daman, explains how he pushed the boundaries of the uniforms in the HBO Max show by making them gender-neutral.
Costume designer Eric Daman made new gender-neutral school uniforms for HBO Max’s Gossip Girl. The story is originally based on Cecily von Ziegesr’s novel that goes by the same name. From there, The CW Network ran a television adaptation that aired for six seasons between 2007 and 2012. It was brought to television by Stephanie Savage and Josh Schwartz, who also created Runaways for Hulu. The show is set in the Upper East Side of New York, as an omniscient blogger writes about the secrets of a group of teenagers.
After being off the air for around 9 years, HBO Max has rebooted the series under the same name. This time, it follows a new group of privileged New York teenagers, but with an added element of social media. The show brings back original co-creators Savage and Schwartz, as well as Kristen Bell as the blogging narrator. The show is set within the same universe as the original Gossip Girl, but with different point-of-view characters.
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Variety recently reported on the style of the costume design. It’s noted that there are a lot of visual Easter eggs hidden throughout the course of the show through the costumes. With Gossip Girl, Daman wanted to create more gender-neutral looks for the uniforms. While he highlighted how the costumes are fitting to the characters, he also wanted to push boundaries for what is considered “gendered clothing.” See below for Daman’s full breakdown of each character:
Julien Calloway (Jordan Alexander) – “Julien introduces a new palate of gender-neutral school uniforms. On her mood board, there’s pictures of Destiny’s Child at the VMAs from that time period. Trying to bridge the gap between that vibe and contemporary fashion within the boundaries of uniforms was an exciting challenge.”
Zoya Lott (Whitney Peak) – “This little sister’s a bit of a nod to Jenny [Humphrey] with her grunge vibe from Buffalo. But what’s important to me was to have Zoya use totes from Black-owned bookstores, wear graphic tees that send a message. At this time, it feels relevant and exciting for me to be able to use this platform to give voice to minority communities and reflect the inclusivity in casting in the clothing as well.”
Max Wolfe (Thomas Doherty) – “He represents a new male identity that is more fluid, that is pansexual. He wears a women’s lace blouse and wears it as a gender-fighting piece. It’s a new dialogue this generation is very vocal about that we could not have had during the original series.”
Audrey Hope (Emily Alyn Lind) – “[She] has an ease to it that comes naturally for Generation Z. Matching oversized, menswear tops with knee-high socks and leather walkers add a fresh touch to her effortless silhouettes.”
Akeno ‘Aki’ Menzies (Evan Mock) – “What’s back in right now are light blue oxford shirts but in 2XL.With these basics, we are playing with the early aughts of the late ’90s and harkening back to these returning trends.”
Monet De Haan (Savannah Lee Smith) & Luna La (Zión Moreno) – “Luna and Monet aren’t wearing headbands and bow blouses — they’re not in the old world of over-accessorizing — but they are still in the high-fashion world in a very new way. And this was a cool way of putting in a break from the old world of ‘Gossip Girl.’ It was exciting to liberate myself from the boundaries of what was expected.”
Daman is a Primetime Emmy-winning costume designer for his work on HBO’s Sex and the City back in 2002. However, he has a list of other impressive titles that he’s worked on as well. While he was the costume designer on the 2021 reboot of Gossip Girl, he also handled costumes for the original series on The CW. More recently, he has worked on Love, Simon and Showtime’s Billions. The new Gossip Girl is yet another big title for Daman.
While small steps are now being taken towards representation and inclusion, there’s still a lot of work to be done in this space. However, the use of gender-neutral uniforms for this new group of New York teenagers is fitting. Some audiences may wonder why it matters, although representation is truly meaningful for those who feel that they differ from what society deems “normal,” or what clothes are considered appropriate for a given individual to wear. The Gossip Girl reboot has not been received well by critics, although that doesn’t mean that its target audience won’t enjoy the reboot.
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