Eric Daman, Gossip Girl, Style

Eric Daman, Gossip Girl

Reflecting on 10 Years of 'Gossip Girl' With Eric Daman

But how will the style of a 'Gossip Girl' reboot stack up to the original?


But how will the style of a ' Gossip Girl ' reboot stack up to the original?

On its 10th anniversary, the show's costume designer fills us in on his iconic work for the now-legendary series.

"When I first got the script for the 'Gossip Girl' pilot, I wasn't familiar with the book series, and I was like, 'Oh, a pilot for a TV series; it's just not for me.' There was a moment where I wasn't even gonna read the script, and then my boyfriend was like, 'Why don't you just read the first page?'" Daman explains. "I read the first page, and it totally dragged me right in; my teen mean girl came out immediately, and I was just obsessed. Then I read the book series, and I just felt in me that I had to be a part of this project — and I'm very happy that I did."

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At the beginning, I delved into the books — and I could talk about all the characters, but it's easier just to focus on Blair and Serena. I'm happy to go into [other characters], but we would be here for hours. [Laughs]

How did that evolve over the course of the show? Were the actors helping out as they became more familiar with their characters?

Whereas with Blake, Blake wanted to play with the clothes and be a part of it, and I think Blake and Serena had a symbiotic relationship, in a way, stylistically. I'd bring in all these racks of things that I thought were perfect for Serena and outfits that had some architectural design — like if we need a party look or a school look — and have that laid out to work with her on. But then we had a wonderful back and forth of what each outfit was going to be and how it went together. She got more and more involved in that way as Serena grew and as Blake grew. When she first came in, I think she was open to deferring to me because she was just learning. She was wide-eyed; she loved it all so much and wanted to be around the fashion and wanted to learn about it all.

Initially, when I read it, I was like, "We just have these school uniforms. It can't just be white blouses, pleated skirts and knee socks — we have to do something really incredible and kind of poignant." If you watched the whole first season, it's mostly the school uniforms; it was such a big piece to them.

Serena comes back from having left the school, and she wears her school's uniform skirt from her freshman year, so it's a different plaid than the other girls are wearing. She's a rule-breaker, so maybe she just wears T-shirts and is a little bit less formal about it, but as long as it was a white shirt of some sort, we could get away with it. I think it worked really, really well that she didn't wear collared shirts, and that we saved that for Blair and her cronies. That was the initial thing that set the two looks apart, that we took a little bit of liberty; Serena was such a free spirit that she was like, "I'm just going to wear my henley and my skinny tie," and Blair's in a ruffled blouse and a cape. It just really differentiates who they are.

The kids weren't known in the beginning, so it was definitely a challenge, Season One, that we didn't have many designers participating. Then I feel like something happened between Season One and Season Two, over that break where there was the writer's strike. The CW did a big push of advertising and there was this tipping point; all of a sudden, the kids were in People magazine; Blake and Leighton are on the covers of Vogue — they were just everywhere.

It definitely was a show that continually outdid itself. Was that challenging towards the end? Did you feel you constantly had to pull something more and more over the top?

I have a hard time with specific outfits, because it's bigger than that for me, but my favorite episodes were the Paris episodes. I went to college in Paris, and spent from ages 19 to 24 in Paris, so it was amazing to go back to Paris with this "Gossip Girl" culture. It was couture week at the same time, so just being in Paris and doing these episodes alone was just incredible. But on top of it, because we were in Paris, I could go to the Parisian showrooms and go to Balmain or Balenciaga and actually pick things from their showrooms. ["Gossip Girl" creator] Stephanie Savage and I were both on the same page that, if we're doing Paris, we're going to make it super-elevated, and it's fine for them to wear couture in the daytime — just let 'em have it. I feel like it was "Gossip Girl" 2.0 as far as the elements we were using. Stylistically, it feels super-elevated to me in a really fun way.

I get that [question], and I'm always like, "It's like picking your favorite child!" [Sighs] I feel like if there was really one to pick, I'd have to say it was Chuck Bass, because I feel like what we did for menswear for him — how we dressed him and who he was, how he carried it all — was very pioneering in the menswear world. I think he relaunched menswear and being able to dress like a gentleman. It wasn't just about jeans and T-shirts and being 'super sport guy.' We took being masculine and made it okay to wear ascots and pink jackets and be flamboyant like a peacock, like men used to be. It wasn't seen as fay or dandy. I love that he really switched a button for men to dress better.

She was really into muumuus, and Pucci sent us one that was beautiful; it was royal blue and gold embroidered, right off the runway, and I was like, "We have to have it in there, it's incredible." Of course, she fell in love with it; we only have one, and she shoots the next day. Somehow my team and Pucci tag-teamed and they had one left over from model fittings, and they flew it over that night and it got to us the next day. It was just one of those incredible behind-the-scenes moments that was slightly stressful and totally incredible at the same time.

Did you prefer doing the day dressing or did you enjoy doing those party looks more?

It would be specific. I was the ghost designer behind Jenny Humphrey's line which was a lot of fun. Then if there were specific moments where we need to have things like tearaways, like Blair's debutant dress I designed and had made — I think that was one of the first big pieces that we did in-house, because there's a gag where half of the dress is ripped off, and I thought it seemed better just to make it ourselves.

The boob rhombus! [Laughs] I remember very well the boob rhombus.

It also fed my design aesthetic, like, "Headbands are a thing. Let's keep growing the headbands." And from the get-go, with Blair's headbands, Stephanie and I were like, "She's always going to wear a headband." It was part of the very meticulous finishing to her — she sits in the mirror and it's the last thing she does. It's like the icing on the cake; it's like her force field and almost this powerful element that she wears. It's like her Linus blanket.

Something that that never got pointed out, other than me telling people, is that Blair never repeated a headband in six seasons, and Serena never wore the same pair of shoes or carried the same bag in six seasons. We were very careful from the get-go. We wanted it to be living TV editorial; in editorial you don't see the same bag. These girls were not going repeat. That was something that wasn't as brought to light as I wish it had been.

She did. Of course she did! [Laughs] Trying to get inside the mind of Blair Waldorf, she's not wearing Hanes — which, there's nothing wrong with Hanes! If she wanted to wear Hanes, she'd turn that shit out. [Laughs] But it's so thought out, and it's so meticulously chosen that it has to be La Perla or it has to be Agent Provocateur. It has to be the best of the best and make her feel confident in her choice in that and what she thinks was going to turn the man on. Everything is thought out, even down to the lingerie.

Do you ever look at runways today and think that one of the "Gossip Girl' characters would wear something?

Recently, I saw some things at Rosie Assoulin that I thought were very Blair Waldorf. It just felt so feminine, but also so adult. If I was doing it right now, she'd definitely be wearing Rosie Assoulin, and then maybe mixing it with Prada or Fendi. Again, mixing with these newer designers and capping it with some of the more established.

"Gossip Girl" has become such a cultural phenomenon, partially thanks to the costumes; what has it meant to you?

I love that Dan is Gossip Girl. I do! It was an unexpected turn. He, through all six seasons, was so holier than thou, judging all those kids, but then you realize he just felt ostracized and wanted to be a part of it in such a big way that he had to take this on. Then it just consumed him and he became Gossip Girl. I think it was a great choice. Like who was it going to be — Georgina?! [Laughs]

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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