It was barely a week ago that actor Sebastian Stan made the bold claim that there were no belts on "Gossip Girl." I was happy to investigate the issue myself, but the only way to officially close the case was to get on the phone with Eric Daman, the costume designer behind all of the show's iconic looks, himself.
Thankfully, Daman was game for a lighthearted conversation in the middle of coronavirus-dictated social distancing. He's spending time in Palm Springs while work on his latest project — the upcoming "Gossip Girl" reboot, set to air on HBO Max some time this year — is on hold. That's right: Daman is officially back on board to dress the latest crew of private school kids set to terrorize the Upper East Side.
"The casting is looking really awesome and it's surreal to be invited to be a part of it," Daman says. "I think it's gonna be exciting — it's definitely going to be a challenge, which I love."
Though it hasn't even been a decade since "Gossip Girl" 1.0 went off the air, the time has never been better for our girl GG to log back on. Since landing on Netflix, "Gossip Girl" has been finding a new audience with Gen Z-ers who were probably too young to follow the trials and tribulations of our favorite Upper East Siders the first time around. But Daman says that he's especially noticed the show's growing popularity among straight men — and judging by the speed with which my own boyfriend came careening around the corner when he heard me chatting with Daman, demanding I make mention of his own love of "Gossip Girl," I'd say he's not far off the mark with this observation.
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Fans waiting to learn more about the coming reboot will have to sit tight for a bit longer before we get more than a Golden Goose-clad look at the new series, but Daman was more than happy to chat about his policy on belts and the ever-evolving legacy of the show. (Unfortunately, our conversation took place just before Serena's sweatpants-gate went viral on TikTok, so that investigation will have to wait for another day.)
Let's get it out of the way: Were there belts on 'Gossip Girl'?
I'm sure there were some belts. [laughs] Definitely the ladies wore belts, at given points. The men, I was kind of on a "no belt" policy — not across the board, I feel like Nate might have worn a great braid belt at some point, or a yacht-flag belt that seemed appropriate — but overall, really, no belts. Especially with suits, there are so many really great tab-over pants, it's such a nicer, cleaner line for menswear. And I think men's belts at that time also were mostly hideous, like a gunmetal chrome dress belt buckle, and I just can't. [laughs] We're not doing that. At that time, there was a lot of that out in the world. We've come a long way in the way men's belts — hopefully I might've pioneered that incentive.
It was a mix of only lots of hideous men's belts being available, and the fact that I liked a clean silhouette. Especially with Sebastian, and his character Carter coming on, we were giving him this super-boho, billionaire-boy-hanging-out-in-Maui or wherever he was coming from [look]. Belts under knits drive me crazy, because it makes an imprint and you see that. Everything you see in real life is magnified on screen — that was something that I learned working with Sarah Jessica [Parker] on "Sex and the City," that every little thing is magnified. It's an extra half inch around your waist, where we don't want to emphasize things, and there's a belt buckle. That's the logic, if you call that logic. [laughs]
It's funny that that's what stuck with Sebastian, that he also doesn't wear belts now.
I think it's hilarious! What's really funny is that Sami Rattner, who was my assistant designer on "Gossip Girl," sent me the piece. She's gone on to design for "Quantico" and "Runaways" and a bunch of other really successful ventures, and she was like, "I really stood next to your no-belt policy, especially under knits." I love that this no-belt policy really marked people in a way that I wasn't even aware of. It was just something we did in the moment and wasn't thinking, 15 years down, the line someone would really be hooked on.
That's your legacy now, the no-belt policy.
Great! [laughs] I'm down.
We last spoke right around the show's 10th anniversary, and since then, the show found another life on its own on Netflix, reaching a whole new generation who weren't watching when it was on. And especially now, I've seen a lot of people using time in social isolation to watch it for the first time. What has it been like to see this resurgence of interest?
It's funny you say that, because I had been tagged in a link of Clarke Schmidt — he's a pitcher for the Yankees, like a sports bro — and he's giving this sports interview about what he's doing in isolation. It's him and his brother, and he's like, "We're grinding for 10 hours in a row on the last season of 'Gossip Girl,' I can't get enough of it." And I'm like, "What are you talking about!" [laughs] It was super awesome. That's the kind of fandom, the resurgence, that's interesting, the straight bros get into "Gossip Girl" and it's not just because of Serena. He's being interviewed and they're like, "Are you more of a Blair or a Serena?" and he said, "Serena's prime, but Blair has so much more heart."
I remember when we were making it, and it was towards season six, and they were all these straight guys coming up that were like, 'Yeah my girlfriend would have these nights, and I got sucked into it and now I love 'Gossip Girl.'" I love that there's this counterculture of straight dudes that like 'Gossip Girl,' and I love that the younger kids who weren't watching TV when it was on are into it, but the real subversive crowd is like the Yankees pitcher who is locked in his basement watching 10 hours of "Gossip Girl." [laughs]
I started tracking outfits worn on "Gossip Girl" on my own Instagram around that time because I'm such a fan, and now they get more likes than photos of me do.
I kind of stopped doing it myself, because I was doing "Billions" and getting away from the whole "Gossip Girl" world a little bit. Now I'm back in it with the reboot coming up, and people just love it. It's the same thing: I post one picture and people are like, "Oh my gosh, please, post more and give us insight," which I probably will do once we're back up and running and get back into it.
What do you think people who get into the show for the first time should know about the wardrobe or notice while watching it?
That it's amazing [laughs]. I think we were just trying to change television and make it look like a living editorial and emulate this wealthy, crazy world, that you can just have fun with clothing to express yourself. The expression of costume and clothing in that show was so much fun to take it above and beyond. By season six, every episode we were setting the bar higher and higher.
Are you excited for the reboot?
I am! I really am, actually. We were deep in pre-prep right when all this hit. The casting is looking really awesome and it's surreal to be invited to be a part of it.
When they released that teaser image with the Golden Goose sneaker, I don't know if you saw this, but everyone was like, "What is a Golden Goose sneaker doing on 'Gossip Girl'?!"
Wait a minute, what is this new weird world we're about to enter into? I think it's gonna be exciting. It's definitely going to be a challenge, which I love.
It's like GG — Gossip Girl, Golden Goose — kind of urban, ridiculously overpriced, gorgeous sneaker that all the girls are wearing so I don't know, what else would it be? [laughs]
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.