Warning: Spoilers for the first two episodes of 'Gossip Girl' season two below.
"It's faster, meaner, funnier," says longtime "Gossip Girl" costume designer Eric Daman, ahead of the Dec. 1 premiere of season two of 2.0. "It has catfights and people gunning for crowns and ... headbands. It just feels like a fan's dream."
The HBO Max reboot's sophomore run picks up immediately after an eventful New Year's Eve in Hudson, but the show's return definitely feels much spicier. The dialogue is stacked with cackle-inducing, fashion-related rapid-fire jokes — largely quips between the scheming Monet (Savannah Lee Smith) and teen spin doctor Luna (Zión Moreno). Listen carefully for extortion involving Law Roach, shade at Diet Prada and New York City-specific retail burns. (Hudson Yards just cannot catch a break, huh?)
After six seasons of the original and one for 2.0, Daman keeps pushing the "Gossip Girl" envelope, taking the Constance Billard and St. Jude's co-eds into their next stages, scandals, entanglements and, yes, personal growth. Ahead, the costume designer discusses fashion highlights from episodes one and two, as well as outfit (and plot) teasers to come.
Julien's Zoya-Wannabe Overalls
Julien (Jordan Alexander)'s literally in a new place now, since downsizing and moving in with half-sister Zoya (Whitney Peak) and her cash-strapped father, Nick (Jonathan Fernandez). Refraining from her repeated attempts to reunite with snooze-fest ex Obie (Eli Brown), Julien is focusing on bettering herself.
"She's more mindful, but she's still Julien Calloway, so it's a little misguided," says Daman.
Of course, the main way influencer Julien expresses herself is through fashion (and ill-advised social subterfuge). As a sister is wont to do, she decides to "emulate" Zoya's steadfast (if not sometimes sanctimonious) commitment to her values by copping her low-key aesthetic.
"I know they're your thing, but I hope you don't mind I augmented it a little bit," says Julien, proudly debuting her new overalls at breakfast. She ends up inciting her half-sibling's jealousy, as Nick marvels, "Everything you wear just works, doesn't it?"
Zoya's dad is right: Julien inevitably kicks off an overalls trend at at school, despite Monet's and Luna's snooty skepticism.
Daman rebuilt a Constance uniform into a "contemporary" Julien-friendly silhouette, while taking inspiration from Liz Hurley's iconic 1994 safety pin-embellished Versace dress. "Julien cobbled it together [with Versace-referential] kilt pins as buckles, her little cropped shirt and her Dior scarf," says Daman. "She's teetering between the two worlds of good intentions, but slightly misguided and not really understanding what the bigger picture is."
The luxury brand-loving Julien — via Daman, of course — is also making an effort to uplift and support BIPOC designers through her social platform and clout at school. As a cherry on top of her elevated Zoya 'fit, Julien (with zero self-awareness) wears an "overly-embellished" Rhude Le Valley varsity jacket embroidered with: "How much can I get away with and still go to heaven?"
Julien's Debutante Ball Gown
As Julien attempts to step away from the spotlight, Monet readies to seize it. Cue a requisite "Gossip Girl" black-tie affair in a very public forum: a refresh of the antiquated debutante ball.
"It's so strange to put all these young women in bridal dresses. It's this really weird world that still exists," says Daman.
He went to Andrea Pitter's Pantora Bridal for one of the "Making the Cut" winner's classic wedding styles from the "Honor" collection: a sleeveless, deep V-neck gown with an oversized bow. She made six versions of the dress in just a four-week period, since the evening ends with a full-on brawl between Julien and Monet (and a bunch of debs turning on each other).
"For Julian to go to a young Black female designer in Brooklyn is also a good storyline; she's being mindful and trying to embrace Zoya's ideology in a way," says Daman.
In support of the New York City Garment District, which was battered by the pandemic, Daman custom-made Monet's coming-out sequined mermaid gown with materials sourced from Diana Fabrics. "I had something very specific in mind," he says, adding that he took color inspo from the runways: "I wanted to do a nude illusion with sequins and have it be this very impactful turquoise blue."
The Julien v. Monet Fashion Face-Off
Luna — a.k.a. Constance Billard's resident Samantha Jones — convinces Julien to vie against Monet for the "Most Influential Teen" cover of Spectator magazine, perhaps a stand-in for New York, since former staff writer Hunter Harris joined the "Gossip Girl" writers room for season two. Harris also makes a cameo as a Spectator writer (very meta) who obviously knows Julien already: "You look amazing. Who are you wearing?" she asks Julien, who responds with, "Theophilio."
And Julien does look pretty amazing in a colorfully-striped body-con jumpsuit from designer Edvin Thompson's "Homecoming" collection, which celebrates his Jamaican heritage. (For outside scenes, Daman perfectly paired it with a vibrant crochet back-paneled trench coat by Monse. *Chef's kiss.*)
"And I'm Monet. Dolce. Vintage," says Julien's unwarranted rival, flexing without reading the room — because of course Monet would wear the controversial brand.
Monet's thirst comes through in the extravagant, crystal-embellished gown.
"She's covered in jewels," says Daman. "Then, Julien is low-key, super downtown, high fashion — again, trying to be mindful."
The costume designer needed to source a few of the opulent designer gowns, too, since Monet really commits to the manufactured conflict and throws herself in a fountain. But, again, Julien prevails.
"To have Theophilio versus Dolce, that's a really smart moment," says Daman.
Max's Softer Side
Hard-partying pleasure-seeker Max (Thomas Doherty) finds himself in uncharted waters: Now that longtime couple Aki (Evan Mock) and Audrey (Emily Alyn Lind) have extended their bond to include him, he's exploring his unguarded side and experiencing feelings.
"[He has] a little bit more of a softer, romantic fey-ness to his costumes," says Daman. "Everything's just a little bit softer and more vulnerable."
Max's emotional maturation comes through in his chunky sweaters and cozy, tactile layers — think Burberry cardigans versus his sharp, tailored suits and ornate shirts of last season. "Just a little more like a cocoon," Daman says. "Almost like a security blanket, as opposed to putting on a coat of arms of a super-tailored suit."
Throuple Coordinated Style
Couples and best friends often start dressing alike — so does the official throuple that is Aki, Audrey and Max.
"They're coordinating," says Daman, noting how, in the original series, he would often match Blair (Leighton Meester)'s headband with Chuck (Ed Westwick)'s pocket square. "It really helped tell a story in certain scenes, when you want their energy to be connected."
Daman points to the scene (above) when the three attempt to announce their triad romance with a dinner, which, in true "Gossip Girl" style, goes comically awry. As a composite, Audrey's peach-toned Stella McCartney mini with delicate lace ruffles at the bodice, Aki's monochrome gray Acne set and Max's muted brown Lardini suit and graphic 73 London shirt all subtly mesh — "like a chalky softness and earthiness to the colors that they have on that feels very connected," says Daman.
The move from couple to throuple (and anxiety of being the third wheel to Aki and Max) also influences Audrey's Old Hollywood-referential style, which Daman describes as "a place between a Brigitte Bardot meets Diane Keaton in 'Annie Hall.'"
Audrey's daytime school looks veer toward a traditionally "menswear-inspired" vibe, like a stellar vintage Saint Laurent tartan hooded cape, white Simone Rocha shirt under a boxy cable-knit Princess Polly vest, and cropped J.W. Anderson pants. Her oft-strapless nighttime party looks skew more strapless "sex bomb evening-wear," like a sultry vintage velvet Alexander McQueen dress worn to the "Kiss on the Lips" party (with which Max coordinates in a McQueen blazer).
The Return of the Headband
In the premiere of 2.0 season one, Daman and the franchise effectively renounced Blair Waldorf's iconic headband from the original "G.G.": "She has a headband on," sniffed Monet, throwing shade at then-freshman newbie Zoya.
"To be honest, there was a lot of pushback from fans about that moment," says Daman. "Now we've flipped that with Monet, specifically, and have her gunning for the crown and emulating the O.G. Queen Bee."
To foreshadow her hostile takeover of Constance Billard, Monet even dresses like Blair in checked bouclé skirt sets, lace-trimmed Peter Pan collars, designer ribbon ties and, of course, headbands — "just a complete echo of Blair Waldorf," says Daman, who enjoyed reuniting with Jennifer Behr, purveyor of Ms. Waldorf's headpieces, but also incorporating smaller independent designers, like Lele Sadoughi and Deepa Gurnani.
But Daman admits: "Monet is much more opulent and nouveau than Blair was."