Eric Daman is the mastermind of it all.
Clad in a gray blazer over a baby-blue blouse and topped off with a brown ascot, Gossip Girl’s costume designer promoted his new stylebook, You Know You Want It, at North Bridge Mall’s Swarovski store in Chicago on January 30.
With experience as a model, stylist and costume designer, Daman has always been interested in fashion.
“I grew up in the sticks of Michigan,” Daman says. “When I was a kid I used to drive 45 minutes to the mall, the one place that would sell Interview magazine.”
Working with a team of 20 to 25 people, the costume designer of Gossip Girl shops, dresses and does fittings with all of the cast members. Daman has his own design team in addition to a team that actually runs the set.
“They don’t shoot the scenes in sequential order,” Daman explains. “It’s important for [the outfits] to get from what I’m doing in the fitting — that the collar’s popped right and the tie is straight — to what is actually filmed.”
Creating Gossip Style
Daman, who has been on the show since the pilot, drew most of his inspiration for Gossip Girl’s wardrobe from the books themselves. It’s all very “character-driven,” he says.
“I read the books pretty intensively because I wanted to be true to [Cecily von Ziegesar’s] characters,” Daman says. “We knew [from] the beginning we were hoping to create trends and inspire this fashion frenzy around it, but the most important thing was to create the costumes for these characters.”
Critical to a costume designer is the background of each character, according to Daman, as it is their personalities that will determine the types of clothing they can pull off.
“You create this back story to establish who these people are and how the clothing is going to channel that,” he says.
Zooming in from creating personality traits, the day-to-day process of dressing each character differs. Another pivotal influence for wardrobe are the details of each scene. Whether it’s a gala, prom or nighttime dictates if Chuck goes for his velvet robe or his sparkly tux.
Daman’s favorite Blair outfit is her debutante gown — one of his own designs. “Because of the nature of television filming, there isn’t time to design an outfit and have it made,” Daman says. “But we knew the debutante ball was coming up, so I designed this amazing brocade of a dress for Blair.”
Mainstreaming Gossip Fashion
Gossip Girl is now a yardstick for fashion; its cast members are increasingly prevalent style icons. From Nate’s preppy UES-ness to Jenny’s raccoon eyeliner, from Vanessa’s boho style to anything and everything Chuck Bass, Gossip Girl fashion has been translated to everyday style — think Blair Waldorf’s signature headband.
“It’s her everyday tiara,” Daman says. “Blair is the queen of the Upper East Side and [the headband] was a way to express that without going overboard.”
Daman picked up the accessory from the books, feeling that it embodied her character perfectly, symbolizing her social status.
“I just keyed into it, and I really wanted it to be her thing,” Daman says. “Blair is someone who has been studying her style since she’s been in diapers. She is very meticulous about it…. This was the crown on top of everything.”
Despite inspiring teenage girls to don headbands of their own, Daman’s favorite character to dress is Chuck. “It’s amazing,” he says.
Chuck’s character often gives off a feeling that he couldn’t care less, which Daman feels is essential to designing his clothes and creating an “urban dandy” with an old, worldly English demeanor.
“Because of who Chuck Bass is — he’s the richest kid in New York, a bourbon-swilling, womanizing rogue that doesn’t really give a crap about anyone — he can pull off whatever he wants,” he says. “Chuck can waltz around in a pink suit and ascot and be fabulous and not care. Whatever anyone thinks doesn’t matter… he’s richer than them, he’s more handsome than them, and he’s going to end up with twins at the end of the night anyway.”
Chuck, in all his lilac purple and sea-foam green suits, epitomizes Gossip Girl’s pervasive fashion influence — he has become an icon for men’s fashion.
“I feel like men don’t really dress well… I’m very happy that I could have an influence [and] see men dressing differently — wearing pocket squares or ascots,” Daman says. “Normal guys can now feel okay wearing pink because Chuck Bass does it, and he’s a womanizing, bourbon-swilling millionaire — so it’s okay.”
You Know You Want It
Daman’s inspiration for his book was spontaneous; the publisher actually approached him.
“I wanted it to be something different and very stimulating — like a multimedia event,” Daman says. “Every page has a tidbit or an image that you can look at.”
With a 20-year-old female demographic, Daman took their “constant visual prowess” into consideration for his book. “They’re on their laptops, they have six pages open and they’re BBM-ing,” Daman says. “That’s kind of what I wanted to do with the book.”
Creating a visually stimulating and original stylebook was only one of Daman’s goals. Citing his personal experience, the costume designer offers “insider tips” for women on how to dress better and embody their own style by building confidence.
“What the book really comes down to for me is: style is 20% fashion and 80% confidence,” Daman says. “And if a woman can read the book, find their proper hem length to [make] their legs look better and feel more confident about it, then I’ve done exactly what I’ve set out to do. I think confidence is a girl’s best accessory.”
The negativity surrounding “Red Carpet Disasters” is the exact opposite of Daman’s personal philosophy.
“Fashion should be fun,” he says. “Style is fluid, and it’s about how you feel. Just have a good time with it, and don’t get yourself down because you don’t look like a size-two superstar on the Red Carpet — there’s like 500 people making that happen, and we don’t have that in real life.”