Three of today’s biggest fashion inspirations come in the form of fictional characters: Serena, Blair, and ‘Lil J. Their on-screen closets overflow with lust-worthy pieces — the perfect mix of designer, vintage, and couture. Every time we watch an episode, we seethe with jealousy at each girl’s ability to project her entire personality through beautiful, beautiful clothes. How do S, B and J do it?, we wonder. Reality check — they’re fictional, meaning they don’t. Meet Eric Daman, the man who brings our favorite Gossip Girls to life via their covetable wardrobes.
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Thanks to Daman’s new book You Know You Want It, your name doesn’t have to end in Waldorf, Humphrey, or Van der Woodsen to receive his personal fashion advice. In the book, Daman helps readers find their personal sense of style. His advice caters to all women, as he stresses the importance of dressing to flatter your body type, while actually showing you how to do so. You Know You Want It encourages risk-taking, advises rule breaking, and proves that confidence is more than half the battle. Here, we catch up with the stylist himself.
SC: Before your job as stylist and costume designer for Gossip Girl, you were the assistant designer for Sex and the City. How did the New York City-centric nature of SATC prepare you for outfitting the Gossip Girl cast?
ED: It taught me to be inspired by the city and that anything goes in New York, and to always remember that the city is a character.
SC: Where do you look to for reference and inspiration when designing for each character?
ED: As I mentioned above, NYC is an amazing source of inspiration, from the melting pot of cultures, architecture, to the haute and bas couture. Each character feeds off the city, but as I mention in the book, inspiration is all around us — a magazine cover, a film noir poster, an ad on a bus; we just need to be more aware of our surroundings and inspiration will find us.
SC: Which character is your favorite to create outfits for and why?
ED: Chuck Bass…I’m pretty sure the “why” is obvious :)
SC: As you get to know the actors, how do their personalities affect the fashion choices you make for their characters?
ED: I have been working with them since day one on the pilot, so we have a really solid, trusting relationship. For me to see them grow into these beautiful super fashionable and successful women is truly a dream. I am thankful to be a part of initiating their fashion education, and at this point, it’s brilliant that we can learn from each other — I see things they don’t and vice versa. Designing for any actress is (or should be) a give and take situation, and I’m privileged to be working with such tasteful talent.
SC: In the beginning of your book, You Know You Want It, you write, “All my experiences have informed my personal aesthetic, but when I am dressing my actors, I pay close attention to what is specific to their character and not just some blanket view of “fashion.” How do you stay focused on the character, and not allow your choices to be dictated by current trends?
ED: Sometimes the character is influenced by current trends — it just so happens these girls are trend setters, so trend is a part of their character — but their past has led them to trends that they sport. Blair’s severe, disapproving mother led her to a lifetime of headbands and proper attire. Serena’s wild child, free spirit comes from several pseudo fathers and no stable home life and is reflected in her plunging necklines and ultra minis.
SC: Blair Waldorf’s style is utterly unique, both on the show and in today’s society; her outfits portray an old world, aristocratic upbringing. How did your time in Paris influence such a look?
ED: Paris is very old world in its attire. It is known as the capital of la mode, but they are quite conservative, even uptight in their attire, opinions, and demeanor, so living with that for all those years definitely added to the creation of Blair. Add in some old Hollywood glamour and a sprinkle of fashion severity and savoir faire via Anna Wintour, and you have a basic recipe for Ms. Waldorf.
SC: As we live in the age of jeans and T-Shirts, how can women incorporate Blair’s chic fashion sensibility into their daily wardrobes?
ED: A headband and a pair of pearls.
SC: Jenny…er, we mean, ‘Lil J, has made the biggest transition. She’s gone from an innocent, naive nobody to heir of the UES throne. What made you dress ‘Lil J in all black ensembles, as opposed to styling her like a mini-Blair?
ED: At the end of last season, our ‘Lil J went from pretty-in-pink Brooklyn girl to UES wannabe, to UES queen bee, and like a true teenager she explored all of these changes through her style. She ended on a dark note, a sort of modern day Cherie Currie of the UES. Everyone liked this style, so when I was dressing her for this season, I wanted to feed off that base and add in some Serena and some Blair influences so that she would be this amazing fashion amalgam that would be original and worthy of her reign.
SC: Serena always looks effortlessly cool yet chic, like she just chose whatever was clean and closest to her at the time, then made it work. What do you think about when dressing her? What type of pieces do you generally reach for?
ED: I look for everything. You never know who Serena will be that week, so I really look for everything, from Herve Leger minis to cozy cashmere cowl necks. The fact that she looks so carefree and effortless is a much bigger challenge than one would think.
SC: Vanessa’s a Brooklyn girl with amazing style, so we have to assume her character’s a master of flea markets and thrift shops. What are your favorite places for second-hand or vintage finds?
ED: What Comes Around Goes Around, Chelsea Girl, Amarcord, mixed with some Charlotte Russe, Nine West and Topshop.
SC: Fashion-wise, whom do you relate to more: Chuck, Nate, or Dan?
ED: Serena, Blair, and ‘Lil J.
SC: You Know You Want It, your guide to personal style and fashion how-to, was just recently released. How did working on the set of Gossip Girl influence the content of this book?
ED: It made it difficult timewise, but also helped in that I had a lot of beautiful clothing and accessories to play with in a new and exciting way.
SC: In your book, you say that the rules of fashion were meant to be broken, and we totally agree. We’re curious, however: What is the one rule of dress that you never break?
ED: Never be too obvious or too clich.
SC: Is there one rule that we should never break?
ED: Low sitting pants that reveal a thong, muffin top or camel toe. All of these are rules not to break!
SC: In chapter 6, titled, “Who are you today?,” you say that style should be fluid. This is a scary concept to most women, as we find comfort in our daily uniforms. What advice can you give to women to break out of this mold?
ED: Read my book, explore, have fun, let loose a little. I’m not trying to get women to change their style every day, just to consider new things. When it comes down to it, just have a good time, feel great about who you are and what you’re wearing. Remember, style is 20 percent fashion, and 80 percent confidence.
SC: What can we look for from you in the future?
ED: World domination! JK :) Hopefully more fashion fun and inspiration…