Even after the beloved teen drama series “Gossip Girl” ended in 2012, viewers couldn’t stop talking about the fashion. And now the show is back, with a Gen Z update. The reboot, which had its premiere on July 8 on HBO Max, takes place in the same world of wealthy Upper East Side elite as the original, but this time it’s barely recognizable as the same place.
The show is significantly more diverse. The high school clique of the original show was mostly white and straight. Now there are several characters of color and plotlines that revolve around explorations of sexuality. The clothes the characters wear — maximalist sneakers, vintage purses, tote bags that promote their values — reflect a more intersectional worldview.
Balenciaga Sneakers Are the New Tory Burch Flats
“Are those last season’s Tory Burch flats?” an incredulous Blair Waldorf asks a fellow student in Season 2 of the original show.
Today, the question would be, “Are those Tory Burch flats?”
When designing the wardrobes for the original show, the costume designer Eric Daman recalls walking by Upper East Side private schools and seeing groups of girls in Tory Burch flats. “It cemented the idea of, ‘OK, these young girls wear these designer brands and have cult favorites,’” he said. You’d see few logo-emblazoned ballet flats in that setting today.
“The giant Balenciaga sneakers kind of replaced the Tory Burch flat,” Mr. Daman said. The change is indicative of what people, and young people in particular, consider the “it” shoe of today. Blending streetwear and luxury in a single commercial object, the sneaker is what epitomizes cool now.
The new footwear is also part of the larger shift to sneakers, which rarely showed up in the old show. In the reboot, Zoya Lott, an outsider from Buffalo, wears the Adidas X Beyoncé Superstars in a key scene in which she meets the popular kids at school. The shoes are a gift from Julien, her half sister and an established Manhattanite. Showing up in the hot commodity shoes symbolizes a turning point for the character.
“The shoes are kind of like a bridge into this other world for her,” Mr. Daman said.
The New Logomania
Big brand logos will be rare sights on the new show. Large logos don’t “feel authentic to what’s going on with this generation,” Mr. Daman said. “They’re less faithful to brands and less cliquey about them.”
Logos used to signify status and a certain level of wealth, but today logos are often meant to convey political or social values. In the reboot, Zoya carries a tote from Revolution Books, a progressive indie bookstore in Harlem, as well as a “Recycling Black Dollars” tote bag from Melanin Apparel.
Zoya’s bags are “all from really, really cool stores,” said Whitney Peak, who plays Zoya. “The bags very much speak to who she is.”
Athleisure Is In, Tights Are Out
“Tights are not pants!” Blair famously declared in the original series. Blair and her posse of mean girls commonly wore tights in a variety of colors and were offended at the sight of anyone wearing leggings without a skirt.
With the exception of some plain black tights, the reboot is “a tightless world,” Mr. Daman said. And to what would certainly be Blair’s dismay, bike shorts are definitely considered pants now.
Queen bee Julien frequently wears bike shorts, sometimes styling them with a collared shirt and tie. The athleisure movement, Mr. Daman said, “is a huge part of our culture and what’s going on in fashion. Coming out of the pandemic, people are holding onto their sweats but still want to dress up.”
Jordan Alexander, who plays Julien, sees her character’s bike shorts as a highly relevant article of clothing today. “I don’t think it matters if you’re on the Upper East Side and in the one percent,” she said. “You’d still be rocking shorts.”
Designer Bags, But Now Used
In the first iteration of the show, everything was big and new. Serena carried large hobo bags, and none of them were bought at resale shops. “If I brought in a secondhand bag to Serena van der Woodsen, she would’ve hit me with it,” Mr. Daman said.
Today, staying true to Gen Z’s affinity for buying resale, several of the bags in the reboot are vintage. “We’ve done a lot of vintage Dior Saddle Bags, Fendi Baguettes,” Mr. Daman said. “It’s been great to have some eco-sustainability with these high-end bags.”
Gen Z has been called Generation Green or the Sustainability Generation, and there’s a reason for it. Studies have shown that Gen Z makes shopping decisions based on how sustainable a business is, and at a higher rate than other generations. They want what they buy and what they wear to reflect their values.
The size of the bags has also changed. The large hobo bag, Mr. Daman said, “is just not the jam” today. The micro Jacquemus Le Chiquito has yet to make an appearance, but it probably will soon, he said.
Exploring Gender Fluidity Through Clothes
In the original show, Chuck Bass was most often seen in a suit, conforming strictly to gender norms. “If I’d put a women’s blouse on Chuck Bass, it would’ve been a joke” Mr. Daman said.
In the reboot, Max Wolfe, the flirty troublemaker of the group and the character most similar to Chuck, wears a white lace women’s Paco Rabanne shirt. Max, who is sexually fluid, is able to pull it off in a way that’s not kitschy or excessive. “To use clothing that doesn’t fit in with gender norms and not have it look like drag and be very sexy — he identifies as a male but wears this blouse — expands on the dialogue of what gender norms are and how we can have that conversation through clothing,” Mr. Daman said.
Old Chanel Is the New New Chanel
In the first iteration of the show, Chanel was huge for the characters’ style but also for getting other designers to open up their collections to the show. “We didn’t have access to all the designer houses and weren’t getting loans,” Mr. Daman said. “Once Chanel said yes to us, the floodgates opened.”
Today Chanel pieces that hold historic value are of huge importance to the characters. “It’s these archival pieces that have a heritage to them that are on point, especially for the Zoomers who seem to love all things throwback to late ’90s and early ’00s,” Mr. Daman said. Classic Chanel handbags and accessories make heavy appearances in the show, as they are pieces that still resonate with younger generations.
Any OG “Gossip Girl” fan knows that headbands were a big deal. “Blair Waldorf’s headband has a life of its own,” Mr. Daman said. “It was always like her security blanket, for someone who was very tightly wound, very Type A. It was like the last piece of a very thought-out outfit that holds it all together.”
The Gen Z characters don’t need that anymore. “They have a different kind of self-confidence that comes from just being,” Mr. Daman said.
In the reboot, the mean girl Monet de Haan snarks, “She has a headband on” when she spots Zoya, the out-of-towner. Julien, her half sister, promptly unties the silk scarf and slips it around Zoya’s neck.
Headbands may be scarce, but neckties of all sorts are in. Audrey Hope, another member of the gang, wears hair ribbons or scarves around her neck, resembling a tie. “It really shows both sides of her — very feminine, classic energy as well as a side of her that’s a little bit more masc,” said Emily Alyn Lind, who plays Audrey.
The desire to ditch the stuffy headband speaks to the times. “We’re in an internet age,” said Ms. Alexander, who plays Julien. “People don’t feel like they need to be one thing anymore. We’ve been exposed to so much.”