At first glance, it seems like Gossip Girl 2021 is shaping up to be a duplicate of the original. The show’s promo poster features a new queen bee sitting at the steps of The Met with her posse like Blaire Waldorf (Leighton Meester) did. In the first scene, we see a blonde arriving via train in the Upper East Side similar to how Serena van der Woodsen (Blake Lively) was introduced. Then, we get to know a new ingenue in town that may or may not shake up the school’s social hierarchy ala Jenny Humphrey (Taylor Momsen).
Except, little by little, as every scene unfolds, we’re proven wrong. This is not gonna be a carbon copy of the 2007 hit. And there’s an obvious visual cue that clued us in from the very start — what the characters are wearing. Here’s how the fashion in Gossip Girl 2021 is different from the original and what it could mean for the plot.
What the queen bee is wearing
Then: During her time at Constance Billard, Blair Waldorf was all about preppy fashion. When in school, she’s almost always spotted wearing a neatly tucked button-up shirt accessorised with a ribbon and paired with a preppy A-line skirt over tights (not pants!). This prim-and-proper style speaks to her pedigree as the self-appointed queen of her school and reflects her very polished persona.
Now: There’s a good reason to believe that the Gossip Girl reboot takes place in a post-pandemic future. Teachers talk about how their students are nicer during Zoom classes, a couple mentions how they spent quarantine together, and friends joke about seeing each other’s faces without masks. In this version of the future, the hybrid style of polished and comfort is very much in vogue (whereas, in reality, it’s still an emerging trend).
Current queen bee Julien Calloway (Jordan Alexander) prefers casual biker shorts over restrictive tights and keeps her button-up shirt loose and tops it with a barely knotted tie. It’s the epitome of effortless, carefree fashion. The look is also a clue that Julien isn’t the mean-spirited popular girl that we expected her to be. She’s far from the uptight snobbish, vindictive gal that Blair was initially presented to be. She’s actually depicted as someone who’s nice and kind but got caught up in the glitz and glam of being an influencer. This makes us wonder, could she be headed for a reverse-redemption arc that will make her an antagonist?
Late noughties style is out
Then: Similar to Blair, Serena van der Woodsen was an It-girl of the late noughties whose fashion picks were constantly copied. Her very first look on the show was a combination of nautical style and traveller chic. She had a striped shirt with a neck scarf on, a pair of jeans and a simple nude jacket. It’s a cute look, don’t you think?
Now: According to the fashionistas of Gossip Girl 2021, it’s not. How do we know? Well, take a closer look at what Constance Billard teacher Kate Keller (Tavi Gevinson) is wearing in the first episode. That’s right. Striped shirt with a nude blazer, very similar to Serena’s first outfit. What was something that an It-girl wore almost a decade ago is now considered passe and worthy of ridicule by her students.
There’s another visual parallel between Serena and Blair: their first scene. Kate Keller is introduced to us the same way Serena was — on a train, on her way back to the Upper East Side. Could this mean the true rivalry is between Julien and Kate? And that they will eventually join forces to take down someone they’re up against? The seeds of frenemy-ship are already planted during one of the last scenes when Julien complimented Kate’s blazer and the two shared a smile.
Clueless ingenue no more
Then: When original Gossip Girl ingenue Jenny Humprey arrived at Constance Billard as a freshman, she was quite clueless and desperate to please. She copied the way Blair dressed (albeit using cheaper clothing) down to the tights her idol wore. Jenny gladly volunteered herself to be a minion for Blair and her crew in hopes of being popular and close to the elites. In other words, she started as a typical clueless new girl.
Now: Zoya Lott (Whitney Peak), Constance Billard freshman and half-sister to Julien, looks like just another clueless ingenue. She follows what Julien tells her to wear and how she should act, but as the pilot progressed, Zoya proves that she can stand on her own. Unlike Jenny, Zoya knows when she’s being taken advantage of and stands up for herself. She may have worn what Julien ordered for her from Net-A-Porter but she did it because she wanted to. And when she doesn’t anymore, she gladly abandons it all. In just one episode, she went from dressing like Julien (carefree but curated) to taking some of its elements and making them her own. Her maturity in terms of carrying herself also reflects how today’s youth are getting fashion, beauty and life advice from social media and supposedly skipping that “awkward stage” which was once a hallmark of puberty.
Designer sneakers are the new stilettos
Then: There’s no shortage of glamorous high-heels and fancy flats in the OG Gossip Girl. Unless the characters are playing sports, you’ll see them wearing something from Tory Burch or Gucci. Designer footwear was always the name of the shoe game.
Now: Fresh out of a pandemic, you’d think that the new Gossip Girl characters would race to wear fancy heels. But no, comfort is still the priority. Instead of stilettos, Julien and her posse are all about sneakers. So much so that she gifted Zoya a pair of Adidas X Beyoncé Superstars so her friends would notice and begin to accept her outsider half-sister into the inner circle. Despite this, some things never change. Whether it’s then or now, these Upper East Siders still value branding in what they wear no matter how casual a footwear is.
Scarves and earrings over headbands
Then: A Blair Waldorf outfit could never be complete without her signature headband. It’s an accessory that’s iconic not just to this character but to the show itself. During its heyday, there were many articles and guides about how to wear a headband like Blair. And what’s not to love? It’s an accessory that’s cute, easy-to-wear and practical.
Now: What’s the reaction from the current ruling class of Constance Billard the first time a headband pops up in the reboot? “Ew.” Gasp! We never thought the day would come when Blair’s style would be ridiculed by the show. So what’s taking the headband’s throne? You could say that it’s scarves, as Julien transformed Zoya’s headband into a scarf so her friends won’t make fun of her. But according to Gossip Girl Costume Designer Eric Daman, earrings are another “style signifier” for the reboot. “The way I would play with Blair’s headband in the color and the tone to go with the outfit and also what was going on with her emotionally in the scene, I’m doing a similar thing with Julien’s earrings,” he said in an interview with WWD.
So which one do you like better, the original’s style or Gossip Girl 2021’s fashion? Maybe it’s too early to decide. As for us, we’re excited to see how the plot and fashion will develop over the season and beyond.
(Cover photo from: HBO Max)
Next, check out our take on the first episode of the Gossip Girl reboot.