“What you wear is how you present yourself to the world, especially today, when human contacts are so quick. Fashion is instant language.”
Somewhere in New York, they sit at a chic café discussing tonight’s charity gala over macaroons and fresh cappuccinos. Somewhere in New York they sit outside of a corner pizza shop discussing the movie they just saw over a fresh slice and a cold soda. They talk about how to defeat their enemies. They talk about how to surprise her brother with a birthday party. They talk about how to get her mother that painting she’s been eying. They talk about how to trick that other girl into making a fool of herself. They laugh. You laugh. They cry. You cry. You turn the T.V. off. You think about yourself.
We live in a visual culture, one where we often need to see something to believe it, and where we have a tendency to believe everything that we see. Visual representation holds a lot of stock the 21st century society, where a lot of value is placed on appearances. When you meet someone new, they automatically begin evaluating who they think you are, taking in information about you through multiple senses. And before they can evaluate your personality, what you say, the things that you do, or the way you make them feel, they evaluate you by what they see. This incites a desire to find a personal style that consists of more than just fabric. We want our clothing to represent our beliefs, our interests, and our personalities, anxious to inject as much of our inner selves into our outward appearance as possible. Our personal styles become intrinsically linked with our identity, the first arrow pointing towards who we are as people. As we develop into full-fledged individuals (and not the confused adolescents most of us were in high school), our morals and principles evolve with us, and in this growth, our personal styles evolve with us. You might ditch ripped jeans when you land your first internship and realize that the slacks you wear everyday are way more you. Or you might start wearing tank tops when you move out-of-state and realize that the button-up shirts you had to wear while under your parents’ roof didn’t represent you the way you would choose to represent yourself. But before all this, before you have any real grasp on who you are as a person and how you want to present that you-ness to the world, how do we begin to make sense of our personal styles and what they mean outside the boundaries of clothing?
When we aren’t yet sure who we are or how to present that visually, we look to those who best match our own feelings and interests and note how they express those feelings and interests through fashion. One of the most effective ways we do this is by looking at the characters we see on television that we feel best mirror ourselves. Unlike our friends and family members with which we interact every day, the way experience T.V. characters is unique in that we truly get to see the inner workings of their minds. We get to see their unfiltered thoughts, the way they do or don’t fold in the face of pressure, the way they dance during their intimate highs and scream during their intimate lows. With T.V. characters, we get to see the good and the bad in a raw, unadulterated light. What we want is to be able to find that one specific T.V. character whose goals and interests and behaviors align with our own. Someone whose actions make us think yeah, that’s exactly what I would’ve done. And when we find that one person, we cling to them. And when we can’t figure out how to represent our insides with our outsides, we see ourselves through that one character and use their image as inspiration for our own personal styles.
“Gossip Girl” is an example of a T.V. show that not only presents its audience with characters that, at their core, are relatable to them, but also brings to life the importance of fashion in television and how these two mediums interact. “Gossip Girl” has become a legendary series in its own right. But beyond being an intriguing, entertaining television show, it also revolutionized the link between fashion and television. This show used fashion in a way that had not yet been seen before by its target demographic of teenagers. Each episode was as much about the garments on screen as it was about the storyline, so much so that items worn on the show would frequently sell out just from being seen on one of its characters. The “Gossip Girl” phenomenon even spawned collaborations with real life clothing brands. Warner Brothers, the studio that produced “Gossip Girl,” collaborated with Los Angeles label Romeo & Juliet to create a Gossip-Girl inspired line, which sold in stores like Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus. “Gossip Girl” costume designer, Eric Daman, teamed up with Charlotte Russe to style looks inspired by the characters on the show using pieces that could be found at Charlotte Russe, and then went on to create his own “Gossip Girl” inspired line for the store. Even fashion designer Ana Sui got in on the “Gossip Girl” action when she created a clothing line inspired by the show to be sold in Target. There were big fashion waves being made within the show too. The show revolves around the daughter of a well-known fashion designer, includes a young aspiring designer, and several characters who are either models or muses, all set against the fashion-heavy Upper East Side of New York City. Even more than all of this, fashion in the world of “Gossip Girl” became a character in itself, and was oftentimes used as a tool to make statements about the main characters without using words.
Resident HBIC and go-getter who knows what she wants, Blair Waldorf is “Gossip Girl’s” number one woman with a plan, and a scheme in the works in case that plan falls through. Blair is extremely intelligent, extremely driven, and an example for girls who won’t let anything, or anyone get in the way of their goals. Ultra-confident, Blair struts through life like she owns it and nobody can tell her otherwise. When it comes to her fashion sense, Blair dresses in sleek silhouettes that mimic her no-nonsense attitude. She’s pretty much the poster child for a Type-A personality, which is showcased in her style through her classic, tailored pieces like pencil skirts, pea coats, collared shirts and neck ties. Even though Blair is head-strong and goal-oriented, she is also a romantic who loves being pampered. These softer elements of Blair’s personality come out in her personal style through her love for sparkly jewelry, headbands, colored tights, and other girly touches.
Best friend to Blair, Serena van Der Woodsen is the it-girl of the Upper East Side, and comes from one of the richest families in New York City. Everybody knows her and everybody wants to know the happenings of her life. She floats through the city as if the air is blowing exclusively for her. Serena is the type of girl that trusts her instincts at all costs. Always trying to see the good in people, she leads with her heart – almost impulsively. In terms of her style, Serena is “Gossip Girl’s” bohemian vixen. Her love of life is showcased through her flowy casual silhouettes and skintight evening wear. Never one to shy away from dressing in clothes with cutouts and deep necklines or drench herself in sequins, Serena’s confidence in her status as the center of attention is evident through her willingness to show a little (or a lot) of skin and deck herself out in shimmering fabric. When she’s not dressed up, Serena lives in skinny jeans and casual, but expensive looking layers that emphasize her more laid-back nature in comparison to her best friend Blair. Serena is also all about the accessories; her long, layered necklaces, bangles, and headscarves accentuate her nature to take things as they come.
Although “Gossip Girl” is essentially a show that revolves around the lives and times of Blair and Serena, even secondary characters are treated with just as much care when it comes to crafting a wardrobe that represents their personalities. Vanessa Abrams, the Brooklyn girl thrust into the Upper East Side by accident, is an urban, artsy girl who is mixed into an extravagant circle of people. Caring, down-to-earth, and a moral compass of the show, Vanessa’s personality extends into her fashion sense through her use of warm tones, denim, sneakers, and other casual, tomboy-ish elements. Her artistic flair comes out in her eclectic mixture of patterns and bright colors. Additionally, Jenny Humphrey is the passionate and creative little sister whose day and night transformation sees her morph from naïve Little J to dark-sided bad girl. In the span of three seasons, Jenny went from a sweet and innocent Blair wannabe, to “Gossip Girls’” rebel-without-a-cause problem child. This change was marked by a transition from a girly, preppy wardrobe to a dark and moody one. Her naivety and eagerness for popularity was shown through her love of hats and a Blair-esque fetish for colored tights, and her turn to a more severe, rebellious character was showcased through her use of metallics and leather, and, of course, plenty of studs.
The aforementioned characters are just a few examples of “Gossip Girl’s” efforts to fill its show with women whose uniqueness is portrayed through their clothes as much as it is through their actions. When we watch T.V. we’re not just looking for a source of entertainment, we are also looking for a source of familiarity. What “Gossip Girl” does so wonderfully is offer to its audience a group of unique women whose characters possess just as many flaws as they do strong suits. Because it is an encyclopedia for young girls finding themselves, television must responsibly carry the burden of being a source that aids in self-discovery. And because of this, it is important for television programs to provide us with portrayals of various types of multi-faceted women, in order to best cater to the wide variety of women who exist in the real world. In doing this, television characters must be presented to viewers in a way that showcases their personalities outside of the abstract mental realm, and into the physical one.This is a feat that is best tackled through fashion.
They say actions speak louder than words. Well, sometimes fashion speaks even louder than that. Peaking to a scream, our clothing choices can say more about us than we sometimes allow ourselves to, so the ways in which we use fashion to craft these sentences must be cultivated. By looking to characters on television to help form our own personal styles, we open ourselves up to worlds that challenge our beliefs and allow us to be inspired by characters whose hearts lie in the same places where we keep our own.