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Pssst, here’s the ‘Gossip’: Show sets fashion trends

While many fans watch "Gossip Girl" for the drama, many also watch for fashion's sake. The clothes seen on the teen TV series are influencing women of all ages, fashion designers like Chanel and Karl Lagerfeld, as well as retail stores.
/ Source: The Associated Press

In anticipation of the second season of “Gossip Girl," the real-life gossip is flying fast, not about the plot, but about the clothes.

“I bet Serena will wear a lot of chunky jewelry because she always wears those simple tees with a pair of skinny jeans and boots,” predicts Jessica Rowe, 19, from Rosedale, N.Y., of the show's take on this fall's trends.

While many television shows like “Sex and the City” have captured the hearts of fashion's In crowd in the past, none have done so with the impact on the teen set and its emerging buying influence as “Gossip Girl” has, says Gloria Baume, the fashion director of Teen Vogue.

The teen soap, which starts its second season Sept. 1, has become known more for its fashion than its scripted drama, and the styles worn by its hot young stars are influencing women of all ages.

“Truthfully, that generation — the 14-to-18-year-olds — have kind of taken over,” Baume says. “It's all about them. The consumer trends, the music, anywhere from the general trends on the street, really gets translated into what women are wearing.”

So how can a show for and about teenagers affect what a 30-year-old woman might wear?

For a fan like Rowe, checking out the clothes online after each show is a must, even though she's no longer in high school; she's an International Studies major at Pepperdine University. She loves the style of Blair Waldorf, played by Leighton Meester, but admits she's more of a Serena Van Der Woodsen (Blake Lively) when it comes to her own wardrobe.

“Something about it has really captured people's imaginations,” says Keith Carollo, the buyer for online retailer fredflare.com. “I'm pretty confident that designers are looking at it. It's like, they're young, beautiful and rich. That's totally what those designers are designing for.”

Baume agrees that the show's influence has broadened past its designated audience, affecting not just stylish women but designers like Alex Wang and Chanel, where Karl Lagerfeld's recent resort runway show featured “a lot of denim, high-waisted denim, and it had the influence of this super chic young girl, Upper East Side, that is very elite and privileged.”

The show's costume designer, Eric Daman, also sees his work influencing retail.

“I just saw a Zara window that is totally imitating Chuck Bass's looks from upcoming episodes that have been previewed on the Web,” Daman says via e-mail, busy after styling the “Gossip Girl”-inspired windows recently unveiled at Henri Bendel.

Gossip behind second season's fashion
For the second season, Daman says he was inspired by art and film.

“Blair is moving in a very Art Deco feel, mirroring the paintings of Tamara de Lempicka,” Daman says, referring to the Polish painter. “And Serena feels like a Klimt to me; Chuck Bass (Ed Westwick) as a young Sean Connery circa Hitchcock's 'Marni.'”

Looks from the first season that have popped off television screens and into malls have been headbands, which one retail buyer says is related to another trend from the show: the prim dressage that's always in style in that tony Manhattan neighborhood.

“It's unbelievable to me how the headband has made a resurgence,” marvels Garth Mader, director of buying at Endless.com, who admits the e-commerce site hadn't anticipated the trend would blow up. Many characters, including queen bee Blair Waldorf, wore the accessory in nearly every episode. “It goes with the whole preppy thing, especially I think you see that on Blair.”

To better prepare for looks that might show up after the show's premiere, Mader says he and other buyers look at blogs and other Web sites that track celebrities and get tips about what stylists have picked up from vendors.

One tip he's received: high-heeled penny loafers, which he says are part of a “chic, preppy look” that's being driven by the show. Other anticipated trends include structured bags, fringe, and “the deep purple plum color family is really, really strong for fall.”

The young stars of “Beverly Hills, 90210” captivated the public with their on- and off-screen dramas for the decade-long run of the FOX show. Where are they now?

These are big fashion shoes to fill for the crop of stylish, young shows the seemed to burst out of “Gossip Girl”’s giant closet this season, including CW's “90210” and “Privileged.”

Nicole Gorsuch, costume designer of “Privileged,” says she's dressed her characters — a pair of spoiled twins and their less wealthy tutor — in everything from “Target to Beverly Hills boutiques and department stores,” but a lot of pieces were custom-made. She emphasized vintage and do-it-yourself pieces.

“What I hope that teens watching the show will come away with, as far as fashion inspiration, is freedom to experiment with proportion, color and texture,” Gorsuch says.

But the TV style queen bee — at least for now — remains “Gossip Girl.” Baume is predicting punk elements from recent runways by Marc by Marc Jacobs and Balmain for Serena and Jenny Humphrey (Taylor Momsen), a younger student from Brooklyn desperate to fit in with Blair's crowd.

“Jenny is the downtown girl, but she doesn't have the money to wear the expensive clothes so she remakes them in her own cool way,” Baume says.

Carollo expects some of the show's signatures — a preppy look and mixed patterns — on a different scale: “Like you're going to see a giant hair bow on Blair, or you're going to see a micro-something.”

On Serena, Carollo pictures plaid and “skinny, skinny jeans, skinny jacket, a cool T-shirt underneath” for Serena, or perhaps something from upcoming British designer House of Holland.

Much like the show itself, Baume expects styles that are “a little exaggerated, a little over the top, a little amusing.”