Bed-Stuy and Crown Heights denizens take to the New York Public Library in looks inspired by 'Gossip Girl' (Photo: Marc Tarigan)
Aug 12, 2021
The real Gossip Girls are in Bed-Stuy
The 'Gossip Girl' reboot nails current the styles, but it lacks the imagination and panache of the current Bed-Stuy aesthetic
When HBO announced a reboot of the CW hit “Gossip Girl,” now approaching its midseason finale, fans of the beloved series questioned whether it could ever live up to the original. At its core, Gossip Girl is a camp-lite dramedy serving up elite-level fashion and aspirational beauty, while allowing us to savor the worst of humanity: greed, obscene indulgence, betrayal, and an unholy, unhealthy, and completely warranted adoration of New York.
While the fashion portrayed in the original does not represent the best of 2000s fashion, there are a handful of indisputably iconic moments throughout the show’s run—from Blair’s all-white Hamptons pool party ensemble in Season 2 to Serena’s lace Zuhair Murad gown in Season 4 (below)—that were heavily influenced by prep silhouettes and the luxury inherent to the old world Upper East Side.
Today’s “Gossip Girl” remains committed to that same prep aesthetic—the ensemble cast still attends an Upper East Side private school, after all—but attempts to modernize it with allusions to the fashion influencer aesthetic, namely very good boots and streetwear tie-ins. But in accurately reflecting the trends of the moment, GG 2021 limits itself from depicting a fresh, unfamiliar point of view an audience can take cues from. GG ‘21 is following the moment, rather than creating one of its own, based on feeling, life, and personality.
If a fashion aesthetic is to be drawn from personality, there is no better source for inspiration than Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn.
In September 2020, Building Black Bed-Stuy held its inaugural Block Party to raise funds for local Black-owned businesses struggling due to the pandemic. Hosted outside concept store Sincerely, Tommy, the event drew a crowd of local creatives, designers, stylists and more, eager to turn a look. “We were all stuck inside because of the pandemic. There was nothing happening,” says Building Black Bed-Stuy coordinator and Orange Juice Only vintage founder Shani Coleman. “It gave us an opportunity to show out.”
Most had forgotten what a serve looked and felt like, but Tompkins Avenue was very much a runaway, flanked by some of the most fashionable people in New York wearing vintage, independents, Pyer Moss, and masks. If you tried to count the number of Telfar and Brand Blackwood bags spotted, you’d need to borrow a few hands.
Today the block party’s spirit continues every Saturday and Sunday with Building Black Bed-Stuy weekly Market Place. Dressed in their weekend day best, the crowd makes a strong case for the men and women of Bed-Stuy’s fashion scene as today’s tastemakers and trendsetters of New York.
“Bed-Stuy style stands apart because it is the most pronounced (and masterful) blend of multiple different aesthetics,” says Byas & Leon owners Harvey Leon and Rony Byas. Like Sincerely, Tommy, Byas & Leon boasts a Tompkins Avenue storefront, and offers sustainable and vintage pieces. “You have people here that effortlessly blend the western cowboy aesthetic with 90s grunge, disco/funk/soul era with early 2000’s neo-soul and so many other wonderful combinations. It’s truly a beautiful thing to see and be a part of.” Market Place patrons are known to spend the day walking up and down Tompkins, visiting and supporting a range of vendors along the way, from vintage pop-up racks to tie-dyed athleisure, and dazzling neck candy by Don’t Let Disco.
The appeal of shopping the Market Place is in finding fashion and pieces that are so uniquely yours. “The Don’t Let Disco client definitely has a sense of humor and enjoys a side of whimsy,” says owner Ashley Harris. “I design with them in mind, and work with a lot of small makers and creators from all over the world to deliver truly special pieces you won’t find anywhere else. You’ll find everything from custom handmade Murano glass Lego beads from Italy to lampwork boobs, penises and teeny chocolate cakes in my collection.”
That is the Bed-Stuy model: being able to source something seemingly simple as a bracelet, pleated skirt, varsity jacket, or boot—all fashions worn by the cast in the original “Gossip Girl” pilot episode, but made extraordinary because they’re imbued with your personal, neighborhood style, rather than the internet trends of the moment. There is something very exciting about everyday people looking and feeling phenomenal, as the anything-but-everyday people of Bed-Stuy do every weekend. They may not be “spotted” on HBO Max, but they can be found somewhere between Flushing and Atlantic, and certainly on Tompkins.
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