A "scandal" broke out in July, when Just Like That Closet, a fashion ID Instagram account dedicated to the Sex and the City revival And Just Like That..., posted a photo of Sarah Jessica Parker channelling Carrie, costumed in what was initially identified as a Forever21 dress (photo left). Heated discourse immediately played out in the comments section, and a series of ensuing headlines fanned out across the internet, in which inquiring minds speculated over Carrie’s finances and critiqued the show’s stance on fast fashion and sustainability.
The plot thickened after the dress was identified by commenters as Raga, a South Asian family-owned brand, which celebrates the multicultural blend of Indian heritage and the founders’ SoCal home. “I knew that was our dress,” confirms Raga’s Brand Director Sahil Chaudry.
After And Just Like That... co-costume designer Danny Santiago — who bought the dress secondhand, devoid of identifiable tags, five years prior — slid into the Just Like That Closet DMs to clear up the matter, the account, run by Ukraine-based Victoria Bazalinchuk, updated the wardrobe credits to “thrifted dress.” (Representatives for Forever21 did not respond to emails asking when the fast-fashion brand released its version.) Amidst this drama, Raga experienced a “significant spike” in web traffic, resulting in an increase in online sales (and Instagram followers). The brand will now reissue its dress when the show premieres at a date yet to be announced.
This is far from the only instance of a TV fan account exerting outsize influence over the cultural conversation. In some cases, the frenzy over a particular look spotted on set during production is greater than any swell of excitement that manifests over a show when it airs. Not long before The Dress Incident, there was a rise in Instagram accounts identifying Gossip Girl 2.0 wardrobe credits based on the paparazzi photos of the cast filming scenes. And these fashion sleuths are fast.
Just Like That Closet debuted on Instagram on July 10, a day after filming commenced (and pap photos appeared), and quickly grew to 85K followers at the time of publishing, with an assist from tags by established accounts, like Every Outfit on Sex and the City. Before that, Gossip Girl Style Guide, run by an anonymous poster (GGSG) on the West Coast debuted on November 13, 2020 — three days after the first images of the new Gossip Girl cast lounging on the Met steps appeared on Getty Images.
“I immediately identified all the items I could,” GGSG writes over email. “A few days later, I started posting — and I was live. It was pretty simple.” When the show finally hit HBO Max on July 8, the premiere set records as the most-watched Max original series ever and the most “talked about” Max Original series on social media to date, according to the streamer. Since then, Gossip Girl Style Guide continues to rack up a base, with over 26K followers, including the official HBO Max Gossip Girl handle. (For reference, it’s almost twice the following of the show’s returning costume designer, Eric Daman, whose follower count clocks in at 14K.)
Pre-dating this phenomenon, TV enthusiast accounts — like Every Outfit on SATC (711K followers), by fans and authors Chelsea Fairless and Lauren Garroni, What Fran Wore (354K), dedicated to The Nanny lead character, and Every Gossip Girl Outfit (15K), documenting the original series — broke ground by highlighting fashion on existing shows. But while the accounts were accurate in IDing the clothing, the pieces were sold out by the time the show aired. Now, the new class of fan accounts tracks shows while they are still being filmed, offering fresh perspectives and lightning speed-to-market at a time when fans are looking to feed their voracious interests in the lead-up to the releases. Created for the fans by the fans, the niche power players not only influence the public but also brand sales by allowing fans to shop pieces while they’re still available.
“The amount of content out there for a show that hasn't even aired is fantastic,” says Linda Wilks, the founder of WornOnTV, a website that has been IDing outfits for shows like Euphoria, Riverdale, and Gossip Girl since 2012. “People have always loved speculating on the storylines, but having pictures to fuel the imagination is very exciting,” she says. It’s a win-win for nearly all parties involved. Fans begin to anticipate the content, brands experience an increase in sales, and the shows generate buzz before the first trailers even come out. The accounts also give oxygen to fan theories.
“The looks tell part of the story,” says GGSG. “Even before the Gossip Girl premiere, I heard a lot of predictions about the characters and storylines partly based on what they were wearing during filming.” Indeed, speculation abounded during the filming of Gossip Girl 2.0, with many correctly guessing that Tavi Gevinson’s character would be a teacher based on her outfits. (Producers even got in on the game by staging a fake-out scenario, with Gevinson in a version of Daman’s Constance Billard St. Jude’s “uniform.”)
After Santiago and co-costume designer Molly Rogers launched And Just Like That Costumes Instagram account (58.9K), which gives insider views of filming and set life rather than brand mentions, they posted a photo showing SJP wearing a polka dot Carolina Herrera skirt and bird headpiece. The latter instantly brought memories of the hair accessory Carrie wore when Mr. Big left her at the altar in the first movie. The commotion reached fever pitch when photogs snapped Parker wearing the look while filming scenes with Chris Noth. Santiago and Rogers also seem to be fueling the conversation by incorporating recognizable pieces from the original series, like Carrie’s Fendi Baguette, which was famously stolen in Season 3 of the show. It’s working: After both And Just Like That accounts posted photos of Parker carrying the throwback purse on July 16, Lyst noted a 45% jump in searches for Fendi Baguette bags that same month.
Both GGSG and Bazalinchuk point out that the costume designers deserve all the credit for their work and they’re just shedding light on their creations. (In a full-circle moment, Just Like That Closet is now ID-ing behind-the-scenes snaps from cast fittings, as posted on the costume designers’ IG.) And while it’s the costume department’s job to hold the official records of brands and pieces, fan accounts are often run by people whose day jobs have nothing to do with the fashion or entertainment industries. For instance, Bazalinchuk is an English teacher. So how do they do it? Well, experience for one. Most of the leaders in this sub-industry have their hand in several tribute accounts: GGSG also manages Madelyn Cline Style (20.2K followers), dedicated to Netflix’s Outer Banks actor and her character Sarah Cameron. Bazalinchuk multitasks with Rita Ora-dedicated Dress Like Rita (2.3K followers), Suki Waterhouse Style (3.6K), and Lucy Hale’s Closet (4.5K).
“I do most of my searches on ShopStyle and Google. Using the right keywords is really important,” explains GGSG. “When I sift through the search results, I hone in on a distinct detail, which can be anything, even just a seam.” Bazalinchuk says this of her process: “Knowing a brand’s DNA and having basic knowledge in fashion helps really a lot... Also, the followers themselves are willing to help me out when I can’t find a particular item.” In addition to that, brands now reach out to the creators directly to supply the information.
Thanks to this, even veteran identifier Wilks and her team sometimes look to the newbie ID-ers for help. “Usually, when I start [covering] a new show, I will check if there is a fashion Instagram first, either for the show, as a whole, or for a specific actor,” explains Wilks. “A lot of the people who run these pages are so dedicated and work really hard on identifying items. They are very thorough, which is something we can't always be when working on WornOnTV because we cover so many shows.” Wilks and her team acknowledge the source, too. For instance, Wilks credited the handle “Outer Banks Fashion Blog” for certain looks from the Netflix show.
With follower count rising every day, these savvy ‘grammers realise the power they hold. Some watermark their composites with original logos. GGSG creates compelling videos of their finds. Bazalinchuk’s Instagram has attracted recognition from international publications, like Grazia UK, The Independent and Cosmopolitan France, and, in turn, the attention of litigious photographers. So, she quickly created relationships with certain ones and agreed to only use their credited images.
Bazalinchuk and GGSG aren’t just doing it for the fans. Like many other niche accounts, they’re expanding their brands and content services. Bazalinchuk recently launched a paid styling service via Patreon, based on SATC- and AJLT-inspired style. After requests from followers, GGSG launched a mobile website, via the Milkshape app, with links to directly shop pieces.
It’s like Carrie once famously said, “Women come to New York for two Ls: labels and love.” Except, in this case, the labels might be the ultimate winners.