From the Valley to the Upper East Side: Lily Van der Woodsen’s Style Cross-Over (4.17 – Empire of the Son)

I’ve taken my time to write this post about what Lily wore in The Empire of the Son [1] because of the long spring hiatus Gossip Girl has taken. I’m disappointed because things are finally getting interesting in the show, with so many sub-plots (Lily, Nate/Raina/Chuck, Chuck and Russell, Blair and Dan) ready to develop, so this interruption kind of halts everything.

I like the structure of this episode, because most of it is a long flashback; we’ll understand the meaning of the opening scene only at the end of the story.

Lily and Rufus are going up the stairs in an unknown place (we get a rare glimpse at her shoes – patent nude pumps, in this case).

She’s wearing a gorgeous beige cashmere trench coat, over a dress of the same colour, and she’s holding a glittering clutch in her hands.

She’s very worried for something that is going to happen (we still don’t know what): Rufus tells her that everything will be ok and then she enters a room, escorted by some men.

At this point, the narration goes back at the beginning of that same day. In this episode Lily changes three complete outfits (not to mention the coat in the opening scene), so there’s a lot to speak about. In the second scene, set in their dining room, Lily and Rufus are having breakfast: a specs-wearing Lily is reading a newspaper (Chuck is the man of the day, because he’s about to win Bass Industries back), while Rufus is holding her favourite teapot. Here, Lily is wearing a black sweater; it’s quite unusual, but her hair is loose.

When Vanja delivers some clothes from the laundry, we can get a better view of Lily’s outfit. Her black sweater has white circles on the sides, it’s made of cashmere and is a creation by Lisa Perry.

She pairs the cashmere sweater with a pair of white wide-cut pants. They could be the Swing pants by Lisa Perry, but I’m not sure. This is quite a dramatic scene, because she realizes Russell knows what she did to Ben: he’s threatening her and she knows Chuck’s victory plans will be soon crushed.

In the episode, we get a glimpse of Vanessa. She’s been out of the show for ages, but now she comes back and she knows Ben is potentially dangerous (he was behind the Captain’s beating-up in jail). Lily is alarmed and she wants Serena to be aware of what could possibly happen; for this reason, she asks Vanessa to go to Serena’s place with her and to dish everything. S doesn’t care for the news, but she’ll soon realize she was wrong: the affidavit she kept in her chest of drawers is gone.

In this scene, Lily is wearing a white cashmere coat by Lisa Perry: some details (the high collar, the snap buttons, the straight line) are clearly a nod to the Sixties (I’m thinking of André Courreges, for example), but this is not surprising: the Chicago-born designer has a passion for that decade and her style is very much infused with it.

I’ve never been a fan of blondes dressed in white, but I must admit Lily looks beautiful with this severely cut coat. She accessorized it with another piece from Lisa Perry’s collection, a white patent duffel bag. The bag is nice (though I’d never bought it, since white patent leather finds no space in my personal fashion dictionary), but don’t you think it’s cheap-looking, especially if compared to the fabulous bags the character always carries?

The following scene is central because all the half-truths, the conflicts and the scheme explode. We learn Lily is in trouble because of Ben’s mother, who has teamed up with Russell to clean her son’s name (she is the one who stole the document from Serena’s bedroom).

In the scene set at home, she made a reference to a dress by Elie Saab she was going to wear later that evening. We’ve already had a glimpse of it in the opening scene, but now it’s in full display. I think it’s gorgeous: the delicate cream colour perfectly match Lily’s fair complexion and blonde hair; the line is very lady-like and subtly sexy. I particularly love the asymmetric neckline and the side-draping.

Her jewellery includes chandelier quartz earrings and a gorgeous ring by Henri Bendel, aptly called Debutante Jumbo, made of rose gold and Swarovski Elements crystals.

Her clutch is a creation by Judith Leiber, embellished with a set of crystals and trimmed by karung leather.

As usual, her hair is styled in a chic chignon, which beautifully emphasizes the earrings.

[1] The title refers to a wonderful movie by Steven Spielberg, The Empire of the Sun (1987), starring a very young Christian Bale. Based on an autobiographical novel by J. G. Ballard, it tells the story of the author when he was a kid and lived a privileged and spoiled life in Shanghai. The Japanese invasion in the city in 1941 turned the boy’s life around: he was deported in a confinement camp, where he tried to put the pieces of his former life together.

Source, source, source and source.




  1. Great job – as usual!

    I’m always interested in the color choices for Lily’s wardrobe. In this episode, gone are the ‘evil’ red dresses, replaced instead by mostly white, nude & cream. Does this represent a heart of pure intention? We know that she’s not innocent, since she admitted to framing Ben, but at the time, she did not know that the rumors about him were untrue & was only trying to help her daughter.

    I’m also drawn to the black & white ensemble – does this mean that her situation is clear cut? I guess we will have to wait until April to find out.

    1. Thanks ^___^

      I think you’re right: the colors of her outfits are never coincidental, but clearly refer to her state of mind or to her positions in the plot.

      I agree that the light shades represent her good intentions; as for the black and white ensemble, it could represent the fact that her future is unclear (will she be sent to prison or will she be saved?). The upcoming episode will make things clearer, I hope.

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