Sold in the City

I am not obsessed with Sex and the City. I only mention this because it occurs to me I might have talked about SATC in another post and I want to be clear. (As a woman, I would rather distance myself from those of our tribe who have somehow latched onto that HBO phenomenon as a step-by-step guide to modern womanhood. As far as I’m concerned, it’s just a chic-er version of Trekkie-ism.) That said, let’s all just admit right now that it was, whatever the over-saturated aftermath, a piece of pop-culture that did, in some way, shift public consciousness about fashion and femininity, and so does not bear dismissal (at least not outright).

In the last months there has been the expected amount of buzz about the latest SATC movie, due for release in May of 2010. Internet gossip sites are rife with photos of SJP et al, on location and dressed to impress. Sort of.

I remember the first time I watched SATC. It was the late 90s and, fashion-wise, I was feeling kind of bored. The pierced-and-dyed grunge aesthetic had become mainstream enough to be adopted by elementary-school secretaries, runway fashion was dominated by nudity (with strappy shoes) which was hard to pull off during the long Canadian winters, and the ravers had finally lost their minds completely. I wanted something else – more creative, less presciptive, intelligent, inspiring. Enter Pat Field. Her styling decisions in those early years were everything I’d been missing. The startling (for TV) mix of current trend and vintage quirk felt unique and fearless (the latter was amusingly illustrated by frequent fashion disasters that somehow came off as charming, which was a revelation to me). I found myself combing Goodwills and Salvation Armies, armed with ideas and new sense of adventure. It was really good fashion – and it felt totally accessible. I still think the first four seasons especially are some of the best (and wonderfully worst) fashion the small screen has seen since Mary Tyler Moore.

I don’t know when it happened, exactly, but somewhere in the last couple of seasons (and especially in the first film), with the momentum of snowballing popularity and the increasing demand for product placement by designers (for a while there, a high-end handbag in Carrie’s hand was worth a hundred ads in Vogue), the whole thing started to drift into Advertorial land. Pretty, sure, and well styled still – but increasingly devoid of the intuitive and street-savvy originality I’d come to crave. It was as though SATC had fallen victim to a Couture Coup; fashion was, once again, ruled by money and label. By the time they got to the movie, my love affair with Pat Field was over and, between the safe choices and designer pandering, I felt like I was being sold another bill of goods. I’m sorry. I can’t. Don’t hate me.

Good thing those first seasons are in the can. And since the New Year is a time to look back as well as forward (should auld acquaintance be forgot and all that) this post was really just an excuse to revisit a few old favourites…


This one can’t go without comment. It happened in season 6 and was, hands down, one of the worst mish-mash outfits Pat Field ever put together: sweatshirt and silk cami, flannel pyjamas, pearls, disco toque and the rattiest fur coat since Fozzy Bear. It looks wildly uncomfortable and it made me impossibly happy.


14 thoughts on “Sold in the City

  1. I definitely feel like I can relate to what you said about feeling you have to distance yourself from the throngs of crazed SATC fans whose obsessions verge on creepy. I watched the show for the entirety of its duration and while I still felt the last couple of seasons had well developed characters and enough cheesy romance to keep me on board, I agree completely that it just became more and more obvious about its product placement. When I finally saw the movie, I cringed the whole way through. Why did a witty, intelligent show suddenly become just another ugly rom com? And why did Fergie have to remix the opening credits song?
    I’ve already vowed with myself to boycott the sequel, because I just don’t understand ending a show and then putting out endless films instead of another season.
    But I’m so glad you posted this, because in all my hatred for the film, I had forgotten how good some of the early episodes were. Now I think I’ll go revisit them for some wacky thrown together fashion inspiration!
    great post!

  2. For me, the movie totally put it over the top. It felt impossible to fashionably identify with these women – you either had to covet designer brands or be super rich. And I know that Carrie always showed off her Manolos, but in the early days she would combine and create more eclectic outfits. I’m glad you showed the pic of her wearing the hair scarf, the black bra and baby doll shirt – that’s actually one of my favorite outfits Carrie wore, and I even have it saved in my computer as inspiration.

    I still like SATC, I just no longer put them on this iconic fashion level – instead just light easy entertainment.

  3. I think that last photo is actually from the movie not Season 6, isn’t it? It’s New Years Eve and she’s wondering through the snow to Miranda’s house so they’re not both sitting at home alone. I could be wrong and not trying to be picky but just thought I’d mention :)

    I really enjoy the show and I enjoyed the movie but I totally agree that the characters totally “sold out” towards the end of the series and DEF in the movie. They had all the latest runway outfits on in the movie and felt way too styled, not original and quirky. Even if some of Carrie’s earlier outfits were wierd, for some reason she could carry it off and it kind of went with her quirky, independent personality. However, most of that was gone by the time the movie came around, I’m afraid :(

  4. RE: Kim
    You may, in fact, be absolutely right about that last outfit. I think I remember it as season 6 because I was so aesthetically underwhelmed with the movie (and find it hard to believe I’d like any of the clothes in it) – but I DO know that it was an outfit that came after the clothes had already become quite underwhelming themselves, so this particular outfit’s insane, ecclectic appearance stuck with me as the last gasp of a dying fashion force.

  5. I agree with you 1000%. And I love the looks you highlighted – they are all amongst my favourites!

    And man, I gotta say: I am so scared at the new movie’s potential for endlessly offensive and culturally-inappropriate fashion looks.

  6. These outfits are really fantastic.

    Sometimes my ability to keep up with the world is totally embarrassing – but the Sex and the City movie was my first real exposure to the show and the characters. I don’t really know why, but, aside from catching bits of it here and there, I was never really dedicated to watching it. But this post is more than enough of a reason for me to start watching the series from the beginning, if just to experience its early years of fashion awesomeness.

  7. I had recently started rewatching seasons 2 and 3 – and I must say, this post captured exactly how I felt upon seeing “old” Carrie et. al. I know what you mean about their wardrobe “feeling” accessible – something about seeing them run around in designer dresses and grubby sweatpants and being just as “fabulous” in each. Though, as an aspiring writer myself, I maintain a little hate on for Carrie… No way a woman whose sole income derives from ONE COLUMN A WEEK for a second-rate New York paper can afford 5 different versions of a Dior saddle bag. The magic of television…

    Thanks Gwen, and nice subtle reference to Burger. Man, I’ve referenced that guy so much in real life. Like the two finger “Fuck You” to the answering machine…

  8. Serah-Marie, and probably a bunch of you, are going to kill me. (It’s true, we should have an Intensive Wornette Pop Culture Camp.) I don’t think I’ve ever sat through an entire episode of SITC simply because of that “every woman loves it” vibe. I feel like enough people have watched it and that there is no need for me to jump on the bandwagon too. Now, though, I feel like I should watch some episodes just for the clothes…

  9. After re-watching the whole series of Sex and the city recently I totally agree with you. The charm of the first few seasons were all but over at the end and the movie I hate the movie but I bought it just to kind of complete my collection. I’ve only watched the movie ONCE because i thought it was so horrible, I hated everything about it honestly.
    I loved the fashion of the first episodes and yea it just did become product placement for everything shoes,bags,clothes.I am not obsessed with the show I enjoyed it and it ended i didn’t think we needed these movies.

  10. As a decent sized fan of the show I absolutely hated the movie! Aside from the actual script (which was kind of horrid) I remember mostly taking issue with the clothes. It was much too much. I even remember the exact moment in the movie where my issue came to fruition. The point right after the wedding where the girls take Carrie to (I want to say Mexico) a warm place to recoop. It’s the exact point when they arrive and step out of the car. Their all too expensively dressed, and coordinated, even Miranda. She started off in the show in very lawerly outfits. Here she looks like an un-real lady who lunches.

    They no longer even remotely resemble real people. At least in the show (and as you so rightly put it, early on in the show), they all sort of seemed like actual people living in a big city. It’s the perceived reality of it that has captured so many women. Carrie is unique and quirky, and if actually considered rationally, could never ever afford the things she did. But at one point in the show they manage to touch upon that, when she has no money to buy her own apartment. But in the end it is a fantasy.

    The problem with the movie is they decided to deliver that fantasy on crack. Pat Field even admits as much in an interview I saw her give. She said that they wanted this to be a fantastic, sugared, taken-to-the-max present for all of the fans. I guess this is what happens when you pander to the masses.

  11. Great post and totally agree. I felt like the film was a long video clip and/or advertisement. Now that they are rich and all wear the latest designer outfits, who cares? And who can relate.
    I still love Season 1 – 4. Both for the kooky fashions and the writing. When it first aired it was like finally seeing myself and my friends and the way we dressed on TV. But better.

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