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Sex, the City & Patricia Field
As for Carrie, "she stood for the fashion end of the show. . . . Her style was eclectic. It was rooted in the ballerina with Oscar de la Renta, the tutu. What could time have done to her?" Field asked herself. "She became more sophisticated, but sexy."
"There's always this stigma about women aging," Field says. "Men can, but women can't. When a woman ages she loses her coquettishness, but she ripens."
Sexiness is directly related to confidence and control.
In the film, Carrie has grown up and grown older. And for Field, that means she has only gotten better.
Will Lightning Strike Twice?
Despite the success of the HBO series, Field was ambivalent about committing to the movie. She is not too bashful to say that money was an issue. Do not let the Day-Glo hair and green ballet flats mislead. Field is a businesswoman with an eye for the bottom line.
There were creative considerations, too. "I needed a road map, an ideology. I can't [fake] it. The fans know these characters intimately. You have to get at the truth," she says. "The audience knows these girls because they watch the DVDs like they're reading the Koran."
And there was the question of the lightning: Would it strike again? "I'm not going to stand here and say I had this strategy. It happened and it was like being given a hand of cards that turned out to be a royal flush," she says of the success of "Sex and the City," which launched in 1998 and ran through 2004.
"It was timing. New York in the early 1990s, it was all about angst shows with a hyper-sense of reality," she says, referring to series like "thirtysomething" and "Mad About You." "People needed a little light and bright in their lives. People needed a relief. The timing was a very important ingredient for success. The fashion was a reason, but not the only reason."
Field popularized the philosophy of mixing designer clothes with throwaway fashion. She gave equal respect to an aesthetic vision that came from Seventh Avenue and one championed by some kid from a suburban mall.
"I grew up having things. I wasn't rich, but I wasn't poor. I grew up with that mix," says Field who spent her childhood in Queens, where her mother, a widow, worked in dry-cleaning shops.
But Field is proudest of the relationship she helped foster between fashion and film, encouraging filmmakers to borrow pieces from a designer's current collection when the script warrants it and helping designers see the advantages of dressing movie characters. "When you see Carrie and Samantha and Charlotte in their life, they're moving, animated people. They're not a model in a photo shoot. You hook into that. It has more effect than a still shot in a magazine," Field says. "You have a chance of getting into people's living rooms all over the world."
The consummate downtown New Yorker spoke convincingly to Middle America.
"She's a workaholic and someone who changed fashion for good -- or worse," says Vollbracht, who as lead designer for Bill Blass supplied some of the clothes for actress Meryl Streep in "The Devil Wears Prada.
" 'Sex and the City' changed fashion in a huge way for American girls -- for girls in Tampa Bay malls and Oakland malls. It told them they can wear anything. Of course, that 'mess' takes work to do it right. That 'mess' is a calculated one," he says. But for every fashion faux pas worn by a fan of the show, there was a girl liberated from the constraints of "appropriateness."