‘Sex and the City’ costume designer Patricia Field on the most ‘depressing’ current trend
Patricia Field has style. That much is obvious from her legacy in costume design and fashion. And her outfits themselves are unapologetically over-the-top — though perhaps, in Field's world, there is to no "top."
When it comes to cultivating personal style, the 82-year-old tells TODAY.com to lead with what brings you joy rather than what you see trending.
"It's always best if you start young," Field says on a Zoom interview, wearing a shimmery army green outfit. "You can't just pick it up, because then it's a trend. It's very important that each of us develop our sense of individuality when it comes to the way that we present ourselves in clothes."
That eye for personal details is clear when watching her stylish movies and TV shows, most famously "Sex and the City," but also "The Devil Wears Prada," "Emily in Paris" and "Ugly Betty."
Field is the mastermind behind Carrie Bradshaw's iconic looks. In Sarah Jessica Parker, she found a collaborator. After working with her for the 1995 rom-com "Miami Rhapsody," Parker suggested Field to "Sex and the City" creator Darren Star (the first of many projects they would do together, including "Younger" and "The Devil Wears Prada").
"She was a great model for me. No. 1, she got fashion. She loved clothes. She very graceful because she was a trained ballet dancer. And she could fly through the air in a pair of high heels like it was nothing. We hit it off right away," Field says. "She has her own ideas and they're good ideas."
FIeld's work in the HBO show, which ran from 1998 to 2004, and its two movies, informs the title of her memoir, "Pat in the City." She did not return for its spinoff, "And Just Like That," but the show's designers, Molly Rogers and Danny Santiago, worked under Field previously.
While she's known for bringing style to our screens, Field’s cultural impact first emerged through her eponymous store in New York City's hip downtown neighborhood the village, where the cool kids and cultural elite mingled, and her cashiers were on the forefront of creating style.
Her memoir, "Pat in the City," is so much more than the origin story of a pop culture pioneer — it's a story of unabashed queerness, originality and vibrancy, late nights at New York night clubs and early mornings at work. A more fun twist on the American success story, Field's memoir is brimming with quips, heart and a refreshing "yes, I brush shoulders with celebrities, what of it?" energy.
Below, Field speaks to TODAY.com about style in all its forms, both on screen and off.
Have you seen the Instagram account that documents every single 'Sex and the City' outfit?
I have. I looked at it once or twice. I'm not religious about it. I'm very happy that people like my work. That's a wonderful thing to experience. I do it in a natural way. I see it, I like it, I try it.
Emily's outfits in 'Emily in Paris' make headlines for being impractical and too expensive to be plausible. Are people missing the point?
How they afford it, how is she wearing it? I'm glad they're doing that. I'm getting a reaction. They have to write something. That's their job. I never poo-poo it. Any attention to the show is good.
So your intention with clothing is not necessarily to reflect the reality of how everyday people dress.
No, never. That's just not my mold. I like originality. I combine fashion and philosophy. Fashion, to me, is an art form. For it to make sense, it has to have a philosophy behind what you're doing. Otherwise, it's just trendy.
Pop culture is a way for us to experience fashion and think deeply about clothes. Is that part of your goal?
Whether it's in my closet or for a show, I don't think about reality. Like when Carrie Bradshaw could never afford blah blah blah — who cares? you see it, you like it, it's fun for you. that's all that matters. I don't want to take it too seriously because then you kill fashion. And I want to keep it optimistic.
I'm disappointed with the trend of sweatpants and sneakers. I mean, come on!
What do you want instead?
I feel it's not that interesting. Now everyone's walking around looking like that. It shows no sense of originality. Yes, it's comfortable. I like sweatpants when I'm in my apartment.
But I wouldn't go out in Paris in a pair of sweatpants. And that happened to me in Paris! When I first went there to do "Emily," I sent (creator) Darren Star, "I'm in here in Paris. I'm going to check out the French chic." I do my little routine, go outside. They're all in sneakers, jeans and sweatpants! I'm like, This is depressing. I want the French chic, damn it!
How do you get dressed in the morning?
I'm very happy with my wardrobe. It all goes together. I can mix and match it. It's all in that closet of mine.
Do you have as much fun dressing yourself as you do dressing characters?
I think that I do. I love to dress myself.
What are the challenges of dressing people for a show?
It was a learning process, but I learn quickly. Each actor is a different person. So it's not like you can apply one rule to them. They each have their own personalities and their own approaches, their own approaches to themselves.
I was just on the phone with Kim Cattrall. We built up a relationship on "Sex and the City" and have had an ongoing relationship ever since — I worked with her on a TV show in Toronto called "Glamorous." I was there because Kim requested me.
Your outfits are still part of the cultural dialogue. Does that surprise you?
It does surprise me and I don't mind being surprised, because I never want to think of myself as a know-it-all. There's a segment of me — it's not self-doubt — but I don't take myself that seriously. I do my best with what I have in my imagination, my eye, my philosophy.
Somehow, I put it together. That's the only way to be original.
This article was originally published on TODAY.com