A couple of decades ago, I left the shelter of my family and friends for the unknown, a dream in a city that would star in the rest of my life. I wandered the myriad of streets and avenues, from east to west and uptown to downtown, window shopping for inspiration, friends and a life that was my own and out of the ordinary.
As I walked along Eighth Street, I ran across "The House of Field." This was a house like no other — somewhere between "The Addams Family" and "The Rocky Horror Picture Show — a place where fashion, makeup, kink and fetish merged together to make an uber-fusion of personal style. The Head Mistress was a woman whose personality is ideally characterized by her rough-as-sand-paper voice and her smooth-as-brandy ease … Patricia Field.
Like any artist, Field's creations were so far off the beaten path of commercialism that you would wonder how this freakish yet fragile world could co-exist or blend into the mainstream. Who would imagine that this Empress of Eclectic Fashion would one day be dictating what's de rigueur to global fashionistas, housewives hurting for a piece of their lost vibrancy, studio suits and ad execs?
But "Sex and the City" proved to be the perfect canvas to fuse these worlds and tell the story of four girlfriends, their lives and a world of magic where anything can happen in what's called the city of New York.
As any actress worth her weight in Louboutins, Manolos or Choos knows, you must first dress your character. But Pat and her team didn't design clothes or create outfits, they brought characters to life and gave us four of our favorite girlfriends to check in on, hang out with and live vicariously through. We connected with their lives and loves and wanted to wear what they wore, or at least see it. Because, let's face it, most of it was way too over the top for any of us to really wear.
But it did the trick: It inspired us to want more for ourselves, to redefine power dressing for a new generation of women. As my dear friend and witty fashion colleague, Simon Doonan, told me: "In the '80s, female TV characters became corporate and a bit dyke-y. SATC made it OK to be a really femmie girl again."
As avid viewers, we wanted to run away from our lives and our homes, if only for the half hour of "Sex and the City." But as life shows us, all good things must come to an end, and so did SATC. It took four years to bring it back to life but, this time, on the big screen. Once again, for two hours and 15 minutes, we can catch up on the trials, tribulations and trends of Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte and Miranda and all will be well with our world, SATC-style.
As we often do in our own lives, if a friend moves away or a colleague changes jobs, we find new friends, someone else to bond with. And we have had several offerings from such fashionable shows as "Lipstick Jungle," starring the iconic Brooke Shields and created by Candace Bushnell, author of the original "Sex and the City," and a front row Fashion Week regular. The LJ girls are SATC wannabes of the Dana Buchman/Liz Claiborne fashion set, not breaking many rules.
Another attempt to capture our fashionable hearts and minds is "Cashmere Mafia," which tries to tell the story of corporate culture and couture. As cartoon-ish as many of the hats and layers, feathers, fringe or flowers that Carrie and the girls caroused around town in may have seemed, the girls always worked it. The realness and the sincerity of the whole HBO SATC family just dazzled like Carrie's Manolos or Samantha's cocktails. "Cashmere Mafia" is just a different flavor, and not that perfect mélange of spicy and sweet.
The closest I've come to having my heart stolen was when I began watching the "Gossip Girl." Somehow, this show has managed to capture a flicker of glamour from the SATC divas. With the addition of my two girlfriends, Michelle Trachtenberg and Lydia Hearst, the feverish pitch of hype and buzz surrounding the show is at the ultra max: from trickin' out the school uniforms to their party girl Manhattan-ite style. The show's fashions are creating a similar entrée ticket to the world of retail. The ultra-chic Henri Bendel's has even launched several designer lines in tandem with the show. The blatant splash of fashion as a character has become an obsession for many, especially on the CW "Gossip Girl" Web site, where buying your own piece of Gossip Girl style is just a click away.
My SATC girls have beguiled me, and the world, once again, as they are set to steal the silver screen. It is clear why Pat already has an Oscar nod from "The Devil Wears Prada" and the SATC machine can make fashion magic work. These ladies show that age is now timeless. Sarah Jessica Parker is 43, and Kim Cattrall is 52. And these girls have never been more stunning, bringing a totally new meaning to dressing age-appropriate.
As I was writing this article, I had writer's Bloch, and then I had an epiphany. After believing that everything that could ever be written or shown or discussed about this film had been said, after all the Page Six paparazzi photos, spoiler alerts and Internet rumors, I found myself humming the Peggy Lee classic, "Is That All There Is?" I became slightly disillusioned.
It wasn't until I had some girl time with my BFF, Fran Drescher, while curled up and munching out, that I really began to realize the importance of friendship, girl time, the brotherhood of sisterhood. And as we all set off on this million man march to theaters everywhere to catch up on our girls, as Fran as I sat there catching up and gabbing, I understood that this was really what the SATC is really about.
It's about these moments with your friends. It's not about plot, it's not about special effects, and (so sue me!) it's not even really about fashion! It's about being able to clear your calendar, to find those moments and be with your girlfriends (or just your friends) once again.
Thinking about that bond between our girls (both fictional and non-fictional), I couldn't help but reflect on the amazing women and friends I have known in my life, one of whom I have lost but not forgotten within the four years between SATC, The Show and The Movie, others whom I have had to take a hiatus from (let's face it, even our best friends can be stressful and too needy sometimes and a little absence can always make the heart grow fonder, as proven by our hyper-anticipation for the premiere of this movie).
Maybe you, too, have lost a friend within those four years, maybe you've gained some friends as well, or maybe you've even taken a lovah — a la Carrie and The Russian. A lot has happened since Carrie, Samantha, Miranda and Charlotte left Silvercup Studios to remain in our lives in rerun form. But they have finally come back to us, like good friends should. And we can take comfort in this brief moment on the silver screen, and the moments forever replayed in DVDs, Tivo and reruns, and know that we'll always have Carrie Bradshaw and her wide-eyed innocence, romanticism and friendship.
Simon Doonan is the Creative Director of Barney's New York as well as a seasoned author and weekly columnist for the NY Observer.
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