It’s officially been two decades since a tutu-d Carrie Bradshaw first spun around in front of a zooming bus on a New York City street in the opening credits of Sex and The City.
The HBO TV series, that went on to become an iconic vision for a generation, first aired in 1998. Based on Candace Bushnell’s semi-autobiographical book of the same name, its topics of conversation were blushingly taboo as we were introduced to four successful, single and fashionably-dressed 30-something girlfriends. Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte and Samantha spent their days shopping for “Manolo’s”, sitting at brunch and wandering the romantic streets of New York, all the while airing their unfiltered grievances, obsessions and fascinations in way we’d never heard before.
1998 was a refreshing time before smart phones, Instagram and selfies. When Britney was racing up the charts for the first time, the biggest political story involved Monica Lewinsky and every second girl in the world was asking their hairdresser for the ‘Rachel’.
From the very first season, Sex and The City became a modern voice for women. In the pilot episode Carrie announced she was fed up with looking for the perfect man and suggests they all start dating “like men” instead. While 20 years on, there are plenty of themes that no longer hold up (David Duchovny’s cameo as mental health patient Jeremy and all the ensuing “crazy” references is one such) but overall the feminist subtexts were progressive. Yes, they chased boys endlessly (many who were less than worthy, Mr Big was rarely anything more than an emotionally unavailable suit + wallet) and they shopped for Manolo Blahnik heels like they were as necessary as food but this is what made the characters deliciously flawed, riotously attractive and unashamedly relatable.
Perhaps what was most subliminally renegade however, was the costuming. Patricia Field’s styling (along with Rebecca Weinberg and Eric Daman) became synonymous with the show, taking fashion risks and bringing high fashion mixed with rich vintage to a sitcom medium for the first time. What certainly became the unnamed fifth key character, the fashion of SATC was refreshingly bold and without (scripted) ridicule. Carrie could wear a knitted beret with a prom-style frock, a pair of platform heels and a string of pearls to brunch on a Tuesday and no one would bat an eyelid. It was a fashion fantastic that broke all the rules and gave one large IDGAF to perceived dressing expectations.
Yes, Carrie’s plentiful and label-heavy wardrobe rivaled that of a modern day Hadid/Kardashian on the salary of a freelance columnist. Many an eye has rolled over this. But honestly, who cares? If it was remade today with a reality checklist ticked, the show would have seen Carrie living with five other freelancers in a converted warehouse in Bushwick wearing thirty-dollar parkas from a thrift store…in other words, it would be Girls.
To this day we still have many trends to thank Carrie/Patricia/SATC for. From her casual midriffs, to tulle-as-day-wear, to heels-with-everything here are the 20 looks that have remained with us 20 years later. Each as signature to the show as a cosmo with the girls…
Tulle as day wear (and grown-up wear)
the sexy LBD (remember the aviators, forget the bra)
the men’s shirt-as-a-dress, cinched with a logo belt
the vintage fur (2018 amendment: go faux or go home)
The more is more when it comes to accessorising
summer in the city is poolside chic
Magical princess-fantasy Parisian date night dressing
Midriffs and belt bags like they’re no big deal
simple frockery given some signature Carrie “merchandising” (I.E. ADD vintage belts, bags and shoes)
that. dress. in. paris. (cc. versace)
Sheer is fierce. and also no big deal.
Top-knots plus grunge is forever the perfect work-from-home look
the controversial Shorts with heels (and head-scarves)…
70s track shorts with peasant tops
the elegant wrap-cardi-over-simple-black look
Corset trousers! with suspenders!
the perfect pink prom dress with a drop waist ruffle (cc. Oscar de la renta)the belt that gives a dressing down (also everything green…)
The simple white slip dress
The satin pink kitten heel mules…thank you Manolo BlahnikImagery HBO and Getty Images