Everyone knows the Sex and the City films are really just fashion porn: an excuse to capture scene after scene of beautiful women engaged in lascivious congress with their clothes.
But for the fashion world, where trends are amorphous and tastes constantly shifting, the franchise is serious business. Like a high-school cafeteria or an issue of U.S. News & World Report, these movies bring order to the chaos of life. Who’s up and who’s down? Which designers should you race out to buy and which should you not be caught dead in? Come May 28, when Sex and the City 2 finally gay-marries the women of America, all will be revealed.
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A semi-scientific survey of the more than 180 brands that make appearances in the film, draped over one or another of the Fab Four (or, in a few cases, knotted like twine in their hair), reveals some surprising results. Although Halston, of which star Sarah Jessica Parker is now “creative director,” makes the highest-profile outfits, it is tried-and-true Chanel that actually has the most pieces on screen—followed by Christian Dior, followed by Roberto Cavalli. There is more Christian Louboutin than Manolo Blahnik; more Calvin Klein than YSL. There is an obscene quantity of spine-buckling necklaces made by “queen of bling” Solange Azagury-Partridge. There is absolutely no Gucci anywhere.
As with the first go-round, there are also pieces by a number of lesser-known designers whose entire businesses will likely be held up, Michelle Obama-style, by their inclusion in the film. Never heard of Jee Vice sunglasses or Triviál headgear? God help you, because the waitlists are probably already a mile long.
• Michael Patrick King: Can a Straight Man Love Sex and the City?The second film in the series, written by Michael Patrick King during the initial downward slope of the recession, takes our heroines on a fantastical journey to the Arab world, bedecking them in an array of non-traditional garb (much of it made by Cavalli) that would land a woman in jail in most of the real-life Middle East. The bulk of the action takes place in “Abu Dhabi,” but was actually filmed in Morocco after the government nixed filming locally on account of all the sex in Sex and the City. The setting provided new challenges—covering shoulders and knees; keeping Samantha’s breasts more or less concealed—and also new opportunities to expand into eclectic wardrobe items: jumpsuits, fans, jewel-encrusted crowns, sweatbands, turbans.
Much has already been made about the cost of the clothing worn in the film, which totaled more than $10 million when all was said and done. In a single scene, which has the gals blowing off a little steam with a few rounds of karaoke, Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte and Miranda managed to pile on $50,000 worth of duds. One consequence of the economic downturn is that Carrie and Big must move to a new apartment, 12 floors lower to the ground, but still with a walk-in closet the size of a single-family home—filled floor-to-ceiling with couture provided by Net-a-Porter.
Patricia Field, the costume designer for Sex and the City, has said designers hoping to have pieces included in the film flooded her with samples before shooting began. There was a gymnasium filled with clothes, a room of shoes, a room of bags and two rooms for jewelry, one fine and one costume.
She whittled down this vast collection into a costume department that represented a vast swath of the fashion world.
The old heavies (Dior, Lanvin, Ralph Lauren) get the most play, but plenty of newer and younger designers (Alexander Wang, Rodarte, Brooklyn-based lingerie duo The Lake and Stars) get a piece or two in as well. The makers of Closed jeans, an Italian company that originally supplied uniforms for German postal workers, hit the jackpot as the primary denim purveyor for the film. A few mass-market brands make the cut, including Jordache jeans, Converse sneaks and one yellow T-shirt from Zara. But the vast majority of outfits look like they walked right off a runway, passed through a drag club, and landed in “Abu Dhabi.”
In a single scene, which has the gals blowing off a little steam with a few rounds of karaoke, Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte and Miranda managed to pile on $50,000 worth of duds.
The four women divide up designers pretty predictably: Carrie rocks a lot of vintage, some recent Balmain, and a series of consistently ridiculous hats. Samantha wears Rick Owens and Marc Bouwer, plus original nail art by designer Naomi Yasuda, and, in one scene, a $4.9 million diamond ring. In addition to the usual Chanel and Oscar de la Renta, Charlotte has a $32 apron from Anthropologie and a matching sweater-and-skirt set from Lilly Pulitzer. Ever-sensible Miranda wears a lot of Bottega Veneta and Hermès.
According to Sex and the City 2: The Stories. The Fashion. The Adventure.—an official published compendium of all the outfits worn in the film—Miranda appoints herself fashion police while abroad, having “done a lot of research and [being] very up to speed on the social mores,” in the words of actress Cynthia Nixon. In that case, it is to her—and to Field—that we owe this current moment of clarity in fashion. If Miranda has her way, this will be the summer of shimmering Chanel skirts, bright silk turbans, and sunglasses by Jee Vice.
Rebecca Dana is a senior correspondent for The Daily Beast. A former editor and reporter for The Wall Street Journal, she has also written for The New York Times, The New York Observer, Rolling Stone, and Slate, among other publications.