Sex and the City was really a show about New York – and who better personifies the city that never sleeps than Carrie Bradshaw, the mercurial and highly fashionable star of the show as portrayed by Sarah Jessica Parker. Sure, the series has the odd episode set elsewhere (hello, L.A., and let’s not mention the film), but it’s not until the series finale in Paris – when Bradshaw runs off to be with Mikhail Baryshnikov – that we really see how New York has shaped Carrie, so extreme is her fish out of water experience. Here, designer Ryan Lo, a noted Instagram commentator on Carrie’s many looks, weighs in on her approximation of French chic.
The Signature Style
Carrie goes all out in Paris; her looks are even more extreme than her usual (already full on) NYC getups. “Looking back, her looks are quite ridiculous and OTT,” says Lo. “But in a good way!” This means Carrie’s ideas of French wardrobe staples – Bretons, hats, dresses – figure heavily. It’s all very post-war. “I mean, she goes to Paris and all of a sudden she transforms into a French chic lady/Cinderella modern-day princess,” Lo laughs. “Corseted ball gowns, sharp sparkly tweed tailoring – Carrie doesn’t work in Paris!” Having hustled around her native city for the best part of two decades, suddenly “All she does is eat French pastries and go to parties with Alex’s driver; whereas in real life, SJP takes the subway quite often in cropped boyfriend jeans – the opposite.”
Much can be forgiven simply by the fact that Carrie has never been to Paris – thus, she has a wildly romantic view of it. “Carrie has never been to Paris before season six, so the Paris she knows was from her fantasies. In the season five episode Anchors Away, she watched the play Joy for Two, leading to the eminently quotable ‘But one of the most amazing things about living in a city like New York, is that any night of the week you can go to Paris. Joy for Two, for one.’” Lo also notes that most insanely, “In season two she ran around NYC in a beret buying Mr. Big greasy French food, crying ‘Le French Fry’ and ‘Le Filet de Fish’!” Paris is the ideal playground for Carrie’s rich inner life to spill into her daily existence in its full, messy glory.
The Modern Manifestation
Despite the excess, both Lo and AnOther deeply admires Carrie’s approach to Parisian chic. “Patricia Field [the show’s costume designer] definitely referenced Christian Dior’s New Look silhouette rather than the casual, relaxed attitude of Coco Chanel,” says Lo. These days, much is made of ‘relaxed French girl chic’ – no make-up, denim and flats – but there was a time when the opposite was the Parisienne aesthetic. “To Carrie, real French women wear Sonia Rykiel tight knitted striped sweaters, tweeds, lace-up corsets, tulle ball gowns, polka dots and a lot of hats…”. Fabulous. If you seek to manifest Carrie’s Parisian chic however, look to just before her trip, when her dreams were yet to be shattered, as represented by the perfect pink dress. For a date in New York with Alex, ‘The Russian’, Carrie dons this pink Oscar de la Renta number, which takes her from le ballet to… le burger (fast food being a recurring Carrie theme). “It’s everything!” exclaims Lo. “The pink is coral, but peachy enough. It’s a classic prom/debutante dress shape, but the gathering and slightly dropped waist make it more modern. Pat Field also styles it with a black patent leather belt and crop tuxedo blazer [ed’s note: very in season] which toughens the look. A lot of women I know will dress like that.” Sometimes, the fantasy is so much better than the reality.