Style And The City: Patricia Field Reflects On Her Top Five Fashion Moments

From Carrie Bradshaw to 'Emily In Paris'

Patricia Field forged a new fashion frontier through her work on pop culture phenomenons Sex and the City and The Devil Wears Prada. Now almost 80, the legendary stylist who changed the way women dressed is still stealing the show.

Patricia Field loves tutus. Adores them. As a costume designer, she’s dressed at least three of her characters in long swishy numbers or frisky little ballerina skirts. It’s the romance of them: those whispers of tulle, the allusions to dancers and debutantes and dashing Prince Charmings, the way the tiers flutter—yes, flutter—as you spin around. Even if you’re spinning in consternation, as Sarah Jessica Parker’s Carrie Bradshaw does in the opening sequence of Sex and the City, clad in a pearly white tutu that Field fished out of a bargain bin for $5.

Tutus are part of Field’s personal and professional modus operandi, a way of dressing that she describes as “optimistic”. “Believe me, I would never be interested in doing a war movie, or a cop show,” she says, grinning. “That’s just not my style. I feel good with happy fashion. That’s my thing.”

Happy fashion it may be to her, but for those of us who consumed every sartorial second she producedfrom oversized flower brooches to nameplate necklaces and every diva in Prada in betweenit’s become a lot more.

Field’s distinct and discerning eye created trends that transcended the screen (who didn’t lust after a pair of Manolos in the noughties?) But her influence also surpassed fashion fantasy. With pop culture as her superpower, Field encouraged and enabled a generation of women to confidently express their personalities through their wardrobe.

The flame-haired designer is speaking on Zoomher voice is raspy, her accent pure concrete jungle. New York is in her DNA, it’s where she was born, raised and still lives. “I like cities where people have a lot of contact and cross-culture,” she explains. When she made her first foray into fashion in the ’60s, opening a mod-turned-punk boutique beloved by Patti Smith and Debbie Harry, she became part of the fabric of the city. Then, in the mid-’80s, she began styling film and television shows.

In 1998, she received a call about a forthcoming series called Sex and the City, which followed a quartet of thirty-something friends living in New York and navigating the minefield of modern dating. The concept was fresh, the execution was hot, but there was something missing in the way it looked.


Parker, the star of the show and a serious fashionista, remembered working with Field on a film and suggested bringing in the stylist to invigorate the costumes with a little sparkle, shine and, it must be said, sex.

Initially, Field was sceptical about the premise“Who’s going to watch this?” she thought, when she first read the scriptbut was eager to do the work. She immediately understood what the series needed: a zingy, highlow fashion sensibility that reflected the reality of New York street style. Field gave Sex and the City its own razzle-dazzlea grey tank with a Gucci bag, a cheap vintage dress with a pair of Manolo Blahniks. The kind of clothes thirty-something women navigating the minefield of modern dating (with a cocktail in hand) might actually wear.

The work was long and hard. “There were many episodes of Sex and the City that I didn’t watch,” Field admits. “I didn’t do it on purpose, I was busy.” Can you blame her? Field was responsible for thousands of looks over the course of the show’s 94 episodes, rightfully earning herself four Emmy nominations and one win. (In a single season, Carrie wore an average of 140 outfits, matched with 120 pairs of shoes and 100 handbags.)

The sartorial impact was phenomenal: nameplate necklaces, floral pins, naked dresses, bejewelled Fendi baguette bags, midriff everything, underwear as outerwear, those tutu skirts, the very notion of spending exorbitant amounts of money on a pair of shoes… Field was the architect of it all, understanding from the start that fashion wasn’t merely a form of expression for these women – it was a love story. 

“I was doing my best. I liked the jobI’m not belittling it when I say that it was a job,” Field reflects. “I never really had it in my mind, and I still never do, that this was going to be the greatest show on earth.”


Sex and the City cemented Field as a first-rate tastemaker, even if customers at her boutique had known it for years. In 2007, she was Oscar-nominated for the costumes in The Devil Wears Prada, for which she produced a cacophony of coats, cerulean and Chanel on a miniscule budget. Field took the job, despite limited resources, because of the opportunity to work with star Meryl Streep. (“My god, yes!” she said, when asked if she would even be interested in the gig.) More than a decade later, Field says she is still surprised by how much the film resonates with fans. “It makes me happy that they love my work,” she says.

Field has teamed up again with Sex and the City producer Darren Star for Netflix’s new release Emily in Paris, where she oversaw the costumes, alongside Marylin Fitoussi. In it, Lily Collins plays Emily Cooper, a marketing executive who moves to Paris and discovers life over there is the most exquisite cliché, from her charming rooftop apartment to her disapprovingalbeit very chicboss. The costumes are trademark Field: electric colour, impeccable accessories, some very good boots and lashings of Chanel. Couture pieces are styled with more avant-garde brands such as Dope Tavio and David Dalrymple, both of which are stocked on ARTfashion, Field’s online boutique. This is “happy fashion” in action, clothes that offer you an escape from the trackpants you’ve been wearing since March. 

Field’s chief inspiration was the city itself. “Paris is completely eye candy,” she declares. Field should knowshe has already immortalised Paris onscreen in Sex and the City and The Devil Wears Prada. Field admits she couldn’t help but see the similarities between Carrie and Emilyeven paying tribute to Carrie through her trademark tutu. “Emily’s black tulle skirt in episode 102 is an homage to Carrie’s tulle skirt in the series finale of Sex and the City,” she explains.

These days, Field sometimes worries that she “can’t keep up with it”. At 78, she’s working constantly, collaborating with designers for ARTfashion and designing costumes for shows including Younger and Run the World. Still, on occasion, she worries. “And then I start getting paranoid that I don’t know what I’m doing anymore,” she admits.

But she does. She always has. “Women meet me in the street in any city and they recognise me,” Field marvels. “They tell me their stories about how when they’re sad and blue they lock themselves in their bedroom with Sex and the City. I’m happy that I can touch people in such a nice way, honestly. The fans are my joy in life.”

Below, Field reflects on her top five fashion moments.

Carrie Bradshaw’s Tutu

The image of Sex and the City’s heroine, sashaying through Manhattan in a tutu, is indelible. Field found the skirt in a sale bin and paired it with a singlet. But producer Darren Star needed convincing. “I told Darren that if the show was a hit, we’d need something completely original—not of that season or a certain time,” Field has said. “In the end, the tutu won.”

carrie bradshaw

The Mille-Feuille Dress

In the two-part finale of Sex and the City season six, Carrie languishes in her suite, $US80,000 of grey Versace tulle pooled around her. “The dress really amped up the emotion of that scene,” says Field. Her inspiration? “They’re old fashioned, but there are these dolls with long gowns that cover the toilet rolls.” During filming, she noticed Parker was sitting on the edge of the bed instead of in the middle of it, engulfed by the gown. “I reset it,” she says. “Thank god!”

carrie bradshaw

Andy’s Cinderella Story

“You’re in desperate need of Chanel,” is Andy’s fashion diagnosis in the makeover scene from The Devil Wears Prada. So that’s what Field gave her: one spectacular pair of Chanel boots. “I just thought that she was so plain, and she takes this job she basically doesn’t believe in. She’s not ‘fashion’. Then all of a sudden she appears in this over the top Chanel,” explains Field. “I have heard that a lot of people really like that scene.”


Making Meryl Into Miranda

In creating Miranda Priestly, Field pulled archival Donna Karan dresses, a Valentino gown, and an army of coats from a Russian furrier. “Another designer who normally works with Meryl came in with a huge budget, but [the film company] didn’t have that money,” says Field, who was asked to work with a much smaller budget. “Thank god I have friends in the right fashion places,” she jokes.

devil wears prada

Emily’s Audrey Moment

“When you see Lily Collins, she’s the spitting image of Audrey Hepburn,” muses Field. It inspired her to send the Emily in Paris star to the ballet in a black gown and glittering circlet, just like Hepburn wore in Funny Face.

emily in paris

This article originally appeared in the November 2020 issue of marie claire Australia. 

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