Favorite Fashion Movie: Sex and the City 1 & 2

Sex and the City began as a column that Candace Bushnell wrote for the New York Observer back in 1994.

The snappy vignettes were a mirror held up to a certain type of New Yorker that reflected vanity, lust, loneliness, insecurity, and overwhelming arrogance. Readers thought, ‘Who says and does these things?’ 

Fascination with Candace’s adventures among the NY singles set led to a book, and then the mega-hit series that focused on characters Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte, and Miranda.

Although there was a distinct lack of ethnic diversity within this line-up, the Fab Four became a touchstone for women and gay men around the planet.

Their words, their actions, their apartments – and most of all, their clothes – caused us to become obsessed, and we couldn’t stop watching for 8 seasons. 

Sex and the City touched off a trend towards labelism and massively conspicuous consumerism, and fed the coffers of Manolo Blahnik to bursting.


When the show went off the air, movie talk began, and two years after the series ended we got the first Sex and the City film.

The movie is like an expanded episode, telling us the story of how Big (now named John James Preston) and Carrie zigzag toward a grand wedding, separate after he jilts her, and then re-unite to marry simply at City Hall.

Along the way we see how Samantha works through her feelings about her relationship with Smith, what happens when Steve cheats on Miranda, and how Charlotte copes with pregnancy. It was a film that took us through some tough emotional territory, but resolved all the drama at the diner, with the whole crew joyously celebrating Big and Carrie’s marriage.

The ending was happy, somewhat hopeful, and a re-affirmation of the quartet’s powerful friendship. The fashion was part and parcel of their lives, sometimes a little too heavy on the group color co-ordination (and what was that horrific Adams Family gown that Charlotte wore to the library wedding?), but  it didn’t overpower the film or the characters.

Too bad they didn’t stop with SATC1.

Sex and the City 2, while a must see for any woman who loved the show and the first film, is hopefully the end of the franchise.

It was heartbreaking to see how old the ladies looked, and the lighting and camera angles were not forgiving at all. In some scenes, you can see the edges of Samantha’s lipstick bleeding. Or Charlotte’s gunked up eyelashed caked with too heavy mascara. Carrie is starting to look distinctly horse-faced, and nags at Big like a shrew. Miranda comes off the best, with fresh skin and clean short hair that keeps her from falling into middle-ageism.

The story goes over the top too many times, and unfortunately, the clothing choices aren’t so much fashion as a crazy spectacle. (A huge chiffon skirt to go to the souk? Seriously?) And there’s one scene where Carrie takes a walk in an orange Halston gown that threatens to swallow her. There were very few striking moments in this, and when they came they weren’t good (those tacky riding outfits that they wear striding through the dunes? Why?) . But as bad as the fashion was, the story was even worse.

The best part of the film was the 80’s flashbacks, where we see the ladies as they were way back in the day when they first met.

Seeing Samantha as some punk/metal valkyrie explains a lot. It explains how she can be so careless with herself sexually. It explains how she could leave a good guy like Smith, and lapse back into her desperate ‘give it to me’ act.

It explains how she can be aggressive and confident enough to get a Sheikh to offer her an amazing all expenses paid trip to the Middle East as homage to her PR prowess, then lose it as she greedily snatches up a male guest at the hotel, and ends up getting arrested for ignoring the laws of the culture she’s in.

Her selfish impulsiveness sends the girls running for the airport in beat-up cabs, when they had arrived like princesses in Maybach sedans. It might have been funny 10 or even 5 years ago. But now it seems sad that a woman of her age doesn’t have the brains to keep it in her pants until she’s back on safe ground.

More things happen – Anthony and Sanford’s tacky wedding. Carrie’s obsessive struggle with her married identity.

Charlotte coming to terms with being a mother of two, with a braless sexpot nanny running her household.  Miranda’s sudden realization that, after working like a man in her legal firm, she was never considered one of the boys.

Aiden even pops up for an uninspired and unromantic cameo.

But the hopeful strain that ran through the last film isn’t there. The end of the film is a staid brunch at Charlotte’s, with servants and crystal and everyone in their best clothes.

It’s sad, as if the characters have finally become what they’ve railed and fought against all this time: the establishment.

Read the original column: Sex and the City by Candace Bushnell.