If, as has often been said, New York was the Emmy award-winning show’s fifth character, then fashion was surely its sixth. Whether your introduction to Sex and the City was via prime-time viewing or, like mine, via a VHS box set watched with the remote in hand at all times lest your parents walk in, chances are it had an impact on your wardrobe. Maybe without you even knowing it.
Sex and the City performed that special trick of the true fashion icon: it both reflected a moment in time and defined it. After the excess of the ’80s and the minimalism of the ’90s, the show offered a masterclass in mix-and-match, high/low styling. SATC was how we learnt to balance volume with structure, classy with kitsch; to dress down sequins with a T-shirt, or elevate cargo pants with five-inch heels.
It wasn’t the first show to dress its leads in unattainable labels, but it might have been the first to include them in the script. We learnt the parlance: Birkin bags, Dolce undies, Oscar de la Renta, ‘Chanello!’. That a teenage girl in Worthing could learn not only what a Fendi baguette was, but also how to spot a fake, was as big a draw as the X-rated chat around the brunch table.
As the series progressed and piqued designer interest, the outfits became set pieces in their own right. Who can forget Carrie’s Paris wardrobe, with its millefeuille Versace and prommy Dior silhouettes? Or Samantha’s Crayola-bright colour-blocking? Miranda’s burgundy bridal moment, or Charlotte’s evolution from preppy WASP to Audrey Hepburn-owitz? With four distinct style personas to choose from, they appealed to our tribal instincts in a not-dissimilar way to those other ’90s icons: the Spice Girls. Even those who hated the show still knew which one they were.