In the Age of Instagram Fashion, And Just Like That... Centers Style With a Story Again
Image Source: HBO Max
The reviews for the first two episodes of Sex and the City's next chapter, And Just Like That..., are pouring in, with notes on the characters' relationships, where they are and where they've ended up, all relative to the original series. The fashion, too, is getting reviews — but it was even before the episodes were released, thanks to the internet, paparazzi, and the age of Instagram sharing (and oversharing). "Stepping out of a trailer on this series, it was like the Roman Colosseum. You step out of a trailer, there were paparazzi, they were posted immediately, and you immediately got a thumbs up, you live, or thumbs down, you die, and tigers are released," costume designer Molly Rogers told me when we chatted over the phone about the reboot and the expectations that came with dressing Sarah Jessica Parker, Cynthia Nixon, and Kristin Davis as they reprised their roles as Carrie, Miranda, and Charlotte, respectively.
"I was just excited and not concerned about the big shoes I was filling or the legacy of the show. I tried to just realize that we were going to move the show into the future."
Molly and codesigner Danny Santiago took the helm of the wardrobe for And Just Like That... (with Patricia Field already committed to Emily in Paris). But Molly is something of a Sex and the City veteran in her own right; having worked with Field on the set of the original series and both films, her relationships with the characters and the actors are steeped in history. "Honestly, whether you believe me or not, there was not pressure because I, like a lot of the viewers, grew up with the girls. I was in all their fittings with Pat, and it just felt like home week. It felt like a reunion. So we would be in an outlet mall in Florida before we came up to New York and we would be, 'Oh my God, I can't wait to show this to Sarah Jessica.' It just felt so familiar," Molly explained when I asked about the pressure to style the women for this continuation, when the looks were almost as central to the story of SATC as their relationships. There were expectations, certainly, but Molly and Danny didn't let that get in their way: "I wasn't going to let some external judgements spoil my dream job and the fun that I was having and what we were trying to create after coming out of a pandemic, and we're still not fully out of it. I was like, 'I don't have time for negativity, and I don't want it anywhere near me.'"
It was that positivity — a martini-glass-half-full kind of perspective — that seemed to be the guiding force for Molly since she joined the show: "When I got the call in March that there was going to be a continuation of the show and there were going to be 10 episodes, I was so excited to just be coming out of a global pandemic and to this particular type of show, that I wanted it to be celebratory because that's how I felt. I was going to get to reunite with crew and the cast and meet new people and new characters, and I was just excited and not concerned about the big shoes I was filling or the legacy of the show. I tried to just realize that we were going to move the show into the future." That's the big question a lot of us have: how do you move this iconic set of women into the future without disappointing fans who have known and loved them in the specific context that they were first conceived and presented to us?
Image Source: Getty / Gotham
Above: Sarah Jessica Parker on set, wearing the dress that went viral.
"My initial reaction was, 'Let's see what the scripts are going to be about, that'll guide us.' Because they're in 2021, and the world has changed so much since we last saw them in the last movie. Moving the girls into the future and their style, for Danny and I, meant introducing new designers, and you have such a longer reach, larger reach, global reach, than we did in the original series, that it was really about bringing new things for the girls to see because the DNA style of their characters are so strong. Yes, they've evolved because the world has, but Carrie's still experimental, and Charlotte is still a polished romantic, and Miranda, OK, her hair color changed, but we all have done that a million times."
Some of that "evolution" — the newness — was sniffed out immediately by fans, who saw iterations of the women's looks leaked on Instagram and hurled their disapproval. One instance — a bohemian maxi dress that Carrie wears layered over a button-down with a Louis Vuitton bag in tow — went viral; it was the one moment that perhaps unnerved Molly a bit during the process: "The only thing that really pissed me off was the style shaming that we got when people suspected that [Carrie] had been in a Forever 21 dress, which was inaccurate, which we couldn't defend ourselves — or I didn't want to because if you start defending yourself, then you're going to answer to everything. I didn't say a word. I knew that it wasn't. I knew that it had been bought six years ago in a thrift store, and it had no label, and there's a reason why she's in that kind of dress. And I was really pissed when we got crucified for that because that was the first thing that went viral, and . . . We're over here, slugging it out for the fans, working and enjoying ourselves . . . And they didn't have the facts right, so that created this little blip on the horizon of negativity, and we just kept it moving."
That's the thing about the looks for this show that we lose if we judge them in a photograph or an Instagram post, because they're not just pieces, not just Manolos.
Undeterred by the critics, Molly and Danny found the magic in their styling, their storytelling. That sometimes meant connecting the characters back to pieces pulled from archives, from the original series. That part makes the reboot undeniably special — it may even be one of the reasons so many diehard SATC fans (and fashion fans in general) are tuning in, to see what Carrie — or any of the women — might wear again. "I mean, what show gets to do that?" Molly marveled, "It's really amazing. 'Oh, let's go get the Roger belt and put it on a dress . . . or the blue Manolos" — which appear again memorably, if not dramatically, in the first episode of AJLT.
Image Source: HBO Max
That's the thing about the looks for this show that we lose if we judge them in a photograph or an Instagram post, because they're not just pieces, not just Manolos. On screen — and on Carrie — they're part of her story. Those blue Manolos will always mean something, and any fan will never look at a pair of blue Hangisi pumps the same way. In that way, we don't just watch the show for the clothes; we watch to see how Carrie is wearing them — what she'll dream up and how she'll put it together, be it a belt worn over her bare abs while wedding-dress shopping or a tutu on the streets of Paris. That's the bit that Molly comes back to, reminiscing about the original series and the effect it had on its viewers. "Do you think people can enjoy that anymore?" she asked me. "Or do you think the climate of the world is [different]; you'll always be watching And Just Like That... and saying to yourself, 'I wouldn't put that shoe with that.' I just wonder if people are capable of escaping." It's a fair question, given some of the early blowback they faced before the episodes had even aired. But I'm hopeful, I told her. Still, I couldn't help but wonder if And Just Like That... can pull it off.