Sex and the City and Carrie Bradshaw: A Style Evolution With A Question To Ponder In The End
Updated: Feb 23, 2021
When we think of Sex and the City's Carrie Bradshaw, we think of designer shoes and clothing. Carrie Bradshaw will probably always be a fashion and style icon. But initially, Carrie's style, along with the other ladies, was a bit plain and simple. They were just regular girls wearing regular clothes. It was a mix of high and low. The low being something similar to H&M and the highest being something from the sales rack at Nordstrom Rack. Shout out to Nordstrom Rack! No offense to NR but the clothes they sell we all wear. Nothing original or striking. Nothing that would make us want to spend a month's rent. When I think back to the first season of SATC, I don't even remember any mentions of fashion or designer shoes. Maybe that was all by design? Maybe budget-driven? It was a new show aired at the end of the 1990s. This era is best known for grunge and fashion minimalism. So the dress down, I guess you can say, was the fashion. Maybe the fashions, or lack thereof, contributed to our focus on the ladies' characters and their conversations. Because that's what SATC was all about and started as. A show about discussions and those discussions focused on women's viewpoints about dating, men, and sex in modern-day NYC. That's what the show was about. It wasn't until several seasons passed that SATC became a fashionista's beckon of fashion, shoes, and designer labels.
But my memory of SATC Season One could be completely inaccurate. It's been a long long time since I've watched Season One so my memory may not be completely in tack. It was so long ago since the airing of the first season of SATC people were still smoking in bars and restaurants. All I know is other than discussions about wearing the naked dress on a first date with Mr. Big, I don't remember many conversations about fashions or shoes. But even still, Season One still managed to leave us with some iconic fashion looks from the Carrie Bradshaw closet. A few happen to be on my favorites list. And here they are!
Season One - Look One / The Fur Coat
(This is one of my favorite CB closet items. I wore a similar fur coat in the early 90s rambling around Chicago's night scene during the winter months. The only difference mine was lighter in color. Sort of a grey and white combination and a little denser in fur. If you are against fur I totally understand. I love fur and being from Chicago it's almost impossible to pass up a nice warm and cozy fur coat in the middle of a Chicago winter. But all my furs are inherited and hand me downs. I don't ever see myself purchasing a new real fur coat. Maybe something vintage. I figure it's already made so no sense in wasting it.)
Season One - Look Two / The Naked Dress
(The dress with a title. This is the Naked Dress. The famous dress on the famous SATC bus billboard and the dress CB wore on her first date with Mr. Big. There's no need to share an opinion of this dress. No matter if you like it, or not, it is irrelevant. It's the simplest of dresses but will always be iconic in the SATC world.)
Season One - Look Three / The Black Dress
Season One - Look Three / The Little Black Dress
(I love a little black dress. This is the little black dress CB had on when she randomly stumbled into Mr. Big for the first time after dropping her handbag. Guess you could say this is the dress that started it all. I love the asymmetric hem which gives a lot of leg. This is definitely one of my favorite looks of the season and this dress is timeless.)
I would say SATC, Season One is not one of the show's most defining fashion moments. But SATC Season Two begins to place more emphasis on style and fashion. It was the beginning of a slight style evolution of not just Carrie but all the ladies. The clothing became a bit less plain looking. Particularly CB's style. There wasn't just one look for CB. Sort of a trial and error of fashion exploration. It was obvious the writers and designers wanted the clothing to reflect the ladies becoming more successful in their lives and careers. It's only natural that season-to-season clothing and style would change. In real life, style changes as we get older, make more money, or have major life changes. This is also the season the importance of designer shoes to Carrie became evident to the audience.
Season Two! Talk about changes. Whew! Carrie went through a few. First, it starts with her in the dumps and still miserable over her breakup with Big. The girls take her to a baseball game and she meets the cute New Yankee (did he have an actual name?) From there, she meets a nice guy but she becomes the freak in the relationship. Gets back together with Big only to be left dumped. AGAIN! Then goes on a series of dates with men that have...well ISSUES! You name it she went on a date with it. Then after all that, only to run into Big at a party to find out he fell in love in Paris. Of all places. So Season Two Carrie's love life was all over the place and so was the fashion. But the hair was fabulous! So even though I wasn't a huge fan of many of the outfits from Season 2, the season has a couple of my favorite dresses and moments.
Season Two - Favorite Dress and Moment One
(There is nothing more feminine to me than a pink dress. Particularly to wear during the summer months. I absolutely love this dress. It's pretty, light, and flirty. This is also one of CB's dresses that can stand the test of time. It doesn't even require much accessorizing. This is also the dress she wore to her "friendly" lunch with Big. Thinking she could pretend to be friends with the man that possessed her heart was another mistake CB made with Big. Then she has a total meltdown after learning he is now engaged. Well, she kinda stepped into that one herself. "Tell me about the girl." Yeah - like that was going to go well. But I do love this scene and this dress. Actually, I ended up finding one very similar and I wore that dress until it was no longer wearable.)
Season Two - Favorite Dress and Moment Two
(The dress and the day. It was the day of Mr. Big's engagement party at The Plaza. Carrie has drinks with the girls and they discuss "why her?" It becomes clear as Miranda points out she's - Ka-Ka-Ka Katie. As she walks home she takes a path that takes her past The Plaza where she sees Big and Natasha getting into a car. Big excuses himself and walks over to CB and makes a little joke about being late. Then Carrie asked Big the one question every woman on this planet has wanted to ask of the man that broke her heart and went on to find love with someone new. "Why wasn't it me?" The answer from Big? "It just got so hard" At that moment we discover Big really is Hubbell. And with that CB recreates the scene from the movie The Way We Were - "Your girl is lovely Hubbell." Big says he didn't get it. To which Carrie replies "And you never did." Just like Hubbell, Big could never reconcile his love for Carrie because she was a bit different than his idea of who he should be with. Carrie turns and walks away in that fabulous white dress, stunning figure and says one of my favorite lines from SATC, with strings from a guitar-playing La Punta in the background.
"Then I had a thought: maybe I didn't break Big. Maybe the problem was he couldn't break me. Maybe some women aren't meant to be tamed. Maybe they need to run free until they find someone just as wild to run with."
Carrie successfully managed the walk away every woman has dreamt of and fantasized about during a chance encounter with an ex while looking absolutely fabulous!
From Season One to Season Two, we saw changes in the clothes the ladies wore. But Season Three amped up the style game and took it to a whole nother level. I have to say I think this was one of my favorite seasons fashion-wise. Well, the storyline didn't disappoint either. I mean this is the season Carrie meets the new love of her life, Aidan. Then has an affair with Big. And the season when they took sex out of the NY city and into the backlot streets of Los Angeles. This is also the season the quest and passion for labels were intensified. To the point, Samantha takes Carrie to shop for faux Fendi's in the back of a car somewhere in the Valley. Everything in Season Three got a sleek makeover. The designer clothes, the hair and let's not forget those Manolo Blahnik's.
Season Three - Favorite Look One
(Let's talk about that trip to LA. The fashion was still hot but a little bit more LA than NYC and I loved every minute. Since I will always love a colorful summer dress the printed dress with ruffled pleated edges was stunning. Too bad during the time this episode was aired we didn't have the search engines we have today to find dresses because that dress would be in my closet now.)
(This is also one of my favorite looks from the LA trip. At first, I was surprised, as this didn't strike me as a Carrie look. But this wasn't NY Carrie. This was LA Carrie and I loved the white short suit with a gold lame bandeau top, high heel boots, and accessories. With that beach wavy hair, which let's face it was always more LA than NYC, blonde highlights, and that golden tanned glow CB was every bit the California Girl. She was even lead into thinking she'd met a big-time publicity agent, who spent his afternoons shopping for million-dollar houses in the Hollywood Hills when in reality he was an assistant. How much more LA can you get?)
The LA trip didn't turn out as planned. But it also didn't help Carrie leave her cares behind about ending the affair with Big and then coming clean to Aidan and losing him. The ladies returned to NYC and life carried on. Not soon after the realities of how hard the streets in NYC can be what happens next? Carrie gets rob by gunpoint for her Fendi baguette and Manolo Blahnik's. Now she wonders if this is some sort of karma for her sins of the past. Probably. The love of two people was taken, so I guess you could say karma took what she loved most. Her designer shoes and Fendi handbag. This realization leads her down the road to redemption. That road had some major speed bumps and a dead end.
Season Three - Favorite Look Three and Four
(I love a good 70s style wrap dress! This dress also marks the trend of animal print back in fashion.)
(On this road to redemption Carrie finds out where Natasha is having lunch and shows up unexpectedly. Needless to say, this attempt for forgiveness didn't lead to an ounce of forgiveness. Maybe enough time hadn't passed. Or maybe, just maybe, it was this fabulous CD dress. This newspaper print dress is another iconic fashion statement. But maybe a lesson was taught here. If you're going to show up unannounced to someone's lunch to apologize for the wrong you've done them. Maybe play down the fashion. Just a tad. As Carrie walks down the NYC streets in this iconic awesome dress she is lost in thought that now Big is out there somewhere single.)
Season three was definitely a season for fashion and the season Carrie's look took a turnabout from the simple tagless fashions of Carrie Season One. Particularly the season designer fashion came into the forefront on SATC. The shoes, the handbags, and the clothing became just as important to the storyline as dating, sex, and the men. As SATC continued into episodes 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9 the fashions got better and better. The labels were more high-end than high-street. Along with heftier price tags. As we invested more into the love life of Carrie Bradshaw we watched how CB began to invest more into designer labels. Especially after that big check from writing her book. That's when we see Carrie even willing to share her prosperity and fortune with her then-boyfriend Berger to introduce him into the world of Prada.
The first three seasons certainly set the tone for the characters, the storyline, and how fashion would play an integral part in reflecting the development of the ladies' lives as they continued to carry on in life. As their lives changed with relationships and becoming more successful in their careers, fashion and labels became symbolic of those changes. As with Carrie Bradshaw's character, we began with a simple look from season one to the more fashion-forward and designer-label looks in season three that carried into the remaining seasons. Season three, IMO, really is the start of the transformation of the fashionista we all now know and love. While sometimes some of the styling for CB seemed a bit off, and not something some would wear, it always remained a true reflection of her total commitment and obsession with fashion, style, individuality, and love of labels. After season three there are so many style moments we would need a small book printed to detail them all. But for me, there are only a few more outfits that remain on my best ever fashion CB moments.
Favorite Daytime Dress Looks
(I can't remember which season either one of these dresses is from but they are high on my list of favorite looks. The floral dress? Check out the embellished clear heels. I think she was a little ahead of this trend becoming mainstream. Also, this is the same shoe she wore with the white dress in front of The Plaza with Big.)
Favorite Any Day Street Looks
(I LOVE this look! I'm a huge fan of wearing a t-shirt with suiting. And I particularly love the unexpected cropped pants. Well, they are not technically cropped or a capri. Nor are they technically culottes. But they are a great look. I loved the look so much I searched for something similar and was very lucky to have found a vintage suit exactly like this only in grey.)
(It's Vivienne Westwood! No explanations needed.)
Finally...My Top Three Favorite Fashion Looks
The Embellished Lace Black Slip Dress -
(There is nothing I do not love about this outfit. First, the shoes!! I've never been able to find these shoes. But if I was to find them today or next year I would purchase them. They are so beautiful and feminine with the flirty ruffled layers and the pink hue. Mixed with the vintage (well it looks vintage) black slip dress with embellishment and lace was worn with that beautiful colorful dress coat. Stunning look! This was also one of my favorite CB hair moments. A very whimsical and romantic look.)
The Satin Green Skirt
To me, this look screamed Carrie Bradshaw. It was playful, quirky, and unexpected. These were two types of fashions I loved about the styling of CB.
The Best Look Ever...IMO
(Do I need to explain why this is my favorite look? The hair! The bra! The dress and shorts combination! I see this look and I think perfect for a hot summer night out in the city. A little embellishment. A little peek a boo lace bra. And a lot of leg. I love this look!)
Being a huge fan of SATC and Carrie Bradshaw, as so many of us are, I can see a lot of fashion choices made many years ago were influenced by the character's fashion sense hanging in my closet. I love expressing a sense of individuality in styling and a bit of quirkiness. I love adding something unexpected to an outfit. Even though many of the outfits above I love, I wouldn't wear them the same as Carrie wore them. I would add my own twist and sense of style. In writing this blog and going through the many photos of the various fashions from SATC it makes me very excited about fashion and what fashions will we see next when we revisit Carrie Bradshaw in And Just Like That? She will be older (as we all are) so I wonder how age has evolved her sense of style. Or will she still hit us with some unexpected styles that frankly, are sometimes a miss? But even when the style is unexpected, it still remains to be essentially and unequivocally always Carrie.
But, before we end this CB style journey, there are two iconic dresses from two of the most memorable scenes from Sex and the City that need analyzing. We will never forget the two most memorable scenes when Carrie breaks up with the two major loves of her life. Mr. Big and Aidan. What never occurred to me until reviewing photos of the different fashions from various episodes is that in two of the major breakups Carrie wears white. And not just white. But dresses that are white and look very similar to wedding dresses. Was this planned? Was this some sort of subliminal message to the audience? If it was a message, what was that message telling us? Once I realized, what can't be a coincidence, I Googled searched for answers. There are many reviews and analyses out there about Carrie, Mr. Big, and all the other characters. But I found nothing about the fact two breakups while wearing what could be white wedding gowns. I have to also add and clarify these were not only breakups. These were second time around breakups that also revealed truths why it would never work. I will explain.
Final Goodbye - White Dress One
(In this scene Carrie and Big say goodbye to each other. It was a final (so we thought) goodbye before Big went off to marry the no so much the love of his life but EASY Natasha. The truth revealed that it didn't work because things between Carrie and Big were "So Hard.")
Final Goodbye - White Dress Two
(In this scene with Carrie and Aidan it's an unexpected breakup. Up until now, we thought, the second time around, Carrie and Aidan would go the distance. But little cracks began to show. Carrie wouldn't wear her ring around her finger which causes Aidan to eventually question her commitment. But then it all becomes clear after having a glamorous evening in this glamorous look. A look by the way to me screamed a nod to Barbara Streisand. Yet again we see Carrie in a white dress which could be a wedding dress while she learns the truth Aidan still doesn't trust her and this ends their relationship.)
The two major loves of Carrie's life. The two breakups reveal the hard truths of why they didn't work. The two white dresses could be worn as wedding dresses. Coincidence? SATC often used fashion to be an integral part of the story. What story were they telling us here? To me, the message is all about Carrie because she's the common denominator. She is the one in white. She is the one learning the truth that to Big she was hard and to Aidan she was untrustworthy. Maybe there is no meaning and it's just me letting my mind get carried away. But I will leave you with a SATC fashion question to ponder over. Carrie wears white during the breakups from the two loves of her life. But her actual wedding dresses (remember there are two) were in ivory.
PS: If you have answers we want to know