Why the fashion of ‘And Just Like That …’ brings Moira Macdonald joy

And just like that, I looked at “That’s right …” (Insert the emoji of the air being pulled out of an eraser, if there is such an emoji. And if it isn’t, why not?) a hat when I looked at it, because I’m not Carrie Bradshaw, despite being her age. Maybe it would have been better if you did.

Because that’s, for me at least, the final message of both “Sex and the City” and its ill-generated sequel: clothing can bring joy. Oh yes, I know it should all be about the power of friendship, but it has always strained the credibility that these four very different women (now reduced to three, Samantha has wisely moved to London) would be friends, for not to mention that they would have time for endless lunches and drinks and walks on the sidewalk in heels. Their friendship was a beautiful fantasy, just like the life that Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) led, the one that the freelance writer lives in a perfect New York brownstone with a huge closet of designer clothes and seems to work around 20 minutes a day. writing the same column over and over? – but my favorite part of the fantasy was what they wore.

So while there was a lot I raised an eyebrow about during the original “Sex and the City”, I looked at everything eagerly, even the two films (the second of which was so bad it felt like a joke). I enjoyed thinking about how many coats Carrie packed for her trip to Paris, and how it was possible to walk the steep steps out of her apartment in stilettos and a fluttering skirt, and what it must have been like to get into that closet every morning and invent a new story to tell with fashion. (A tip from my theoretical hat to costume designer Patricia Field, who created those ensembles. Molly Rogers and Danny Santiago designed the costumes for the new series.)

And I couldn’t help but wonder, to use a Carrie-ism, what could have happened to that fantasy when these characters, returning for “And Just Like That …”, were suddenly in their mid-1950s – one strange time for fashion, when many of us struggle to put together clothes that look neither too young nor too old. (I love clothes, but too much of what’s in stores these days seems to fit my 80-year-old mother or 20-year-old niece.) How would a middle-aged Carrie, or Miranda or Charlotte, dress?

Here’s the answer, after watching six episodes: the same way they always have, just so much more. This is, I learned, also true of life: as we get older, we remain as we are, just so much more. Maybe that’s the point of “And Just Like That …”, but nothing about this show seems so nuanced.

Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) is no longer a corporate attorney, so she ditched her work clothes, but still dresses quite formally for the college student she is now, going to class in flowing, belted dresses and wedge sandals. (Perhaps the most shocking fashion moment in the entire series: Miranda at home, in a simple T-shirt and cargo pants. It’s a blunt reminder of the existence of such garments in this world.) Charlotte (Kristin Davis), a mom from Park Avenue, still wears stately floral prints and traditional day dresses; now her clothes look, with their buttoned bows and tight silhouettes, even more restrictive, as if she were trapped in it. The new cast members have wardrobes that are equally fictional stuff. Seema (Sarita Choudhury), for example, is a real estate agent who shows up to appointments in a pale satin suit, as if she’s never spilled on her in her life.

And Carrie … well, it’s still Carrie. Who else is wearing a suit accessorized not by one but by two small shoulder bags? Or wearing a flying saucer fascinator at the funeral of a loved one? Or does she go to a bodega for coffee in a huge white crinoline skirt that descends to the sidewalk, worn with a large striped sweater? (The crinoline appears to be in conversation with Carrie’s famous tutu: a similar idea, but more.) Or a hospital gown, post-operative but before discharge, with a cardigan and more strings of pearls? Or is she wearing a black woolen hat for women who has lunch for an afternoon digging stuff out of her closet?

All of this is the opposite of clothing for real people, but strangely it is the most believable thing about Carrie. If I had that wardrobe, I can imagine how nice it would be to rummage through it every morning, putting together some pieces that had never been worn before, creating an outfit that reflected the unique feeling of the day. And since this is fantasy, Carrie doesn’t have to worry about laundry, or getting caught in the rain, or whether her shoes are up to the day’s activities, or whether her hat is too much. As someone who, during this work-from-home phase of the pandemic, dressed every single working day in my version of a cute work / office suit (no sweatpants, ever), I can understand why they should: why the clothes make her happy. Because the clothes make her feel normal, during a period that is anything but. Because sometimes you put a skirt and a sweater, a scarf and earrings together and you look in the mirror and damn it if it doesn’t fit. That’s what Carrie does, just more.

And while I’ll happily explain, during Zoom cocktails, all my reasons for rolling my eyes to pretty much everything “That’s right …” except the dresses (for starters: why this show, which supposedly celebrates adults women, that age?), I’ll look to the end, just to see what Carrie is wearing. My favorite fashion moment so far comes in episode 6, when Carrie starts moving on from a terrible loss. Back in his iconic studio apartment, he opens a packing box containing several men’s blazers and takes one out, briefly stroking the dark fabric. Cut to Carrie heading into the sun, in a strapless red dress and puffy tutu skirt; that same tuxedo jacket thrown over her shoulders, like a superhero cloak that gives her strength. It’s ridiculous and it’s gorgeous. It is love, in the language of fashion. Excuse me while I go rummaging in my closet.

Cynthia Nixon, Sarah Jessica Parker and Kristin Davis in “That’s Right …”

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