Do The Iconic Fashion Pieces from Sex and the City Still Hold Up?

If you had to describe the HBO series Sex and the City in two words, “love” and “labels” would be a good place to start. For six seasons, viewers tuned into the rom-com drama set in New York to watch Carrie Bradshaw and her friends Miranda Hobbes, Charlotte York, and Samantha Jones navigate the era’s complicated social and sexual politics. But while the melodrama of love triangles and the oh-so-New York social scene were captivating, fans of the show were also there for the clothes. And for good reason. Carrie, after all, was often heard uttering statements like, “I like my money right where I can see it. Hanging in my closet.”

Carrie’s high-yield fashion savings account was replete with a technicolor rainbow of Manolo Blahnik stilettos, a rotation of Fendi baguettes that could make your head spin, and a collection of designer threads to match. These pieces rose to prominence as the It-styles of the early aughts, and while some of the items—or brands rather—remained popular after the show went off the air, others fell off the fashion radar. (Similarly, parts of Carrie’s New York, especially the bars and restaurants, have also faded into the rearview.)

Now, nearly two decades and two spin-off movies later, HBO Max has made a reboot, And Just Like That… , which premiered this week and picks up in present day. The characters navigate new friendship dynamics, new romantic interests, and new outfit choices. But while lots has changed, the past looms large, especially sartorially. In this new go-round most of Carrie’s important relationships have stood the test time. Can the same be said of her fashion choices?

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An image of Carrie Bradshaw in her signature strappy heels from the series finale of SATC.

James DevaneyGetty Images

If you want to talk about the fashion on Sex and the City, you talk to Chelsea Fairless and Lauren Garroni, co-founders of the popular Instagram account @EveryOutfitonSATC. The duo have an encyclopedic knowledge of the clothing worn on the show, which they demonstrate in tongue-in-cheek retrospectives of every episode on their feed (which, by the way, boasts over 720k followers). Such a large following might imply that twenty years and change has not relegated the bright and bubbly aesthetic concocted by legendary stylist Patricia Field into the realm of passé.

The first thing they point out to T&C? The way designers were featured on the show was intentional. “SATC was one of the very first to identify brands and designers explicitly,” says Garroni, adding that perhaps more importantly, the show used those individual names and pieces to flesh out characters as they navigated the cultural zeitgeist. Carrie valued her clothes so much that the fact she wouldn’t clean out her closet became a plot point in her relationship with her boyfriend Aidan Shaw, and her vast collection of Manolo’s (which often cropped up by name in dialogue and in the narration) was partially to blame for her inability to afford a downpayment on an apartment. Carrie even memorably said, “I’m homeless. I’ll be a bag lady. A Fendi bag lady, but a bag lady.” Those status pieces are so integrally tied with the plot of the show, it’s hard to divorce them from the characters we love.

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The women on the show wore pieces that were important to them and those items, in turn, became important to the women who watched. Following the first Sex and the City movie, for example, the Manolo Blahnik blue Hangisi pump became a something-blue-staple for brides. Kayla Keegan, A senior editor at Good Housekeeping wore the exact pair for her nuptials and not just because she found them pretty. “Beyond their obvious beauty is what they represent to me, personally, as a 20-something professional writer working in New York City. Admittedly (and perhaps very naively) part of why I moved from the midwest to NYC when I was 18 was because of Carrie and all the early 2000s rom-com characters I wanted to emulate,” Keegan told T&C. “And so, to be able to have such iconic shoes and reference a character that helped inspire my career (not to mention, all the reruns of that show that got me through some of my toughest, loneliest times in my early 20s) on one of the most important days of my life felt … amazing, to say the very least.”

And then there’s the case of the Fendi’s famous Baguette. “We think of the Baguette alongside Carrie because she collected quite a few of them and repeatedly wore them. It was how she accessorized her messiest moments,” says Fairless. When the show went off the air, many wondered if Carrie’s carry-all would be permanently retired from It-bag status. But in 2020, Fendi announced it was bringing back the style, and just like that…

It’s is the age of the reissue, the @EveryOutFitonSATC girls point out. But proof of the resurgence of the Baguette isn’t only indicated by the brand’s decision to resurrect the piece. Just take a look at the resale markets, especially the change in demand and resale price. Elizabeth Layne, chief marketing officer of Rebag, a popular luxury resale platform with a proprietary software (Clair) that identifies an item and generates its resale value, tells T&C, in 2021 figures indicate that consumers were increasingly looking for both styles that were popular in the early aughts, and their revivals.

“Among the most searched bags on Rebag are two handbags that made frequent appearances on two popular early aughts shows that are having revivals this year: the Lady Dior, which was one of Blair Waldorf’s staples on Gossip Girl, and the Fendi Baguette, which Carrie regularly carried on Sex and the City,” says Layne. According to the Clair report figures, Fendi, and in particular the Baguette started to see a rise in resale value in 2020 when the house revived the style, but in the past year, the specific handbag has risen in resale value and demand. Think: an 80 to 100 percent increase in resale price.

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Other pieces in Sex and the City were notable because they were practically unattainable, for example, the Hermès Birkin (buyers still wait on a years-long list for this bag). “Samantha tries to get herself a red one, but only succeeds when she pretends that she is buying it on behalf of her client Lucy Liu, a scheme that promptly unravels leaving her with one less client and one red Birkin, too.” recalls Fairless. The piece is out of reach to the successful women in the show—”a very relatable minor plot point,” Garroni points out.

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Carrie carrying a Manolo Blahnik shopping bag in the very last scene of the original ’SATC’ series.

James DevaneyGetty Images

And then there’s New York. The City. If the fashion choices the women on Sex and the City made were woven with the decisions that forged their own journeys, then the styles on the show are woven into the fabric of the city in which they lived.

Jill Kargman, author, actress, and T&C contributor, makes clear how the wardrobe of the series is a reflection of the beating heart of New York. “I think the dramatic visual of a ballgown or a flower on a lapel or a stiletto somehow captures the lights and majesty of New York. It’s not that you literally see women wearing the things Carrie wore, but she embodies this city that has fashion and theater and cuisine. It’s hyperbolized to capture the city’s essence, yielding this personification of the New York chutzpah.” We’re nostalgic for the early aught’s style of New York as symbolized by the wardrobe and wares of Carrie, Charlotte, Miranda, and Samantha. In a way their aesthetics are a time capsule, representing another moment of flux for the metropolis, and are therefore an eternally comforting memento. New York thrived, so did our favorite characters, and so can we. And Just Like That…, SATC returns to a new New York, and as for the pieces that we loved from 20 years ago? Well, for many, they are here to stay.

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