Let’s face it, we’ve all come for the clothes. Whatever the ups and downs of characters Carrie Bradshaw, Miranda Hobbs and Charlotte York and their ever-widening circle of friends and acquaintances, it’s the mouth-watering, pulse-quickening, gobsmacking fashion that has been a throughline of the Sex and the City franchise ever since Carrie first popped up in the opening credits in her pink tutu dress.
With the sequel series And Just Like That, which recently premiered on HBO Max, the ladies return to strut their stylish stuff, minus Samantha Jones (off in London in a huff apparently). It’s 20 years or so later and they’re older and, well, not always necessarily wiser. No longer single gals looking for love and sex in New York City (the locale always part of the equation), they’re all married and supposedly settled, as life takes them into not-always-expected directions and they find new relationships along the way.
For costume designers Molly Rogers and Danny Santiago, working on the show meant stepping out and taking the mantle from the legendary Patricia Field who set the trendy template for the original series. But, hey, as “Field’s children,” says Rogers, it’s all in the family.
“I’m the last one standing,” she drawls on the phone Thursday morning after the premiere party. (“Did you have a good time?” this reporter asks; Rogers deadpans, “Well, somebody did. It could have been me.”) Rogers is the abiding OG from the groundbreaking HBO costume team while her partner-in-couture Santiago came aboard with the Sex spinoff movies. So they both relished another spin around the City.
“I was so excited that I was going to do something that wasn’t a cop show,” says Rogers. “When I heard that the baton had been passed and Pat was like, ‘You guys go for it,’ I was so excited for the reunion with the actresses, to see Chris Noth and everyone. It was like a high school reunion I wanted to attend.”
Turning serious for a moment, Rogers adds, “I have to tell you we didn’t feel the pressure of the legacy of the show. We started out being happy to be coming out of the pandemic and we just kept that gratefulness going through every outlet mall and finding everything that we loved to bring back and show the girls.”
Santiago echoes the feeling. “When we had our first Zoom call with MPK [showrunner Michael Patrick King], we just sat there with our eyes and our mouths open when we heard the rundown of the plot and the whole storyline,” he says.
Even though the characters — and the actresses who play them, Sarah Jessica Parker, Cynthia Nixon, Kristin Davis — are women in their 50s, Santiago says, “There was already a lane for each one of these characters and how they dressed. Everyone knew this is a Carrie, this is a Charlotte or this is a Miranda look. They still are the women who they are, it’s time that’s moved on,” Santiago says. “We still have some whimsical moments for Carrie, that’s something that she’s always had in her style and we played with that. We didn’t change that much, we don’t see anything as ‘for a certain age.’ These women express themselves through their fashion and they feel great just who they are.”
So Charlotte remains the “polished romantic” as Rogers puts it, while Miranda embraces her newly silver locks, which opened up a “whole new color palette” she says. “We thought, ‘What a great frame for her.’”
Meanwhile a host of diverse new additions — “folded seamlessly into the cast,” says Rogers — also get the Sex wardrobing treatment. “After all, they’re all New Yorkers,” continues Rogers. “The new characters [played by Karen Pittman, Nicole Ari Parker, Sarita Choudhury and Sara Ramírez] have to be as strong as their counterparts.”
The costume team also offers some poignant callbacks to wardrobe touchstones from the original series and movies (reportedly Parker had preserved every Sex and the City costume in storage), starting in the very first episode with a certain pair of diamanté-buckled silk Manolo pumps in royal blue — worn by Carrie Bradshaw when she weds Mr. Big in Sex and the City: The Movie.
“I’ll tell you something about that wedding shoe,” says Rogers. “One of the first dresses we bought was this really long, floor-scraping Carolina Herrera and we were like ‘Carrie should wear that to the piano recital, and SJ was like, ‘I love it. Let’s do it.’ And we just kept fitting it and trying different belts and this went on for like two weeks.”
And in a turn that would have every costume designer nodding their head in recognition, Rogers continues, “Then Michael Patrick King came into the room and said, “You know what, guys, I’m never going to be able to see her feet when she comes out dressed and I reeeaallly need to see these shoes in the shower.’ So we had devoted all this time and energy to this beautiful Carolina and scrapped it at the last minute and went with something else,” she says. In an all-in-a-day’s-work nod, she adds, “You know, sometimes you’re just like, ‘I love this outfit, let’s use it.‘ And then someone comes along and rains on your parade.”
As the laughter on the phone dies down, Rogers says she doesn’t take any of this lightly. “What I think is really cool and special about the show that makes it a unicorn is that we had an archive of Carrie clothing that we could pull from and reintroduce into her wardrobe. And that is something that I don’t know of with any show,” she says. “For a fan, they’re excited to see them again. And we have to place it somewhere special. You’re not frivolous with these things you pull out of her closet.”
Besides tracing reigning fashionista Carrie’s personal clothing history, the costuming also serves as a memento mori of important designers of the ‘90s and the Aughts. In varied scenes, Carrie might don a classic sheath by the late designer L’Wren Scott or a more recent Norma Kamali jersey slink. One especially notable look from the new series was even found when the designing duo “was doing a little diving,” as Santiago relates, in a warehouse somewhere and came up with a circa-1997 Jean-Paul Gaultier trompe l’oeil jumpsuit resembling a men’s vested suit and shirt and orange tie. “I said, ‘I can’t believe it’s here!’ I fell in love with it, it’s very rare,” he says. And in the end, Parker, apprised of its providence, was game to give it a whirl, paired in oh so-Carrie fashion with a no-name vintage purple blazer.
Often filming on the street in New York, the designers saw much of their work captured on camera phones and relentlessly dissected and debated on social media before the new series even debuted, with Instagram accounts like @andjustlikethatcostumes ferreting out the designer details, a big change from flying under the radar in the past.
“Well, the internet is all about oversharing,” laughs Rogers. “But the flip side of that is it builds a lot of appreciation and excitement. You can’t, you know, slap that horse in the face. You can’t control it, but we would get very, very much excited when we were shooting an interior here at the studio.” Adds Santiago, “We don’t want everything seen as someone’s getting out of their trailer going to set. We still have some stuff that people haven’t seen yet.”