And just like that, I watched “And Just Like That …” (Insert emoji of air being let out of a tire, if such an emoji exists. And if it doesn’t, why not?) I was not wearing a hat when I watched it, because I am not Carrie Bradshaw, despite being in her age demographic. Maybe it would have been better if I had.
Because that is, at least for me, the ultimate message of both “Sex and the City” and its misbegotten sequel: Clothing can bring joy. Oh yes, I know that it’s supposed to be all about the power of friendship, but it always strained credibility that these four very different women (now down to three, Samantha having wisely decamped to London) would be friends, let alone that they would have time for endless lunches and drinks and sidewalk strolling in heels. Their friendship was a lovely fantasy, just like the life Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) led — what freelance writer lives in a perfect New York brownstone with an enormous closet of designer clothing and seems to work about 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 much at which I raised an eyebrow during the original “Sex and the City,” I avidly watched it all, even the two movies (the second of which was so bad it seemed like a practical joke). I loved thinking about how many coats Carrie packed for her trip to Paris, and how it was possible to navigate the steep steps outside her apartment in stiletto heels and a ball skirt, and what it must have been like to enter that closet every morning and figure out a new story to tell with fashion. (A tip of 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 might happen to that fantasy when these characters, returning for “And Just Like That …,” were suddenly in their mid-50s — a strange time for fashion, when many of us struggle to put together outfits that feel neither too young nor too old. (I love clothes, but too much of what’s in stores these days seems to suit either my 80-something mother or my 20-something niece.) How would a middle-aged Carrie — or Miranda or Charlotte — dress?
Here’s the answer, after viewing six episodes: The same way they always did, just way more so. This is, I have learned, true for life as well: as we grow older, we stay the way we are, just way more so. Perhaps this is the point of “And Just Like That …,” but nothing about this show seems that nuanced.
Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) is no longer a corporate lawyer so has ditched her business suits, but she still dresses quite formally for the college student she now is, going to class in flowy belted dresses and wedge sandals. (Perhaps the most shocking fashion moment of the entire series: Miranda at home, in a plain T-shirt and cargo pants. It’s an abrupt reminder that such garments exist in this world.) Charlotte (Kristin Davis), a Park Avenue mom, still wears ladylike floral prints and conservative day dresses; now her clothes seem, with their high-buttoned bows and tightfitting silhouettes, even more restrictive, like she’s trapped in them. The new cast members have wardrobes that are equally the stuff of fantasy. Seema (Sarita Choudhury), for example, is a real estate agent who turns up for appointments in head-to-toe pale satin, like she’s never spilled anything on herself in her life.
And Carrie … well, she’s still Carrie. Who else wears a jumpsuit accessorized by not one but two small crossbody bags? Or wears a flying-saucer fascinator to a loved one’s funeral? Or goes to the bodega for coffee in an enormous white crinoline skirt that trails on the sidewalk, worn with a baggy striped sweater? (The crinoline seems to be in conversation with Carrie’s famous tutu: a similar idea, but more so.) Or accessorizes a hospital gown, post-surgery but pre-discharge, with a cardigan and multiple strands of pearls? Or wears a ladies-who-lunch black wool hat for an afternoon of digging stuff out of her storage unit?
All of this is the opposite of real-people clothing, but oddly enough it’s the most believable thing about Carrie. If I had that closet, I can imagine what pleasure it would bring to rummage in it every morning, putting together a few pieces that had never been worn together before, making an outfit that reflected the unique feeling of the day. And because 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 the hat is too much. As someone who, throughout this working-from-home phase of the pandemic, has gotten dressed every single workday in my version of a cute work/office outfit (no sweatpants, ever), I can see why she would do this: because the clothes make her happy. Because the clothes make her feel normal, during a time that’s anything but. Because sometimes you put together a skirt and sweater and scarf and earrings and look back at the mirror and damned if it doesn’t all look pretty good. That’s what Carrie does, just more so.
And while I’ll happily spell out, over Zoom cocktails, all my reasons for rolling my eyes at pretty much everything about “And Just Like That …” except the outfits (for starters: why is this show, which supposedly celebrates grown-up women, so ageist?), I’m going to watch to the bitter end, just to see what Carrie has on. My favorite fashion moment so far comes in episode 6, as Carrie begins to move forward from a terrible loss. Back in her iconic studio apartment, she opens a packing box containing several men’s blazers and takes one out, briefly stroking its dark fabric. Cut to Carrie heading out into the sunshine, in a hello-there red strapless dress with poofy tutu skirt; that same tuxedo jacket tossed over her shoulders, like a superhero cape giving her strength. It’s ridiculous, and it’s gorgeous. It’s love, in fashion language. Excuse me while I go rummage in my closet.