In popular television, the people who work the hardest often take a backseat to the stars.
One of these people, known for her work off-set, has just emerged once again with the revival of a cult classic.
Patricia Field, 79, has received widespread critical praise for her pioneering vision of what constitutes style, a fashion philosophy that values eclecticism, creative expression and what she calls “an understanding of oneself over the chasing of trends.”
Credited by many as a pillar of women’s fashion, she acted as the costume designer for the first Sex and the City and, more recently, for the Netflix hit Emily in Paris.
For her work on the former show, Field won an Emmy Award and received five nominations for Best Costume Design.
She also received an Academy Award nomination for The Devil Wears Prada, as well as continued recognition for her work on television series such as Ugly Betty, Hope & Faith and most recently for Darren Star’s hit TV Land series Younger, starring Sutton Foster and Debi Mazar.
She did not work on the popular revival of Sex and the City, as she was too busy with Emily in Paris, working at her New York gallery ArtFashion, and on select consulting projects.
Field’s unique fashion was already popular in New York—she opened her first downtown store, Pants Pub, in 1966, which then transformed into a boutique on 8th Street.
She shuttered her shop in 2015 to work on ArtFashion.
The costumes on her breakthrough Sex and the City are widely considered as game-changing for how women dress today.
They were crucial in the comeback of vintage clothing, as shown on protagonist Carrie Bradshaw in nearly every episode.
Sarah Jessica Parker, who plays Bradshaw, was “critical” to the costume development, according to Field.
“She was very participatory,” Field said. “Of course, I came in with the idea of the ‘Carrie’ necklace. It was give-and-take and it worked out very well.”
Assistant designer Eric Daman calls Bradshaw’s clothing an “iconic moment in vintage fashion.”
“It was an ‘ah-ha!’ moment for myself and the world: You can just be whomever you want to be and it doesn’t always have to be a Lacroix dress,” Daman said.
Field’s effortless and inventive styling, showcased in Sex and the City, made a comeback in both the sequel and the movie.
Having established herself as a fashion and styling icon, her designing for Star’s Emily in Paris met every high expectation.
Star Lily Collins entered every episode with eclectic colors, stylish (though impractical) shoes, and at least one of Field’s signature vintage pieces.
The show is packed with the maximalist, candy-colored fashions fans adore.
“She wants to impress,” Field said of protagonist Emily Cooper, calling Emily’s trendy, vintage, expensive, and a little ridiculous wardrobe a “nod to her excitement at being there—it was intentionally cliche.”
For a Parisian touch, Field took pieces from the vintage store Les Merveilles de Babellou in Paris’ Clignancourt neighborhood.
Items from designers including Stephane Rolland and Alexandre Vauthier, whose strapless black top she paired with a tulle skirt by New Yorker David Dalrymple, were paired with trendier pieces from American designers.
It’s obvious that Emily’s clothing and accessory choices, including a $4,000 vintage Hermes bag, aren’t typical of those a junior marketing executive would wear.
But Field and collaborative stylist Marilyn Fitoussi maintain that her style is important to her character.
Fitoussi originally styled Emily and other characters in flannels and Keds, but, after receiving looks from Star and Field, changed her style.
“They said, ‘No, no, no, we’re doing a romantic comedy. So we don’t care about reality.’ And that [became] rule number one,” Fitoussi said.
Emily in Paris received severe backlash from real-life Parisians on Field’s clothing choices.
But Field says that doesn’t deter her.
“I think the depression is driving fashion right now, sneakers, sweatshirts, hoodies. I hate to say it because everybody’s wearing it. But I have a very hard time with it. I don’t like one look that everybody wears. It just becomes a trend. We know it and we get sick of it. We’ll get sick of that.”
She added, “All I’m trying to say is that fashion reflects the zeitgeist and right now it’s sweatshirts and sneakers. I’m not a fan. I have said it before. I have sweatpants. I wear them at home. I don’t go to work in them. I like fashion to be expressive and an opportunity for people to be creative with themselves and enjoy.”
Despite the negative feedback, searches for clothing worn in the show skyrocketed following the releases of both seasons.
Field, already established as an icon, maintains the importance of wearing what you truly love instead of following the trends.
“Look in your closet and pull out different pieces, and wear them in a way you’ve never worn them before,” she said, adding that she’ll keep things oversized or look for items that don’t necessarily ‘go’ together.
“You’d be surprised. It’s just about opening up your mind to new things and closing your mind off to old habits, particularly what’s trendy. The point is to look uniquely yourself. But, you must know who you are. You have to have the confidence in your taste and how you feel. Otherwise, go to a chain store.”