The XX Factor

Revisiting the Fashion of Sex and the City Through the Magic of Instagram

Praise Instagram, because even though it didn’t exist many eons ago in 1998 when a little show called Sex and the City started, it is now providing us with a perfect excuse to revisit Carrie, Samantha, Miranda, and Charlotte under the guise of a new account called everyoutfitonsatc. From Carrie’s knee socks to Charlotte’s cowl necks, it’s all there on your phones. The account sprung forth from the minds of friends Lauren Garroni, 28, and Chelsea Fairless, 31, who met in college at Parsons. Garroni is now a writer and director in Los Angeles, and Fairless is designing a line of housewares in New York, but both spent time working in the fashion trenches. They kindly agreed to gab with us about their Instagram coup—after less than a month, they’re up to more than 100,000 followers!

Slate: Tell me about your history with each other and with Sex and the City.

Fairless: I think Lauren and I generally are obsessed with pop culture and we are kind of indiscriminate about it. We’ll watch and make fun of anything basically as we both do have a shared knowledge of television.

Garroni: I like to say that we have a mutual love of camp and all things camp. I don’t know if we had ever talked about Sex and the City together before we started the Instagram account, but as two people who ended up studying fashion and being in the editorial world we obviously watched the show.

Definitely in watching it, as I like to say, with 2016 eyes, there is a sense of camp that I don’t think existed when you watched it in the original run of the show. So I think that kind of set the table for us when we to kind of do this sardonic fashion critique of the looks.

Slate: Did you guys both start watching the show as kids, or when did you really get into it?

Fairless: Yeah, I started watching it as soon as it aired, in 1998, you know, faithfully ever since then. Tragically, I’ve seen both of the movies, I think on opening day.

Garroni: It is sort of a millennial equivalent of Judy Blume books, in the sense that we weren’t supposed to be watching it, but we were all in middle school or high school and we ended up watching it. It all felt very adult.

I had all of the box sets. Which I have taken, I was telling Chelsea, out of my parents’ house. And they are all sort of broken cases, it is very well-worn, but I’ve taken them out of storage for this purpose to start building up our archive of screencaps. There are some well-loved DVDs in my possession.

Slate: How has your view of the show changed over time?

Fairless: At the time, I loved how glamorous it was, and I loved how ambitious all of the characters were and unapologetic about their sexuality, all that stuff was aspirational. And New York is glamourous and fun, and sometimes you do find yourself in a situation that mimics Sex and the City, but for the most part it’s not like Sex and the City. Or it’s like a sadder, like more Girls-oriented version of Sex and the City.

Garroni: I definitely think that when you originally watched Sex and the City, it pushed the dial forward on sexuality and opened the doors for television to go to places it hadn’t previously gone. And, so, in that intervening 10 years of television and movies and discourse that has gone on, it now makes the show seem almost puritanical by comparison.

I think Samantha’s sexuality and her sexual persona would be more in line with what Carrie as a sex columnist should be. There’s an episode where Carrie dates a bisexual and is really freaked out by that. And so I created a hashtag that said #canwetalkaboutcarriesbiphobia. And there is another hashtag called #carriesbasicsexuality because in looking back at the show, her sexuality is so basic for a sex columnist.

Fairless: Her outfits aren’t basic, but her sexuality is so basic. It’s like a strange dichotomy for Carrie.

Garroni: It does make me think that if the show was done now, there would be this huge question of “how does she have this apartment? How does she have these clothes?” And then it would be revealed that she is a sugar baby because that is the only way to explain this.

Slate: How did you get the idea to start the Instagram account?

Fairless: It’s just a visual resource that I always wanted. Especially having working as a photo researcher and always trying to find the images you want in your head, but sometimes Google image search lets you down. And in regards to Sex and the City fashion, it really does let you down because if you Google, like, Sex and the City plus fashion, all you see is the most iconic moments; you don’t see the more obscure offerings that the show has. It just makes sense for Instagram, and we knew that there would be an audience for it on Instagram because it’s a visual platform, and because we knew it would give us an outlet for our snarky observations about everything.

Slate: Are there any accounts that inspired you or that you thoughts of in creating this?

Fairless: My friend Ian started an Instagram account that’s called artofthelword. It just focuses on the plethora of art-world references on The L Word. I thought that was kind of genius—picking something very specific from one source and running with that.

Garroni: Sex and the City works so well for us because it also encapsulates all of this fashion trivia, specifically from the late ’90s to the early 2000s when our love for fashion was really born and then we went to college and got so much more of it. It’s a great place to channel all of that knowledge—trivia that we really have no place for anymore.  

An account we just discovered—Chelsea told me about his account—it’s called therealhelenkeller. It’s from the perspective of Helen Keller, who was of course deaf and blind and mute. The caption is describing what she’s taking a photo of, but it’s Helen Keller, so every single post is just black.

Fairless: But with different filters and borders. And with Pic Stitch stuff. It’s genius.

Slate: Do you remember what you thought of the fashion at the time?

Fairless: Toward the end of the series, the styling became so extreme that it resembled more of a fashion editorial than actual life, although in a way it was kind of a precursor to the street fashion craze, where I feel like normal people at a certain point did start dressing more like fashion editorials. Now it would be more authentic to how women in the fashion industry actually dress. At the time it was more just people wearing black Yohji Yamamoto outfits.

Garroni: You can definitely see a correlation of the rise of street-style photography and then also the rise of fast fashion really starting to mimic runway fashion. One of the things Sex and the City did was to put high fashion into the mainstream. I would’ve loved to have seen Carrie once a season waiting in line for eight hours at a sample sale. That would be the only way she could afford all of that stuff.

Slate: How would you guys describe how you see and think of each of the four main women’s style?

Garroni: I’ll start with Carrie. Patricia Field built these four characters in their looks and definitely created something that I don’t think has existed before. especially for a main female character, which is this mix of high-low fashion that you did see in street style and then became so much a part of the mainstream. The idea that she would wear a Chinatown “Carrie” nameplate but then also have a Dolce & Gabbana corset and jeans. Samantha was always about power and youth and I think her style is very rooted in an ’80s idea of power: the sexy power suits and all that stuff. Charlotte, we like to say, is sort of everlasting—her style is just sort of nonchanging. And then our posts about Miranda do the best and she is a low-key favorite. I’m pretty sure Patricia Field wasn’t sure what to do with Miranda because the character is so incongruous to Patricia Field’s own style sense. By the end, when their ensembles become literal costumes—it’s only then that Miranda looks kind of OK. It’s only when everybody else looks like a caricature that Miranda looks like a very well-dressed person.

Fairless: That said, we love Miranda, we don’t want to diss Miranda. I think dressing like Season 1 Miranda is way more interesting than dressing like Kendall Jenner.

Miranda is such a good subject for us because the fashion commentary around the show always excluded her. So it’s fertile territory. Especially because her looks were kind of all over the place and it didn’t feel as cohesive as Carrie’s style, which was all over the place, too, but she was very much a chameleon. I feel as though if Miranda were a real person, she’d be more of a minimalist, dress more androgynously—she’d wear like Jil Sander pantsuits and Céline bags and Adidas shoes and shit. That’s what I feel her true essence is.

Slate: What other things do you think they would wear if the show were on now?

Fairless: I think Carrie would be really into Vetements—she’d be all over that. She would’ve loved Delpozo. I think she would’ve embraced that sneakers-with-eveningwear trend that’s been happening.

Garroni: Basically, everything that’s featured on Moda Operandi, she’d be wearing.

Fairless: Lauren made a good point that Charlotte would probably be very into Victoria Beckham.

Garroni: I’ve said that she would probably be inspired by her journey from Spice Girl to designer. She would try some body-con dresses. Charlotte would also be into Gwyneth Paltrow and goop and would probably wear a lot of whatever collections that she did.

Fairless: That’s a good point. And I think Samantha would be really into the Hedi Slimane reincarnation of Saint Laurent.

Garroni: Really If you think about Samantha’s story arc and a lot of the stories that are attributed to her, whether it’s thinking she’s gone into menopause early or growing her bush out and finding a gray hair, she’s really obsessed with youth—we haven’t even gone into the movies yet, but the whole thing in Sex and the City 2 where she’s done all of these hormone creams so she won’t go into menopause. And that’s why I say that maybe she would pretend to be like some sort of millennial grunge hipster and try to wear Alexander Wang.

Slate: So are the movies going to be featured in the account?

Fairless: We intend to explore the fashion from the films as well, because they’re so over the top. I’m really excited to delve into some of the stuff they were in the second film even though it’s—I think that movie was problematic in a lot of ways.

Garroni: You think?

Fairless: That’s an understatement, yeah. I think the “Lawrence of my labia” pun was just, I mean, there’s so much going on there. We have so much material. That movie almost should have been from the ’90s because it’s so politically incorrect, but it actually came out not that long ago.

Garroni: Maybe we’ll do a special week of just the movies. I think the costumes in the movies are a reflection of where costumes and fashion were moving—whether you look at Gossip Girl or Devil Wears Prada, they were definitely inspired to push the aspirational fashions because of what Sex and the City did. And that’s why in the movies the costumes are taken to the nth degree.

Slate: How do you guys planned out what to post?

Garroni: There’s not too much of a plan. A lot of it is thinking back and remembering what outfits come to us in fever dreams of “Oh yeah, I think Miranda wore this” and then trying to go back and find what episode it might’ve been in. I know a lot of people who follow the account are trying to request things, the very popular outfits. Which we will get to. We’ll get to the Oscar de la Renta pink dress that Petrovsky bought Carrie and then she promptly fainted and they went to a McDonald’s—

Fairless: Oh right, she was very close personal friends with Oscar de la Renta, remember?

Garroni: Yesterday I did a post about Carrie hiding her engagement ring and I just had the hashtag #fuckingcarrie and that seems to have carried over—ugh, pun not intended—into the comment section because, again, in watching the show again, her behavior—you wouldn’t want to be friends with that person. She bullied Petrovsky into getting her that dress. Because he writes her a poem and she’s like, “I don’t understand that, that’s stupid romance, look at this pretty dress, that’s romance to me.” I think for us it’s kind of the lesser-known outfits that stick in our mind more and are definitely more fun to critique, fashion-wise. 

Fairless: We’re trying to strike that balance between Cathy Horyn and Dlisted, basically.

Slate: Who was the best boyfriend, in terms of both fashion and being a boyfriend?

Garroni: Controversially, I’m going to say Carrie never had a good boyfriend.

Fairless: I hated all of them, yeah.

Garroni: Out of the majors, I’m going to say Berger was probably the worst. There is that whole episode where they start fighting about everything because he writes a book and she reads it and she loves it but she’s like “no New Yorker wears a scrunchie” and then they go out and find a woman with a scrunchie. And then there’s a whole episode where she buys him a Prada shirt. So it’s weird—I think Berger is the worst boyfriend, but there’s a lot to dig into fashion-wise with him. I don’t like Big, and I don’t know how were going to address his fashion because he basically wears the same thing, like a nice, crisp Armani suit.

Fairless: Even though I think Big might be a low-key sociopath, he’s still my favorite boyfriend of Carrie’s when it comes down to it. I hate all of the guys on that show, they’re all awful. It’s like, no wonder they have problems dating.

Garroni: I was going to say the best boyfriend is probably Harry, Charlotte’s husband, who she didn’t even want to be with.

Fairless: Oh, a thousand percent. Yeah, we should get into his back hair and his look from that Hamptons episode.

Slate: Are there any shows on now that you watch for the fashion?

Garroni: A show that’s sort of on our level in the things that we find funny is a Broad City.

Fairless: Yeah, the clothes are on point. Very realistic depiction of Beacon’s Closet.

Garroni: Ilana and Abbi are the same age as us, and I’m pretty sure they watched Sex and the City. But maybe I’m putting too much of my personality on them.

Fairless: I don’t think I watch any show where I feel like fashion is a significant component of the show, or at least, not to the degree that Sex and the City was. But maybe that because I only watch Law and Order SVU reruns.

Garroni: I think another reason that people hold onto Sex and the City is there hasn’t been a show that’s filled that place.

Fairless: Gossip Girl kind of did.

Garroni: But Gossip Girl is a reaction to Sex and the City. Gossip Girl’s a straight-up soap opera. Say what you want about Sex and the City, but Sex and the City was a comedy that was about four successful women who knew who they were and their style and their sense of fashion and the possession of it was an outward reflection of their success.

Fairless: Empire, though, is kind of that show. It hasn’t gotten to that whole Sex and the City level, but I feel like it’s getting there maybe.

Garroni: Maybe Jessica Lange in American Horror Story?

Fairless: Oh yes, that’s who we forgot about. I take back everything I said. American Horror Story Coven. That show had great looks, especially Frances Conroy’s character, which was sort of a hybrid of Grace Coddington—

Garroni: Frances Conroy screams “Balenciaga!” while she’s being burned at the stake. That is the most Sex and the City thing. Like the idea that Samantha who is a very powerful PR person–

Fairless: —allegedly—

Garroni: —is a very prominent PR person, doesn’t even like a Birkin bag, but she likes what a Birkin bag represents, who would ostensibly almost screw over a new client, Lucy Liu, to get a Birkin bag. Like there hasn’t been a show that has done that, and I long for a show like that.

Slate: Oh wait, what about The Carrie Diaries?

Garroni: Ugh. The movies, we will accept, exist in the Sex and the City shared universe. The Carrie Diaries we will not accept in the Sex and the City universe.

Fairless: I reject it entirely. I will pretend that it never happened.

Slate: I think that’s your right, but I have to admit, I thought that show was very cute. Anything else?

Garroni: We just hope we get to guest-edit the “Fashion Police” section of Us Weekly.

Fairless: We are available for snarky fashion commentary at awards shows, for the fashion shows, for kid parties—we’re available.