Not only is stylist Patricia Field a fashion icon in her own right, she’s responsible for the wardrobes of some of our most iconic screen characters, from Sex and the City’s fashionable foursome to the stars of Netflix’s Emily in Paris.
Sex and the City made a huge impact on the way women of the ’90s and early ’00s dressed. Why do you think that was?
When I started with Sex and the City, of course I never had any idea it was going to be some kind of landmark fashion TV show, but as it turned out, people liked it and I was happy that they did – and still do. It was a lifetime success story for me, that I now have the pleasure of looking back on. I never really took it in when it was happening, I have to say.
Could Emily play a similar role in shaping the fashion of the 2020s?
The answer is yes, because Lily Collins is a wonderful actress, hardworking, optimistic, savvy, and the story sort of skims the fashion development of this young girl in Paris, picking up on the Parisian cues.
How has the city of Paris influenced the wardrobe in the show? And also, how would you describe Emily’s signature style?
As far as the influence of Paris on the show and of course its wardrobe, for me, it comes down to Paris’ mythological standing in the fashion world. Whenever I had a chance to deal with Paris or show Paris in any way, I was happy. We did an episode in Paris in Sex and the City, as well as scenes in the film The Devil Wears Prada, and now here we are – Emily in Paris. I was delighted to go back there and combine my kind of flavour with Parisian fashion. When she starts out, Emily’s a gal from Chicago, young and smart but not chic, so to speak. And she gets that the Parisians in the office are thumbing their nose at her because to them she looks ‘ringarde’ or ‘basic’, plus, she doesn’t really speak any French. So as the episodes develop, she definitely picks up some hints and suggestions and visuals, which I had so much fun working with.
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When you look back over your career at all the things you’ve achieved, who or what was your biggest challenge?
Working with actors, I feel that you have to build up a relationship with them so that they feel comfortable, and that they trust you and respect you. Most of my experiences can be described that way. I have had a few rough gos. Somebody like Alec Baldwin never got me at all and wasn’t very nice to me, but that’s really the only one. Other than that, I think it’s been great. I’ve worked with so many wonderful actresses and actors through the years. It’s a gift to me, to be left with the memories of all of these incredible experiences.
This year, on the red carpet in Venice, Cate Blanchett famously wore a dress she’d worn before. Jane Fonda wore a dress at the Oscars she’d also worn before. What are your thoughts on recycled clothes, given the increasing public appetite for sustainable clothing and conscious consumerism?
I am a huge fan of recycled clothes. When I speak to my fans or whoever asks me for my fashion suggestions, my main thing is to say, ‘Select clothing that’s classical, not trendy. It will always find a place in your wardrobe’. And I suggest to them that they go into their closets and take out some of the contents and rearrange them in ways that they never really thought possible. Lay everything out on the floor, lay it out on the bed. Mix and match together. You’ll make all new outfits, as long as they’re not dated. Trendy dies early and goes in the garbage. You won’t want to wear it. You go, ‘Oh, that was 19-whatever, or 2015’. You don’t want that in your wardrobe. You want to have things that you can always wear and combine in different ways that make you look good. That’s recycling for me.
Borrowing a little French, is there really such a thing as a fashion faux-pas?
Yes, there is. A fashion faux-pas to me is wearing the wrong thing together, looking too trendy, or like your clothes are wearing you. Clothes have to complement you and say something about you. So if you’re not attached to what you’re wearing, if it’s not an act of self- expression, you shouldn’t wear it. To do so, in my mind, would be a fashion faux-pas.
Who are your style influences?
I’ve always loved Old Hollywood. The clothes were so beautiful and well-made, with bias and draping and the detail was fantastic. I also greatly admired Audrey Hepburn. As a matter of fact, in Emily in Paris, there’s a scene where she goes to the opera and I asked [creator of the show] Darren Star, “Would you mind if I did an homage to Audrey Hepburn for this moment?” Because when you look at Lily, I mean honestly, she looks like Audrey. They’re like doppelgangers. They’re very similar. So I did that homage. But as a child, my mum used to take me to the movies and I had all these Old Hollywood magazines with all the Hollywood stars. I had an early Hollywood education.
You’ve helped a lot of actors and actresses in Hollywood with their style. Who has the best fashion sense of all of them? Who doesn’t need any help?
Well, we all need help at one time or another. We can always use a little help. But if I have to throw a bouquet at a fashionista in the film world, it’s definitely Sarah Jessica Parker. She lives for fashion. She’s in beautiful shape and she knows it. She’s educated in fashion. And when we would have fittings, she would come in with her ideas, but her ideas were good. Like the idea of the corsage. We need an accessory, what could it be? She’d say, ‘How about a flower?’ I said, ‘Brilliant!’ I always compare it to playing a tennis match. You’re either having a match with somebody excellent or somebody that you could beat easily, which is a bore. And I have to give Sarah Jessica Parker that credit, she knows her stuff.