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What did we wear before Sex and the City?

Ahlya Fateh

Published: Updated:

It is 15 years since Sex and the City graced our screens and taught us that a Cosmopolitan was something you ordered in a bar and that Manolo Blahnik was not a seaside town in Eastern Europe. Suddenly we all needed to identify with at least one of the lead characters all leading an impossibly glamorous life in Manhattan – were you a Samantha, a Charlotte, a Miranda or a Carrie and were you ever going to find your Mr. Big? This was more than a tv programme it became the zeitgeist for an entire generation of young women, myself included. If the sitcom friends defined my twenties, then SATC and the myriad of issues it tackled became the touchstone of my thirties. Or rather the wardrobe of my 30-year-old self!

We all know that SATC was about sex, but to me it was really about fashion and the genius of Patricia Field, the costume director on the show, and how she managed to express each characters’ personality and mood just by how they were dressed. Carrie embodied the girl who mixed a flea market vintage dress with $500 shoes and a Chanel bag; Miranda’s rise up the legal corporate ladder was illustrated with her tailored suits and power shoulders; Charlotte morphed from an art maven in monochrome Prada into a Park Avenue housewife trailing Oscar de la Renta through her elegant white apartment; which brings us to Samantha, the seductress working her magic in form fitting Herve Leger. And so we all followed, every outfit I bought had to have a back story to it to match; “it’s very sunset in St. Barts, don’t you think?”. Interestingly moving forward to the films, the second of which was set in Abu Dhabi, one would have hoped to see a plethora of Middle Eastern designers being featured but the very Arab looking outfits were supplied by the likes of Chanel, Dolce and Gabbanna and Halston. Perhaps showing us that cross pollination of ideas and culture across the fashion landscape is well and truly ingrained in designers’ minds as they aim to sell one collection across many lands and peoples.

SATC, a fashion eye-opener

One online publication asked its readers to vote for their favourite episode – there were many fine options but my favourites were not included to my dismay. To be honest I couldn’t remember most of the men that had sailed through these four protagonists lives but I can recall each and every outfit worn by Carrie and her chums, especially the shoes! My favourite episodes all have shoes in common. Who can forget the immortal line uttered by our heroine, while rushing to catch the Staten Island Ferry, “Oh no I lost my Choo!” and my favourite episode by far, A Woman’s right to Shoes. Forced to remove her silver Manolo Blahnik D’Orsay heels at a party, Carrie returns to find that someone (“Size 6 with impeccable taste”) has made off with her pumps. In another chapter her boyfriend’s dog chews up a vintage, limited edition Manolo, a crime so unspeakable that I have to lie down in a darkened room just thinking about it!

SATC made it acceptable for women to think about themselves and their appearances – for us Eastern women this wasn’t so revolutionary but in the West and especially in the UK it was an eye opener. The level of grooming enjoyed by New Yorkers migrated quickly around the world with Bliss Spa and other outposts of slick, shiny beauty opening at an alarming rate. Blow dry bars, nail salons, eyebrow shaping parlours all soon commanded significant square footage in department stores and more tellingly, in high streets throughout the UK and Europe. Now we can’t imagine life without them!

So fifteen years on and SATC is still working it on cable channels across the world; the franchise now includes two films which explore what happens after you get your Happy Ever After with the same bittersweet accuracy that imbued the earlier series. The first time I watched the pilot episode, egged on by my cousin who was an immediate convert, I was horrified by these outspoken, ambitious, funny and vulgar women and yet... Fast forward a year, having met and fallen for my own Mr Big, my friends were throwing me a SATC themed Hen Party and I was chasing down the perfect pair of strappy, gold Manolo Blahnik strappy sandals to wear for my wedding day, while co-ordinating mani-pedi appointments at Bliss Spa. But even now, a decade of matrimony, babies and climbing the career ladder later, Carrie’s words of wisdom still ring true for me "The most exciting, challenging and significant relationship of all is the one you have with yourself. And if you find someone to love the you that you love, well, that's just fabulous."

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With extensive publishing experience and significant knowledge of the fashion, retail and luxury industries, Ahlya Fateh is currently a highly regarded senior executive who combines a strong creative vision with an astute strategic understanding and exceptional management skills. In 2010 Ahlya was brought in by Tata Naka as Managing Director to re-launch the fashion brand at London Fashion Week. Previously Ahlya was Managing Editor of Tatler magazine from 2001 to 2010.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.