Is Personal Style Thoughtful Anymore?

Let’s consider what Sex and the City taught us about it

05.24.16

The basis on which I have developed, like, 60% of my theses this month is a result of re-watching multiple seasons of Sex and the City. Sometimes I sit through the episodes and roll my eyes at the stereotypes that the leading women — our sexually liberated feminists of the early aughts — helped perpetuate. Look no further than the first three qualifiers Carrie offers when describing a suitor: neighborhood of residence, profession, wealth bracket.

Other times, I perk up, impressed by their fearlessness to broach cultural issues that we’re still navigating (see: Samantha forcing a partner to taste his own semen, Miranda’s status as a single mother with a fulltime job, Carrie’s tango with a bi-sexual fling). They get at a lot of important stuff, which I speculate wasn’t largely discussed at their time of airing, but might appear surface among the clouds of those whimsical, escapist outfits — which, by the way, is totally the other thing.

Most recently, I’ve done a deep dive into seasons 2, 3 and 4, which are hands down the most impressive from a style perspective. One might credit the success of the nuances that defined these seasons to Patricia Field, but without Sarah Jessica Parker really getting into character — I mean living and dying by the clothes — they’d never work the way they did. The word that keeps coming up for me is “thoughtful.” Her style, so mangled and fascinating and thrilling to look at and yet simultaneously so alienating (it would never work the same way on you or me), wasn’t just style. It was thoughtful. And I wonder — is this the defining adjective that truly informs personal style?

Think about it for a second. Who are some of your style icons? For me, Chloë Sevigny comes up. Solange Knowles comes up. Various anonymous friends from my own life creep in. So do Katharine Hepburn and Rita Hayworth and certainly Carrie Bradshaw but I don’t admire these women because I want to dress like them, I admire them because they own their style. None are just the sum of their clothes, but it’s a big piece of how they present themselves to the world, and they honor that. For me to emulate the colorful silk scarf tied around the blonde curly locks atop Bradshaw’s head, and then to compliment that scarf with an assemblage of layered gold necklaces — none of which feel like they’re there by accident — is to miss the point.

Here I spend words upon pages trying to break down what the fashion cues of our time say about us. Are we still trend-driven? Does minimalism mean we’ve reached the era of post-style? Does anyone actually have style anymore? Wait! Here’s maximalism! Is that a beacon of hope to answer the former question?

But the thing is, style does not concern itself with a specific moment in time. I think I forgot that for a minute. Sure, it’s informed by subtleties that lean into the zeitgeist, but when Carrie Bradshaw shows up at a janky wedding dress shop in a button down shirt tied into a crop top with a gingham skirt and a matching belt fastened around her bare waist, no one knows if that outfit was determined in 1999 or 2016. And that’s because she lives the look. Like a carefully constructed room inside a beautiful home where everything seems as though it is there with purpose, nothing is superfluous. There’s no room for choice, or an excessive display of options. It just is — you take it if you like it and leave it if you don’t.

That’s style.

pesronal-style-leandra

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  • theclosetopener

    A really interesting read!

    http://www.theclosetopener.blogspot.com

  • Lillian

    “no one knows if that outfit was determined in 1999 or 2016” YES. But tbh you are a modern Carrie Bradshaw with super thoughtful style that I could or would not pull off so I catalog them in a pin board titled SLAY, LEANDRA

  • I like the idea of “living the look.” What a real perspective on personal style, it is so true! That IS Carrie Bradshaw, each outfit is so her. I was looking at Linda Rodin’s instagram the other day and I thought, “damn, I wish I had a uniform like that.” But then I thought again about my own wardrobe. I have a lot of things that I love to death that never get worn because they’re too “out there” and I don’t want to look crazy, but aren’t I then withholding an important part of my own personality by not living in what I love? It’s the way I wear it that will make me NOT look crazy and just look like myself anyways, right?

    • Ellie

      http://www.manrepeller.com/2016/04/styling-tips-hard-to-wear-clothes.html
      You need this article! Replace one with many and get wearing (and maybe post a pic of your fave outfit so we can all see you killing it!?)

      • I know! I loved that article. I have been applying it more often. I actually did wear one of my never worn dresses recently and felt really good about it. Next time I do it I’ll definitely upload a pic!!

        • Ellie

          Yess please do! I have a pair of never worn trousers that Im bringing out this summer! (When the sun eventually comes out in London..)

  • Emma

    I find it interesting that men are also repulsed by SJP, or is it Carrie Bradshaw? Personally I think SJP is stunning (her legs in a pair of Jimmy Choos are everything!). But men commonly seem to be ‘repelled’ by her. I can’t help but wonder if it’s not her face, but rather her amazing sense of personal style that puts them off…

    • Lillian

      What a heinous poll!! And I wish I could do anything as well as SJP wears a heel.

    • Mary

      She embodies the Man Repeller ethos!

    • Olivia AP

      YES. Just read this a few days ago
      http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/men-are-sabotaging-the-online-reviews-of-tv-shows-aimed-at-women/

      I don’t know… sometimes I feel that men are repelled to what we find most empowering, they just feel ignored or something. Also SJP is not you typical beauty and men want that in TV shows…

    • I think some guys are ‘afraid’ of women with a strong style/personality. Maybe that’s why they’re “repelled”… We don’t need men like that ?

  • meggiesullivan

    I love the question posed here. I recently did the same with Sex and the City, yet more so the beginning and end episodes after I had seen enough re-runs on E! (or wherever) of what’s in between to piece it all together. It was sad to watch when she arrives in Paris to follow Petrovsky, as her style wishes to almost please and fit in with her backdrop, yet inside, she’s feeling so out of place. She shows up to her Parisian hotel (the Plaza Athenee) in a french beret, a black and white striped boatneck top, full of hope and typical Carrie enthusiasm, only to be let down when she finds she’s a true New Yorker (yes!).
    Yet no matter, what the circumstance or change, Carrie always wears her confidence for all to see, for herself to see. It’s her armor.

    I believe personal style really is a mirror of what’s going on within. We can put energy, thought, and playfulness into it, or we can be minimalist (that’s fine too). It’s all about how we invest our feelings and choose our outlets. I like to think of it as another way to tell where I’ve been or what’s going on, and sometimes inspire the person in the mirror.

    • Absolutely agree! Wherever you are, you bring you and all those years you have lived in between, with poise and nonchalance. When you try hard, it’s like a cocoon wanting to be a butterfly. And of those you see many.

  • Marie Johnson Lewin

    The bit at the end about Carrie’s personal style having a timelessness effect particularly resonated with me. Its a great point to make about personal style being more about you and less about what’s trendy – you can incorporate the trends but you aren’t living and dying by them, therefore allowing your style to flux and represent yourself rather than the year they happen to occur in. There’s a freedom in that that we should all appreciate and embrace.

    Also, way to breathe some fresh air into a piece about Sex and the City style! No small feat

  • Louise

    Part of SJP’s skill as an actress is her ability to be so at ease in her body, so connected to who she is, that whatever she is wearing become a part of the essence of her character Carrie. There’s really no one who embodies the joy, fun, and, yes, thoughtfulness of a Carrie Bradshaw on TV anymore. We need it! We have SO much good TV now, but this element of substantive style is completely missing.

  • I gobbled up this wonderful post faster than you can say Manolo Blahnik. Style icons? Edith Beale. But God knows I don’t want to dress like her. (Or dine or live like her.) Yet I cannot deny the power of her point of view.

  • Lisa

    I’ve rewatched this series about a billion times, and I’m always so amazed at how Carrie’s style doesn’t show its age. “No one knows if that outfit was determined in 1999 or 2016”-perfection!

  • Jenna

    The 4th season was my favorite, style-wise. Before, during, and after Aidan. Her outfits were put together in such a clever way. Patricia Fields is an absolute genius. This woman needs a street named after her, or something. And, I really do think SJP had a lot of input in the pieces she wore. I just love SJP. She comes across as a very genuine person. With a whole bunch-a style! And very pretty too. The two together – combustible energy! Fantastic article. Thank you!

  • chouette

    I think we’re seeing ‘big-F’ Fashion returning to personal style after street photography took ‘personality’ to the peacocky extreme. People pushed it so far that they rebelled and turned normcore, got bored, and now we’re all nicely settling back into our real wardrobes which likely run the gamut. ‘Little-f’ fashion seems to be catching up slowly – the mass market is still churning out the key items so that you can capture Gigi/Kendall/whoever’s ‘lewk’ in it’s entirety. It all stems from knowing yourself – do you have a thoughtful style and know there are pieces you’ll love for eternity, or are you a reactionary magpie? Are you Prada, or Miu Miu? http://www.businessoffashion.com/articles/intelligence/miuccia-prada-unravels-difference-prada-miu-miu

  • Jolie

    I was kinda late to the SaTC thing — I watched the entire series like 5 years ago — but watching it after I’d already developed that sense of LIVING my style and dressing elaborately for myself was so interesting. I would never wear 90% of Carrie’s outfits, but they look so iconic and amazing on her; it really made me think that there were other people out there who shared my thoughts on style, which I now know is true of a lot of people.

    Like you, Leandra! Something I’ve always loved about your style is that we have completely different tastes and body types and I probably wouldn’t wear most of your outfits because of those factors (they look gorgeous on you, but I’d look totally different). Yet…I still absolutely love your style. It works for you, it IS you, and you own it.

  • Ellie

    Yesssss just yessssss.
    I recently watched the entirety of SATC in 2 weeks because of you, so.. THANK YOU.

  • thebalancingunicorn

    I am living for this article

  • Hi Leandra! I’ve never actually watched an episode of ‘Sex and the City,’ but no matter: I really, really loved this article. Thanks!

  • Victoria

    The article is great !
    And I love Sex and the city!
    In my point of view style and fashion should represent your personality.
    Carrie is a style iccon because she always sticks on her principles of her own style !!

    http://www.victoriazfff.blogspot.com

  • Sacha D

    Great read. I like the part where you say that these women are your style rolemodels yet you wouldn’t dress like them. This is how I feel about you, Leandra. When someone asks who do you look up to stylewise, ofcourse my mom is one of them but you as well.. Yet I would never dress like you, because well, it’s not my style. But everything you wear, you wear so effortlessly (or you make it look effortlessly) and that is what I love about you and your clothing choices.

  • Oddly enough I have also been rewatching SATC lately. I happen to agree with your point of view very very much but at the same time I always feel that her outfits look more like an effortless extension of the character. Hmm…

  • Catherine

    SJP is cute and highly intelligent – sure those attributes are a requirement of style … but, wasn’t Carrie’s style more about Patricia Field who styled the series as it seems a bit different to what SJP wears in real life.

  • Jo

    Yes! Love this. Her outfits are so creative. Please can you share the provenance of the dress & shirt you are wearing in your hilarious Instagram sip video? They are awesome!

  • Fashionably Sparkly

    I loved the essay!! I think the same. I feel like we are not so trend-driven (although trends will continue existing) as before. Everyone wants to own unique pieces and have a personal style. But not everyone achieves this because at the end of the day, style is connected with personality and they should send a message of who they are, otherwise they would be someone else recreating a certain style.

    Fashionably Sparkly

  • Charity Nfon

    In my opinion, only a certain number of people in the world actually possess a personal style, the rest wear as they are told. Some are naturally born with it and with some it takes time to develop. People are way too influenced by popular culture and staying on trend and that can hinder them in developing their style . Many try to look like their favourite celebrity and by doing that, many of them look the same. I can’t count the number of Drake clones and Kylie Jenner enthusiasts i have seen in Toronto.
    check out my post for breakthrough fashion blogger of the year : https://towherewithwhat.wordpress.com/2016/05/29/crazysexycool/

  • TiffanyWang

    Hmm… but with the dearth of style options today (many of which converge into something I’d say as “dead” and too commercial), I sometimes feel as if there’s no more room for evolution – wherein I don’t like anything on the racks anymore. No more room for getting excited about the future. Something which, in my opinion at least, feeds my life.

  • Helen

    Recently I’ve been fangirling harder than a non porous rock over Harling’s style. Sorry not sorry for Internet creeping x