Carrie Bradshaw has been New York’s on screen It girl for a quarter century now. Ever since HBO’s Sex and the City debuted back in 1998, the fictional character — initially based on Candace Bushnell, writer of the Sex and the City book and columns — has skipped around town in her Manolo Blahnik shoes, inspiring thousands to move to New York City to do the same. Throughout those 25 years, fans have witnessed how Bradshaw’s polarizing style has taken over the cultural zeitgeist. So much so that she's the blueprint for the modern It girl — really.
“Just like lots of women I know in the city, she goes and explores and tries different things and loves to play in a closet,” says costume designer Molly Rogers, who’s worked in Sex and the City and its recent reboot And Just Like That... “I think that's reflected in her [fashion] choices, her whimsy.”
Bradshaw’s outfits are not exactly timeless or classic, but it is the kind of personal style that transcends its time. And that’s because it’s always been ahead of the curve, creating unorthodox outfits through effortless styling that makes her look unpolished and refined at the same time. My favorite Carrie Bradshaw outfits always make me wonder why I hadn’t thought of it before, followed by the sensation that the outfit would be easy to put together. But once I find myself in my closet, I realize there’s much more to it than I originally thought.
Today’s It girls take a lot of inspiration from Bradshaw, whether consciously or not.Their style seems equal parts approachable and aspirational and always just a tad out of whack. Take, for example, Bella Hadid — named the most influential dresser of 2022 by global fashion platform Lyst — whose knack for putting together polarizing outfits has inspired a generation to do the same. It’s in the way she pairs gym pants with a white button-down shirt, or Ugg booties and white boxer briefs with a motorcycle jacket. There’s also the 2010s quintessential It girl Jenna Lyons — now back on the spotlight for the new season of The Real Housewives of New York — whose personal brand was built on juxtaposing the fancy with the casual in brilliant outfits I still cite on a daily basis. Who can forget when she attended Solange Knowles’ wedding in a white t-shirt and long feather skirt in 2014? Or that time she walked the Met Gala red carpet in a bright pink pencil skirt and a denim jacket? And, of course, Chloë Sevigny, whose style’s gravitational pull is so strong people lined up for blocks recently to score pieces, including multiple items she had worn in paparazzi images, from her closet sale in May 2023.
Those outfit formulas are all straight out of Carrie Bradshaw’s closet. And as New York-based It girls, just like Bradshaw, people like Hadid and Lyons are also a product of their city, according to costume designer Danny Santiago. “I think for the women in New York there's so many possibilities to fashion and it's all at your fingertips in New York City,” he says. “You walk down a street and there'll be something new that you never knew about.” Even 25 years after Sex and the City, as the city continues to evolve, it still breeds a kind of cool girl fashion DNA, thanks to its boutiques, thrift shops, and even street vendors. It all makes me think of Emma Rodelius, the founder of New York’s It downtown store Rogue, whose community-based approach to fashion and retail, partnering with little-known designers in the city and creative themed sale events, has made her an It girl in her own right. Her style — a mix of vintage Fendi Baguette bags and worn out jeans — reflects the city’s gritty and vibrant energy.
Yet, the thing about It girl-ism is that it’s often relegated to younger women. Hadid, for example, is still in her 20s, while Lyons’ It girl rise happened when the designer and entrepreneur was in her 30s and 40s (she is 55 now). But in premiering …And Just Like That, the show’s creators and cast allowed fans to see the embodiment of an It girl in her 50s. “I think it [style] should be celebrated no matter what age you are,” says Rogers.
In season 1 of …And Just Like That, Bradshaw took on the role of podcast host (joking it was mandatory “like jury duty”) and street style chronicler. Viewers got to see her signature style in yet another phase of her life. That included everything from a Gucci x Balenciaga bag mixed with a denim shirt and vintage printed dress, a vintage Jean Paul Gaultier suit, and tulle skirts. We’ve also seen her in some of her older pieces like the studded Valentino belt from the first Sex and the City movie and the sequin Fendi Baguette bag she first sported in the show’s third season. Throughout the first season, Bradshaw also saw her younger self reflected in California jewelry designer and neighbor Lissette (played by Katerina Tannenbaum), who dresses like a 2022 version of Bradshaw's younger self, with heavy vintage inspiration and an amalgamation of accessories that still manage to look simple. In seeing these two characters, side by side, it’s clear that Bradshaw’s style DNA — with its disregard for matching and trends — continues to inspire a younger generation of It girls, on and off the screen.
For season 2, Rogers and Santiago are looking to have even more fun with Bradshaw’s style. Although Bradshaw never seemed to care about people’s opinions on her style (I mean, she put a bird on her head!), Santiago says that in her 50s, it’s all about shattering society’s expectations. “I feel like you're at a point in your life where it doesn't matter what somebody else thinks,” he says. “It's what makes you feel good and how you want to present yourself to the world.” That includes a JW Anderson pigeon-shaped handbag and carrying a mug strapped to her purse.
If today’s It girls have deleted Bradshaw from their moodboard, maybe it’s time to take notes again.