Patricia Field’s New Show Is An Ode To New York Style

Photo: Courtesy of TV Land.
They say the clothes make the (wo)man, and perhaps no one knows that more than Patricia Field. The legendary costume designer behind Sex and the City  and The Devil Wears Prada  has made a career out of creating iconic characters through fashion. And, for her, clothes aren't just pretty things. They're storytelling devices that are as important as anything in the script. After all, who would Miranda Priestly be without that commanding trench coat (or silver coif)? Field's latest show, Younger, is no exception. She reunites with SATC producer Darren Star for another fashion-filled dramedy that debuts March 31. In it, 40-year-old divorcée Liza Miller (Sutton Foster) pretends to be 26 so she can work as an assistant in publishing. Chaos, you can imagine, ensues — along with some really amazing outfits. We talked with Field about the show, how she defines characters with fashion, and her all-time favorite costumes — including that infamous tutu from SATC's opening credits. All that, plus a sneak peek at Younger's costumes, below. Let's talk about Younger  first — what made you want to work on it?
"The concept attracted me. It’s quite relevant. It deals with the economy, with aging. Plus, it presented quite a challenge. At first, I thought, How am I going to transform a 40-year-old woman into a 26-year-old? No amount of wardrobe is going to solve that challenge if you don't have an actress who can pull it off. But, when I first met Sutton, all the puzzle pieces fell into place. She has that wide-eyed innocence, that youthful animation that is central to the character."
Liza has two different styles: her 40-year-old look and her 26-year-old one. How did you delineate the two?
"I approach the way my characters dress practically. Forty-year-old Liza dresses very classic, minimalist: a nice sheath with statement jewelry. But, she has a daughter in college; she's not clueless. So, I thought maybe Liza would model her 26-year-old persona after her daughter. Maybe she would have pulled a few things out from her daughter's closet. Since she's having financial difficulties because of her divorce, I imagined she then went to a thrift shop and to some high-street stores and added to the wardrobe that way. That's why I had her wearing mixed plaids and prints and motorcycle boots — they're iconic pieces that I see the young people who go into my shop wearing, but it's also a hodgepodge of stuff that she's cobbled along the way."
Photo: Courtesy of TV Land.
I love that her 26-year-old clothes look younger than what the actual 20-somethings wear.
"Yes! Hilary Duff plays her coworker, and her character is very fashion-magazine conscious and ambitious. She looks to her bosses and the higher-ups in the company and copies them, but adds her own youthful spin — more color, shorter hemlines. Liza is much more haphazard, which is the way her life feels at the moment. She has those knit beanies, which I think are a defining piece to her character — like the Carrie necklace in Sex and the City. It's her style signature, but it's also an expression of her." Other style signatures you created  — Carrie's nameplate necklace, Ugly Betty's glasses — actually became bona fide trends. Why do you think it happens?
"When it happens, it surprises me. But, if the character becomes believable and accepted and loved by the audience, people will pick up on different things. Betty's glasses — those were actually mine. I was wearing them that day and took them off and told the actress to put them on. She loved them, and the glasses actually set the tone for the whole series: colorful, vibrant. I do believe red-frame glasses became something after that. I still see them everywhere. But, it was never about me forecasting a trend; it was about me dressing the character. "The SATC necklace didn't surprise me as much. Every woman has a name, and the name necklace is a classic piece that any woman can wear. It doesn't require a certain body size; the appeal is broad and people responded to it."
Photo: Courtesy of TV Land.
What happens if an actor doesn't want to wear what you picked out?
"Telling an actor what to wear is senseless. They have to believe in what they're wearing and feel good or feel true. I like giving them choices, my concepts and thoughts. In the end, it's their choice because they are in it. They are not models hired to sell clothes; they are hired to tell stories."
Do you have a favorite costume of yours?
"The opening sequence of Sex and the City with the little tutu. The actress got it immediately and she loved it. But, we had to sell it because it was so unexpected, and people who are not into fashion could find it really bizarre. So, I explained to the producer, Darren Star — we had just started working with each other — that if this series was going to be a hit and be on the air for three years, it would look dated. It had to be original, believable, and classic. It might look bizarre, but trust us on this. And, of course, the opening has become so iconic because of that tutu.  "Another costume I love is Carrie's gown from the last SATC episode in Paris, when she gets stood up. When they were rehearsing that scene, they had Carrie's stand-in sitting on the bed with the dress all bunched up under her, and I was like, 'No, this gown has to cover the bed, and she has to be in the dress and lie on the bed heartbroken.' That was a memorable piece for me because of the way it told the story in such a gorgeous way."
Photo: Courtesy of TV Land.
What about Younger? Is there a character you really like to dress?
"I love Liza's best friend Maggie (Debi Mazar). I actually have known the actress since she was a teen — she used to cut my hair! In the show, she plays a Brooklyn artist, and so we put her in these classic, very New York-y, gender-bending looks. "Liza's boss Diana (Miriam Shor) is also fun. In the first script, when it described the character, it said she was 'uptight, 40 years old, hadn't gone on a date in forever, self-important.' That helped me to organize her thoughts about her wardrobe. She's very formulaic: She reads magazines, she knows big jewelry is in, she wears expensive clothing that she thinks enhances her status and power." And, ultimately, how would you describe your style? 
"Well, I love comedy. It's a heightened form of communication — the big strokes, broad gestures — and that's how I approach my work. My style tends to be exaggerated, but not too much because the audience has to believe in it. But, in the end, I like to make people happy. I like to see smiling faces. My style and costuming choices are about that."

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