It received uneven reviews, but also a second series. There was a reaction. It was the start of, pardon the pun, something big. The ensuing two decades, a lacklustre movie and its godawful sequel, have done nothing to dull its impact. In a manner only rivalled by Dynasty in the 80s, Sex and the City became a television show that not only reflected reality but shifted and shaped culture — specifically fashion.
Or indeed, unlike Dynasty, which is trapped in a time warp of an era it helped to create. The clothes in Sex and the City, by contrast, broke free of fashion and began to say something about style. And perhaps wearing an entire bird on her head for her abortive wedding. When the fictional Bradshaw clutched a Fendi Baguette, it was reflecting fashion. The bag was already a hit. Sex and the City, Season Two Still She should be — Chiuri has built her Dior around notions of female liberation and empowerment not despite, but through, fashion.
That was something Sex and the City championed throughout its run and why the two films, for many, left a bitter taste in the mouth. True, Bradshaw wore vertiginous, highly impractical shoes. But she purchased them herself, chose the style, and rarely did they impede her life.
The series is based on a book by a woman, Candace Bushnell, but created by a man, Darren Star — not that a female writer would necessarily make the series feminist by default, but certainly some of the attitudes and representations would have more reality. By the end of the final series, there is a certain two-dimensionality to many of the characters, especially Carrie, whose love of fashion became a caricature of obsession.
Nevertheless, the series remains a rare example of a show whose main protagonists are all women, and whose relationships with each other, rather than with men, form the lynchpin of the plot line.
New York is a good-looking, incredibly famous cameo, a recurring guest who occasionally intrudes into the action. Fashion is there, in every episode, and always has something to say. Even in the earlier seasons, before SATC became abbreviated as such and hurrahed as a cultural touchstone, fashion was used to tell significant parts of a story, to propel episodes forwards. The dress becomes the pivotal plot line as to whether or not it can be used as a tool for seduction, if Bradshaw could wear it, she should wear it.
These women recognise their own bodies as part of their brands — something they own, and can leverage.