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Published: Saturday, 5/23/2009

Stylist Patricia Field is the woman behind the hottest TV, film looks

BY PATRICIA SHERIDAN
BLOCK NEWS ALLIANCE
Patricia Field is a stylist for films and TV shows. Patricia Field is a stylist for films and TV shows.
KATHY WILLENS / AP Enlarge

Leopard and leggings come to mind when one thinks of Patricia Field, the famous, flamboyant redheaded stylist and shop owner from Manhattan. It was her sensibility that made the Sex and the City girls sartorial icons. As the show s stylist, she single-handedly gave stilettos social credibility.

Intelligent, intriguing and always individual, this award-winning costumer also assembles the look for the Ugly Betty TV cast. Her latest big-screen effort was Confessions of a Shopaholic, which is out on DVD next month. The movie is a feast of fashion ideas for anyone, even Americans who have suppressed their inner consumer.

For the movie, she assembled existing pieces to create new outfits, she says. It s something anyone can do with a little imagination.

Her choices are based on the characters in the script and the bodies of the actresses.

"The body is extremely important. After all that is what you are putting the clothes on. You must respect the body," she says.

Ms. Field sees the fashion industry s obsession with certain body types as cyclical.

"Right now the thin tall woman is the in woman, " she says. "Then it goes to the more curvaceous woman and then it goes back to the starvation look. It s all very trendy."

Ms. Field does not think there is only one body shape that s easy to dress.

"Any woman with a strong shoulder is easy to outfit. That s a big asset because the clothes hang from the shoulder."

Ms. Field sees the fashion industry going in a much more utilitarian, simplified, attainable direction.

In fact, practicality and simplicity is the American fashion signature, she says.

As an example, she points to Marlon Brando and the transformation of the T-shirt from underwear to an everyday garment.

"We are plain folk. We are not fancy. Our history is a rugged, work-oriented culture," she says. "That is how jeans became fashion."

American women love to wear jeans because they are flattering and comfortable, Ms. Field says. But they re also looking for that same idea in a dressier application.

"The legging was one way to go, but then I got into the legging with the stirrup because I like the stirrup under the arch with a sandal. It looks sexy," she says.

She also is attracted to harem pants, but not the old 80s version worn by M.C. Hammer: "With these kinds of pants you can be chic and comfortable. "

Her own style is determined by the time she has to think about an outfit, her mood, and most important, comfort.

"My style is basically an expression of how I feel, either in general or at the moment," she says. "In a way, dressing is a little bit like storytelling. It s what you want to put out to the world."

Her inspiration comes from her collective knowledge and experience and an eclectic collection of creative friends. Leopard is one of her favorite prints, but it s not for every woman.

"There are the polka dot girls and the leopard girls. I wouldn t wear polka dots, but some women wouldn t wear leopard. Both of those prints are staples. They are classics."

For Ms. Field, grabbing attention is not a negative. "Woman have been historically brainwashed not to grab attention, not to be daring, not to show strength. That s what we ve been taught. We are the second, not the first," she says.

Her goal is to empower women through fashion. "I want women to relax and express who they are and not worry about who s thinking what of them."

She equates getting dressed with cooking. "Cooking to me is so much fun, it s relaxing and creative. But both of those activities I enjoy when I have time," she says.

Finding time can be challenging between her eponymous boutique in New York City and her film and television work.

She believes movies and television play a bigger part then ever in influencing fashion trends, even more than fashion magazines.

"Especially television, it s pervasive, it s in everybody s home," she notes. "It s going to have a bigger impact than something you actually have to go out and buy every month.

"More people watch TV than buy magazines. And the people on TV are just that, people not models, so they are relatable."

The Block News Alliance consists of The Blade and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Patricia Sheridan is a writer for the Post-Gazette.

Contact her at: psheridan@post-gazette.com



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