Do you remember what pop culture was like in 1998? Everyone was considering how much they would fancy Prince William once he reached the age of majority, Michelle Kwan was a competitive athlete, Tom was filming Eyes Wide Shut with Nicole, and people purchased music in CD format at Lilith Fair (while secretly playing the Spice Girls at home). This was also an age when Sex and the City was considered a daring, experimental series. Before the babies and the shopping montages and the drinking of Cosmos while yelling “Fabulous!” like the word had just been invented yesterday, SATC discussed gender issues and roles straight-up, no chaser, in harsh lighting.

 

This was also when Carrie was considered something of a revelation in fashion. She was daring, edgy, and wore seemingly incongruous outfits yet made them chic. I adore her kimono here. While I don’t pretend to know anything about kimonos, I like to think that this was an adapted ceremonial one (tea?), or perhaps something women wore daily in imperial Kyoto. I just hope that Patricia Field didn’t inadvertently dress Carrie in traditional Okinawa longshoremen garb.

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The other three are attired as they normally are: Miranda is a power lesbian from the Reagan era, Samantha is Mrs. Robinson, and Charlotte is in a forgettable smock of some sort that’s utilitarian from the bust down, and missing a whole lot of fabric up above.

 

When 1998 Carrie wasn’t in crazy mode, she seemed to favor simple cocktail dresses with just a shade of flash in the finish. But of course, she typically upped the edgy factor with some risky shoes:

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I’ve always wondered, since I don’t wear ladies’ apparel: what happens if the pom-pom gets dirty? Do high end shoemakers have mail-order dry-cleaning services? What if the publishing magnate’s rich ex-wife next door was showing off her new Shi-Tzu named Muffy von Kippling and the little shit shat on the shoe? (That was your tongue twister of the day.) How does one clean off animal discharge off a pom-pom? And those shoes were expensive. Does the shoe industry really hate women?

 

The shoe was also a revealing first glimpse into Carrie’s financial troubles when the bad man at Dolce cut up her credit card. But never fear, Carrie’s Eurotrash friend Amalita (“a hooker with a passport”, as Miranda calls her) comes to the rescue in her own barrage of over-the-top Euro-wear.

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This outfit might cost thousands, but the material screams Chinese mall-cheap. I don’t think the women in Milan dress as ostentatiously in our current global economy, but this look still inspires much of what the rich women in Moscow and Shanghai wear these days.

 

This is also the air of self-importance they like to throw around at expensive restaurants (once they’ve had classes teaching them not to spit in public).

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Seems Eastern Europe and my people from the Mainland will always be a bit behind while trying to catch up.

 

Here’s the first reason this episode was one of the breakthroughs: Carrie is fixed up by Amalita with a visiting Parisian businessman who believes Carrie is a hooker. I ask you: What part of this outfit screams hooker?

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Nothing. It is a simple dress that maybe has an unfortunate finish, but the outfit itself is simple and lovely, even if clearly not a transition piece. It’s just a bit too shiny for the office.

 

And no self-respecting sex worker would kill a Muppet.

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By the way, I own the same boa. It’s from the dollar store, and I confirm that no Muppets were harmed in making that affectation.

 

Cue Miranda and Samantha debating whether Carrie should keep the money while eating overpriced Manhattan room service. Sadly, they are not dressed for the occasion.

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She may be in frumpy sweats, but I am nevertheless compelled by Miranda’s fixation on the salmon eggs benny and spinach omelette. She is the only character who seems to enjoy a good meal no matter how calorie-ridden or allegedly unhealthy it is. (I live on the West Coast, center of organic Valhalla.)

 

Carrie eventually stopped hanging with Amalita, but not before she had one last skin-tight dress.

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While I love the texture, it’s a bit too washed out against her skin and a potentially sexy outfit turns out a bit bland. Meh. Samantha appears to have borrowed the black drape from NYU sorority portrait day. Give her a string of pearls and she could be a Pi Phi.

 

Here’s the second reason this episode was so memorable: Charlotte paid a visit to Sean Connery…

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…and his then-wife, Stevie Nicks.

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I kid. That’s just how I remembered these guest characters.

I wonder if Charlotte would ever think to herself, “this outfit is all wrong to wear to a business meeting with a man who’s about to paint my vagina”. She’s fully addressing the whole hoo-ha theme head-on by entering a barn dressed in a blood-red outfit that can only recall Hester Prynne. This sharp outfit (which is cut like a dream and frames her beautifully), seems more appropriate for a meeting at Miranda’s law firm.

 

Finally, although I’d love to give some more time to Samantha and Miranda, they were not given anything memorable to wear. Observe poker night…

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…complete with Miranda’s mom jeans. This is Skipper’s sex goddess? Then again, it is Skipper, whom I loathe and whose sudden departure from the SATC universe can’t come soon enough.

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My thoughts exactly, Carrie. Best to avert your eyes. Or perhaps she’s lost in thought, wondering what prompted her to buy a sofa-print tube top? I think I know where all her money went.

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The third and most memorable aspect of this episode is “the most powerful woman in Manhattan”: the hostess at restaurant-of-the-moment Balzac (what’s the matter, was Hawthorne too direct a reference?). In particular, the best thing was that the woman wore FASCINATORS!!!

Yes, it was in 1998 and really these were less fascinators than they were headdresses and tiny hats, but they were by far the very best thing about the episode. I don’t care what the hostess wore, I only care for the tiny little hats, which I would pluck off her head and wear to Gay Pride myself. So I’m going to end this recap by showing the wonderful collection of hats:

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And also THIS:

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This was my single favorite look of the whole episode. Not the hat, but the cut-eye hostess gives to Amalita. This is how I imagine Beyonce looks at Kanye’s girlfriend whenever they are at St. Tropez together and she’s texting eye-rolling emoticons to Gwyneth Paltrow.  

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It is my happy place, even if it isn’t Carrie’s or Samantha’s.