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Between the trailers, the teasers, and the endless “Access Hollywood” countdowns, the only thing audiences won’t already know about “Sex and the City 2” when it hits theaters May 27 are a few particulars of the plotline, which, as everyone knows, includes a big gay wedding of MGM studio proportions (Liza!) and a Middle Eastern getaway fit for a sultan during which — no surprises here — Carrie runs into Aidan.
There hasn’t been this much hoopla surrounding a movie since, well, “SATC” two years back, when there were still waiting lists for Birkin bags. In the meantime, the New York luxe life has been chastened. But a sequel in which Carrie, the ultimate shoe monger, is shod by Payless? Downer.
“I knew [‘Sex and the City 2’] had to be a different vibe,” said the film’s writer-director-producer Michael Patrick King at a press conference held Sunday at Bergdorf Goodman’s shoe salon. “I sat down to write in what was the beginning of an economic downturn, and we’re still in it. Like in the Great Depression, I thought Hollywood should take people on a big vacation that maybe they couldn’t afford themselves. I wanted to make it a big, extravagant vacation.”
So King wrote in a Middle Eastern sheik-hotelier, who offers Samantha, plus three, an all-expenses-paid trip to Abu Dhabi, since “Dubai is dead,” as the sheik says. The entire scenario, from the fleet of white Maybachs that chauffeur the girls around (one for each) to the hotel’s personal butler system, is devised to flaunt offensive wealth. If the film is fashion porn, as The New York Times suggested last time around, this would be the money shot. Every meal, every nap, every cocktail is an excuse for a wardrobe change. One desert lunch scene involves three new outfits per character — if ever there were an excuse to put that harem pant and jumpsuit trend to work.
Costumer Patricia Field wasted no chance to beturban and bejewel the ladies to cartoonish extremes, which is by now par for the course. And King seized every opportunity to play on the cultural divides (and unifiers) between the way American and Middle Eastern women are expected to dress. In his world, the women of Abu Dhabi wear Vuitton under their burkas.
While the free vacation provided an escapist excuse, the New York story was adjusted, if slightly, for today’s reality. For example, Carrie and her husband, Mr. Big, have downsized from the Fifth Avenue penthouse featured in the first movie to a more manageable outfit “a little more down to earth.…12 floors, to be exact,” albeit one that came with egregious walk-in closet scapes (clothes provided by Net-a-porter) to rival the shameless ab and crotch shots of the World Cup players who show up in Abu Dhabi. And the Stateside fashion is, by “SATC” standards, a little more tame — wayward headgear notwithstanding — too. There are silk sheath dresses, solid colors and T-shirts thrown on over sparkly skirts. Whether that was meant as a deliberate reflection of the new economy, or the fact that midway through production Sarah Jessica Parker was installed as president and chief creative officer of Halston, a label she appears in about six times by Field’s estimation, is anyone’s guess. There’s the opening white dress, and at least two versions, long and short, of the pleated and flounced dress Parker wore just weeks ago to the Costume Institute gala at the Met.
Parker didn’t comment on how her new post at Halston influenced her character’s wardrobe, but Field’s relationship with the label goes way back. When it came to “Sex and the City 2,” “I was just personally a little bit tired of all of these exaggerated, artificial shapes on clothing,” says Field. “Shoulders pointed out to there and skirts that look ballooned. I was just feeling — desiring — like, chic simplicity. And so I had turned to Halston.”
Lest things get too spare and sophisticated, Field found a place for a little tacky nostalgia from the good ole HBO days: A John Galliano for Christian Dior newspaper dress from season three.