SEX SCORES IN THE CITY

Byline: Jessica Kerwin

NEW YORK — Nielsen’s ratings will never show why women love to watch HBO’s “Sex in the City.” Sure, they respond to the show’s writing, the characters and sassy Sarah Jessica Parker. But couldn’t some women — and men — be tuning in to check out the clothes?
Since Patricia Field, the boutique owner and designer, and Rebecca Field, a former performance artist (no relation), began costuming the program three seasons ago its fashion quotient has been on the rise. “It’s a fashion TV show,” Patricia said Tuesday night before the two accepted a design award from the New York Women in Film and Television at Christie’s East. “We work side by side with the script people. They started in the second season to write for our wardrobe.” In the process, they also discovered that nothing is too sexy to wear on “Sex in the City.”
During the evening’s fashion show, the two Fields sent out looks that included an assortment of little dresses and the vintage fur coat that Parker’s character often wears. “This is the famous fur coat,” Patricia told the audience, “but after two seasons, under the orders of Sarah Jessica, we went to get the coat cleaned and it came back and it’s white. It used to be tan.” So much for continuity.
“I named it Muskrat Love,” Rebecca chimed in. “We only paid $250 for it.”
Though they’ll continue to mix vintage pieces into the characters’ wardrobes during the upcoming season, some more recognizable fashion items will also guest star, namely Prada’s famous lipstick-print skirt and ubiquitous bowling bag.
“People want to work with us more liberally this season,” Rebecca said. “We do get phone calls, but it’s created a lot more work dealing with designers, because their garments are sought after and we’re competing [for samples] with every magazine.” Fans can check out fashion credits through the show’s Web site at hbo.com/city.
Also honored during the evening’s events was costume designer Rita Ryack, who has decked out the stars for “Casino,” “Cape Fear” and the upcoming “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.”
“‘Casino’ was a labor of passion,” she said. “It wasn’t recognized as a period film, but what was delicious about designing it was that the arcs of the characters were really reflected in the evolution of fashion in those 10 years. When you start out, Sharon Stone is an ambitious, reckless, vital girl. By the end, she’s almost armored in leather, big shoulder pads and stiletto heels.”
Ryack, who wore a dress of her own design — made full by layers of crinoline — has ideas about sexiness that seem to differ from her peers. “I’d like to bring back a more feminine silhouette,” she said. “I’m kind of stuck in Fifties mode. It’s what I consider glamorous. Enough of these aerobicized bodies.”