There have been thousands, maybe even tens of thousands, of unkind words written about the second Sex and the City film. And let’s face it, they’re mostly justified. Even the biggest SATC fan (over here, guys) had to admit with a miserable shrug that SATC2 was just not the send-off that the series that inspired and released millions of women deserved.
Inexplicably poor writing, an endlessly nonsensical plot and a tone deaf script that threw in enough racist and classist gems to keep aaaaaalll the critics giddy with righteous indignation for years to come (“The veil across the mouth…it freaks me out.” says Carrie of her neighbour’s burqa. Yikes). We all watched in dismay as the four women whom we had grown to love (or love/hate, same thing) as our own crashed into the history books as the cast of the worst sequel ever made. Too much slapstick, unforgivably terrible jokes, not enough New York. Whatever you hated most about this film, let’s just say we were all disappointed but perhaps not – let’s not kid ourselves – entirely surprised. The whole thing was a bit like your favourite great uncle making an off-colour joke: you cringe and but you’re still fond of him.
But. As I sit on the 18.31 from Totnes to London Paddington trying to finish a copywriting assignment (it’s going fine, thanks), I have this extraordinarily camp, not-in-any-way-funny (apart from the “mid-wife crisis” gag which is gold and you know it) film on in the background as my Netflix white noise choice for the evening. And I couldn’t help but wonder, even if the film as a whole is a broiling train wreck, are the costumes not a work of freakin’ art?
Specifically, I am watching the desert scene. You know the one. Miranda (played by current Governor for New York candidate Cynthia Nixon which in itself is utterly AWESOME) has just waved and whooped manically at a pair of shepherds as she whizzes past in her private white limousine (in a different film, it would have been a scene that perfectly illustrates oblivious Western white privilege juxtaposed against the poorest quarters of Middle Eastern society…but hey ho) on her way to a camel ride in the Abu Dhabi desert with the gals.
When the ladies arrive (each in her own private limo, natch) Carrie starts to whinge in classic Carrie fashion that she’s not dressed for camel-hopping. But then, who is? Miranda trills that she’s got that covered, and reveals that the hotel has sent them all high couture camel-riding outfits to don during their expedition. Y’know, like hotels normally do. AND DON’T WORRY, SHE GOT THE GAY BUTLER TO CHOOSE THEM SO THEY’RE BOUND TO BE FLAWLESS (yeah, for such a joyously gay-friendly franchise, SATC really only regularly deals in one type of gay: male, fashion-savvy butler-types who follow the girls around making sassy remarks. Apart from that time Charlotte hung out with the team of mean arty lesbians in season 2, and that time in season 5 when Samantha briefly tried it on for size).
But you gotta hand it to aforementioned gay butler/stylist (who Samantha keeps referring to rather patronisingly as “Paula Abdul”) and wardrobe sorceress Patricia Field, these desert-friendly, camel-appropriate outfits are EVERYTHING. Just LOOK at them…
Carrie is a vision (SJP is the star here, after all) in an angelic white harem all-in-one with sweetheart neckline affair that would give Princess Jasmine fans (hello, yes me) all the goosebumps. The addition of a metallic turban and off-the-shoulder layer (a Carrie classic) that might be a wrap or a cardi – who knows? – is just gravy. I’m feelin’ it in a big way.
Charlotte’s get-up looks like it’s had a little less thought put into it: the one-shoulder asymmetric lycra is a bit Zumba Mum, but the long chiffonny scarf thing is poppin’ and red satin jeans in what must be 40+ degree dry heat is enough to earn actor Kristin Davis serious survival kudos. It’s not as preppy as Charlotte’s usual fare but it’s all the better for it.
I’m gonna hazard a guess and say that, during filming, Cynthia Nixon and Kim Cattrall did something MON-YOO-MENTAL to piss off Patricia Field. How else can we explain the technicolour cowgirl / Brighton Pride madam look bravely brassed out by Nixon here? Or the deeply unflattering Sphinx-inspired headgear being rocked by Cattrall (although it does, if nothing else, look rather practical)? Nixon’s belt is singularly terrifying. How is that going to be comfy while swaying back and forth atop a roaming camel? And is that…a cape?
But vengeful all-powerful wardrobe mistresses aside, the desert outfits in SATC 2 are creative, original (boy, are they) and mind-bogglingly feel-good in the most batty way possible. So even in the worst sequel you may ever see, there is still joy to be had. Sartorially speaking.