A palatable tension suffused the packed auditorium at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art Monday night when Patricia Field deemed she not only considered costume designers and stylists cut from the same cloth—that she preferred being called a stylist. “It has many more manifestations—clothes stylist, interior stylist, lifestylist. You can be all these as a stylist. A costume designer does costumes.”
Never mind that she was addressing mostly members of LACMA’s Costume Council. These are mostly women who generously doll out to support the museum’s clothing and textile coffers—and their own closets. Yet there were bonafide costume designers in the house that night, and they, by and large, loathe the way stylists have invaded their movie credits, their trailers, their budgets and their limelight.
“I know I probably irked a lot of people in there,” Pat told me after the interview, hosted on stage by Los Angeles Times fashion critic Booth Moore. But the woman who made Manolo, Dolce, Choo, Oscar and other fashion names part of the lexicon in households that could only appreciate them vicariously through network-edited episodes of “Sex and the City” didn't appear fazed. Pat has always been a singular maverick–whether it was via her signature shops filled with crazy club wear and staffed by gorgeous tranny teens that she first opened in 1966, or the mad mix of high and low fashion, prints and colors, eras and silhouettes that catapulted Carrie Bradshaw/Sarah Jessica Parker into a fashion icon and made it OK for the masses to get their fashion freak on.
Consider that white mini dress with the oversized flower SJP has been seen in every "SATC the Movie" clips–“It was a long vintage dress with no label. I amputated it,” she shrugged. Or the “gorgeous lunacy” of not only pulling a Timmy Woods bag, but one carved into the shape of the Eiffel Tower!
Even her decision to design (or is it style?) a collection of dresses for UK mass retailer Marks & Spencer (which will be also sold here stateside) and a line of fabulous platforms for Payless speaks to her M.O. that style is not where you find it but how you swing it.
Pat is like great deejay, or, a jazz musician, as "SATC" director Michael Patrick King has said (he was also there Monday night, but among the crowd.) At 66, the Queens-born Greek remains as fearless and biting as ever. When Booth asked her when she began dying her hair the reddish-pinkish shade that’s also become a signature, she deadpanned: “When I began turning grey.” The mostly AARP congregation lapped it up.
While other stylists insist their super-famous clients are just real people they like to dress, Pat begs otherwise. “I prefer to style for a character than a real person. I was never in to fashion for fashion per se. I was into old Hollywood,” she noted, looking on this evening like she took a page out of "Grease," dressed in skinny black jeans, a halter cut from girdle fabric from her signature line (I scored one of these 20 years ago from her SoHo shop.) and a towering pair of her Payless heels, glimmering in silver, green and red metallic faux snakeskin. “That’s why I had a crush on Ava Gardner,” she added. “I was into stars who were interesting to look at. Old Hollywood was so complete, so perfect, so gorgeous. That’s how I see my job, it’s to give people joy.”
Be it Pat or that movie she last did, the crowd turned it out for the cosmo-brimming cocktail lecture–some marvelously, some madly:
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