Book Review of Pat in the City: My Life of Fashion, Style, and Breaking All the Rules by Patricia Field

Catherine Reagan Palmore-King
Richmond, VA, USA
catie-reagan_palmor1@alumni.baylor.edu

Field, P. (2023). Pat in the City: My Life of Fashion, Style, and Breaking All the Rules. Dey Street Books. 272 pages, Hardcover, $35.00.

And just like that, Sex and the City’s renowned costume designer Patricia Field writes a tell-all about her life story. Pat in the City: My Life of Fashion, Style, and Breaking All the Rules is a stunning visual memoir that captures Field’s backstory and recounts how she became the icon she is today. Though best known for her groundbreaking work in Sex and the City, Field’s film and television credits include The Devil Wears Prada, Ugly Betty, Guiding Light, Younger, and Emily in Paris, among others. From winning an Emmy Award to receiving an Academy Award nomination in addition to many other prestigious recognitions, Field is a force to be reckoned with.

The book is a first-hand account organized into eleven chapters starting with Field’s childhood, that takes the reader through her first taste of a life of style, and ending with her time in Paris working on Netflix’s latest hit, Emily in Paris. The reader need not worry, Field does reserve an entire chapter for solely Sex and the Cityanecdotes. Field’s eccentric narrative voice makes the book a quick read with plenty of laugh-out-loud moments. Her writing style is engaging and honest, and she tells her story in a conversational tone, making the book feel like it creates a personal conversation with the reader.

The inclusion of Field’s direct commentary sets this work apart from other fashion books. She provides insight into her creative process, shares anecdotes about filming certain scenes, and explains the symbolism behind some of the costumes. Field also talks about her personal style, love of vintage clothing, and her personal philosophy of dressing for yourself. Her candid observations add a personal flare whereby the book provides a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the many shows she has been a part of.

One of the strengths of this book is Field’s willingness to talk openly about her failures and challenges. She is candid about her struggles and their impact on her personal and professional life. Likewise, she shares the challenges she faced as a woman in a male-dominated industry and the manner in which she broke through those barriers. In her own words, Field (2023) states, “I don’t sell garments; I sell ideas,” which explains the cultural shift many of her costuming choices have had on viewers (p. 250). The transparency Field provides into her thought process and career strategy makes one of fashion’s most influential designers feel like one of the girls.

Another strength is her emphasis on individuality and self-expression. Field encourages readers to embrace their unique style and to not be fearful of taking risks with fashion. One of the aspects that makes Pat in the City such an enjoyable read is the wealth of colorful characters that populate Field’s world. From the drag queens and club kids of the downtown New York scene to the A-list celebrities she has dressed, Field brings to life an array of fascinating and quirky people who celebrate their individualism.

Another notable aspect of the book is Field’s commitment to inclusivity and diversity in her work. She has long been a champion of the queer and non-conforming voices in fashion and has used her platform to promote emerging designers and artists from underrepresented communities. Field’s experience in ballroom culture was particularly interesting in that she helped many individuals rejected by society find beauty and purpose within themselves. She described “offer[ing] these cast-away kids a chance to sell not just stuff but themselves, and as time passed, they did not disappoint” (Field, 2023, p. 75). When looking back at her costume design choices, Field’s ballroom influence is undeniably present in some of her most iconic looks. Her dedication to inclusivity is a refreshing reminder of the power of fashion to be a force for positive change.

In addition to her personal stories, Field also offers advice and tips on ways to cultivate one’s personal style. Hence, she encourages readers to experiment with different looks, to mix and match vintage and modern pieces, and not to worry too much about other people’s opinion. In recognition of her influence on fashion, she noted, “I was grateful that the response to my work was positive, but I hadn’t changed from what I’ve always done … My mix of high and low, something I’d been doing my whole life, suddenly made me a genius of style” (Field, 2023, p. 169). She believes that fashion should be fun and liberating, and that everyone has the ability to express themselves through what they wear. When reminiscing on dressing for success, Field’s said, “My outfit was an outer manifestation of what I felt about myself on the inside” (Field, 2023, p. 25). It was important to her that her characters also told their stories through their clothing.

Overall, Pat in the City is a must-have for fans of Field’s work and anyone interested in fashion and costume design. Field’s infectious enthusiasm and fearless approach to life are sure to inspire readers to embrace their own sense of style and never be afraid to break with convention. It is an inspiring and entertaining read that is a testament to the power of perseverance, creativity, and individuality.

Author Bio

Catherine Reagan Palmore-King, Ed.D., is the managing editor of the Metropolitan Universities Journal. She received a doctorate in Learning and Organizational Change from Baylor University, where her dissertation explored the role the fine arts plays in university students’ development of 21st-century skills. She also received an M.S. in Strategic Design and Management from Parsons School of Design, a B.A. in Theatre Arts from Virginia Tech, and a Women in Leadership certificate from Cornell University. Her research interests include interdisciplinary arts integration, design thinking, and visual culture.

Suggested Reference Citation

APA

Palmore-King, C. (2023). Book Review of Pat in the City: My Life of Fashion, Style, and Breaking All the Rules by Patricia Field. Dialogue: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Popular Culture and Pedagogy, 10(2). http://journaldialogue.org/reviews/book-review-of-pat-in-the-city-my-life-of-fashion-style-and-breaking-all-the-rules-by-patricia-field/

MLA

Palmore-King, Catherine Reagan. (2023). Book Review of Pat in the City: My Life of Fashion, Style, and Breaking All the Rules by Patricia Field, Dialogue: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Popular Culture and Pedagogy. 2023, vol. 10, no. 2. http://journaldialogue.org/reviews/book-review-of-pat-in-the-city-my-life-of-fashion-style-and-breaking-all-the-rules-by-patricia-field/.

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