15 Questions With Costume Designer & Stylist Patricia Field
Anyone who works in the fashion industry is most likely familiar with the name Patricia Field. Whether it’s Carrie Bradshaw's iconic outfits or her legendary boutique which stood for over 50 years in the East Village, Patricia Field is known as one of fashion’s greatest visionaries. The native New Yorker first made her mark on the industry when she costumed one of fashion's most stylish television shows Sex and the City, as well as both movies. From there, Field went on to work on the groundbreaking film The Devil Wears Prada, for which she received the Oscar nomination for best costume design. She’s also worked on the colorful hit series Ugly Betty, and is currently the costume designer for the TV Land show Younger starring Sutton Foster. And as if these credits don’t seem prestigious enough, for the past 50 years, Field’s boutique served as a landmark in New York City, a favorite to fashion it girls and celebrities alike, before just closing its neon colored doors this year. Read ahead as Patricia Field sheds some light on her career and gives us her best tips and tricks for Making it in Manhattan.
1. When did you first realize you wanted to pursue a career in the fashion industry?
My decision to pursue a career in fashion came as a result of my broader ambition, which was to have an independent career and an independent business. As fashion was always simple for me and I had business experience through my families independent businesses, I decided fashion would be a means to this end.
2. What college did you attend and what did you study?
I attended New York University. I studied Liberal Arts with History, Language and Philosophy majors.
3. When did you land your first internship and what was the most valuable thing you learned from this experience?
I never was an intern. My first job as a teenager was for my mother’s dry cleaning business which entailed managing her various drop stores during the summer when her regular staff was on vacation.
4. What was your first job out of college, and how did you land that position?
As I decided to pursue a fashion career, I accepted a job at a discount department store named Alexander’s to learn the fashion retail business. I knew fashion, and I knew business but I needed to learn the details of fashion retail.
5. What did you wear to your first interview?
Sorry, I don’t remember. However I always went to work highly fashionably.
6. You had your own boutique in the heart of Greenwich Village from 1966 to 2016, what was it like running your own company and helping young designers kick start their careers?
Dealing with young designers was very inspiring to me as I was always attracted to the youthful energy and the hopefulness. I suppose they found me instructive and interesting, and therefore it was a two-way street.
7. What was it like working as the costume designer to one of television’s most fashionable shows, Sex and the City?
Sex and The City was a one of a kind experience that any costume designer would hope to have. It sent my name world-wide as the show had a huge world-wide distribution.
8. Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte, and Miranda all dressed very differently, what was your thought process like when it came to dressing each actress?
A quartet of characters must have individual identities otherwise the ensemble is not interesting.
9. Aside from Sex and the City the movie and Sex and the City 2, you were also the costume designer for The Devil Wears Prada, how is working on the set for a film different than working on a television series?
T.V. has a faster pace than feature films. T.V. is a production line where while you are producing one episode you are preparing the next episode. A feature film is singular.
10. Who have been your biggest mentors in this industry and what is the best advice they have ever given you?
One of my biggest mentors was my accountant who advised me to always pay my bills on time in order to develop a strong and growing financial credit. I listened to him and understood how right he was.
11. What has been the proudest moment in your career thus far?
The proudest moment of my career is the fact that whatever city I am in in the world, people recognize me and stop to talk to me. This face-to-face experience with strangers is a very unique experience, for sure.
12. What was the biggest set back you faced in your career and how did you overcome it?
Regarding my shops, rent and rent increases were always my worst enemy. I solved it by buying my real estate when I was able to, and be my own landlord to create a stable financial situation for myself.
13. If you could go back and tell yourself one thing before beginning your career what would it be?
I have no regrets.
14. The fashion industry has changed so much in the past few years, what’s the best advice you would give for staying ahead of the curve?
Be original. Know who you are and express it. Understand that you are an individual and not a copy.
15. What advice would you give to someone just starting out in their career and hoping to make it as a costume designer?
Whatever your career you choose, make sure you love it intrinsically. Do not think of fame, fortune, or any other target that you deem is a target for success. Follow your heart and do what makes you feel good. If you like what you do, you will stay with it, and you will become good at it.
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