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Costume Designer Patricia Field's Career Advice: Do What's Easy

The woman who dressed Carrie Bradshaw shared her philosophy at FashionistaCon.
Fashionista senior editor Maura Brannigan and costume designer Patricia Field. Photo: Arnold Soshkin/Fashionista

Fashionista senior editor Maura Brannigan and costume designer Patricia Field. Photo: Arnold Soshkin/Fashionista

At our 2016 "How to Make It in Fashion" conference, which occurred in New York City on Friday, Fashionista Senior Editor Maura Brannigan sat down with renowned costume designer and longtime fashion retailer Patricia Field. Perhaps best known for her game-changing work designing the costumes for "Sex and the City," Field has also experienced the retail side of the fashion business, having owned a boutique in New York for 50 years before selling it in 2016. "My mom and dad were in the dry-cleaning business; I got into retail because my family was very entrepreneurial," said Field, who got a job as a department store manager just after graduating college. "At that point I was kind of realizing that, okay, I know business, I know fashion... I took that job because I knew I could do it."

As for her main career advice? Do what you know, says Field. "Do what's easy for you. If it's easy, you'll do it well; if you do it well, you'll succeed. Don't go where it's difficult, because you'll compete with others who [have it] easy. Go with what you feel confident and strong in. That, to me, is one of the best pieces of advice I could give you," she told the audience.

Field also touched on "Sex and the City," saying it was the humor that drew her to the show. "I like comedy; I don't like war and military and murders, I don't want to be surrounded by that," she said. "I like the uplifting things, the happy things. I loved the work in Sex and the City because my form of comedy is not to make it over the top and make obviously comical costumes. It's just to elevate the reality. Just get on your tippy toes, not fly off to Mars." 

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Field has continued her working relationship with "SATC" creator Darren Star in the current TV Land show, "Younger," which stars Sutton Foster and Hilary Duff. "People like it... I'm really happy. It makes me happy because there's nothing like making people happy. The return is wonderful," she said. 

When asked if she ever had one big break over the course of her career, Field noted that while it might be easy to look back and cite her time at "SATC" as a major career milestone, that's not exactly accurate. "In my career it wasn't about some first big break, it was about a step-by-step process of growing my career," she said. "When I started at "Sex and the City" I already had a reputation in fashion, it wasn't like I was new on the block.... It's hard to call it my first big break because I was already in the business 30 years." Moreover, she'd caution others against thinking in terms of "big breaks" when it comes to their own career trajectories. "I'm not sure thinking in terms of 'first big break' is healthy because it's focusing not on the content, but on the outcome, and I think that might be sending you a little off in the wrong direction," she explained. "What my accountant told me when I first went into business was 'just pay your bills.' That was my big break."

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