And Just Like That… @EveryOutfitOnSATC Spills Tea with Mel Ottenberg
And Just Like That… has all of New York talking, the stock market shaking (looking at you, Peloton), and the haters eating crow. Picking up 20 years after its hot late-’90s predecessor left off, the HBO Max original sees Sarah Jessica Parker reprise her iconic role as (an older, wiser) Carrie Bradshaw—alongside Cynthia Nixon’s Miranda Hobbes and Kristin Davis’s Charlotte York—leaving die-hard Sex and the City experts with a lot to process. To make sense of it all, our editor-in-chief Mel Ottenberg consulted Chelsea Fairless and Lauren Garroni—the founders of the viral @EveryOutfitonSATC Instagram account, hosts of the Every Outfit podcast, and authors of We Should All Be Mirandas—to shed some light on the matter. Below, the trio hopped on Zoom for a chat about Carrie’s nicotine addiction, the demise of Century 21, and the SATC episodes that never stop giving. — ERNESTO MACIAS
LAUREN GARRONI: Oh wow, we’re doing video?
CHELSEA FAIRLESS: I like seeing your face. By the way, is that snow on your beret?
GARRONI: I think it’s just a little bit of fluff. I live in L.A. just like you do.
FAIRLESS: Sorry, I’m very conscious of this because my apartment is full of fake snow from Christmas. You should see what it did to my Skims Cozy Collection robe, it was a real nightmare.
GARRONI: Oh no. I was looking at Jen Atkin’s Instagram and she posted a video of her cleaning the window with a Dyson being like, “I’m never doing a flocked tree again!”
FAIRLESS: Yep, that was me.
GARRONI: Evidently, she sold her stake in Ouai.
FAIRLESS: I’m sure she cleaned up. Now they’ll change all the formulas, and we won’t want to use it anymore.
GARRONI: I’m glad she’s adopted the Sophia Amoruso guide to not being cancelled, which is just moving on from something within five years of starting it.
FAIRLESS: It’s pretty genius…
GARRONI: Speaking of, CNN is launching CNN Plus, and they just signed Alison Roman to do a show. She has a new stew with cabbage in it that I saw in a newsletter.
FAIRLESS: Can you make it and report back?
GARRONI: I mean, I can just make it for all of us. Capitalism has me feeling like a socialist lately.
FAIRLESS: You are dressed for the revolution…
GARRONI: I will forever be haunted by the moment when you and Mel were dm-ing about Emily in Paris, and Mel was like, “I don’t believe that people are actually wearing berets.” I’m like, “Well?!” [Points to her head]
FAIRLESS: It’s very… it’s giving Emily in Paris.
GARRONI: What else can we talk about while we wait for Mel?
FAIRLESS: Well, I’m not about to tell anyone where I buried a body. I’m not about to spill the tea to Interview magazine about the location of the body. Here he is now.
MEL OTTENBERG: Lauren, your hair!
GARRONI: Welcome, Mel. During the pandemic, it was my goal to become more thotty, so I’m back to long blonde hair.
OTTENBERG: It’s also Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy’s birthday and you’re both really serving it. Did either of you even know? [All laugh]
GARRONI: Mel, you’ll be happy to know Chelsea started Real Housewives, she started with Salt Lake City.
FAIRLESS: Because it’s not that intimidating to me, there’s only two seasons.
GARRONI: As I explained it to Chelsea, they all look like female wrestlers and they want to be their daughters or fuck their sons.
OTTENBERG: It is, dare I say, the most riveting? The people are a new level of sociopath that I haven’t seen before.
FAIRLESS: Before we start our Sex and the City spiral Mel, we have to ask you about Julia and Ye. Tell us everything.
OTTENBERG: Like you, I noticed that Julia and Ye were together—I saw it on Instagram or something. I always hate the first of week of January—it’s such a fucking bummer, and magazines are always bad at that time of year because everyone’s heart just isn’t in it. But Julia in black, low slung hip huggers out at night with Ye felt like the only thing worth living for. I was like, “I’m living, Julia, what are those pants? ” She told me they’re Miaou. Then she and Ye called me and we talked on the phone. They were very cute, they sent me pictures, it was fun. I love their story. Watch this space.
GARRONI: You broke the internet! It somehow took the conversation away from the one year anniversary of the insurrection. By the end of the day, everyone was talking about one thing, and it was this.
OTTENBERG: I know, and I have feelings about that. Okay, let’s deep dive. And Just Like That… is not garbage, right?
FAIRLESS: I don’t think it’s garbage. Even if it were, we have a podcast that dissects every last detail of Sex and the City, so we’d watch it anyway.
OTTENBERG: By the way, I love your podcast. It’s so fun to listen to people you really like bantering. You guys babble, edit it to make sure that you’re not going to be murdered for it, and then move on. Okay, explain to me what happens in the latest episode of And Just Like That... How’s the alcoholism?
GARRONI: It jumps forward. Carrie’s like, “Three months later, I was in heels.” As I said in the last podcast, it took five episodes to get where the series should have started, and now it’s kind of fun again.
OTTENBERG: So Big’s dead and Carrie’s like, “I’m wearing heels.” Is Carrie gonna fuck again? Any predictions?
GARRONI: She goes on a date for the first time! One thing that isn’t discussed in the last episode is that Carrie impulsively buys a super modern apartment. Just Like That… has introduced the idea that Carrie is very into what I call “Dead-Tech Modernism.” Look at Big’s funeral—which looks like what Robert Longbow’s funeral might look like—and this apartment that she buys and sells within one episode.
OTTENBERG: Do you guys think it’s shady that he gave what’s-her-face a million dollars? I asked the right A-list women—who shall remain nameless—and they said it was weird.
FAIRLESS: It’s weird.
OTTENBERG: He was like, “I loved you, we were married, here’s a million dollars, bye.”
FAIRLESS: It’s a bit overdramatic. Big’s dead, it’s in his will, but it still feels a bit attention-seeking.
GARRONI: Especially to not leave a note. The writing in this show is caught between the world they set up in Sex and the City, and a desire to lead the audience down a new path that ultimately doesn’t come full circle. They’re like, “Carrie is going to sell the brownstone, things are changing.” At the end of the episode, she moves into this new apartment and then sells it within a day.
OTTENBERG: Also, the way Carrie smokes? It’s fucked up, and it makes me want a cigarette. I just watched the entire new season of Euphoria, and I don’t do drugs anymore, but it has me like, “Oooh, drugs!” But wait, how are the clothes?
GARRONI: When we talked to Molly Rogers [the Sex and the City costume designer] about the latest episode, she said she wouldn’t have been able to do the show without Century 21. She was sad that it didn’t exist anymore.
OTTENBERG: RIP Century 21. I’ve gotta say, the city’s fucked up and it’s hard to style. There are no weird, mixed bag stores anymore. That place was the biggest mixed bag. Remember those lingerie racks? It was the only place that would have a diamond-studded bra with a matching garter belt, all in chocolate brown! It was a fantasy. What else did she say? Was she cool?
FAIRLESS: She’s so cool. No bullshit whatsoever—very funny, very brash, doesn’t give a fuck. We asked her, “Did you send your assistants to excavate Sarah Jessica Parker’s storage unit? Because SJP kept all of Carrie’s clothes from the original Sex and the City.” She was basically like, “I’m not letting any of those sticky-fingered assistants touch any of that shit!”
GARRONI: She’s amazing.
FAIRLESS: Molly’s done a good job of translating Carrie’s style from the original series—not the films—and that’s particularly evident in episode six. There are a lot of outfits in And Just Like That… which feel like original Sex and The City looks: it’s the ‘50s prom dress, the tuxedo jacket, the pearls. We lost that in the films, because they’re informed by fashion in 2008 as opposed to 1998.
OTTENBERG: Totally. While I was watching the funeral scene I was like, “Why wouldn’t Carrie wear that to Big’s funeral?” It’s very classic Carrie—the vintage shoes and all that. Also, weren’t people being very anti-Miranda on the internet? Her character’s so confusing to me now.
GARRONI: Well, you’re speaking to the authors of We Should All Be Mirandas, and we have a bone to pick.
OTTENBERG: Yes sweetie, I know!
FAIRLESS: Miranda has always been an under-appreciated Sex and the City character. We’ve gone to extreme lengths to reframe her as an aspirational figure in the years since the show ended. But the And Just Like That… writers have taken the wind out of her sails, kicked her down a notch, and made her a bit clueless and doofus-y, which is unfortunate. Maybe if she has enough sex with Che she’ll be her old self again.
GARRONI: I don’t know why they gave three plot lines to Miranda, and no plot lines to Charlotte.
FAIRLESS: Her non-binary child is her plot line.
GARRONI: Chelsea and I have really had to switch off our feelings with this show, because we’ve been pretty anti. We feel that if we were in the writers’ room, it would be a more satisfying watch. Episode six was the first time that any of the characters felt like their old selves, but aged up 20 years. What’s missing from the first five episodes is what made those old brunch, dinner, and cocktail scenes in Sex and the City so great—they each had such different perspectives on an issue. The picnic scene in episode six was the first hint we got of that.
FAIRLESS: I have a more loving view of And Just Like That than Lauren does. I think its biggest weakness is the fact that we have no choice but to compare it to Sex and the City. SATC had such a distinctive structure and format, so anything that just departs from that is going to disappoint us. Even the lack of voice over is jarring.
GARRONI: My stance is, I understand the decisions they’re making, and I don’t disagree with the idea of making it more dramedy than hard comedy. I don’t straight up hate it, but if it pivoted a few degrees, it would be kind of perfect. Like, why is she in this unaddressed career slump?
OTTENBERG: But it’s clear that Carrie’s still cool, right? She’s gotten a little softer, and she’s happy to be a little more random. The girl that had the bus ad, the girl who was “Single and Fabulous?” wouldn’t be on this random podcast that doesn’t exist.
FAIRLESS: By the way, there is a real Carrie Bradshaw—her name is Candace Bushnell. She’s a very successful novelist whose books are adapted into television shows, so that is another potential way Carrie could have gone.
GARRONI: Chelsea learned from Candace that she used to date Gordon Parks in the late ‘70s.
FAIRLESS: There’s a really fabulous photo that he took of her outside of the Plaza Hotel, very Carrie, in a full equestrian outfit.
OTTENBERG: Hot. Lexi is so major.
FAIRLESS: I think Candace is more like Samantha. She’s always with Countess LuAnn and has this pack of Samanthas that she runs around with in the Hamptons and uptown. That’s her vibe.
OTTENBERG: Also, is “Splat!” [Sex and the City Season 6, episode 18] the most major episode of all time? It’s aged in the most extraordinary way, because the world is shit, the world’s O-V-E-R. Nobody’s fun anymore—whatever happened to fun? We’ve been talking about this non-stop since like 2000.
FAIRLESS: The only other episode that has the same camp value is “Fashion Roadkill” [Sex and the City Season 4, episode 2]. You have Kevin Aucoin as himself, you have the fashion show with Ed Koch, and you have Margaret Cho as the producer, most importantly.
OTTENBERG: That episode murdered me. I also feel like it has a positive message. When you live in this town, everyone wants to hate, but you gotta get up and keep doing the catwalk, because you’re fucking fierce. I’ve been here long enough to know when everyone hates what I’m doing, or nobody cares, but you just gotta keep going until the next moment when everyone gets super excited again.
FAIRLESS: I actually experienced a version of that episode in real life. I had a rough year in 2016, and it was the first day of 2017. I decided to go for a jog, and I trip and fall off the curb the second I walk out the door, basically. It was the most ridiculous. I was just lying there in the gutter.
GARRONI: Didn’t you fall in dog shit?
FAIRLESS: Yeah, okay, that detail I forgot. But like Carrie, I just had to pick myself up and move on.
GARRONI: That episode also has the line, where she says, “I used to buy Vogue instead of dinner because I felt like it fed me more.”
FAIRLESS: Amazing. I buy Interview instead of dinner to this day.
OTTENBERG: Oh, thank you so much.