Fashion designer Patricia Field — probably best known for providing the women of "Sex and the City" with their distinctive style — recently brought her unique talents to "The Devil Wears Prada." MTV News' Megan DeSales sat down with Field to talk about dressing Anne Hathaway and Meryl Streep, commanding respect and why pressure at work is a nothing more than a distraction.
MTV: "The Devil Wears Prada" is a best-selling book about fashion, about someone in the fashion industry. Had you read the book prior to getting involved with the film? How did you get involved in the movie?
Patricia Field: I got involved in it primarily through the director, David Frankel ("Sex and the City," "Entourage"). I've worked with him several times over the past 10 years. The book, of course, is sort of an exposé of the fashion industry, centered around a woman who resembles Anna Wintour [the legendary, long-time editor-in-chief of Vogue]. Meryl Streep plays the editor, Anne Hathaway plays the assistant, Stanley Tucci plays the art director — a great role. It was a fun movie to do. What I wanted to do, really, is create a character for Meryl Streep and not to imitate or copy a real-life character who, supposedly, this book was about. I had this great actress [to work with] so it was much more exciting and creative to create a character around her. So that's what I did.
MTV: Seems like a lot of pressure, because this film is about a fashionista, the editor of a big fashion magazine. Was there any pressure, even a little bit of pressure, when you were creating your costumes?
Field: No, I really don't feel pressure when I'm working. Pressure is a distraction for me, so I just forget about it and I go and do the best I can. I look for inspiration and, you know, I got a lot of inspiration from Meryl. She's such a professional actress, she's very regal and at the same time down-to-earth and intelligent, so I really started from her and built from her. She was my inspiration.
The idea with her character was that she was the sort of woman who would really wear expensive clothing, clothing that rich women wear — very fine fabrics and so on. I like to mix things up, embellish jackets with pinstripe skirts or play around with embossing and trimming and so on, rather than do a typical head-to-toe, dictated look that we've all seen before. It was about trying to be original with her so that she, as an editor, had created her own look, had her own style. I remember her sitting at a desk and she had on this white sweater — Diane von Furstenberg — and she looked gorgeous with her white hair. She wore a beautiful deep-cut, off-the-shoulder suit in black by Prada. She wore numerous gorgeous jackets from Bill Blass and I used a lot of Donna Karan from the 1980s and early '90s. I think she was happy. I wanted her to look good and feel comfortable and feel like the character that she was there to create.
MTV: So every day, when the cast came into the trailer, would they ask, "What am I wearing today? What's the look we have today?"
Field: The actors are never surprised on the day of shooting, or don't know what they're wearing. They know. It's all prepared ahead of time.
MTV: Do they want to take anything off the racks and take it home?
Field: Well, I certainly think they enjoyed their clothing. As far as taking it off the racks, I know that Meryl had an idea to auction a lot of the clothing off for one of her charities. And I know that Stanley Tucci was very happy with his wardrobe. He really liked it, and told me it definitely helped him to get into his character. He was so much fun to work with. And Annie — it was great, because we've never seen Annie as an adult. We've seen her in films for a [younger audience]. I think all of her fans that are now a little older, those who grew up with her, will see Annie come full bloom onstage and on camera from a "plain Jane" to a fashion icon.
MTV: You made your mark on a lot of younger viewers with "Sex and the City." You created trends for pieces, for looks. That's what you're known for — you have a vision. Do you think someone will take away a new trend or a new look when they watch this movie?
Field: I think that Meryl's character is possibly going to have its influence on many women because, in my subconscious, my aim is to empower women. And I think that when it comes to Meryl's character, I think I hit the mark with it and Meryl hit the mark with it, and I think we set a standard. Hopefully it will have its effect on many women who might be execs, or lawyers, or professionals, and they'll find that they can be more creative in the way they dress but, at the same time, command the respect.
MTV: If someone watching this movie happens to be a die-hard Patricia Field fan and knows your style, knows your fashion sense, is there a moment in the movie where that person might say, "Oh, that's her signature look"?
Field: When I think of the Patricia Field style, I think it's probably the ability to see fashion in all of its 360 degrees. I'm known for my downtown reputation, but after all, I've been doing this for quite a number of years so [my style] is not that limited. I would like to dress anybody who inspires me. It could be a queen, it could be a president, it could be a young woman who walks off the street and into my store. That's the 360 degrees of it.