The Bookworm Sez

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

c.2023, Dey Street Books, $35.00, 272 pages

The shirt’s just a little too big.

But that’s no problem; you’d rather your shirts be looser anyhow. Pants, they’re another matter; they need to be snug all over. You have your own sense of style, and you wear it fabulously. In the new book “Pat in the City” by Patricia Field, read about an icon’s journey into clothes, clubs, and couture.

Almost from the time she was born, little Patricia Haig (later, Field) knew that clothing made a statement. She knew it while wearing her cowgirl outfit to play when she clothes-shopped with her aunts and when recalling her father, who was “handsome, sweet, and mild” and who died when she was small. Adoption later changed her surname, but not her love of clothing.

Working in her mother’s dry-cleaning “shop” as a kid, Field learned all about fabrics; her aunts’ forays into fashion taught her even more. She “always had beautiful clothes,” although a pair of men’s-style pants discovered in a small boutique in the mid-1950s was life-changing.

Field entered college and landed dual degrees in philosophy and political science, though she says, “style came easy to me.” By then, she’d turned away from ’50s femininity, preferring an androgynous look. She also learned that she preferred women as partners.

One of them was a partner in Field’s first business, a small shop near NYU in Manhattan that opened in 1966. In 1971, they opened a larger store, calling it “Patricia Field.” Partly due to her contacts with designers, Field sold inventive, trendy, “nouveau glamour” outfits to clubbers who made Studio 54 the “high-octane” place it was then. Field dressed a lot of celebrity clubbers, too, which led her to the ballroom scene, where she became a House “Father” and a part of vogueing history. And then someone suggested to someone else that Field would make a great costumer for an upcoming movie…

If you could somehow take two books by a good author and smash them together to make one, that’s what you’d have with “Pat in the City.” This book is divided almost cleanly in two and almost with separate reader-audiences.

In the first part, author Patricia Field shares her biography, her childhood, her formative years, and the awakening of her personal sense of style. Fashionistas won’t be able to put those pages aside, nor will anyone who attended any New York City club with any regularity back in the day. This half of Field’s book drips with disco lights and ballroom “reads.”

Celebrities stretch into the second half, as Field writes about being the costumer for Sex in the City, the friendships she struck up with its cast, and how the iconic opening scene came to be. This part of the book – likewise glittering with big names and big productions – is for younger readers and Hollywood watchers. Reading this book is like time-travel to the ’70s and a backstage peek at your favorite show. If you love clothes and people who love fashion, then get “Pat in the City.” It fits.

Terri Schlichenmeyer

The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. Terri has been reading since she was 3 years old and she never goes anywhere without a book. She lives on a prairie in Wisconsin with two dogs, one man, and 17,000 books. Her new book, The Big Book of Facts, is now at bookstores and at Kings English by clicking here:

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