This Sunday, Sarah Jessica Parker steps into a brand new role—and a brand new wardrobe. She stars as unhappily married suburban mom-of-two Frances in HBO’s new drama Divorce, which follows the uncoupling of Parker’s character and her husband, Robert (portrayed by Thomas Haden Church). The role takes Parker—who also serves as executive producer on the show—far from the glamorous Manhattan streets that she famously strutted as Carrie Bradshaw on Sex and the City (and often does IRL, too). And, Frances’s closet looks nothing like Carrie’s—or Parker’s, for that matter. Instead of stepping out wearing bold high-fashion looks, Frances opts for classic dresses and cozy knits. And her simple-yet-chic style was something that Parker and the series’ costume designer, Arjun Bhasin, made sure to get just right.
“When you have a new show, there are so many ways to build it from the ground up,” Bhasin recently told Lifestyle-integrated. “Before we did the pilot two winters ago, I met with Sarah Jessica to talk about who we wanted Frances to be. We discussed the tone of the character, the tone of the clothes, the tone of the show, and what we didn’t want the show to be.”
As their conversation continued, Frances’s look came to life—and so did the show’s vintage vibe. “We talked about ‘70s cinema and having the show be quite cinematic in a way,” said Bhasin. “We wanted it to be less of a fast-paced TV show and more of a cinematic slow-burn.” For style inspiration, they turned to classic movies from the decade. “In terms of clothing, we hit on the themes of the late ‘70s,” said Bhasin. “There was one 1978 film called An Unmarried Woman that Sarah Jessica was very excited about, in particular, so we talked about that as well as Kramer vs. Kramer, American Gigolo, and some of the old Woody Allen films from the Upper West Side’s winters. We discussed how those films would influence our show and how it would have that kind of a feel.”
When it came to finding the perfect pieces for Frances’s ’70s-inspired looks, the pair decided to keep things authentic. “I didn’t set foot into Barneys, Bloomingdale’s, or Bergdorf’s once,” said Bhasin, who dressed Parker in mostly vintage pieces for the show. “We just didn’t go that route at all, because we decided to take a different stance on how we were going to dress her.”
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Scroll down for 9 things to know about Frances’s fashion on the show, straight from the costume designer himself.