When The Carrie Diaries premieres tonight on the CW, the show — which takes place in 1984 Connecticut — will begin the process of filling in the Carrie Bradshaw backstory left largely untouched by the original Sex and the City. It will also start telling the story of Carrie's style evolution, as imagined by costume designer Eric Daman.
Daman has the perfect pedigree for the job: he started as an assistant to head designer Patricia Field on seasons 2, 3 and 4 of Sex and the City, and he's just wrapped up a stint dressing the cast of the CW's outgoing hit, Gossip Girl. (There was actually a 5-week overlap between Gossip Girl and Carrie Diaries when Daman was doing double duty — "Every day I thought, 'Oh, I can't do it again,' but we pulled it off," he says.)
Carrie's style story, Daman says, starts with her mother's death — an event that she is still struggling to come to terms with when episode one begins.
"She has access to her mom's closet, which to me is like a fashion Narnia where Carrie can explore different eras. You might see her in something that's '60s or '70s so she's really kind of doing her own thing in the '80s, not just wearing neon aerobics or Flashdance or Madonna," he says.
And even though the show takes place in the '80s, that doesn't mean 16-year-old Carrie is going to be a caricature. "It was really important for me when designing for her not to have her subscribe to the '80s trends — not to be a Mall Girl or an MTV girl — and give her her own personality," Daman says.
Most of the clothes, in fact (70 to 80 percent) are contemporary, not vintage. Daman says the cast will wear a lot of "fast fashion: stores like H&M, Forever 21, TopShop," i.e. things fans of the show can actually afford.
Fans of the high fashion of Sex and the City, though, won't be disappointed.
"Because of Gossip Girl, and because of who Carrie Bradshaw is, we were very lucky to have a lot of designers" who wanted to be involved in the project, Daman says. "People like Valentino and Dior, Marc by Marc Jacobs — there are so many great people that helped work with us because we didn't really have the budget to create those high fashion moments."
Watching teen Carrie find that balance is part of what Daman is excited about. "I think what will be really fun will be to watch the teen Carrie evolve and grow and watch her fashion taste grow — the more she goes to New York the more you can see her develop her style," he says.
Carrie will have help on that end from a new influence in her life. Daman says to look out for Louisa, fashion editor at Interview magazine, who becomes Carrie's mentor — she was his (second) favorite character to dress.
"Lots of neon and color blocking and over-the-top shoulder pads and big hats — she has kind of a fashion statement with every move she makes," Damen says of Louisa's look. "It's a great moment for me to recreate these fashion moments I always imagined as a teen growing up in Michigan. She's just the big, broad stroke of fashion kind of over-the-top — almost an AbFab character. "
Speaking of mentors, Daman says Sarah Jessica Parker gave some advice to new Carrie, Anna Sophia Robb. "I know that Sarah Jessica wrote a sweet letter to AnnaSophia …It was a kind of passing of the torch."
Carrie Diaries premieres Monday at 8pm (7pm Central) on the CW.