When Sarah Jessica Parker was seen on the And Just Like That… set in a draped, powder blue bodycon dress by Norma Kamali, fans recognized the look as pure Carrie Bradshaw, if not a little more grown-up than her looks from the original Sex and the City. They might not have known that the latest Carrie dress is a $215 style Norma Kamali first introduced more than forty years ago.
Like Kamali’s Sleeping Bag Coat, the Diana Gown is a house staple—one the designer first created in the 1970s and has only minutely adjusted in the years since. The latest version of the dress, the same Carrie Bradshaw will wear on-screen in December, is available for pre-order at Revolve.
Kamali was excited to see her dress appear on the show, but she didn’t expect fans to be familiar with its history. “I’ve been doing this for 53 years. So a lot of the people who are buying the Diana now have no clue or could care less about the fact that that dress was done such a long time ago,” the designer tells BAZAAR over Zoom. “They know Norma Kamali today.”
Not that onlookers could guess the dress’s age with one look—it was intended to be timeless. “The first time I did it in the 70s, I was just thinking classic styling, sort of Greco-Roman feel to it,” Kamali explains. “It didn’t have a bodysuit in it at the time. It was just really simple—sort of like a sheath.”
On the first re-design in the eighties, Kamali added a bodysuit inspired by her swimwear—a clever touch allowing the outer fabric to drape just so. The dress went on a brief hiatus in the mid-2000s before returning again around five years ago. Carrie’s present-day dress keeps the hidden bodysuit, but has more durable fabric than past gowns.
“People are looking for clothes to wear to weddings that they’ll want to wear again to other things,” Kamali says of the latest version. “And they’re not so precious that you have to dry clean them or leave them in the part of your closet that says ‘special occasion.'”
Carrie Bradshaw’s styling (unbuttoned cream blazer, sequin-embellished sandal heels) is also consistent with how Kamali says women have always worn the Diana, save a few decade-specific flourishes. In the seventies, Kamali recalls heaps of stacked jewelry and open-toe shoes gave it a casual attitude; in the eighties, “hair dominated.” “If I think about that style, I think about [how] the hair on top was like a lollipop,” Kamali laughs.
Decades of Diana sightings have always excited Kamali. But there was something special about seeing the Diana dress on SJP as Carrie in a new phase of her life. “That image said, this is Sex and the City Carrie as a woman who is aging with power and looks fantastic. Her body is different and it’s fabulous. She’s in command and she looks beautiful.”
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“Sometimes you see clothes that you do on famous people and you think, ‘Well….okay. It’s great that they chose it or they’re wearing it,'” Kamali offers for comparison. “But this was a situation where I really felt that my expectation of Sex and the City and this version would be a comment on aging with power, and that picture for me was really great to see.”
Demand for the Diana dress was already high across age groups and aesthetics before its And Just Like That… cameo. Recent sightings beyond Carrie’s closet range from Summer Fridays founder Marianna Hewitt in dusty orange to fellow beauty mogul Kylie Jenner in black. Beyond the celebrity circuit, it’s a frequent plus-one to weddings—for guests and modern brides, Kamali says.
Does the designer think the Diana will extend its reign through another generation? “If this show is a big success and it’s on for a long time, I think the dress can hold up. It will feel so relevant throughout time that maybe other peoples’ children will be seeing it.”
Kamali wants one thing to be clear: Anyone can wear the Diana dress in its next chapter, whether they discovered it through And Just Like That… or they’ve worn the gown through its many evolutions. Her designs are meant for every woman, at any phase in her life.
“I do love it when people tell me they’ve introduced their daughters to the clothes, and they’ll say ‘I can’t wear the clothes anymore, I’m too old.’ I say, ‘Yes you can still wear my clothes.’”
This article originally appeared on Harper’s BAZAAR US.
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