Guess who loves cheap chic? Sarah Jessica Parker
HomepageGuess who loves cheap chic? Sarah Jessica Parker

No kidding-the actress who can work a gazillion-dollar dress with the best of them is more in love these days with the kind of supercheap, supercute stuff in her new fashion line, Bitten. Glamour talks to the star about the clothes anyone can afford (everything in her collection is under $20!), and why she’s always apologizing for her shoes.

By Bob Morris

Does Sarah Jessica Parker think that dressing down in Converse high-tops, rolled-up Levi’s, a bulky gray sweater and a big wool fisher-man’s cap will help her navigate incognito through her Greenwich Village neighborhood? In the words of her fair city: Fuhgeddaboudit. She turns heads and stops traffic. With Sex and the City in perpetual syndication, there’s just no way to hide.

But just so you know, she was in demand long before television turned her into a national icon. Prodigious talent and a heart-on-her-sleeve lovability landed her on Broadway in Annie in 1978, when she was 12. Back then she had only recently moved with her family to New Jersey from Cincinnati, where they had, if not a hard-knock life, one in which money was in very short supply for a family of 10. She settled into working steadily at an early age. TV, theater and movie parts rolled in and kept coming. And there were celebrity romances along the way, with Robert Downey Jr., Nicholas Cage and John F. Kennedy Jr., not to mention an ongoing, on-air flirtation with David Letterman that’s hilarious to watch.

In 1996 she costarred on Broadway with Matthew Broderick—whom she was dating at the time, married the following year and had son James with in 2002—in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. It was a telling title for what she’s up to today: several films in the can; a nearly two-year-old fragrance, Lovely (which tallied $60 million in sales in 2006); and this month her latest venture, Bitten, a super-cheap new sportswear line for the mall-based mega retailer Steve & Barry’s. With everything in the collection under $20, it’s not what you’d expect from Carrie Bradshaw or a red-carpet regular who was given the Council of Fashion Designers of America’s Fashion Icon award in 2004. But then Sarah Jessica Parker is anything but typical, even when she’s dressed like the girl next door.

BOB MORRIS: This month your new fashion line, Bitten, is premiering in malls everywhere. So let’s talk clothes.

Sarah Jessica Parker: OK!

BM: What from Bitten would you wear today, a cool, rainy spring day in New York?

SJP: There’s a pair of jeans I’m in love with that has a zipper at the ankle. I mean, it’s not rethinking the jean at all, but we’re not doing any super-low-rises.

BM: A moral stance?

SJP: No, but there’s not going to be any inappropriate midriff showing, regardless of your age. I really don’t care for it. I feel like, as a culture, we have seen enough damage done by it. It’s provocative in a way that I just don’t feel comfortable with.

BM: Didn’t your husband once blame you for the whole thong thing?

SJP: Yeah, he did. He also saw a low-slung jean once and blamed it on me. And I said no, no, no, no, no. That you actually can’t blame on me.

BM: So is there anything dressy in your new line?

SJP: We have simple black dresses. We have pieces that can be worn in the evening or for work or for a college interview.

BM: All under $20?

SJP: That’s right. They’re not setting a trend. We’re not Balenciaga. They’re well-made clothes that feel of-the-moment.

BM: Your family was once on public assistance briefly. So you come to bargain clothes naturally.

SJP: My mother was very industrious about finding quality, affordable clothes for us. Outlets and tag sales.

BM: Eight children! Did you fight over clothes?

SJP: I was envious. I got all of my oldest sister’s hand-me-downs. And by the time I inherited them, they were really out of fashion.

BM: Kids can be very intense about trends.

SJP: I find it so ironic that all you do, for the earliest part of your life, is try to be like everybody else. And then you turn 30, and you realize all you want to do is distinguish yourself in some way.

BM: With celebrity clothing lines as common as celebrity rehab centers, how will your line distinguish itself?

SJP: Madonna’s line for H&M is extremely directional, provocative and sexy. I don’t know J.Lo’s line as well, but I know that it’s much more trendy than Bitten. L.A.M.B. by Gwen Stefani is much more avant-garde, definitely high fashion. But I don’t want to do that for women, because that’s not really their lives. Bitten is simple silhouettes that are affordable. You’re going to be able to buy $200 worth of clothes, leave that store with six bags and be able to pay your utilities and take your kids someplace special for their birthday. It’s a very different philosophy about shopping. It’s the first and only time I’ve wanted to design. When I first heard about Steve & Barry’s Starbury shoe, I burst into tears.

BM: That’s the sneaker Knicks star Stephon Marbury designed and wears when he plays.

SJP: The idea that you can give a kid a well-made basketball shoe for under $20 that a pro is actually wearing on the court is so wonderful. And I thought, my God! You know, we have an opportunity.

BM: And do you feel that growing up in modest circumstances inspired you?

SJP: It informed my decision completely. It’s a way of giving women without financial means access to good, simple, well-made clothes to feel proud of.

BM: But do you worry you might be seen as a less serious actress because you have a fragrance and a clothing line?

SJP: Sure I do. Am I going to be taken seriously by a filmmaker whom I respect? And also, how much money does a person need to make? But there are certain realities about life: You’re a woman, you’re an actor-and so what are your opportunities when you’re older?

BM: What about the name of your line?

SJP: Well, you know when you get bitten by the theater bug?

BM: Sure. But why didn’t you just call it Sarah Jessica?

SJP: I was embarrassed to. I don’t want the line to be about me. I’m not pretending that these are clothes from my closet. Or that this is Carrie Bradshaw.

BM: But haven’t trends always had their way with you?

SJP: I’ve been the victim of some.

BM: Lingerie as outerwear?

SJP: Uh, did it. [Laughs.]

BM: Pierced belly button? Tattoo?

SJP: No. But if someone feels comfortable doing that, I’m envious of her reckless abandon.

BM: Have you spent many nights feeling guilty about shopping and then returning the next day?

SJP: I often return things because the spending gives me anxiety. But I’m not without my indulgences. And I don’t pretend I’m not enjoying the great fortune I’ve had.

BM: Like being able to get back into fighting shape after you had a baby?

SJP: Well, that’s about having a lot of help.

BM: So are people disappointed that you are not as dressy as you were as Carrie Bradshaw?

SJP: They are. Often I’ll go to the market, and women will say to me: “Let me see your shoes.” And then I show them I’m wearing flip-flops.

BM: Do you say you’re sorry?

SJP: Constantly. I say, “I’m old now. I can’t run around in heels when I go to the market for my son’s yogurt.”

BM: Should stylists be celebrities?

SJP: You know, I think that’s endemic of our culture. I am very distressed by the sensationalism of everything. And look how celebrities are acting these days: People are getting attention for doing nothing, for behaving poorly, for abusing themselves in public and being abused, exploiting themselves. I find it vulgar and I find it awful.

BM: You don’t think it can be funny?

SJP: Yeah, when people aren’t hurt by it. But in the last six months, how many women have we seen destroy themselves?

BM: This is getting way too serious. Let’s go back to clothes.

SJP: I’m sorry! [Laughs.]

BM: But while we’re veering off, let me ask you: Hillary or Obama?

SJP: I am really excited that there’s such diversity.

BM: Such a nice, politic answer.

SJP: But I really am. The more people we have with different backgrounds, the better.

BM: Right. Now back to more important matters: Do you ever have any red-carpet regrets?

SJP: I’ve seen photographs, and it has been pointed out that I should have been regretful.

BM: Didn’t you wear Jack Purcell tennis shoes to a movie premiere?

SJP: Yes, The Lion King.

BM: Is it fair of me to bring up your black wedding dress?

SJP: Absolutely.

BM: Is that a fashion regret?

SJP: Yeah. Our logic was we didn’t want to call attention to ourselves that day, because we’re actors and we get attention all day long. It was a party for everybody else. Matthew bought a suit off the rack and I bought the first dress I looked at. I wish I had worn white, or off-white, I should say.

BM: But no Björk swan dresses in your past, or Streisand see-through tushy pants? And always underwear?

SJP: Always.

BM: Does Matthew make comments about what you wear?

SJP: Um, no. I’ll tell you what, though: Before he knew me, he felt very confident about dressing on his own. I seem to have sapped his confidence.

BM: So you dress him?

SJP: He thinks I have become an interloper in his closet.

BM: You’re nixing certain things?

SJP: I’m not! It’s just that I buy him so much that I think he feels it’s taken away his ability to make his own decisions. I love seeing him in nice clothes. I like your satchel, by the way.

BM: It’s Jack Spade. Eyeing it for your husband?

SJP: I’m trying to get him out of a backpack.

BM: [Laughs.] Did you worry about what you were going to wear for your date with John F. Kennedy Jr.?

SJP: Yeah. I always worried, regardless of who the person was. I went on so few dates that I was very concerned. And I didn’t have a lot of money, so I had to be creative. But I remember almost every outfit I’ve ever worn on a date. That’s how much I thought about it.

BM: So on that first date with JFK Jr.?

SJP: I wore a Katharine Hamnett black cocktail dress.

BM: Avant-garde?

SJP: From Barneys. It was very simple, actually. Except that she let the zipper be the sort of outstanding feature. Very late eighties.

BM: The first dress you wore on David Letterman? He always turns you into a quivering giggler on his show.

SJP: Again, a black dress, a Barneys-label black dress that I bought.

BM: First date with Matthew?

SJP: I wore a pair of jeans I had bought from Fred Segal in, like, 1986. I still have them. Slightly pegged. The wash was very light, like the color of clouds on a perfect day. And a Wrangler denim shirt.

BM: And finally, I’ve got to ask: If it weren’t Matthew, would it be Dave?

SJP: [Laughs.] I’m too old-fashioned. So it wouldn’t be up to me-it would be up to Dave.