No fashion philistine am I. My closet pays homage to designers, mostly French and Italian, pre-Euro. But the consumerism of Sex and the City’s film characters – Carrie, Samantha, Miranda, Charlotte, and Louise — made me cringe. The movie, a montage of financial faux pas, missed a chance to do good.
In today’s frumpy economy, the movie echoed Depression-era 1930s musicals in which the posh danced blithely until dawn in swank supper clubs (think Fred and Ginger). In 2008, escapism is again only a movie ticket away.
Passion reigned in Sex and the City, with fashion reprising as comfort. Writer Dorothy Parker’s “Where’s the man could ease a heart, like a satin gown?” proved timeless.
True, City’s 300 ensembles, of Chanel, Gucci, Dior, Valentino, Mugler, Fendi, Ferragamo, Jimmy Choo, Miu Miu, Carolina Herrera, Cavalli, and others, dazzled. But, if each outfit cost $5,000, head-to-toe, they totaled $1,500,000. Excluding trend tyro Louise (Jennifer Hudson), the four gal pals’ wardrobes averaged $375,000 each, none last season. Of course, Carrie’s confectionary wedding gown, a gift from Vivienne Westwood, was Carrie’s coup. Bridal couture can exceed $100,000.
The problem? The “girls,” now in their 40s (except Louise), showed more skin than financial savvy, save at one juncture. When Carrie’s beau, “Mr. Big,” was purchasing a pre-war penthouse for them to share, Carrie spoke up about her unsecured non-owner status. Bravo. But Carrie regressed, childishly not asking the unit’s price, leaving the details to a man.
No mention of a pre-nup, either.
City women did not broach saving or investing, the pillars of independence. Focal points were love (sometimes ephemeral), and clothing. Apparel is a non-earning asset, with no dividends or loan collateral value (save for rare Barguzin sables). Jewelry, like cars, depreciates as it leaves the showroom. How smart are these women?
Miranda, the hard-working married lawyer, could have mentioned a 401K. Charlotte could have hinted at saving for daughter Lily’s education.
And Samantha, a successful 50-year old publicist and breast cancer survivor (as highlighted in the TV series), could have mentioned disability planning, should her illness recur. If single Samantha has no savings, she must put aside $51,825 per year, for 15 years, to have $1 million at age 65, assuming 3 ? interest per year (realistic).
Personal care and trainers in NYC can cost $100,000 annually. For Samantha to shop, pamper herself, and kick up her red-soled Louboutins, she will need $7 million in financial assets at retirement (and no mortgage) to throw off adequate inflation-adjusted returns. And, rather than buying her a $50,000 decorative ring, Samantha’s hunky boyfriend should have bought her Blue Chip stock.
And Carrie? It’s a good thing Mr. Big is in the picture. Her character, now a big-time writer, has no income guarantees. Did she need a Timmy Woods $3,000 “Eiffel Tower” handbag adorned with 6,300 Swarovksi crystals?
The film was an economic disconnect, with a wedding thrown in. If modest nuptials cost $19,000 to $33,000 (sources vary), and if 50 percent of marriages end, is a big event money well spent?
Louise (Jennifer Hudson) was the film’s hit. Her pluck mesmerized, and her technological skills modernized City. Louise could be forgiven her youthful need to rent luxury through www.bagborroworsteal.com. (A Dior bag is $250 per month for members.) What was less logical was Carrie’s gift to Louise of a Louis Vuitton bag that, were it a Richard Price limited edition, could cost $17,800. Louise deserved cash to start a business.
Hudson, who sang the film’s closing “All Dressed Up in Love,” has been one of only three black women to grace Vogue’s cover (March 2007), the others being Oprah and Halle Berry. In Sex and the City II, Hudson should star as one of the five gal pals, perhaps as a financial planner guiding the futures of her four glamorous comrades.
J.R. Rosskamp is an investor, entrepreneur, and managing director of Veritas Partners, Inc., a business consulting firm. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.