Sewing Inspiration Sarah Jessica Parker’s 70’s/80’s Style in Divorce

Style and Sewing Inspiration: Sarah Jessica parker in the HBO series Divorce.

Recently I’ve been watching and enjoying the HBO series Divorce, which stars Sarah Jessica Parker as Frances, an unhappily married suburban mom to two who undergoes a midlife crisis, then finds herself in an affair, followed by a divorce from her husband. It’s real, and can be both sad and humorous, and I’m totally inspired by the outfits SJP wears in each episode. Heavily inspired by the seventies and early eighties style, the looks are stylish, but also very wearable, and classy.

I’ve always been inspired by Sarah Jessica Parker, in her roles on film and TV, as well as in real life. I consider her a fashion icon, going back to the days of LA Stories and then Sex In The City. As we have both gotten older, her style has of course evolved, but always stays relevant. No more tutus and tank tops. And she still has that figure! Costume designer Arjhun Basin used a lot of vintage pieces for the show, which she reworked to make less period specific. The look was inspired by some specific films of the 1970’s. In this Instyle article, costume designer Basin elaborates.”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.

Meryl Streep in Kramer vs. Kramer

I love all of the dresses Sarah wears in each episode. I spent a bit of time going through my patterns to find some designs I could make to look like some of the dresses on the show.

The pieces I am drawn to on the show are mostly the midi length rayon and silk dresses with gathered sleeves and A line skirts. I also love the many fabulous coats SJP wears, but being that I live in So Cal and don’t really need anymore coats, I’m going to focus on creating a dress. Actually, it’s been a few months since I’ve made a dress!

The elements I’m looking for in my pattern are a fitted waist, puffy sleeves with a cuff and a full skirt. I own three patterns that might work:

Getting the look with patterns:

I love this dress above  with the pussy bow, and it’s similar to a dress I’ve already made and have a pattern for, Simplicity 8216. I would just need to make the long sleeved view that’s included. But it has an elastic waist which I’m not crazy about. Here is a link to the post.


McCall’s 7242 is another pattern I  have that will work. I would make a shorter version. I like the sleeves! But I would like an actual waistband and not just another gathered elastic waist.

This dress Meryl Streep is wearing in Kramer vs Kramer is very similar to my 1972 dress pattern below. I love those cuffs!

This purple dress is one of my favorites. I found an 80’s pattern on EBay and the third view on the far right is almost perfect. I just have to shorten the arms. The waistband is perfect, too.

I love this dress so I ordered it!

I may be getting back into sewing vintage patterns. They are so fun to make!

I’m starting to feel inspired to get creative again. I’ve been pretty down in the dumps since my Dad died, and have also had a lot of other personal setbacks which seemed to happen all at once. But I’m feeling hopeful again. Maybe I’ll finally win a tennis match, too. You never know!

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  1. Ann says

    I’m so sorry you’re going through a hard time. I totally understand. I’m feeling pretty blue myself, for various reasons. Hang in there!

    I know you already have some strong options, but this is a style I like too, so I’ve collected a couple of options but haven’t sewn them yet.
    So, I wanted to point out the Sewaholic Nicola dress, which I think is very pretty. Also the Boundless Style book from Victory Patterns, which has various sleeves, bodices and skirts. You might be able to put together the perfect combination from it. I really better get off my butt and make one of these dresses someday. Anyway, best wishes!

      • says

        I really like the Nicola! it’s perfect but the Sewaholic site says it is no longer secure so I will buy it from another vendor.

        • Ann says

          Oh good! Did you find a place to get it? If you have trouble, you can borrow mine and trace it if you want. I did notice when I was looking at the description again that it has an elastic waist, but the belt looks so great, hopefully it doesn’t matter. That’s too bad about the Sewaholic site — it’s like a haunted website, sort of frozen in time and abandoned!

  2. Justine says

    Yay! 🙂 I’m so excited for you to make one or more of these dresses, Justine! It was neat to read how you conceived of the ideas through Sarah Jessica Parker’s pieces. You’re going to rock these my friend!!!

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