When you think of Sarah Jessica Parker, you think of New York City. And that isn’t just because the first image that might come to mind is a pair of Carrie Bradshaw’s Manolo Blahniks stepping out of a classic yellow cab and tottering up to her West Village brownstone, either. Parker’s first major acting role at the tender age of 12 was in a Broadway production of Annie, and since then, her love affair with the city has never waned—wherever her jet-setting acting career takes her, she’s always made it clear that it’s in the Big Apple she feels most at home.
Tonight, the actor is finally coming full circle with the Broadway premiere of her new play Plaza Suite, a revival of Neil Simon’s 1968 comedy set in the Plaza Hotel, in which Parker co-stars with her husband, Matthew Broderick. For the big event, initially postponed for two years due to the pandemic and marking her return to Broadway after two decades, Parker decided to call up her old friend Prabal Gurung to create the kind of frothy fashion confection that any Great White Way star’s dreams are made of.
“I’ve known Sarah Jessica for a very long time, from the beginning of my career really, and she found me through my clothes,” says Gurung of his relationship with Parker. “She’s always been so kind and generous—everything that people say about her is absolutely true.” When Parker asked Gurung if he’d be up for designing her dress for opening night, his answer was an immediate yes. “This is a big moment for her and a big moment for New York: Broadway is back!” Gurung says, with a chuckle. “To me, nobody epitomizes New York like Sarah Jessica, in every possible way, so it was a great honor.”
While the revival of the play remains firmly in its original 1960s setting, it takes place across three acts. Each revolves around a different couple staying in the same suite at the iconic Midtown hotel, allowing the costumes to showcase the full spectrum of style in a decade when fashion dramatically shifted. Rather than looking to anyone specific, Gurung and Parker channeled the spirit of a classic Broadway star from that period. “One thing about Sarah is that she knows exactly how she wants to feel more than what she wants to look like,” says Gurung. “She’s great to work with as there are no guessing games. Because we’re friends, it’s easier to talk about the look and go back and forth—we have a lot of fun.”
The first layer of the dress was cut from a silk crepe back satin in a shade Gurung describes as “New York pink”—“it’s not a bright pink, it’s almost like it has a light film of dust on it,” he explains. It was then topped off with an ethereal, cloak-like double layer of transparent silk tulle, hand-embroidered with crystals, sequins, and bugle beads that Gurung and his team were sewing into the gown up until the very last minute. To finish the look, Parker’s hairstylist Serge Normant crafted a sculptural chignon bun to recall the air of classic 1960s fashion photography the pair were hoping to achieve. “There’s something very old school about it, like it’s from a classic Avedon photograph,” adds Gurung. “It’s glamorous, but it’s still graceful.”
When we speak, Gurung has just finished adding the final touches to the gown before Parker gets ready to hop into her car and hit the red carpet—and finally, celebrate her return to Broadway in the grandest of style. “When she got dressed, I was just like, ‘oh my God, she looks like royalty!’” Gurung says. “It always makes me very emotional, because it reminds me how fortunate I am. I know that our industry can be arduous and challenging at times, but at moments like this, I’m so grateful that our work can be a source of joy and optimism for someone. I can’t tell you how blessed I feel to be able to create something beautiful for a dear friend of mine.” With a show-stopping opening night look like this, we’re sure the feeling is mutual.
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