Chelsea Fairless is almost always wearing a caftan. It’s become her signature style, which she says is as much about comfort as it is about fashion.
“I’m very much into that Valley of the Dolls aesthetic,” Fairless explains. “I love the ‘60s. I love the ‘70s. I love prints—I love all that stuff.”
With a Twiggy-inspired heavy-banged bob and a glass of rosé, she portrays a vintage style of glamour that people compliment her on often. “Because you look comfortable,” she says. “People almost want to reward you for that. I also like the idea I could be potentially wearing these clothes when I’m 80.”
As the former fashion director of VFiles and co-creator of the 360k-plus-followed snarky Every Outfit On Sex and the City Instagram account (inspired by a night of margaritas with friend and collaborator Lauren Garroni), the 33-year-old has turned her love of photo research, fashion, and pop culture into a new line of wearables and home goods called Female Trouble. The first collection, now available online, boasts colorful, kitschy prints and designs from three different illustrators, inspired by movie posters (like cult classic The Eyes of Laura Mars), tabloid covers dedicated to French actress Jean Seberg, and nun-sploitation tributes. There’s a Showgirls necklace, ashtrays and T-shirts reading "Sativa Plath" (“I was obsessed with The Bell Jar in high school,” she explains), ice buckets, and flasks—the kinds of items that would would be at home in a John Waters film (though the line itself has no connection to Waters or his 1974 comedy of the same name).
“A lot of this is born from my desire to find stuff for my apartment because typically, historically, I either buy stuff at stores that have mid-century modern furniture or Ikea,” Fairless says. “There’s nothing in between the two things, I think, because a lot of home goods are expensive and there’s a million Danish modern throw pillows. I find that, with home stuff, it often fits into this very sort of specific categories, and they’re not typically ones that I like.”
Originally from rural northern California, Fairless says she looked to fashion and lifestyle magazines available at her local bookstore for inspiration growing up, and she moved to New York as soon as she hit 18. She began attending Parsons School of Design for fashion design but switched to an independent study of fashion history and graphic design, which led to a photo researching job at V magazine before taking the position at VFiles. And while she says she has styled for e-commerce sites and for her ex-fiancee (actress Lea DeLaria), she doesn’t necessarily see herself as a “stylist.”
“I don’t think my parents know what I do. I don’t think my friends know what I do, because I’ve done a lot of different kinds of stuff over the years,” Fairless says.
Fairless spent 12 years in New York City before relocating to Los Angeles, which was both prompted by her desire for a slower-paced life and breakup with DeLaria. (Fairless says the split was “really difficult for both of us, but we’re still very close. We haven’t lost the entire relationship which I’m very grateful for and, yeah, I’m really glad to still have her in my life. She is truly fabulous.”) Fairless’s designs, for both DeLaria and Sex and the City-inspired merch, showcased her flair for tongue-in-cheek zeitgeist-y items, including instantly iconic “I Survived Lesbian Chic” and “We Should All Be Mirandas” slogan tees; the latter, she says, was partly inspired by Dior’s borrowing of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s book title for a $700 T-shirt, that reportedly donated part of its proceeds to Rihanna’s The Clara Lionel Foundation. Fairless’ Miranda shirt retails at $32 and gives 10 percent of each order to the National Immigrant Law Center.
“I think we’ve kind of realized that there’s a very underserved audience of Sex and the City fans that relate to Miranda, or have a world view that is closer to Miranda’s [than Carrie’s],” Fairless says. “I think part of the reason why people love it, is she’s finally getting her due.”
In the post announcing the T-shirts in early September, Fairless wrote that “if Miranda ruled the world, the world would be a considerably less fucked up place. We should all be Mirandas: smart, pragmatic, ambitious and unafraid to eat cake out of the garbage.”
Fairless personally identifies as a “Miranda with a Carrie rising,” and her love of underdogs such as Cynthia Nixon’s sarcastic and strong-willed character has perfectly translated into Female Trouble. Her next capsule collection will be wholly focused on another complicated woman with die-hard devotees: Anna Nicole Smith.
“She’s a hero of mine,” Fairless says. “Anna Nicole is our generation’s Marilyn Monroe. I remember where I was when I heard that she’d died—I’ve always been obsessed with her.”
The line will include both wearables and home goods featuring Smith’s “illustrated likeness” as drawn by artist Johnny Negron. Fairness says she hopes to launch the line “around the holidays.”
Female Trouble will continue to keep its colorful off-kilter counter-culture cult aesthetic, and Fairless hopes that she can collaborate with a more established brand in the future in order to create some of the trickier and more involved ideas she has for the line. Additionally, the Every Outfit From Sex and the City Instagram will continue to produce individual merchandise, too.
“We hope the spirit of Miranda is captured in everything that we do,” Fairless says.
And it’s not just the characters of Sex and the City that inspire Fairless, but the woman who styled all of them for all six seasons (and the two films); Fairless says stylist Patricia Field is a “huge icon” of hers, especially as “there’s not really that many out queer women in fashion.” Field has made her fandom of the account well-known, and even sent DMs to Fairless and Garroni, inviting them to meet up when the Instagram creators find themselves in New York next. Despite Fairless’s long-held obsession with New York City and one of its most iconic, fashionable series of all time, she says that “really feels like [she’s] home in L.A.”
“I never fit in where I grew up, and I don’t think I ever felt like I totally fit in in New York either,” she says. “Living there, the day-to-day isn’t like Sex and the City, but sure, I found myself in many situations that were like Sex and the City also. I had so many fabulous experiences there I would not trade for the world.” That included “many years where I was working full-time, really long hours, and then going out every night on top of that,” she says. “It’s been good for me in general, creatively and otherwise, just to take a break.
Now sitting in a Silver Lake cafe, wearing a caftan and sipping rosé on a Tuesday afternoon, Fairless jokes that she’s “having [her] Oprah’s next chapter moment,” and L.A. agrees with her.
“So, yeah,” she says. “I’m about this life.”