Sex and the Bowery


Patricia Field has found her third home. Or at least her store has. The legendary retailer and stylist, famous for providing the costumes for Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte, and Samantha, has put down stakes once again, this time at 302 Bowery. Although all three locations were within a half-mile radius, the settings have been wildly distinct. On West Eighth Street, where Field opened in 1966, her ultra-outre merchandise was ultimately lost in a sea of schlock, its essential camp factor drowning amid the totally earnest trash at neighboring shops. Then ten years ago, Field opened Hotel Venus in Soho, among the elite and exorbitantly priced boutiques on West Broadway. It was funny, like a punky, transgendered prep school kid giving the finger in the yearbook.

Last Monday, Field, who has offered employment to drag queens for decades, brought her beloved she-man store clerks to downtown’s wholesale restaurant supply strip, where her new store offers a flash of irreverent party girl energy in a world of grungy old machinery. You might even mistake it for a place to buy an industrial popcorn popper if you aren’t looking closely enough—the awning reads, in old-fashioned letters “Pat’s Restaurant Equip.” If it catches your eye, it’s because the sign is just a little too spiffy and sports Field’s famous signature, in hot pink, of course. Or perhaps what will get your attention is the window display: naughty mannequins flaunting their plastic thighs, in garter belts and with keffiyehs covering their hair, surrounded by giant, phallic statues.

The keffiyehs, or “desert sand scarves,” as they’re labeled, are for sale inside for $24. Of course, this item, which brings Yassir Arafat to mind, will work or not work depending on the context it is thrown into. This applies as well to less politically-charged merchandise: on the right girl, a four-finger ring will be charming and silly. On the wrong girl, just kind of scary. In the lingerie department, things are perhaps even more dicey. The teddies, camisoles and crotchless panties are girly and busy with prints. It could be the ultimate in sexy, or a sad attempt at youth.