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I arrived at Franklin Mills Mall last Thursday at 9 a.m., expecting to spend the morning with my Cinnabon and a novel I've been pretending to read since Christmas. Although Sarah Jessica Parker was appearing at the discount shopping mecca to introduce her new line of clothing, Bitten , I couldn't imagine what the former Carrie Bradshaw and Northeast Philadelphia had in common. As I got closer to Steve and Barry's — the nationwide sportswear store that would be carrying the line — I realized I would have plenty of company.
Starting at midnight, SJP fans had begun lining up for the chance to meet the style icon. Carrie wannabes weren't hard to spot: They wobbled in their 5-inch heels, clutching friends' arms to avoid toppling over with their iced mochas. With full faces of makeup before noon and enough shit talk to last well past then, these were the girls who would later fight dirty for an autograph. The obedient boyfriends were also fairly conspicuous. Careful not to be mistaken for one of the many gay best friends in attendance, they held their girlfriends' Sex in the City box sets uncomfortably, as if they were purses, flowers or newborn babies. Then there was the "Fashion is not a Luxury" army. They had already picked up Bitten's signature T-shirt and wore its graffiti-style logo with pride. This decidedly tacky item was one of the first pieces available. Operating under the manifesto "It is every woman's inalienable right to have a pulled-together stylish, confident wardrobe with money left over to live," each pieces costs less than $20 and is available in sizes 0-22. Although it was difficult to avoid engaging these ladies in a discussion about what defines "luxury," the true fanatics were even more tempting. Philly-based artist Denise Fike had dragged her 10-foot, metallic-gold painting of Ms. Parker with her. Others brought fan fiction (the Carrie-and-Big saga ended too soon for some) and drove from as far away as Tennessee for a chance to meet their fashion-forward heroine.
An hour past the scheduled 10 a.m. time, the doors opened and fans rushed the store. The entire scene was magnified by the mirror-paneled walls of the former (and barely remodeled) Boscov's. Giant TVs played promotions for the line in which SJP explains her vision, lending the whole event a very Zoolander feel. Finally, the woman of the morning — flocked by scary assistants with earpieces — appeared to deafening, high-pitched screams. Unlike everything else about the event, Sarah Jessica was calm and adorable. Dressed casually in jeans, purple ballet flats and a loose-fitting top, she appeared genuinely touched and surprised by the number of people in attendance. After jumping up and giving a quick wave to a group of girls screaming "Carrie!" she took a seat and began signing autographs, the first of which went to a man dressed in a Hawaiian-print shirt and matching shorts. Maybe Ms. Bradshaw and her Manolos wouldn't have put up with this, but Sarah Jessica handled everything — including a pack of weeping middle-schoolers — gracefully.