What the Real Housewives really wear in fashion

It all started with Sky Tops. When Real Housewives from Orange County premiered in 2006, the biggest fashion statement at the show were these often ruched, often satiny, often sleeveless blouses with embellishments and jewels around (often surgically enhanced) cleavage.

These days, if you tune into one of the eight Real Housewives shows on Bravo (or the two more on the Peacock streaming service), it’s quite a different story: Gucci prints, exclusive logos on everything from sunglasses to scarves, and a pair of earrings that read CHA on one tab and NEL on the other . which are so ubiquitous you’d think Andy Cohen released them as part of an initiation ritual.

“It has changed completely,” says the journalist and Housewives diehard Amy Odell. “Now part of the reason people watch is to see what the ladies are wearing.” It’s not just the fans who have noticed a change. Ur-Housewife Bethenny Frankel wryly commented on her podcast that behind the scenes is an army of “glam teams and costumes and hairdos and a whole fashion show.” And yet the on-screen fashion show can be more real than the red carpet, where celebrities more often than not play dress-up for step-and-repeat.

Housewives don’t borrow clothes – luxury brands won’t lend to them – and they don’t rent the runway. To keep up with the look, they buy their Alexis Carrington Colby flavor at their own expense. To quote Dolly Parton, it costs a lot of money to look this cheap. “It’s all from my closet,” says Sutton Stracke, of Beverly Hills. “When people write, ‘Sutton needs to fire his stylist,’ I just want to write back, ‘I’m my stylist!'”

Sutton Stracke and Kinya Claiborne at the launch of Stracke’s new cashmere line at Sutton on May 3, 2022 in West Hollywood.

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And here’s something else: The housewives move goods. A lot. While they don’t pull in the viewers they used to (around 1 million per episode at their peak), they still have Instagram followers that range from 4 million (Beverly Hills‘s Kyle Richards) to 10 million (Atlantaits Kandi Burruss).

All the stars of the franchise, especially in New York, have always attended fashion shows. Ramona Singer walked a runway – as part of Brooklyn Fashion Weekend. For the most part, these appearances were photo ops aimed at impressing the tabloids. Then Erika Jayne broke out in Beverly Hills in 2015, weaponizing her outrageous closet to turn herself and her team into meme machines. Before her recent legal troubles, Jayne was signed up by Rihanna as an ambassador for her lingerie line, Savage X Fenty, and attended shows by Marc Jacobs and Vera Wang.

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“Rumble on the Runway” episode 718 of Real Housewives of New York.

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Seven years later almost every member of Beverly Hills the cast hires stylists, and even many of the women in other cities do PotomacGizelle Bryant, whose colorful ensembles are regularly mocked by fans.

“This is going to sound so weird, but what I’m going to wear is the hardest part for me on the show,” says Crystal Kung Minkoff, who is in her second season of Beverly Hills. “I’m not into fashion. It’s not my thing. But fashion is its own character on the show.”

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So she spent tens of thousands of dollars on clothes, an investment that cut into her $60,000 home as a first-year cast member. Minkoff, an entrepreneur who is married to filmmaker Rob Minkoff, first asked two friends, stylists Andrea Lublin and Dana Asher Levine, to help her as a favor. With a requirement of 100 outfits per season, she eventually had to start paying them. Now Lublin handles the everyday filming and Levine the confessional footage and reunion episodes.

“There are lunches, dinners, holidays. There’s a lot of content to fill, says Andrew Gelwicks, a New York stylist who worked with actresses Lisa Rinna (of Beverly Hills), Carole Radziwill (formerly of New York), and Chrishell Stause, of Netflix’s Selling Sunset, a reality upstart . which is trying to take the crown for fashion with a capital F. The holidays are especially terrifying, as the cast can wear three or more outfits a day, and god forbid one of the ladies shows up wearing the same sunglasses twice.

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Crystal Kung Minkoff, Dorit Kemsley, Lisa Rinna, Erika Girardi, Kyle Richards, Kathy Hilton, Sutton Stracke and Garcelle Beauvais in 2021.

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To make things difficult, most stylists cannot call in samples from the big fashion houses. One issue is logistics. Housewives shoots on such last-minute production schedules that the cast often isn’t sure whether they’re going to a black-tie event or Turks and Caicos.

Then there is a more delicate problem. “I tried to pull from designers and they didn’t want their names attached to the show,” says Leslie Christen, an Orange County-based stylist who worked with former sitcom actress Heather Dubrow on its first season in 2012. in it. the ultimate irony of dressing up for the show: The Housewives play celebrities on TV, but they’re not offered the same freebies—not the ones they want, anyway. Even Jovani, the cheesy evening wear line made famous by Countess Luann de Lesseps, has the women of Bravo handing over a credit card to wear their prom dresses.

The network’s casting directors look for cast members who can dress the role independently because they don’t stretch much in the way of a stipend: less than $2,000, and that’s only for high-stakes reunions.

It was Stracke’s “couture lifestyle” that got her on the show in the first place, she tells me, all but doing air quotes over the phone. Not only is the ex-wife of PIMCO CEO Christian Stracke a luxury shopper herself, she sells a legitimate couturier, Alexis Mabille, at her namesake in West Hollywood. (She reportedly received $300,000 a month in spousal support.) Other cast members are raising the retail prices of their socialist uniforms and, more importantly, to keep their slots in the series.

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Marc Jacobs husband Char Defrancesco, Christine Quinn, Kat Gosik and Bijan Souri at the Marc Jacobs Fall 2022 exhibition at the New York Public Library in June 2022.

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Inevitably, expensive bad clothes make for good TV, and they also drive sales. When Minkoff wore what Stracke called “ugly leather pants,” the item in question, by Andrea Lieberman’s ALC label, immediately sold out on Net-a-Porter. Stracke herself caters to fans by offering items in her shop for all budgets, including Mabille’s t-shirts and day dresses.

Luxury’s heavy hitters are paying attention. For proof that the establishment is softening its stance, just Google “Kardashians at the Met Ball.” Reality TV’s first family pioneered buying clothes until they were invited to the party. Cut to this summer, and Selling Sunset’s Christine Quinn was front row at Balenciaga’s show at the New York Stock Exchange.

The label may project an aloof public image, but no one in fashion is above making coin, and Quinn’s 3 million Instagram followers speak to the consumable power of her platform. The realtor wasn’t just there as the new queen of Netflix pyrotechnics, but as a founder herself. In the waning episodes of the show’s fifth season, Quinn had announced that she was leaving real estate agency Oppenheim Group to hang her own shingle, RealOpen. Naturally, it is aimed at the crypto audience.

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