What Real Housewives Really Spend on Fashion
It all started with Sky Tops. When real housewives of Orange County created in 2006, the series’ biggest fashion statement were these often gathered, often satiny, often sleeveless blouses with embellishments and jewels around the neckline (often surgically enhanced).
These days, if you tune into one of the eight real housewives programs on Bravo (or the other two on the Peacock streaming service), it’s a whole different story: Gucci prints, high-end logos on everything from sunglasses to scarves, and a pair of earrings saying CHA on one lobe and NEL on the other which are so ubiquitous you’d think Andy Cohen distributed them as part of an initiation ritual.
“It has completely changed,” says the journalist and Housewives the irreducible Amy Odell. “Now part of the reason people watch is to see what women are wearing.” It’s not just fans who have noticed a change. Ur-Housewife Bethenny Frankel commented acidly on her podcast that behind the scenes is an army of “glamorous and costume and hairpiece crews and a whole fashion show.” And yet, the on-screen fashion show may be more real than what’s paraded on the red carpet, where celebrities most often play dress-up for rehearsal.
Housewives don’t borrow clothes – luxury brands don’t lend them clothes – and they don’t rent the runway. To keep up appearances, they buy their Alexis Carrington Colby sets at their own expense. To quote Dolly Parton, it costs a lot of money to look so cheap. “It all comes from my closet,” says Sutton Stracke, of beverly hills. “When people write, ‘Sutton needs to fire his stylist,’ I just want to say, ‘I’m my stylist!'”
And here’s another thing: housewives carry goods. A lot. Even though they no longer attract viewers like they used to (about 1 million per episode at their peak), they still command Instagram followings ranging from 4 million (beverly hillsof Kyle Richards) to 10 million (Atlantaby Kandi Burrus).
All the stars of the franchise, especially in New York, have always attended fashion shows of some sort. Ramona Singer paraded on a catwalk as part of Brooklyn Fashion Weekend. For the most part, these appearances were photo ops aimed at impressing the tabloids. Then Erika Jayne burst into Beverly Hills in 2015, weaponizing her outrageous closet to turn herself and her team into meme machines. Prior to her recent legal troubles, Jayne was hired by Rihanna as an ambassador for her lingerie line, Savage X Fenty, and attended shows by Marc Jacobs and Vera Wang.
Seven years later, almost all members of the beverly hills the cast hires stylists, as do many women in other cities, even Potomac‘s Gizelle Bryant, whose colorful ensembles are regularly mocked by fans.
“This is going to sound so weird, but what 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.
So she spent tens of thousands of dollars on clothes, an investment that cost her $60,000 as a freshman cast member. Minkoff, an entrepreneur married to filmmaker Rob Minkoff, first asked two friends, stylists Andrea Lublin and Dana Asher Levine, to help out as a favor. With a request for 100 outfits per season, she finally had to start paying for them. Now, Lublin handles day-to-day shoots and Levine does faith-based shoots and reunion episodes.
“It’s lunches, dinners, vacations. That’s a lot of content to fill,” says Andrew Gelwicks, a New York stylist who has worked with actress Lisa Rinna (from Beverly Hills), Carole Radziwill (formerly from New York) and Chrishell Stause, from Netflix’s Selling Sunset. , a reality upstart trying to take the fashion crown with a capital F. The holidays are especially daunting, as the cast may wear three or more outfits a day, and God forbid one of the ladies shows up twice wearing the same sunglasses.
To complicate matters, most designers can’t call on samples from the major fashion houses. One problem is logistics. Housewives shoots on last-minute production schedules that actors often don’t know if they’re going to a black-tie event or the Turks and Caicos Islands.
Then there is a more delicate problem. “I tried to bring in designers, and they didn’t want their names associated with the show,” says Leslie Christen, an Orange County-based stylist who worked with the former sitcom actress. Heather Dubrow in her first season in 2012. The ultimate irony of dressing for the show: Housewives play celebrities on TV, but they aren’t given the same gifts – not the ones they want, in any event. Even Jovani, the cheesy evening wear line made famous by Countess Luann de Lesseps, requires Bravo women to hand over a credit card to wear their prom dresses.
The network’s casting directors are looking for cast members who can dress the role independently, because they don’t stretch much in terms of allowance: less than $2,000, and that’s only for reunions. high stakes.
It was Stracke’s “couture lifestyle” that brought her to the show, she tells me, while doing aerial quotes over the phone. Not only is the ex-wife of PIMCO executive Christian Stracke a luxury shopper herself, but she also sells a legitimate fashion designer, Alexis Mabille, at her eponymous boutique in West Hollywood. (She reportedly received $300,000 a month in spousal support.) Other cast members are raising retail prices for their socialite uniforms and, more importantly, to keep their slots on the show.
Inevitably, bad expensive clothes can make for good television, and they also drive sales. When Minkoff wore what Stracke called “ugly leather pants,” the item in question, from Andrea Lieberman’s ALC label, immediately sold out on Net-a-Porter. Stracke caters to fans herself, offering items in her store for all budgets, including Mabille’s t-shirts and day dresses.
Luxury heavyweights are paying attention. For proof that the establishment is softening its stance, just Google “Kardashians at the Met Ball.” Reality TV’s first family was the first to shop for clothes until they were invited to the party. This summer, Selling Sunset’s Christine Quinn was front row at the Balenciaga show at the New York Stock Exchange.
The label may project an aloof public image, but no one in fashion is above making money, and Quinn’s 3 million Instagram followers are a testament to her platform’s buying power. The real estate agent wasn’t just there in her capacity as Netflix’s newest queen of pyrotechnics, but as the founder herself. In the descending episodes of her series’ fifth season, Quinn announced that she was leaving real estate brokerage firm Oppenheim Group to hang her own shingle, RealOpen. Naturally, it caters to the crypto crowd.
Brian Moylan is a journalist, Real Housewives anthropologist, and author of the recent New York Times bestseller The Housewives: The Real Story Behind the Real Housewives.