Brian Moylan Talks Real Housewives Fashion
The brilliant recapper answers the burning questions you've had about those reunion show looks, and much more.
Brian Moylan is Vulture’s brilliant Real Housewives recapper. He is one of my favorite writers, and I was delighted to get an advance copy of his book, The Housewives: The Real Story Behind the Real Housewives. It comes out Tuesday and if you want to support Brian and journalism you need to order it now, right here, because writing a book is goddamn difficult and this one is a thing of beauty and the best way to support it is to just buy it now.
The Housewives is full of juicy details about one of television’s most addictive and important shows. I laughed out loud a lot while reading it. You will laugh, too.
I rang up Brian last week to talk about the show’s connection to fashion.
A lot of people might be here thinking, Oh, they're just going to make fun of rayon tops. But one of the most famous models of today, Gigi Hadid, got her start on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. So the franchise’s link to the fashion world is more pronounced than people realize.
I'm still not sure how much the Housewives made her a supermodel. I think in her instance, Carine Roitfeld made her career and I don't know that Carine found her on The Housewives. The kids of Housewives have tons of followers. All the models now, like Kaia Gerber, all these celebrity spawn do. Now brands want models that are not only going to be beautiful and sell their products, but also get them exposure. Being on reality television helps with that. But we certainly haven't seen the same trajectory for [Lisa Rinna’s daughters] the Hamlin sisters as we did for the Hadid sisters.
Do you remember that scene with Gigi and Yolanda? Gigi was doing a shoot and Yolanda said something to the effect of, "See, it's no fun to eat salad every day, but then you get to be a model."
One hundred percent. I guess that's what it takes because most moms would just be like, "Be healthy and do you," whatever. But Yolanda's like, "No, you have to be skinny at all costs, because I was a model and I know."
The fascinating thing about The Housewives is it's a group of women who really want to be involved in the actual fashion world. And usually – Gigi excepted – they don’t get to be.
Absolutely. Let's be honest, there are people at the highest echelons of fashion and media who are Housewives fans. There will be people who break out, like Erika Jayne making videos for Vogue. They're not going to have any old Housewives on, but they'll have Erika because she's really into fashion and she is directional and all the things that Vogue espouses. She’s also someone that a larger audience is going to recognize rather than just some random socialite.
One thing I loved about the book is that you open with fashion. Please tell us about Sky Tops.
Sky Tops were these crazy – I guess you call them blouses. I don't even know. It's very 2006, which is when Real Housewives of Orange County launched. It's like a very early career Britney Spears aesthetic, where it's low rise jeans and these tops that are flowy, but they're bunched under the boobs and then they have big ornamentation on them and lots of glitter and sequins and things like that. They're meant to be flattering on a tummy but accentuating your boobs. All of the Housewives were obsessed with them.
Like a going out top?
It is totally a going out top, but for everyday use.
So going out to them means just existing, because they wear them all the time?
So to them going out means to see your kid's soccer game.
The franchise has expanded so much and each city is unique. But do you feel like there is a Real Housewife look across cities? Are there unifying factors to their style?
I think you will see things, particularly accessories, that travel across. The original one was that fur feather vest that I joke in the book they issued to every first season Housewife as a welcome gift. But currently, it's Gucci, the double “G” belt you see on all of them. We've seen tons of people wearing those Chanel earrings that are “Cha” on one side and “nel” on the other side. There's also a lot of, I call them Kyle Richards hats, but those felt fedoras. Kyle Richards really started that trend. And then there are Kyle Richards sleeves, which are those sleeves with the holes in the shoulders.
Which in a pre-Housewives era we would have boringly called a “cold shoulder.”
For her first several seasons that's all Kyle Richards wore.
While we're on the subject of Kyle Richards, can we talk about her store, Kyle by Alene Too?
Of course we can.
I don't have anything to say about it other than I don't really understand it. It overwhelms me.
One year they had a branch of it in the Hamptons. When we went to the Hamptons I made my husband go to it. And it was so weird. It was overstocked and bizarre. It was kind of like Kitson for middle-aged women, if that makes sense.
Absolutely does. Why does Kyle need a store?
I think a lot of these opportunities come to the women and they just take them. And I think Kyle was like, yep, I love fashion, I could do a store. And Alene Too just sees the exposure they're going to get on The Housewives and synergy is born.
Another important Real Housewives brand is Jovani, which is strongly connected to Luann in New York. How would you describe it?
When I talked to Jovani the woman described it as a dress for everything from your prom to your granddaughter's bat mitzvah. And I think that that's very much what it is. It's gowns, but for a fundraising formal dinner in Cincinnati, or mother-of-the-bride dresses, and things like that. It's the kind of thing you will see on a red carpet, but not at the Oscars. You might see it on a second-tier celebrity, at a second-tier kind of award show.
And is this a brand that we see in the reunion, which I feel are — tell me if you disagree — probably the most important looks that we see on the women each season?
That is totally what it is, that glittery, very ostentatious look that the Housewives tend to prefer.
I would counter and say, I think the most important looks each season are the confessional looks, because we probably see those more than any other look. They get time to invest into coming up with what they're going to wear and how they're going to look. Erika Jayne really changed the format when she came in with a team of stylists and hyper-stylized confessional looks, and a lot of the Housewives have followed since then.
But the only thing with those looks is you're not really getting a full gander at what they're wearing. Whereas the reunion…
Reunion looks are very important. For both the opening theme looks and for the reunion look they do get a theme. So production says, "The theme is black.” Or “the theme is neon.” Or “the theme is space creatures."
So the producers are giving them some input on the kinds of things that they should be wearing. Are the producers… on their side?
I think that the producers and Bravo are on the show's side. I think that what is best for the women is often what is best for the show, but sometimes the opposite is true. So if a woman wears something ridiculous that we're all going to make fun of and be obsessed with, I don't know that the producers are going to be like, "Don't wear that. You look like a fool."
There's just something completely outrageous about these women sitting there in full-on Miss America ballgowns just to talk.
Right. You're never going to see a Housewife in Dries Van Noten.
You report in the book that they get $1,200 to buy a reunion dress. Do you have any idea if many of them go over that amount?
I'm sure they all go over that amount.
Luann is known for her enormous accessories. I was laughing when you said in the book that, "She wears a necklace that isn't a statement, it's a whole speech."
I am currently watching tonight's Real Housewives of New York, and she is wearing maybe three statement necklaces at once to a Burning Man-themed party. So get ready for that.
How important do you think their fashion choices are for the casting process?
The casting director I talked to said that they're focusing more and more on look, but I think some of that is how they look physically, like their face and them being of a certain body type, et cetera. I think that they want the women to present like they are wealthy. But I don't think it's like they need to be fashionable
I don't know if you can do this, but can you pick a favorite dresser?
Personally, I love a very maximalist, over-the-top, crazy, out-there look. So I'm a big Erika Jayne fan when she just goes all the way. I love it. But I like the women that have a signature and stick to it, like Lisa Vanderpump with the pink and the tailored shirts and the big hats. Luann's statement necklaces have always been part of her vernacular. And then knowing it so well that I see something in the store and I'm like, Oh my gosh, Luann would love that.
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