We all buy clothes, but no two people shop the same. It can be a social experience, and a deeply personal one; at times, it can be impulsive and entertaining, at others, purpose-driven, a chore. Where do you shop? When do you shop? How do you decide what you need, how much to spend and what’s “you”? These are some of the questions we’re putting to prominent figures in our column “How I Shop.”
I think it would be fair to say, at this moment, that Beverly Hills is the most fashion-y of Bravo’s “Real Housewives” franchise. It’s a cast that lives for logomania (Dorit Kemsley), Birkins (Kyle Richards), full runway looks (Erika Jayne) and actual couture (Sutton Stracke). Often, it’s clear when a new cast member (Teddi Mellencamp, Denise Richards) comes in and constantly feels underdressed. (“Barbecue” does not mean casual.) But there’s one relative newcomer, currently in her second season, that’s held her own among the luxury-obsessed: Garcelle Beauvais.
It’s not surprising to hear Beauvais describe a pattern of sartorial oneupmanship among her castmates, whose outfits have only grown more styled, on-trend and expensive with each passing season. Specifically, she credits Kemsley with consistently raising the fashion bar: “You can’t even compete with her,” Beauvais tells me on a call she took from her car, on the way to take her son from an orthodontist appointment to In-N-Out.
Beauvais can always be relied upon to keep it real, and that includes her style. Unlike some of her fellow housewives, she doesn’t work with stylist and loves putting looks together herself — something she has decades of experience doing. The Haitian-born beauty entered the spotlight as a model in New York, transitioning into acting in the ’90s and 2000s. She’s been a red-carpet mainstay for decades (hence her frequent presence in our Great Outfits in Fashion History column), and has even parlayed her innate fashion sense into a design collaboration with jewelry designer Roni Blanshay (which you can shop here).
“When Roni Blanshay reached out to me to do a collaboration I thought, ‘This is a no brainer,'” she says. “I love accessories. I feel like it’s a way to make a statement, or not — you can do a bold statement or you can go Bohemian or you can go classic. It’s a way of dressing up and having a different personality, as I see it.”
Below, Beauvais discusses keeping up with her flashy castmates, the importance of confessional looks, shopping at Sutton and her favorite outfits from season 11 of “RHOBH” thus far — including, yes, that hazmat suit, which, no, she didn’t actually borrow from Naomi Campbell.
“I’ve always had a love for fashion, from my days of modeling up until now. Growing up, my mom would always dress up. Jewelry was her way of expressing herself, so I’ve always loved jewelry. She loves gold more than anything. So, I grew up with the love of fashion, the love of accessories.
“Shopping with my mom always felt like you should dress up, even to go get the mail, because you never know who’s out there. She was always dressed up. Growing up, culturally, I wasn’t allowed to wear pants. I always had to wear a dress at school, or a uniform. But my mom sewed. All my sisters sewed. I started to learn, but I didn’t have the patience. If I messed it up, I didn’t want to redo it.
“When I started modeling in New York at 17, I really came into my own, loving what fashion was. Growing up in Haiti, it’s all about colors, so I love color to this day, but when I moved to New York, to be chic and fashionable, it was all black. I remember coming home and visiting my mom, and she was like, ‘Who died? Why you wearing all this black?’ I was like, ‘Mom, it’s the style in New York.’
“It’s one of my passions, to shop and put things together. Over the years, I’ve never really used the stylist. For any of my red carpet things, I’ve always done things myself — unless it’s a photo shoot and somebody hired a stylist. It’s just really fun. And I’m not like, ‘Everything has to be high-end brand for me.’ I will do a Zara top, Gucci pants. High/low is what I love.
“Let me tell you, I wish I had known to keep some stuff. I did not. I have some gowns from the past, but not all. I should have kept more. I think back then, it was really whatever was on trend or how I was feeling or what I loved. It’s still kind of the same right now, but it’s a little bit more classic, a little bit more refined. But I do love trends. I won’t spend a ton of money on a trend because it’ll go. I just don’t feel like you need to wear every trend at one time.
“I love the ’70s. I also love the ’80s. The ’80s were fun, with the neon colors. Style icons… there are so many, I love, obviously, Halle Berry. Blake Lively, I love her fashion. I also love the old movie stars I think were sometimes ahead of the game in fashion — we didn’t know that those would become classic looks.
“I shop impulsively, if I’m going to be honest. I think sometimes I’m strategic thinking. When the season of ‘Housewives’ is gearing up, I will purchase some things ahead of time that I know I want. But most of the time, it’s all emotion. I’ll see it, I’ll love it and I’ll buy it.
“If I bring something in now, I make a conscious effort of taking something out. We’ll either donate or I’ll give to a friend who I know liked it, or I pass it onto one of my sisters. I’m trying to be better about that.
“I’m a shoe girl. I definitely have a few of the Valentino with the studs that I love, that I’ll never get rid of. I have a great cashmere shawl that I got from Neiman’s years ago, that whenever I’m on a plane, that’s my go-to. I call it my million-dollar shawl because I felt like I almost spent that.
“I never was an online [shopping] girl, because I like instant gratification. I like to touch it. I don’t like to try on clothes, but I like to feel it. So with 2020 and us being quarantined and all that, that’s when I really started my online shopping. I said to my kids, ‘We’re only buying essentials.’ So if a box or a package would come to the house, my son Jax would be like, ‘Is that an essential, mom?’ But now I love online shopping, because a lot of things do come quickly. And it’s all about the hunt. I can do it at two in the morning if I can’t sleep, while I’m sitting in the car waiting for my kids to do whatever.
“I really love Intermix. I love Saks. I love Revolve. And now I really like FWRD. I also like Steve Madden, if I need a quick sandal or something. I love Cinq à Sept, I’m obsessed with them. I also like R13 and Staud.
“It depends on what the event is. Let’s say it’s a red carpet premiere — I think about, ‘What do I want to look like? What do I want to portray? Do I want to look boss-like and wear a suit? Do I want to be feminine and wear a flow-y dress or a jumpsuit?’ It just depends. And then I accessorize with what would go good with that.
“I went to a dinner and wore this really big, white dress from Sutton; the clutch was from her store as well. I tell her, ‘Where’s my friends and family discount?’ She’s like, ‘No, I got you.’
“If I’m packing to go on a trip with my regular girlfriends — let’s say for the weekend — I will probably have five outfits packed. If I’m going on a ‘Housewife’ trip, I will have 200 outfits for the same amount of time. You need options. You don’t know how you’re going to feel, the weather… But I think we get three looks per confessional and we have to wear them at least three times, so you’ve got to really love your outfit. By the third time, I’m usually sick of that outfit.
“I love my first confessional look because that was, again, boss-like, this black and white suit and the gold button. I also love my current confessional, which is this red cutout dress. I did an all-cinnamon-colored skirt and jacket when we all went to dinner in Santa Monica. I liked that look, too. I also love my hazmat suit. [It was from] Amazon.
“We don’t really talk about [what we’re going to wear] because I think it’s also part of the game, who’s going to outdo the other. Dorit really stepped it up all the time, to a point of like… Yeah, you can’t even compete [with her].”