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Clothes are the real stars of ‘Selling Sunset’

by Rachel Tashjian The Washington Post | June 1, 2023 at 1:31 a.m.
Emma Hernan is among the fashionable brokers of "Selling Sunset" at the Oppenheim Group office. (Netflix photo by Adam Rose)

In the high stakes deal-making and backstabbing of "Selling Sunset," the Netflix reality television show that tracks the drama of the Los Angeles residential real estate company The Oppenheim Group, one of the biggest characters doesn't speak. It can't form a thought. It can't even make a deal -- though depending on how you use it, it might help you land one.

We're talking, of course, about the clothes.

On the show's sixth season, the Realtors have stunned (and flummoxed) audiences with cocktail dresses that lace up the front, glass bustiers, enormous blazers that somehow also reveal a lot of skin, and tiny leather gloves. Memes extol the outlandishness of the clothes. "'Selling Sunset' agents turning up to a broker's open house at 2 p.m.," posted one user alongside three images of actress Megan Fox in ultra-revealing cutout gowns and heavy makeup.

"We all recognize how much fashion plays into our roles and how important it is that we, as the public say, serve looks," says Chelsea Lazkani, who joined the show last season.

For viewers who are used to switching between sweatpants for Zooming and streaming on the sofa and tame separates worn for halfhearted returns to the office, the clothes on "Selling Sunset" seem to defy everything including weekend wear and business casual.

Bre Tiesi, the newcomer (and paramour of Nick Cannon), frequently appears on the show in a Thierry Mugler blazer with enormous, nearly villanish shoulder pads that cuts off to reveal the bottom quarter of her breasts. "It makes me feel edgy, but sexy, but classy," Tiesi says.

The show's stars often appear for a day of work in neon cocktail attire, like a fitted neon green David Koma dress Davina Potratz wore in the middle of season six that has a lace-up cutout at the chest. "I think if you reveal too much skin, you take away from your beauty," Potratz says. "So I try to focus on one part of my lower body or upper body."

Some of the cast members' outfits even seem to resist the very logic of clothing itself. In one scene, Emma Hernan wears a black gown whose bodice is a lattice of silk straps. She puts a shot in the bust of the dress and a fellow cast member drinks it from its perch in the silky grid as Hernan obligingly leans forward. In another scene, Lazkani arrives at the office in a white suit jacket and matching trousers -- and underneath, a white bikini top whose cups are two enormous white flowers.

Amanza Smith, who often wears cornrows or Bjork-like buns, weeps in a nude tattoo top that extends over her entire hands, awkwardly wiping away her tears with her nude tattoo top-covered fingers. In fact, a number of cast members go about their days inexplicably wearing gloves -- in Los Angeles! When you see someone wearing gloves on television, she says, "they're always about to be messy." Doing surgery, committing a crime -- or merely getting their hands dirty with drama.

The show's elaborate wardrobing also marks a departure from the style of producer and creator Adam DiVello's previous shows, "The Hills" and "Laguna Beach," whose stars are widely credited with ushering the cliché "basic girl," with boot-cut jeans, leggings and stretchy T-shirts.

Instead, flashy designers like Versace, LaQuan Smith and Dion Lee are the cast's favorites. Forget "quiet luxury." These clothes command attention -- encouraging lingering, even distracting stares -- and refuse to apologize for it.

The team behind the show has encouraged the outlandish clothes, cast members say. "I think the production [started to] focus a little bit more on the look and fashion, and they would do slow-mo entries into scenes and really kind of feature the people that were wearing more bold or outrageous outfits," Potratz says. "So we, of course, noticed that as well. All of us want to look good and stand out, and everyone's stepping it up and going more and more and more and trying to see what kind of fun fashion they can experiment with."

Potratz also points to the influence of Christine Quinn, who left at the end of last season under a cloud of murky ethics. She dressed "above and beyond," Potratz says, and even appeared as a celebrity guest at a number of fashion shows in New York this past fashion season. (Quinn declined to comment for this story.)

But perhaps no one's outfits stretch the limits of plausibility more than Lazkani's. In an early episode, she arrives at a broker's open -- essentially a cocktail party for brokers to show off a new property, where the show's drama frequently crescendos -- wearing a white porcelain bustier dress with a leather handbag whose front is sculpted to resemble female anatomy. That piece was by artist Stef Van Looveren; Lazkani says she wanted to use the show to spotlight independent designers.

Keeping up with the Oppenheim colleagues is no easy task. Nearly all of the cast members use stylists, several said in interviews. The stylists can charge anywhere from $800 to $2,000 per look, on top of which the cast members pay to rent the clothes, which is generally 20% of the retail cost.

Print Headline: The clothes are the real stars of ‘Selling Sunset’


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