The Housewives of Orange County get a makeover.
Transformation: From O.C. to NYC
Backstage: Meet the stars
Surprise! Val thought she was just there to report...

It was going to be the makeover story of a lifetime, but I had no idea.

"Wouldn't it be fun," said Adam Glassman, O's creative director, "to restyle the Real Housewives of Orange County to look like New Yorkers?"

"Orange County?" I said. "Where's that?"

A few weeks later, I was on a plane to L.A., reading the biographies of the five housewives who star in the hit Bravo show. Adam was already there, having rounded up the women, along with the brilliant celebrity hairstylist Ken Paves, a fashion stylist, a makeup artist, a set designer, and a seamstress. The photo studio was a beehive of activity by the time I arrived: The housewives had alighted, one by one, from their cars; some fittings had started; and the place was buzzing with the kind of girlish excitement that one might expect from five women who were about to be stripped of nearly every aesthetic convention they were accustomed to—and then utterly made over.

In the unlikely event you, like me, aren't acquainted with this particular Orange County look, here's a rundown:

1. Hair: blonde and long

2. Skin: very tan (often spray-tanned)

3. Teeth: blindingly white

4. Lips: conspicuously full

5. Noses: pert

6. Breasts: notably large

7. Tummies: flat; hips: nonexistent

8. Nails: long, French-tipped, and square

9. Jewelry: big and frequently diamond

10. Clothes: mostly pastels, corals; formfitting and revealing

Of course, you could find these elements in the urban Northeast, too, but the warm, sunny Southern California climate seems to bring them all together in a style you might call Extreme O.C.

By day's end, the five housewives would be modern-day Athenas, sprung from the head of Adam, transformed from their homogeneous perfection to a metropolitan, slightly eccentric, chic. See the makeovers.