Behind the scenes with the O fashion team and the Real Housewives of Orange County

For the November 2008 issue, O turned the stars of The Real Housewives of Orange County (Bravo) into well, real housewives of New York City. We went behind the scenes of the Los Angeles shoot.

New Yorkers may have a reputation for being pushy, but it took more than a handful of us to persuade Real Housewives Vicki Gunvalson, Jeana Keough, Tamra Barney, Lauri Waring, and Gretchen Rossi to shed their long blonde hair, conspicuously full lips, form-fitting clothes...and embrace (or at least agree to try) tamer East coast styles.

The team starts with O creative director Adam Glassman, hairstyling genius (and Jessica Simpson confidante) Ken Paves, fashion editor Sean Spellman, and makeup artist Heather Currie, plus set designers, seamstresses, manicurists, assistants, and photographer Robert Trachtenberg. Amidst the mayhem of the shoot, which took place at Smashbox Studios in Culver City, CA, Adam captured these shots on his digital camera, while beauty director Val Monroe kept a watchful eye on the transformations.
Sean Spellman and Adam Glassman behind the scenes

Getting into the "Before" Rack
"Sean was hilarious," Val says of the metropolitan fashion editor. "One of the best I have ever worked with. He doesn't walk—he dances!" Here, he and Adam play peekaboo in the ladies' "before" rack. "They had never seen so many animal prints," says Val. Not in their city.
New York style

The "After" Shelf
A little piece of heaven: endless hats, bags, belts, gloves, shoes... Nothing Housewivfe style, but the five women couldn't help admiring this spread. A certain pair of Christian Louboutin heels made a huge impression. "Jeana fell in love," Val says.
The Real Housewives on set

Rise and Shine, It's Makeover Time
Call time: bright and early. Instructions: no makeup. Tamra and Lauri (posing here with Sean and Adam) wear sweats to the shoot and try to play by the rules. "But," says Val, "no matter what they put on, no matter what they were wearing, they always wore high heels."
Behind the scenes with Real Housewife Tamra

Shall We Dance?
Sean and Tamra pose for the camera, pre-makeover. "You can tell how small she is," Val says. "It's very easy to hold someone that tiny!"
Behind the scenes with Real Housewife Tamra

The Sean Makeover
Little did we know, the Housewives weren't the only ones getting made over. Sean looks ravishing in this ruched white halter, while Tamra stays comfy in her own Ed Hardy sweats. (And even Val gets roped into a makeover of her own later in day.) 
Behind the scenes with Real Housewife Lauri

Sequins and Brights: Not for Long
Lauri popped in a bright orange tank, a far cry from the winter white slacks, casual caramel coat and flowy scarf covering her up in the "after" photo. "I don't have a TV at home, so Adam gave me the DVDs," says Val of the Bravo show. "I was riveted; couldn't wait to meet them in person." They didn't disappoint her. "Lauri was up for anything," she says.
Behind the scenes with the Real Housewives of Orange County

Texting: Orange County Style
Nope, these daggers don't belong to one of the Housewives. "This is one of Vicki's sons girlfriends," Val explains. "Extreme O.C. Nails." We just want to know this: How does she type?
Behind the scenes with Real Housewife Vicki

Not a Moment's Rest
Vicki, who runs a successful insurance business, must keep her manicure shorter. You could always find her on her laptop, working between shots.
Behind the scenes with Real Housewife Gretchen

Ken Works His Magic
A hairstyle really does make a difference. Gretchen's long, blond hair is undetectable under one of Ken's chestnut wigs. "She was shocked at how different she looked," Val says.
Behind the scenes with the Real Housewives of Orange County

Behold the Hair
These pieces are just a sampling of what Ken brought to the shoot. Every woman had an extension or a wig to complete her look—and you'd never know. By the end of the day, "There was hair everywhere," Val says.
Behind the scenes with Real Housewife Lauri

Take 1
Ken first gave Lauri a super-dark hairstyle with bangs—"very New York"—but eventually decided to ditch the look for something softer. "It was too severe," Val says. "He didn't like it."
Behind the scenes with Real Housewife Gretchen

Saving Face
As Ken and his assistant make a few last-minute trims to Gretchen's hair, she covers her face to keep her new makeup from smudging. "He was one of the most brilliant, gracious, articulate hairstylists I have ever worked with," Val says of Ken. "He was standing almost the entire time, from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. at night. He was so patient, and he never got cranky."
Behind the scenes with Real Housewives Gretchen and Jeana

Quick Break
Jeana, (right), the earth mother of the group, and Gretchen, (left), the newest and youngest housewife, take a moment to breathe during the shoot. But what we really want to know is whether there were there any fights. Bickering? Show secrets spilled? "Gossip?" Val says, "Probably. I wasn't listening. There was so much potential for diva madness and drama, but there wasn't any of that. It was so nice."

Well, good thing season 4 is shooting now.

Robin Monheit

The fourth season premiere of
The Real Housewives of Orange County airs November 25 on Bravo.

See how the team took Val from NYC to O.C. and what the Housewives looked like after their makeovers!