New York City housewives aren’t your standard stay-at-home moms. In this town, they walk the red carpet at charity galas, escape the summer heat by fleeing to the Hamptons and sit front row at Fashion Week.
And for Alex McCord — one of the stars of Bravo’s “The Real Housewives of New York City” — it also means long days of shopping with husband Simon van Kempen at some of Manhattan’s ritziest department stores and boutiques.
“We really don’t go shopping apart. Some people find that bizarre,” said van Kempen, a manager at a Manhattan boutique hotel who helps his wife handpick her wardrobe. “The stereotype about men is that they hate shopping. I don’t know why it is, but I have never had that problem. If we’re going to buy stuff we’ll wear out together, we want to both have input.”
“Housewives” is back for its second season, and the couple’s do-everything-together approach — 44-year-old van Kempen once crashed a girls-only gathering — will almost certainly be a point of contention among the other housewives. But McCord, who hails from Fort Scott, Kan., and van Kempen, from Australia, say they try to keep the drama to a minimum.
“We came back for a second season,” said McCord, 35, “so it obviously wasn’t a bad experience.”
Now, after four months of taping, the Brooklyn-based duo is finishing up a massive home-renovation project and is prepping to extend their time in the limelight with the launch of a parenting book. “We were completely unprepared by the avalanche of e-mails we received about raising two young boys in the city — like what’s the difference between a nanny and an au pair,” said McCord, who works in retail visual merchandising.
Here, McCord and van Kempen dish on each other’s shoe style, their thoughts about socialite attire and why you’ll never see them sporting sneakers.
Pairs owned: About 100
Brands: Cynthia Vincent, Louis Vuitton, Plein Sud and Roberto Cavalli, among others
Favorite shoes: “I absolutely love Plein Sud boots. The only time I can shop there is when we’re in Paris or St. Tropez.”
Best footwear advice: “I had it drummed into me from a very early age that you don’t skimp on shoes. Find brands that fit your foot well, and don’t ever, ever buy a shoe that doesn’t fit. Shoes are definitely one [item] where you tend to get what you pay for.”
Least-favorite shoe styles: “[You’ll never see me in] athletic shoes if I’m not working out — or flats, unless I’ve injured myself. [I’ll wear] flip-flops, but only in the backyard or in the house.”
Biggest splurge: Cavalli sandals with blue and silver Swarovski crystals that cost about 900 euros
Favorite party shoe: “If you’re looking for wild patterns and colors, it’s got to be Roberto Cavalli. If you’re looking for a gorgeous black shoe, it’s Plein Sud.”
Shoes you wore at your wedding: Ralph Lauren. “I didn’t want to just pick up a pair of white shoes. They were satin with a criss-cross strap that fastened behind the ankle. I still have them and will keep them forever.”
Favorite shoes on Simon: Patent-leather Dior boots. “They fit his foot perfectly. When you have a well-formed shoe on a nondamaged foot, it’s really nice to look at.”
Worst trend Simon has ever worn: “I don’t think he ever has. If I were shopping with him, I’d never let him.”
Who has the best style of the other housewives? “I don’t always make a habit of looking at other people’s feet. I do tend to notice Ramona [Singer’s] shoes because there is usually something shiny on them, and she’s usually kicking her feet around.”
Simon van Kempen
Pairs owned: About 20
Brands: Christian Dior, Churches, Finn, Kenneth Cole and Louis Vuitton, among others
Least-favorite shoe style: “Sneakers. You’ll see me in sneakers only if I’m playing tennis.”
Biggest splurge: A pair of Churches about 15 years ago. “I was living in England, and they were about 300 pounds. I thought that was a lot. Then I put them on and understood. I spend way more than that now, but that was a lot back then.”
Best shoe-shopping city: Paris
Favorite work shoe: Louis Vuitton boots. “I have a black pair and brown pair that are identical.”
Most talked-about shoe moment: “There was a famous scene in season one that caused a stir. I couldn’t decide between dark and light boots and asked my wife what she thought. Bethenny [Frankel, who was with her,] said, ‘Oh my god. Tell him he’s in the midst of a deep homosexual panic.’”
Least expensive pair: “Before I moved to New York, I bought a couple of pairs of cheap slip-ons. Alex took one look at them, and [let’s just say], they’ve been thrown away for many years now.”
Alex’s shoe style: “Sexy, striking, yet functional.”
Favorite shoes on Alex: Patrick Cox open-toe sandals with gold lacing bought in Paris about six years ago. “They were one of the first shoe splurges we did together. They look great on her.”
Worst fashion faux-pas seen at a chic Manhattan event: “My greatest horror is people wearing white socks with black shoes.”