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07.15.09

Shopping with Kelly Bensimon

New York’s most outrageous Real Housewife tries on summer dresses, sandals, and jewelry at her favorite Manhattan stores. The Daily Beast’s Rachel Syme guards the dressing rooms.

Kelly Killoren Bensimon, former fashion model and onetime editor of Elle Accessories, was just your average downtown-fashionaholic ex-society-wife (she was once married to longtime Elle photographer and creative director Gilles Bensimon, with whom she has two daughters, Sea and Teddy). That is, until last year, when she decided to take her lifestyle public. First, she started penning “The Socializer” column for the now-defunct Page Six Magazine (full disclosure: I worked there) in which she recorded observations from nights out on the town such as, “There’s something about [Michelle Obama] that reminds me of Eleanor Roosevelt, maybe because Eleanor was the accessories queen,” and “…then Ron Perelman showed up and I found myself talking to Kyle MacLachlan about planning cross-country road trips with our kids.”

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And then, she became a Real Housewife. On season two of Bravo’s decadence-exposing reality paean to the female upper crust, Bensimon signed on as the single mom about town, shown cavorting in the Hamptons and designing jewelry lines while the other housewives lunched, munched, and gossiped. She was depicted as usually late, definitely fabulous, and a little out of the loop when it came to the other housewives’ vicious circle—but she doesn’t care. “At this point, the press has had their way with me,” says Bensimon. “I was a model, I know, it’s all part of the game. And you know what? I had so much fun shooting that show. It’s a catharsis, putting it all out there like that for people to see and judge and report back on.”

Though Bensimon has had her share of troubles since filming the show—the gossip press accused her earlier this year of slugging her then-beau Nicholas Stefanov (she struck a deal with the judge)—she seemed genuinely happy when we met up for a shopping trip in her neighborhood—near downtown’s Little Italy. She was tanned, tall, and wearing a breezy Etro dress—and was eager to share her fashion knowhow, honed from years behind the camera, editing, and making jewelry, with America.

View our gallery as we go on a spree with the newest housewife (who, if reports are true, is officially signed on for season three), for summer dresses, gladiator sandals, sequined hot pants, and more.

Plus: Check out Fashion Beast, for more news on the latest runway shows, hot designers, and emerging trends.

Rachel Syme is culture editor of The Daily Beast.