Vanderpump Rules’ Ariana Madix has been dressing for revenge over the past couple of months after news broke that Tom Sandoval, her boyfriend of nearly a decade, cheated on her with their friend and fellow cast member Raquel Leviss. From her eye-popping red top and skirt combo that she wore to the cast reunion to her white cape gown she chose for the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, and even the viral moment online when she wore a 1-800-Boys-Lie sweatsuit in paparazzi photos, Madix has been serving standout looks.
Emily Men, Madix’s stylist, is the mastermind behind these iconic fashion moments. As it turns out, there’s more meaning to Madix’s clothing than meets the eye: the reality star has been using her clothes to tell a story.
Although their outfits have garnered a lot of attention and praise, Men hasn’t been working with Madix for too long. Men isn’t a full-time stylist; she’s a Los Angeles-based content creator with a background in styling and design. She attended the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising before working with Emmy Award-winning stylist Brenda Cooper, Rachel Zoe, and stylist Joey Tierney who has worked with cast members on MTV’s The Hills as well as Britney Spears on her “Oops I Did It Again” tour.
Now, Men is a full-time content creator in the fashion influencing space. Back in October, a mutual friend connected Men to Summer House’s Lindsay Hubbard because the reality star needed help putting a number of looks together for BravoCon, Bravo’s annual convention where fans and talent gather to celebrate the reality TV network.
Impressed by her outfit choices, Madix asked Hubbard to connect her to Men. The first time they worked together, Men helped Madix pick out her outfit for the Vanderpump Rules Season 10 cast photo shoot and title sequence; for the former, Madix wore a purple suit and skirt with sleeves decorated in feathers and for the latter she was in a green and blue keyhole colorblock dress. After getting word that a date was set for the reunion taping, Madix reached back out to Men in January asking for her assistance. With a few potential ideas already picked out, they planned to get together at the beginning of March to solidify Madix’s reunion fit.
Scandoval became public knowledge about a week before Men and Madix were scheduled to do a fitting. When Men read the news online, she told Madix that she’d happily postpone or adjust, given the circumstances. But the reunion date of March 23rd was staying put, Madix told Men, and all eyes were on her as she filmed what would become one of the most highly anticipated reunions in Bravo history.
In light of this newfound attention, Men went back to the drawing board. She combed through lookbooks and it didn’t take her long to land on a skirt and top by Monot. Men had previously seen model Elsa Hosk wear the outfit in white to the Vanity Fair Oscar afterparty, and she was intrigued to see the design in red.
“I saw it and I just was like, ‘I think this is like the perfect thing.’ The color was perfect because red is a color of passion, anger, and revenge,” Men explains. “It kind of gives devil vibes and like she’s out for blood.”
While the color itself was compelling to Men and Madix, the style of the skirt-and-top combo was also appealing. According to Men, the style was simple, chic, and fashion forward without being overtly sexy or super provocative.
“It’s a bold statement but it’s not trying too hard,” Men says. “It shows off a lot of skin in the stomach area but at the same time it still covers a lot because it’s long-sleeved and a full maxi skirt. I feel like it was a perfect look for all tiers of fashion lovers, not just snobby fashion people. All spectrums of people and their tastes can love it and appreciate it.”
They nailed the look; everyone on the internet marveled at the reveal when Madix posted a photo of the full outfit on Instagram, including the Monot top and skirt, Jessica Simpson pumps, and half a million dollars worth of Shay diamonds, according to Men. The stylist says she thought jewelry would also be a good opportunity to make a statement at the reunion and a fun way “to spruce everything up.”
“I figured she would be talking a lot with her hands and using her hands a lot, so I was like, ‘We should make sure she’s iced out in diamonds,’” Men says. “So we did a bunch of stacked rings. When she’s crying on camera and holding her hands to her face, you can see all of the bling on her fingers. We also put a diamond ring with an A on her middle finger.”
As a Bravo fan, Men was familiar with the format of reunion episodes and knew that there might be scenes that showed cast members getting ready behind the scenes in dressing rooms before they’re actually sitting on stage in their formal dresses. That’s what inspired her to also pick out the now-famous yellow Boys Lie sweatsuit for Madix to wear heading into filming, which ended up getting captured by cameras and separately by paparazzi. The hooded sweatshirt says “1-800-BOYS-LIE” on the front and “We’re sorry the number you are trying to reach has moved on,” on the back.
“The sweatsuit made a silent statement because at first she kind of publicly stayed quiet, so I was like, ‘That’ll be cool for when they’re filming you talking and getting ready during the reunion,’” Men says.
Men already owned the sweatsuit herself. She’d been a fan of the Boys Lie brand and the co-founders’ genesis story: Tori Robinson and Leah O’Malley, two best friends, created the clothing company after they simultaneously went through breakups with their boyfriends who were also best friends.
“There’s so many great things out there and there are all of these opportunities to have these different looks, so it’s nice to place different designers and share the love,” Men says.
Following the Vanderpump Rules Season 10 reunion was Madix’s appearance at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner at the end of April. Men wanted to approach this fashion choice differently; she knew the dress had to be more conservative, and she also thought the look should reflect the different point in her life that Madix was in compared to when she filmed the reunion in March.
“For the reunion we tapped into anger and revenge so I thought, why don’t we do the polar opposite now because she was in such a better place and situation,” Men says. “So you go from devilish, out for blood, and now you’re kind of not bothered so the look feels more like an angel, princess vibe.”
The white cape gown came from Needle & Thread, a brand that Men is familiar with because she’s been working with them for years. Madix also wore Schutz platform shoes and her own minimal jewelry not to distract from the rest of the look.
To complete the trifecta of important public-facing fashion moments, Men suggested Madix lean into “funeral vibes” for her Watch What Happens Live interview with Andy Cohen the night the season finale aired. Since there were “deaths in the Vanderpump Rules family,” as Men puts it, she wanted to go for a more dramatic piece so she picked an Alessandra Rich black lace gown along with Steve Madden heels.
“I thought, it’s the season finale, she was going to be the last Vanderpump guest on there for the season, and I felt like it’s kind of like death to Sandoval and Raquel,” Men explains. “I feel like this is also a good time when she can be really fun with fashion.”
In terms of accessories, Madix wore David Yurman rings and she also borrowed Men’s grandmother’s vintage earrings to complete her look. At first, she was debating the perfect kind of jewelry for Madix to wear with the funereal gown; Men was initially thinking of a statement necklace, but that didn’t feel quite right. When she was at home one day she was looking through her own personal jewelry collection and came across a pair of floral earrings her grandma gave her from nearly 70 years ago.
“Back in the day, the quality of stuff was much better. There’s just something different about vintage jewelry,” Men says. “So she was wearing my grandma’s earrings, which was special for both of us. It meant something to me and it also meant something to her because Ariana lost her grandma last year.”
There isn’t a one-size-fits-all philosophy behind how Men chooses Madix’s looks. According to the stylist, the two of them have similar preferences and like the same brands, which makes it easier to agree and decide on outfits. Men says she focuses her attention on brands and fashion lines that she already likes using for herself and has relationships with, and that she also considers the cost efficiency of the whole look; for example, if a dress is more expensive, she aims for a more accessible pair of shoes. Viewers and fans have been obsessing over Madix’s looks, but Men isn’t dwelling on the internet’s approval or letting that impact her future fashion choices for the reality star.
“It is exciting that everyone’s loving the way she’s dressing, but I like to stay grounded,” she says. “I think, ‘OK, good, everyone liked it. Now onto the next look.”
For someone who accidentally fell into professionally styling, Men has kept busy with Madix for the past couple of months. On top of dressing her for the Vanderpump Rules reunion, White House Correspondents’ Dinner, and Watch What Happens Live appearance, Men has picked out Madix’s outfits for press interviews, the NBC Upfronts, and even some personal moments in Madix’s life like Coachella, where she was highly photographed. Madix’s star is on the rise and there’s even more on the horizon for Men in terms of future events and engagements.
“We also have a trust and respect for each other where I can kind of gauge what I think she’ll like,” Men says. “I’ll see something and have that in mind as the front runner, and we’ll usually align and agree.”
Not only is Men happy for Madix and the positive things going on in her life on a personal level because, according to Men, “she really does deserve it,” but also because on a professional level she’s been an ideal client.
“She’s a dream client,” Men says. “She’s just so open to everything and that’s really rare.”