"Vanderpump Rules," Bravo's smash-hit show following the deliciously dramatic lives of LA-based 20- and 30-somethings working at Lisa Vanderpump's trendy lounge and eatery, SUR (that's Sexy Unique Restaurant, for the uninitiated), returned for season five on Monday, providing America with the sweet, sweet relief it's been yearning for after months of unrelenting anxiety and horror caused by the looming election and generally upsetting state of society in 2016. Say what you will about the series, but with its constant catfights, love triangles, backstabbing, fisticuffs and polarizing cast of characters — particularly, one British dishwasher-turned-DJ who calls himself the "white Kanye West" — it's nothing short of enthralling. Even the New York Times has proclaimed it to be recommended viewing, likening its lowbrow charms to your "burnout friend who always urges you to take that smoke break, to have another drink, to call in sick to work."
As with many reality programs focused on scene-y, at times fame-hungry millennials (see: "Laguna Beach," "The Hills," "Made in Chelsea," "Keeping Up With the Kardashians"), many of the main characters have career aspirations that revolve around the fashion industry. For instance, we have Kristen Doute, who launched a line of Coachella-ready T-shirts emblazoned with inspirational phrases; Katie Maloney-Schwartz, a beauty and fashion blogger with a site of her own called Pucker and Pout; Jax Taylor, a former model who once revealed his desire to become a sweater designer; and Pandora Vanderpump, founder and editor of luxury lifestyle site The Divine Addiction.
However, none of the aforementioned cast members are as focused on their futures in fashion as Stassi Schroeder, the 28-year-old reality TV veteran (she's previously appeared on "The Amazing Race" and "Queen Bees") and ex-SUR employee with a style-focused website, an unfiltered podcast and an Instagram following 770K strong to round out her CV. The irony isn't lost on her that, despite her industry career goals, her "Vanderpump Rules" counterparts aren't exactly the pinnacle of good sartorial taste, but Schroeder doesn't see this as much of a setback — in fact, it's another opportunity to make her audience laugh, which is one of the things she does best.
Ahead of the "Vanderpump Rules" season five premiere, we chatted with Schroeder about all things style, where she sees herself after the show wraps and which of her cast mates is the most clueless about clothes. Read on for highlights for our conversation, and don't miss the show when it airs every Monday night on Bravo.
At what age did you first fall in love with fashion?
I remember when I was eight years old, I would draw clothes and cut out things — I wanted to be a fashion designer when I was a kid. I would make little paper dolls. My grandparents tell me that I would change outfits three times a day when I was little; I just love the way clothes make me feel.
What was your first professional foray into the industry?
I majored in English because I thought, "Well, I don't think I could design clothes, but I love writing about them and having an opinion." After that, I started working with Pandora Vanderpump on her website, and that's when I started to really get into it. I'm relaunching my own website, Style by Stassi, with a different name and completely [different content]. I realized that just taking pretty photos of myself and posting them is not my style; it doesn't really feed me. I thought about how I could combine doing a fashion blog with the same approach I take with my podcast to create something I love. I want to talk about fashion in a way that's relatable and playful and fun — not just, "here's a picture of me in an outfit pretending to walk across the street." I want it to be entertaining and funny, not so serious. There's going to be videos. I want to write the posts in a diary style: "This is what my day was like, this is what I was wearing and this embarrassing thing happened..."
How has your style evolved since you began your reality TV career?
When I was on "The Amazing Race," I was a chubby, wannabe-goth teenager, so that wasn't my fave. Looking back on the first season of "Vanderpump Rules," I think that's when I really started fine-tuning my wardrobe. There aren't many things I think back on and say, "I shouldn't have worn that." I maybe have become a little more elegant; I like to always look really put-together now, and back in the day, I was a bit more rough around the edges.
Tell us a little about how you get dressed for the show.
Sometimes I say to myself, "Am I just doing reality TV so I can put together fun looks?" Because it brings me so much joy. Whenever we're gearing up to start filming again, I spend the two months before shopping online every day; I work with a stylist who's a friend and we'll go to showrooms together, do pulls and send each other items via text. It's a fun, creative party for us. We'll put together all of these outfits and I'll just save them to go back to whenever I know I have to shoot. We film so much that I run out of looks very quickly, and of course when I watch it back, I'm like, "Seriously? They cut the scene where I had a perfect outfit and they picked the one where I had to run out of my house quickly? Great."
Are there any looks from your wardrobe that you've retired because you filmed a particularly difficult scene in them?
Honestly, I am thinking of all of my bad moments... the time I slapped Kristen, the time I found out Jax was cheating on me. I really don't associate the two; I don't let any negative feelings seep into how I feel about the clothes. My producers make fun of me: Whenever they have to remind me of things or prompt me when we do our interviews, I tell them I have no idea what day they're talking about, but when they tell me what I was wearing [during the scene], I'll remember. They say I have a gift — they can't get over it. "You literally remember every outfit you've ever worn, that's how you have memories."
Who in the cast would you say you get the most style inspiration from.
Myself! I don't take fashion inspiration from anyone on the cast. If I had to pick one, I'd say Lisa Vanderpump 100 percent — her closet is unlike anything I've ever seen. I wish that was my home.
Who in the cast do you give the most unsolicited style advice to?
Probably Scheana. She started asking me for advice back in season one. I was trying to take her away from neon and class her up a little bit. Her style has evolved so much, I'm really proud of her! She tells me she looks to me for inspiration, so she's taken my advice very well.
Looking into the future, after "Vanderpump" wraps, what are your fashion career aspirations?
Joan Rivers was one of my idols. If I could talk about fashion in a public way, whether on TV or somewhere else, that would be a dream come true. I love shows that don't take the industry so seriously, and she was able to mix comedy with fashion to make it something that everyone could enjoy and talk about. It wasn't intimidating.
Finally, what can fans expect from your personal wardrobe in season five?
There's a lot of white, a lot of chokers, lots of off-the-shoulder tops. I have abandoned statement necklaces and now I wear them on my feet — like Rochas and Marni shoes with lots of embellishments.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.