LOS ANGELES -- As the doting wife of hotel and real-estate scion Rick Hilton, the mother hen to tabloid darlings Paris and Nicky Hilton, and the aggrieved childhood friend of Michael Jackson, Kathy Hilton has always been one step to the left of the spotlight.
Half sisters Kim and Kyle Richards struck reality-show gold with Bravo's "The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills," but Kathy Hilton's own turn at reality TV, "I Want to Be a Hilton," lasted just one season on NBC.
Now she's trying out a new starring role -- aspiring lifestyle mogul -- beginning with the Kathy Hilton Collection of party dresses.
When it came to the holidays, Hilton was enthusiastic, to say the least. She hosted a Christmas party at her Bel-Air home to celebrate her new venture, complete with carolers, a high-end Santa Claus and little people cast as elves.
It was all very happy homemaker, Bel-Air-style.
Hilton, a creaseless 53, was dressed in a black, sparkly pleather lace short-sleeve peplum top and miniskirt she had whipped up by the tailor at her dry cleaner, with fabric bought at Britex Fabric in San Francisco. The outfit will be translated into a dress for the fall 2013 collection.
"I didn't go to school for this, but I love fashion," she said.
The Trenton, N.J.-based occasion-wear manufacturer Mon Cheri approached Hilton with the idea about a year and a half ago. And while the term "occasion wear" may conjure not-so-flattering images of mother-of-the-brides in floating chiffon and sprays of crystals, Hilton's designs are more sleek, subdued and, yes, sophisticated than those usually found in the formal dress department -- with a heady dose of Hollywood inspiration, of course.
A red silk ruffle halter gown with a keyhole cutout in the front recalls Valentino's famously red red-carpet creations. (Hilton name-checks him as one of her favorite designers.) A black A-line jersey minidress with long, billowing sleeves and rhinestone cuffs brings to mind the mod ensemble Megan Draper wore during the "Zou Bisou Bisou" serenade on "Mad Men." An emerald green cocktail dress with a jersey halter top and a ribbon-trimmed tulle skirt was apparently designed with daughter Nicky in mind. (Neither daughter was at the party; this was strictly their mother's affair.)