Neither Bill nor Giuliana Rancic can recall what the other wore on their first date. “I guess we only cared about what was inside,” jokes Giuliana. But the fashion fiend does remember being horrified by her future husband’s shoe selections on almost every subsequent occasion. “No matter how dressy his outfit was, Bill always felt flip-flops were completely appropriate,” she says.
The host of “E! News” and co-host of E!’s “Fashion Police” says she fought Bill on the footwear until one memorable Sunday morning. “We were going to church, and he comes out wearing flip-flops,” she says. “And I go, ‘OK, that’s it, I’m drawing the line.’ And he said, ‘Jesus wore sandals, honey.’ I kind of couldn’t argue with him after that.”
Though the flip-flops are still in Bill’s rotation (“I just put them away a few minutes ago, actually,” Giuliana says), the two have agreed that he can only wear them “during the day, when it’s 90 degrees outside.” It’s these kinds of playful compromises that make the Chicago power couple’s six-year-union so indestructible. But it probably also helps that Giuliana has dressed Bill — and now their son, Duke, 1 — ever since their 2007 wedding. “That’s why I got married,” laughs Bill, a self-proclaimed “jeans and T-shirt guy.” “My fashion sense has stepped up significantly, but I have nothing to do with it.”
Giuliana is certainly qualified to step in as her family’s sartorial consultant. Aside from critiquing and complimenting celebrity style on E!, she’s deeply entrenched in the day-to-day development of her line, G by Giuliana Rancic. Sold exclusively on HSN, the fall collection is already a runaway success; some of the items sold out almost immediately. “Everything is very luxe looking — a lot of leather and great fabrics — but really easy to wear and effortless,” she says of the designs, which include a leopard-print blazer ($139.90), distressed-print leggings ($69.90) and several cocktail dresses ($69.90-$149.90).
The Italian-born Giuliana claims she culled inspiration for the line everywhere from the streets of Chicago to boutiques in Florence. And despite the fact that Bill openly admits to his “zero interest” in fashion, he says he admires the European-chic style that comes so naturally to his wife. “Her dad is a master tailor from Naples, so I think it’s in her DNA. It’s the blood that runs through her veins,” he says. “I love that about her.”
Giuliana is just as enthralled by her husband’s passions — though she’s got reservations about his latest venture. “Training Day,” a reality series that Bill co-developed with Ridley Scott, will follow the entrepreneur (who currently co-hosts news-magazine show “America Now” alongside Leeza Gibbons) as he tests himself in training sessions for some of America’s most dangerous jobs, from ice-road trucking to embedding with a SWAT team. “It’s gonna be a lot of fun,” says Bill. “But my wife was not thrilled with the idea of me doing some of these things.”
“When he’s jumping out of helicopters, I don’t know if I’ll be able to watch,” echoes Giuliana. She does admit that the project makes perfect sense for Bill. “It’s so up his alley,” she says. “We’ll take a walk around our neighborhood in Chicago and stop at the firehouse and talk to the guys, and he’ll always say, ‘I could’ve been a firefighter; I love that [sense of] brotherhood.’ So I wasn’t surprised at all.”
What’s most surprising about the series is that Bill was able to find the time to take on a new role. In addition to their separate projects, the Rancics are promoting the sixth-season finale of their Style Network show, “Giuliana & Bill,” (airing Sept. 24) and co-running RPM — their always-packed Italian restaurant on Dearborn and Illinois — with R.J., Molly and Jerrod Melman. Later this fall, they’ll open up a sister restaurant, RPM Steak, at 60 W. Kinzie. “It’s not your grandfather’s steakhouse,” says Bill of the spot, which will serve dry-aged steaks and chilled shellfish in a high-energy setting. “Doug Psaltis, the chef, couldn’t stop smiling when he was talking about [creating] the menu. He was like, ‘This is gonna blow people away.’ ”
The pair practice what they preach, dining at RPM every single night they’re in town — a tradition that their legions of fans have caught onto. “A lot of people do come up and want to take a picture, say hello,” says Giuliana. “We love it. We embrace it.” It helps that the Rancics are as enamored of Chicago as Chicagoans are of them. “There’s no better feeling than walking down the street here and having people say to us, ‘Guys, we watch your show, we love your restaurant, we love that you love Chicago,’ ” says Giuliana. “Whenever I’m walking by myself with Duke, I always call Bill and say, ‘This is the best city in the world.’ ”
Because their professional lives are so jam-packed, the Rancics make sure their relationship stays low-key. “We don’t put pressure on ourselves to keep things exciting,” says Giuliana. “We define date night not by getting my hair done, getting dressed up and going to a fancy restaurant and spending a lot of money. Our date night is, ‘Let’s get in bed early, watch TV, get a bottle of wine.’ That’s how we connect.”
Bill chimes in, “We had dinner last night at RPM at 5:30,” and Giuliana laughs. “Early bird special,” she says. “We just have a good time together doing whatever. We really do.”
In what might be classified as payback for the flip-flops, Giuliana says that one of her favorite pastimes is tricking Bill and Duke into wearing matching outfits. “I’ll be like, ‘Honey, wear this polo shirt with these shorts,’ and while Bill’s grabbing the stroller, I’ll put Duke in the same outfit,” she laughs. “He won’t notice until someone points it out. And he just looks at me like, ‘I’m gonna kill you.’ ”
SHOOT CREDITS: Photographer: Mark Sacro; Photo Assistants: Alanna Yu, Efren Beltran and Jun Mapue; Makeup: Catalina Su; Stylist: Rebecca Jefferson; Hair: Eli Thomas; Shoot Coordinator: Katerina Bizios