Styling GRAMMAR Behind the Scenes



“When styling a piece, I’m also thinking about what my goals were when I designed that specific garment. In the creation of my designs, I am always thinking about what function pieces have in your closet. Why are you wearing this? How are you wearing this? How would you wear it to dress up? Dress down?”
-Althea Simons

GRAMMAR’s timeless pieces make styling easy. Just slip on a pair of jeans with The Adverb Shirt or throw on a pair of heels with The Feminine Dress and you’re ready for anything. Even though GRAMMAR makes looking great effortless, there is a lot of work and care that goes on behind the scenes to present you with a product you’ll love. Styling looks for photoshoots and other online content is an essential part of this process. In the following conversation, which has been edited for brevity, GRAMMAR’s creator Althea and writer Callie talk about styling. Althea shares her style philosophy and her goals when creating outfits for e-commerce and lookbook photoshoots. Can you guess which non-GRAMMAR wardrobe staple is Althea’s go-to for a classic look?

Callie:For starters, how would you describe your personal style?

Althea:My personal styling is super simple. I would say, nine times out of ten, I'm wearing jeans, a GRAMMAR shirt, and a pair of slides in the summer--or when it's colder, a pair of boots.

On a given day, I might be sitting at my computer, I might be designing something, I might be running around the garment district, I might be going to a meeting. There's so many different things I could be doing and I want to just be prepared and ready for it. I feel that if I'm wearing jeans and one of my shirts I'm ready for anything.

Callie:Do you have a style philosophy?

Althea:I look for things that are very versatile. The same applies to my approach to shopping. I buy things that are very versatile so that my closet has infinite variations--infinite outfits--where I can pair everything with everything else. That is the idea behind GRAMMAR, behind the brand’s white shirt as a staple piece that goes with everything. I think there are some exceptions to that rule where I just want to buy something fun and colorful like a bold pair of printed pants. But, even then, I know that this fun piece will go with any of my many white shirts.

Callie:Is your style philosophy for photoshoots similar to or different than how you dress yourself?

Althea:My philosophy for styling photoshoots is a little bit different than how I approach my own closet because I don’t want to choose pieces that will distract from the GRAMMAR product. If you wear a white shirt with a patterned pair of pants, the outfit is then centered around the statement piece and not the white shirt. This is what makes white shirts so useful not only as a “go-to” piece but as a styling piece, almost like an accessory. But for photoshoots, I want the shirt to be the center of attention. This not only informs the pants or other bottoms that I choose, but the accessories as well; I choose things that are generally very simple.

Callie:What are some of the goals that you have when creating an outfit for ecommerce shoots?

Althea:I want there to be a cohesive look, and I want the style to look like something the GRAMMAR woman--our customers--would wear. I try to have pieces available that I think would be in her wardrobe. I actually use a lot of pieces from my closet. This is great for many reasons because it is easy, it generally goes with my aesthetic, and it's free. It also takes less time to plan and style a look.

Callie:How do you go about putting the look together?

Althea:I usually put together a Pinterest board where I’m thinking about the collection and which pieces I'm photographing. I think about what sort of things will look good with the collection. Some of the looks will be very timeless, most of them are, but then sometimes there'll be something that's more trend-based. If midi skirts are kind of “in” or whatever, then I’ll try and find one or two of those trendier pieces to add for styling.

I will also look back at some of the images that I pulled for inspiration when I was designing the collection. So, if I was looking at a particular style icon, say Audrey Hepburn, then maybe I would look for some slim pants and slides. If I was looking at someone like Princess Diana, then I would want some high-waisted jeans with a nice big belt and loafers.

Callie:What are some other things you are thinking about when styling a look?

Althea:When styling a piece, I’m also thinking about what my goals were when I designed that specific garment. In the creation of my designs, I am always thinking about what function pieces have in your closet. Why are you wearing this? How are you wearing this? How would you wear it to dress up? Dress down?

I’ll also think about how I wear the piece or how I would wear it--what I think looks good with it. A lot of times when I'm designing something I'll think, “Oh okay. This is a great shirt to wear with a slim pant” or “This would look good with a wide leg pant or a full skirt.”

For e-commerce, I have to photograph all the different colors of the same piece, so I'll try to offer different ideas for how to style it in the photoshoot. I'll usually have one look that's more casual, one that's more dressed up, and then kind of fill in with other styles as needed.

Callie:Other than “shopping your closet,” how do you go about getting pieces or accessories for the shoot?

Stylish Comfort

The perfect day to day look always takes into account comfort. Styling is about looks as much as it is about function.

Althea:So once I have identified my different style goals, I'll make a list for shopping. Maybe I want a pair of baggy high waisted jeans, a brown belt, and loafers. I have the model’s size and will go find those pieces. I try to borrow from friends of mine who are designers because I like their stuff and because they can use the images from the photoshoot for their own marketing or promotional purposes. It's just a nice way to help promote each other. And then, I always tag them on Instagram and things like that.

Callie:What a great way to be in community with other small business owners! Who are some of these designers that you like to use?

Althea:There's a jewelry designer that I always pull from. Her name is Luz Ortiz. I love her jewelry, and I think it goes so well with GRAMMAR pieces. We have a very similar customer. Her jewelry is what I use unless I have some other specific thing I'm trying to do.

I also love to have hats. I pull from this brand, Teressa Foglia, who's based in New York and makes these incredible handmade hats.

For bottoms and shoes, I have a few friends who have brands that I pull from. Vincetta and Combine de Filles are two that I often use. I'll reach out to these brands and some other people I know and see if they are available for me to run over and grab a few pieces. Otherwise, I just go shopping and pick up some stuff to use. Again, I'm always looking for things that are versatile and in neutral colors that go with a lot of different things. I’m looking for pieces that are wardrobe staples. I want customers to be able to look at the image and think, “Great, I could wear that with the jeans I have in my closet.”

Callie:We’ve talked a bit about your approach to styling e-commerce shoots, but I’m also curious about your lookbooks. How are your priorities for styling for your seasonal lookbooks similar or different?

Collaborative Style

Layering and adding pieces from other designers is a perfect way to elevate a piece and create a cohesive and elevated look.

Althea:Generally speaking, the styling for lookbooks is very minimal, but this is something that I discuss with the photographer Lily Cummings when we are planning a lookbook. On most shoots, the model brings a pair of jeans and a pair of black pants. Lily might bring one or two things, but it’s just very, very simple; it's all about the shirts and it's about the mood. Often, the model is not wearing shoes because it is on the beach or outside. There might be accessories, a hat or a scarf, or things like that, but that's really more for photographic effect than for styling.

The Berlin Lookbook (from Fall 2020) was different because I wasn't able to produce a new collection last fall due to COVID. The approach to that lookbook was kind of “Okay, how do we do something really different than what we've done before to make everything look new and fresh again?” And also, I knew I wanted to rage against this idea of loungewear and the dominant feeling that no one's ever going to get dressed up again. Of course that's not true, it's ridiculous, but that was the prevailing sentiment at the time. Lily and I were like “Fuck that.” So we decided to do something really dressy, and go in the complete opposite direction of the current loungewear trend by making the Berlin photoshoot really opulent and almost costume-y.

Callie:Did you use a stylist for the Berlin lookbook?

Althea:Yes, we hired a stylist named Elfee Duquette, who also happens to be a costume designer.

Callie:What was it like to work with a stylist?

Althea:The experience was cool because I was introduced to a lot of new brands. The stylist pulled from brands that she knew in Berlin so I got to discover some Berlin-based brands that I had not known before, and have digital conversations with them on social media or even talk to them on the phone in some cases, so that was really cool.

Callie:That is really cool! Not only do you have relationships with other NYC based designer friends, but you are making international connections, too. Shifting gears a bit, I wanted to ask you if there is a particular GRAMMAR piece that you’ve worn the most this summer?

Althea:I've been wearing The Inflection Top a lot in the stripe, which is almost sold out right now. I wear it with a casual pair of jeans and some slide-on shoes. I have a few different pairs. That's kind of my go-to in the summer.

Usually in the city I don't wear open-toed shoes because your feet get really gross, but I have a new pair of sandals that I just bought from this brand, Ariana Bohling, that have a bit of a lip around the edge, so your feet don't get dirty--which is incredible. There’s also this other brand, Babos, that I got a new pair of camel-colored slides from. The other ones are black, so I've been kind of wearing those the most of any shoes that I have lately. For the daytime, I usually wear a straw hat, too.

I’ve also worn The Inflection Top in stripe with a pair of vintage Ralph Lauren white trousers that I have. I wore this look to this magazine party on a boat recently and it was really cute with these white sort of slide clogs and some Luz Ortiz earrings.

Callie:Which GRAMMAR dress are you currently enjoying?

Dressing Up when Everyone is Dressing Down

The Berlin Lookbook is where creative juices ran wild creating dressy looks at a time when no one was dressing up.

Althea:I’ve been wearing The Complement Dress a lot. It's one of my favorites for summer because it's just a sack. I have it in stripe and I also have it in sea blue from last year. I wear them both a lot because there’s no fabric sticking to you anywhere, and there’s a lot of airflow. The Complement is superduper comfortable, but also looks really chic.

Actually, I was recently talking to my mom, who got The Complement Dress in stripe, and she said, “I just sleep in it, and then I wake up and I'm already dressed.” [Laughs]. I mean it's so comfortable! It's kind of like a nightgown, but it's obviously much chicer.

Callie:How do you style The Complement Dress?

Althea:I always have this bracelet by Luz Ortiz on, and then I just put on a pair of shoes and I'm done. To dress it up, I’ll wear a pair of heels and maybe add an earring. Or, if I’m just walking around for the day, I’ll slip on one of my slides.

Speaking of The Complement Dress, you recently put together a style guide for both it and The Simile Dress. How did you approach styling them?

Callie:Both The Simile Dress and The Complement Dress have distinct hemlines. In creating the style guides, I really let The Simile’s asymmetrical hemline and The Complement’s knotted hemline set the tone for the whole look. I looked for accessories that would showcase the design of each dress. For example, I thought a curved heel, rather than a straight heel, really went nicely with The Simile for a dressed up look.

I also referenced your e-commerce styling for each dress as a template and then just added additional accessories like a hat or a handbag.

Althea:Super fun. Many of the pieces that you chose, like the silver bangle or neutral-toned handbag are probably pieces that people already have in their closet.

Callie:Yeah, exactly. My hope is that the style guides will help customers visualize outfit options for different occasions and can be a useful shopping guide. As you were saying earlier, all of your GRAMMAR pieces are timeless and versatile. Each piece can easily be dressed up or down with the right shoes, handbag, or jewelry.

Before we wrap up, I have a “just for fun” question: is there a particular style phase from your past that you’d like to share?

Althea:[Laughs.] I had a phase in my later years of college and early 20s, where I wore a lot of vintage and costume jewelry and vintage clothes. I think it was really fun, but it's just not something I would do again. It was appropriate for that age, but then I sort of grew out of it. But yeah, I used to wear a lot more zany, funky stuff when I was younger. I've sort of streamlined and simplified as I've gotten older.

What about you?

Callie:I went through a thrift store blazers phase. The more colorful, floral, or sequined the better. [Laughs.] I was also really into mixing and matching different prints and patterns. My wardrobe now is almost the complete opposite--lots of solids and staple pieces. I also wear jeans a lot.

Well Althea, this has been so fun! I feel lucky to work with you and your designs. One thing that I really learned to appreciate even more while creating the style guides is that GRAMMAR pieces accommodate a range of styling approaches. It doesn’t matter if a person wants to put together a fully accessorized look, or just slip on a pair of jeans, GRAMMAR will help them look polished and stylish.

Althea:Thank you. Yeah, I mean GRAMMAR began with this idea of how can I make things that will serve that purpose in people's lives--these go-to, trusted pieces that are a part of your life that you can wear and always be ready for anything.

That's what I set out to do when I started with white shirts because I think that they are a super important wardrobe staple that I didn't think was represented well in the market. So, I started with the shirt. I've just been kind of adding from there. I think GRAMMAR will always be about white shirts, but I also love getting into new territories, trying new things out, and growing that closet for myself and for my community.

Callie:I’m excited to see where those new territories take you! Thanks so much for taking the time to chat.

Althea:Of course. It was a pleasure.

A Staple Piece Styled Your Way

It's easy to style the Complement Dress for any occasions. Add a few of your accessories to create a whole look that's all you.

The Adjective Tunic in Amsterdam

Styling isn't always about complexity, sometimes simple is the best.

Caption line 4 or headline

Longer form copy / Short description goes here

Caption line 4 or headline

Longer form copy / Short description goes here