Style Profile: Callie Lyons

Steven Alan jumpsuit; Golden Goose sneakers

I spotted Callie in a Refinery29 street style gallery titled: Sneaker Stalking: How Real Women Wear Them In NYC. I was drawn to her afro and her outfit, but essentially I reached out to Callie because she was doing something well that doesn’t come naturally to me: dressing casually. That might be a bit dramatic because it’s not like I wear gowns to the grocery store, but it’s easier for me to dress up than dress down. In general, it’s harder to make an impact when you dress casually, but Callie does.

After interviewing Callie I realized that her being included in this gallery was quite fitting. Callie is a dancer who wears sneakers regularly and can’t be bothered with stilettos because they hurt her back. She also confirmed my belief that you don’t need a lot of money to look good or own nice things. You just need a strategy that works for you. My strategy is mixing thrift and vintage with midmarket stuff and a little bit of designer. I don’t mind combing through racks and racks of clothes in big, overwhelming stores. Callie’s is different, (she doesn’t do big stores) but she still manages to buy nice things on a budget. In fact, interviewing her made me change the way I shop. Read on to see what I’m talking about.

*Click on images for credits.

How has being a dancer informed your style? How has being from Augusta, Georgia informed your style? 

While growing up dancing it was like a thing that you dressed cool. It was sweatpants, kicks, shirts tied around your waist, and layers. You could always tell who a dancer was by all of these layers. Being a dancer you travel a lot, and I was a competition dancer. So you got to see kids from New York and LA, and they looked so cool because of course they’re ahead of the game. So me as a younger person from Augusta, I would see these people and I would learn about style outside of Georgia. We all tried our hardest to be as cool as we could. There wasn’t a lot of options as far as shopping. We had Old Navy and Macy’s. So you had to get creative with being cool. So I think my interest in style came from wanting to look cool. As I grew older and once I left for school, I was kind of introduced to the vintage scene. I was introduced to different types of stores and clothing and different ways of wearing your clothes. So I got really interested in patterns and experimenting in dressing. I’ve gone through all kind of phases. I’ve gone through the phase where I’ve only worn black.

What’s your phase now?

It’s an amalgamation of all of my phases. And it’s so connected to my dancing. That’s the funny thing. My style is connected to where I am in my dance career. Because in my dance career, stylistically, I am morphing all of my styles that I’ve studied over the years and I’m taking pieces from ballet, jazz, modern, hip hop, West African dance. All of those techniques are influencing how I move. So I think now my style is being influenced by the phase when I only wore black, or the phase when I only wore earth tone colors, or the phase when I was only playing with patterns. Now I’m playing with all of those.

You grew up in Augusta, did you always know you wanted to go to a big city?

It was not something that I always had in my head. I wanted to go to Spelman for school. I didn’t have any aspirations to be in a very big city. I just knew that I wanted to leave Augusta. It didn’t really matter where it was. And then I kind of expanded my college search and had people tell me there’s a really good school in California called Loyola Marymount. They have a good dance program and you should look into it. I needed to be challenged by living away from home and taking care of myself. Since living in LA, I knew I could never live in a small city ever again. LA for me got kind of…I needed something else. There are people doing things of substance, but it’s not like New York. There’s more substance here than in LA I think. And I just wasn’t being challenged artistically in LA. I wasn’t inspired in LA to make things, so I didn’t really choreograph. But coming here I’ve been heavily inspired to choreograph and create things.

Callie001

Do you get dressed based on feeling or do you plan your outfits?

It’s a feeling or a mood. All of those kind of emotional things. I like to experiment and put things together that I don’t think will look right, but once you put it on it looks really amazing. But usually my routine is just based off of emotion. And if I need something to pick me up, I’ll wear something bright to make me feel a little more up. If I’m feeling kind of casual and low key, I will wear all black. I don’t really have a specific routine.

Do you feel like you have a uniform?

Not technically. If I’m trying to be objective and take myself outside of myself I would say my uniform is comfort. Being comfortable in what I’m wearing is important. So loose fitting clothes are a staple for me. If I wear something that’s form fitting people are always taken aback by it. The first look I wore with the black pants and the plaid shirt was revealing to me. Some people may say, “Really?” but for me you can see my legs and you can see my shape. I’ll do that every so often, but for the most part my thing is just loose. 

Are you a flats girl?

I don’t own any stilettos. So I go from either tennis shoes or oxfords or clogs or wedges. I try to go for comfort and still look nice, but I generally wear tennis shoes because in New York you’re walking everywhere.

Callie002

What’s your version of dressing up at night? That’s something that I’m having difficulties with now because I feel sexiest in a men’s shirt and a cropped trouser and sometimes I think I need to up the ante.

I think we have very similar feelings about this. I was actually talking to one of my friends who is very similar in style to me, and she was saying the same thing. She feels sexy in her boy jeans. I was like “Me, too.” I feel sexy in things that are more loose. Some of the most confident people I’ve seen are wearing loose menswear. I struggle with that because I go out with friends that are wearing tight black dresses or stilettos, and I’m wearing this shirt and black jeans and I feel so casual. But before I leave the house I feel awesome, then I see people wearing more revealing clothes and I’ve never been one to dress like that. I’m not sure why that is, because when I dance I’m so used to being very bare, but in real life I like to wear loose clothes. I’m learning to just be ok with the fact that I don’t dress like that, but if I’m going somewhere that I really have to dress up, I will make the effort to put on a nice dress. It’s the shoes that I have a problem with because I don’t wear stilettos. They hurt my back. I don’t really know what the compromise is at this point. 

What are some of your favorite places to shop online?

Mohawk General Store and Creatures of Comfort. I can easily go to the Creatures of Comfort store, but I tend to go online. Usually their sale section is fantastic online, but I don’t know if it’s like that in their actual store. I also go to Steven Alan. There’s a Seattle store called Totokaelo. I’ve never been inside the store but I think the website is so beautifully curated.

Is there anybody in particular that inspires you style-wise?

I’m going to say all of the go-to black girls: Solange, Tracee Ellis Ross. And I recently discovered Tamu. I follow her on Instagram and I think she’s so interesting. Her style is really funky, but tailored. So I’ve really been looking at her wardrobe lately. Those are the top three people on my list. 

Steven Alan jumpsuit; Golden Goose sneakers

What do you think you invest the most in?

It changes. This summer I was really investing in shoes. Now I want to invest in good sweaters.

I’m always in search of good sweaters. Where do you look for them? 

Some of the sweaters I have now are from Steven Alan that are good quality. I buy out of season because I can’t afford it when it’s full priced. I have two sweaters that I really like. One is kind of like an off white color, and another is navy.

So what are you thinking about for winter? 

I usually stick with chunky, thick, wool sweaters. I like to be a little more comfortable, so I wear boy jeans a lot. So for me, I need to work more on still kind of playing with patterns. I think that gets lost in the winter because staying warm is your first concern, not style. But this year I’d like to try to play with bold patterns. I want to try to experiment with how I can do that with a thousand layers of clothing on. I have a lot of baggy jeans and pants and felt that I needed some more skinnies in my life. I’m also looking to expand my jewelry collection so I’m looking at some necklaces and bracelets. 

J. Crew sneakers

Callie006

What’s your process with purchasing? Is it ever on a whim?

I strategize. I think that’s naturally how I am. I strategize and I’m very organized. I have to say its 80 percent strategy and 20 percent spontaneous purchase. And the 20 percent of those spontaneous purchases have usually come from me discovering something. But that’s very rare. Usually I will do my research. I see what I like and then I’ll wait. I try to budget around that. I’ll maybe go on eBay and see if someone has bought it and is reselling it. But usually I wait until it’s out of season and on sale. I like to be on email lists so I’m in the know about mark downs. I’m very particular about how I spend my money on clothes. It’s tough because I like good quality clothing, but I don’t make the money to actually pay full price for it, so I will wait until that thing is 90 percent off. 

What are the last three things you’ve bought?

I recently bought a chunky mens sweater from the Steven Alan outpost store for $40 and several knitted socks that were on sale. I also bought a pair of jeans from Madewell. 

Do you shop on eBay a lot?

Yea. Sometimes it’s hit or miss. I have learned that I find really good stuff during the winter. It’s really strange. I got these Golden Goose sneakers in the winter time during Christmas. They were pretty well priced.  

Callie004

What’s your process on eBay?

I usually search my favorite brands and go from there. I search boutique names also and product from that store pops up. So I will type in Steven Alan for example.

It seems like that you do a good job of shopping designer and contemporary when it’s on sale. Do you shop at H&M or Zara?

I will go to Zara for basic stuff. I have a blazer from Zara, but I usually avoid it because I don’t like having the same thing as everyone else and those are overwhelming stores for me. I have a really hard time in stores like that. I don’t like to take the time to look through all their racks, and I’m sure I could find great things, but it’s just too hard for me. That’s why I do a lot of stuff online. I would like to start going back into H&M and Zara at some point. It would have to be a weird hour in the day. But I usually get blazers from Zara.

Do you buy any vintage?

I’m not good at vintage shopping. That’s another thing I’d like to be better at. It seems like there is a technique to it and you have to know how to do it. I need to go with someone. The orange skirt I wore was from a vintage store, but I found that on a whim and it was really cheap. I paid like $29 for it. I think it was made in Mexico. I’d love to raid my mother’s closet because she has a lot of stuff from the 80s and if I got them tailored and fixed they would look amazing.

Nomia dress; Golden Goose sneakers

Do you shop men’s?

Yes. I will go into J. Crew men’s and people think I am buying something for a boyfriend or a dad. I shop the men’s department mainly for button-ups or sweaters.

You’re a dancer. Do you work out a lot?

I dance mainly. I take classes regularly, but mainly ballet even though I can do a ton of things. But ballet builds a lot of strength. I also do yoga. 

So what do you usually wear when you work out? Are there certain brands that you like? Do you wear the classics like Danskin?

No. I used to back in the day, but as I got older I got a lot less formal and became a little more casual. Even in my MFA program they would prefer we wear leotards and tights and I would stick with leggings and a top that’s water resistant. I buy a lot of stuff from Lululemon and Gap.

Creatures of Comfort top; Current Elliott jeans; Nina Z clogs

Creatures of Comfort top; various jewelry

What’s your philosophy about jewelry? 

That’s the one thing I don’t really shop for. The only time I wear earrings is when I pull my hair up, but usually when it’s down, there’s no reason. In general, that’s one thing that I’d like to play with more. I feel very intimated by jewelry. But I feel like my hair is my main accessory. But I want to play with jewelry in the future.

Let’s talk about your hair. When did you  go natural?

In college. I stopped putting a perm in mid junior year, and I just kind of let it grow, and it got to the point where it was half natural, half not, and I was like “I can’t deal with this.” And then that February I cut it all off. I didn’t tell anybody I was doing that. People knew that I was growing out the perm, but I didn’t tell anyone I was chopping it off. It’s just like a personal thing and I didn’t want to make it a big deal, so I just did it. 

How short was it?

Like half your size. It was little curls. And I was so happy. I was so happy afterwards.

Vintage skirt

What do you do to it now?

I wash it is and braid it afterwards. That’s what makes it so full. My curls are a lot tighter. Now that it’s growing it just falls, so I just braid it. 

What about products for your hair?

I kind of go through different things, but I use Lush products right now. They are working. They have products and it will actually say good for natural hair on the label, which is kind of amazing. So for now I’m sticking with them. I don’t use a lot of stuff. I just use shampoo and conditioner. And Lush has a hair moisturizer. I try to be simple with it.

I rarely talk about beauty, but for some reason I’m compelled to talk about it with you. What’s your routine? You have beautiful skin. You are very pared down, so I assume that your beauty routine is too?

It’s very simple. I use a face cleanser. The brand is called Plum. I change my moisturizer often. It just depends on the season. For my makeup routine I’ll put on foundation, bronzer, mascara, and maybe some blush and call it a day. 

Nina Z clogs

Do you have any favorite beauty products?

I wear mainly Laura Mercier. I go between Bobbi Brown and Laura Mercier but mainly Laura Mercier because it’s light. I keep it simple because my face can’t handle heavy makeup. My eyelids are so big. Certain things just don’t look right on me. Eyeliner just doesn’t look good on me. It doesn’t work so I keep it simple and make sure I wash my face twice a day.

Do you think style is inherent? Is it something you have or something you can create with time?

I think it’s a little bit of both. I was a little bit of both. I’ve always kind of had an interesting style. In high school you just want to fit in, so you are kind of wearing what everyone else was wearing. But I still would try to do something a little different. I think it is inherent but it’s also a learned process. But I do think that you can be born with that natural affinity to putting yourself together in an interesting way. So I think that does take precedence over something that is learned. Obviously anyone can learn something or you can get someone to help you do something. If you are on a certain platform, you can hire a stylist to put things together, but nothing can take precedence over that natural affinity to blend interesting things.

Photos by Sam Aldenton.

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