Karalyne Grammer was born and raised in a fashion-obsessed family. Both parents worked as retail buyers, and she was attending fashion shows at six months old. The Charlotte native moved to Dallas a few years ago to jump-start a career in merchandising and styling. She’s held stints with boutiques, department stores, fast-fashion companies, and luxury brands; ironically, the only retail sector she hasn’t worked in is vintage, though her own wardrobe is brimming with secondhand finds.
Grammer describes herself as a style chameleon and documents her experimental looks–pattern mixing, layering, and unexpected color pairings–on her Instagram account @BestDressedWallflower. We caught up with Grammer to learn what attracts her to vintage pieces, how her signature look has changed over the years, and what’s next for her growing online presence.
What inspired you to launch @BestDressedWallflower and share your vintage style with others?
I’ve spent years in jobs where I had to wear a company uniform: all-black looks or pieces from a specific brand. It stifled my creativity, and my vast wardrobe was hanging untouched in my closet. My 2020 New Year’s Resolution was to post my looks on Instagram as a creative outlet. I became an “everyday outfit poster” in March 2020, when I was laid off due to COVID-19. I am someone who needs to have a reason to do my hair and makeup and get out of the house every day, so styling myself and posting photos kept me sane. It’s dramatically impacted my life—the way I spend my time, the people in my life (and my newfound online community), the mode of creative expression I now finally have access to, and all the positivity and light it’s brought me. I used to not understand Instagram’s appeal. Now I can’t imagine my life without it.
How would you describe your personal style?
I’ve always yearned to be different, and if something was popular, I purposely didn’t buy it. What I will wear from one day to the next does not have to be the same aesthetic; I am very much a style chameleon and a maximalist. However, at the core of what I love is pattern, color, texture, and visual interest. I love to mix vintage and modern pieces. The real twist in my style developed at the beginning of quarantine when I took experimenting to the next level. Now I don’t feel “finished” in a non-layered look.
How has that style evolved over time?
I used to love short sundresses and wearing tights layered under shorts. Now, though, I understand my body type and I pay attention to the sorts of things I feel good wearing, so I go for midi styles. I also used to buy a ton of fast fashion. When I worked in malls, I had nothing to do on my hour-long lunch breaks except shop. I haven’t sworn off fast fashion, but over the last several years I have gotten to a place where vintage is almost all I buy. I really appreciate the depth that vintage pieces bring to a look and how they elevate an outfit, and the quality of fast fashion just can’t hold a candle to them.
What are some of your favorite vintage shops in Dallas?
Dolly Python in Dallas, The Frocksy Vintage Vogue in Garland, La Casa Retro in Bedford, and Studio 74 in Fort Worth. Ruth Hickman has a fantastic vintage booth inside Knick Knacks in Duncanville. I also love the vintage clothing and accessories booths inside North Dallas Antique Mall.
Is there a certain style that you can’t resist buying?
My vintage fashion obsessions are sequins, towel dresses, and Lucite and wicker purses. I need more of these like I need a hole in my head, but they are weaknesses for a reason.
To what extent will you modify a piece if you love it but it doesn’t quite fit?
I’m short-waisted, and I frequently get the shoulders of my dresses taken up. The most dramatic alteration I’ve ever pursued was to turn a drop waist vintage ’70s Neiman Marcus dress into a shape that works for my body type (an A-line) because I loved the fabric. This was such a challenge, and it took many revisions to try to get the tailor to understand exactly what I wanted. I wish I had the sewing skills to execute proper upcycling myself because there are so many possibilities.
Which item in your closet gets the most use?
My gut reaction is “nothing.” I could probably go a year without repeating an outfit. I will restyle a piece into a totally different look, more so for the fun of the challenge than the necessity of a re-wear. The pieces that get the most grabs are probably voluminous maxi dresses that I can throw on without having to put any time or thought into my outfit on days off.
Do you have any fashion regrets?
In sixth grade, my signature look was a hairstyle topped with chopsticks, brown lipstick, glittered eyes and cheeks, and platform shoes. I don’t regret it at all. I love that I was so bold and was able to own my style choices, even if others didn’t understand them. As long as I am having fun with fashion, that’s all that really matters to me.
When you do buy new ready-to-wear pieces, how do you decide which are worth investing in? Do you tend to go for classic pieces or wilder ones?
I’m not really one who believes in investment pieces–I am more of a “value proposition” sort of girl. If I purchase more intentionally (which doesn’t have anything to do with the price of an item, but rather considering how much I like it and how much use I will get out of it), it helps me curb my consumption. The more I have, the more I really have to consider what additional pieces I bring into my wardrobe. Just liking a piece isn’t good enough anymore. Will the piece be a one-hit-wonder, or is it something that can have more longevity in my wardrobe through multiway styling?
Any Instagram accounts you love to follow for style inspiration?
There are so many, so I’ll try to keep it fair by referencing some of my favorites that I would check in with frequently when I was just starting to pay attention to Instagram:
From an ethical standpoint, why is vintage shopping important to you?
I didn’t really seek a path toward a more sustainable lifestyle–I landed here as a happy accident. Shopping vintage and secondhand does curb the fashion industry’s overproduction and inherent exploitation of our earth’s vital resources. It also keeps garments out of landfills and helps curb the prevalence of garment workers who have to endure poor working conditions for minimal wages.
What’s next for you and @BestDressedWallflower?
I am on the cusp of my official brand launch with BestDressedWallflower.com, which will be live in October. My goal has always been to open my own boutique. I’m excited to make that dream a reality by launching a website where I can sell my finds to vintage lovers all around the globe. BestDressedWallflower.com will feature one-of-a-kind women’s clothing and accessories, menswear, and home goods.
Follow Karalyne Grammer at @BestDressedWallflower for more.