The look: Christopher Straub dress, $650 available by custom order @ christopherstraub.com; Stephanie Lake Design “Evil Eye” locket necklace with mock jade, rhinestone eggs, shell, and ebony, $2,695 @ stephanielakedesign.com; Betsey Johnson sandals, $89.95 @ DSW, various metro-area locations and dsw.com. photos by Wing Ta. Styled by Jahna Peloquin
Even if she’s not a household name, those who frequent charity events and fashion shows in the Twin Cities know Sandy Simmons. Tall and thin, with her signature close-cropped haircut, she’s easily recognizable—and typically decked out in an eye-catching dress by Christopher Straub and dazzling jewelry by Stephanie Lake, two of her favorite local designers.
“She goes to every event she possibly can—she’s a fixture,” Lake attests. “She is literally a model not only in that gracious support but in everything she chooses to wear.”
For the past two years, Simmons has served as the co-programming director for the Minneapolis-St. Paul chapter of Fashion Group International (FGI), a global organization that was founded in 1930 by a group of women that included Eleanor Roosevelt, Hollywood designer Edith Head, and Harper’s Bazaar editor Carmel Snow. The local chapter was established in 1936 by Elizabeth Quinlan—the famed co-owner of Young-Quinlan Department Store—along with a handful of other influential fashion industry mavens.
Stephanie Lake Design necklaces
Today, the group hosts panel discussions, networking events, and fashion shows throughout the year—and Simmons has been integral in bringing the FGI into the 21st century. She’s made such an impact that she was unanimously nominated the chapter’s regional director, a role she officially assumes this month.
Simmons also runs her own business as a personal lifestyle manager, assisting busy executives with everything from bookkeeping to buying gifts for loved ones. She worked for more than a decade as an executive assistant for Coldwell Banker Burnet, Macy’s, and retail branding agency Fame before striking out on her own in 2014.
Despite her glamorous public image, Simmons’s day-to-day style is relaxed and low-key. She often runs errands in yogawear, sneakers, and a ballcap, and lounges around the house in her favorite jeans and comfy sweaters.
“I love getting a deal,” she says. “No lie—I recently went shopping at Maurices, and because I had a coupon and a credit, I bought my favorite pair of jeans in the world for $3.97—less than a coffee! And they look great on me.”
She takes a similarly egalitarian and unapologetic approach to her personal style.
“My husband says, ‘You need to find a style that signifies you and you alone,’ but I really don’t,” she says. “There are so many styles that I like to wear—I can wear a long ballroom gown for an event, or if I feel like wearing something short and sexy, I’m going to do it. I’ll wear something that looks like it’s for a 26-year-old, and I’m 46!”
Accordingly, the walk-in closet in the Minnetonka home Simmons shares with her husband, Kevin, runs the gamut from the high street to the low end. Christian Louboutin and Manolo Blahnik heels share space with her discount finds from DSW; dresses by Alexander McQueen and Chanel hang alongside pieces from Banana Republic and H&M.
Christopher Straub dresses fill Sandy Simmons’s closet.
She especially treasures her collections of Christopher Straub dresses and Stephanie Lake necklaces. (She owns 15 by the former and 17 by the latter.) “Those pieces will be in my closet forever,” she says.
But no matter what she wears, Simmons always looks elegant and put-together. “I can put on a pair of yoga pants out shopping for the day and feel great,” she says. “What matters is how I feel and what I want to wear that day.”
Sandy Simmons’s Style Crib Sheet
On her signature short haircut
“It’s easy, and I get so many compliments, from both women and men,” she says.
On her favorite pastime
“In my free time, I love to shop,” she says.” Her favorite spots include D.NOLO, Bumbershute, Nordstrom, Banana Republic, H&M, and DSW for shoes.
On her earliest fashion memories
“I shopped and still to this day shop at Maurices,” she says. “Back then they had layaway programs. I would layaway $400, and make my payments. I even got my prom dress from Maurices!”