J.Crew march catalog

New York City Ballet soloist, Ellen Bar. Photo courtesy of J.Crew

Remember those dashing real guys from J.Crew's November catalog? They've met their match in a group of real-life ladies featured in the upcoming March mailing (out this week).

Creative director Jenna Lyons gives StyleList a sneak peek at the company's new "muses."

In good Grecian style, J.Crew highlights nine muses, each with an arty bent. The creative team selected these women for their inventive and inspiring tastes. None are professional models, but each has a keen aesthetic sense which shaped their catalog ensembles.

Lyons plucked a few of the muses from her own circle of friends, including author and fashion consultant Amanda Brooks and interior designer Celerie Kemble.

Stylist Dianna Lunt was recruited after the J.Crew team saw her picture on the Sartorialist street style blog. "I have pictures of her on my wall," confesses Lyons. "We cold-called her because we've been personally stalking her style."

A couple of muses cropped up in J.Crew's own backyard. Molly Carey is a designer for the line who creates bib necklaces on the side. Mei Tao, a photographer who works with the company, "wears J.Crew like no one else," promises Lyons.

And who's that girl that you can practically hear laughing right in the center of the catalog cover? Naomi Beckwith, a curator at The Studio Museum in Harlem, whom Lyons met at a museum event.

Each of these women reveal more about their personal style and their creative endeavors on the J.Crew site. These aspects influenced their catalog looks. "We created outfits for them that they'd be comfortable in, that would make them feel like themselves," explains Lyons.

For instance, the polished Kemble appears in a pencil skirt and chiffon-and-petal embellished cardigan. Tougher-edged Lunt, on the other hand, rocks a bomber jacket.

Further into the catalog, the professional models step in, posing in the new season's line. While glimpses of a boat, palm fronds and azure water evoke warm weather, the shots focus on a feeling rather than a location.

"We used the outside more like a studio," said Lyons. "We wanted you to feel that intense sun when summer comes around."

How about one of the biggest seasonal trends: shorts? The catalog is full of them, paired with everything from a boyfriend sweatshirt to sequins.

"Shorts right now are the skinny jeans of summer," counsels Lyons. "If you have the legs for it, by all means, go for it! No holds barred. I think a big oversized men's shirt and little shorts is so sexy."

The menswear pages, meanwhile, also have special guests: The men of "Monocle," a London-based global-culture magazine. J.Crew's CEO Millard "Mickey" Drexler has known "Monocle"'s editor-in-chief Tyler Brûlé for years and gradually the idea of a catalog feature developed.

The "Monocle" staff agreed to let J. Crew do the styling; the photos were snapped in the editorial offices and in front of the brand's shop. "Tyler has an office full of smart, interesting, adorable boys!" enthused Lyons. "What more could you want?"

And read about J.Crew going global via Net-A-Porter.