Browsing: These Women Want to Dress You for the Office

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Browsing: These Women Want to Dress You for the Office

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Despite all that has changed about women’s roles in the workplace, what hasn’t really changed is their wardrobe. Too many retailers still cater to a corporate world with stuffy pantsuits and shift dresses that wouldn’t look out of place next to a fax machine. Happily, a crop of companies founded by entrepreneurial young women (who struggled with this very dilemma) are working on solutions. Here, they share their wisdom on work wear, and where it’s going next.

Designs from Argent.CreditKarsten Moran for The New York Times

Argent

Argent is the brainchild of Sali Christeson, a former tech executive, and Eleanor Turner, a fashion veteran. Work wear labels tend to ignore trends. Not so Argent, which smartly nods to what’s on the runway without losing touch with the practical realities of the office. Case in point: A pair of trousers in the season’s must-have check can be turned inside out and worn reversibly.

Back Story Ms. Christeson: National studies confirm a depressing truth — women in the workplace are judged by what they wear, and a woman’s appearance affects both her career trajectory and bottom line. El and I saw an opportunity to give women functionality and confidence through our product and brand.

Looks from Argent.CreditKarsten Moran for The New York Times

What We Do Ms. Turner: In 20 years we see women’s clothing completely mastering functionality and style. Argent has already begun to incorporate functional elements into our pieces, including reversible suits, media and stylus pockets, microfiber pocket bags (for cleaning glasses and iPhone screens) and moisture-wicking material. I think that in the next decade, all women will wear functional clothing.

Bonus Advice Ms. Turner: We have more opportunity today to take fashion risks. When you think about it, women politicians weren’t allowed to wear pantsuits on the Senate floor until 1993! My advice to women is to use your wardrobe as a way to round out your personal brand. Take advantage of bold colors and mismatching patterns.

Sarah LaFleur, founder and CEO of MM.LaFleur.CreditKarsten Moran for The New York Times

MM.LaFleur

For Sarah LaFleur, it isn’t just what women want to shop for, but how. In addition to offering smart-but-cool work wear styles, MM.LaFLeur has a personal styling service that delivers a “bento box” of items selected on the basis of a questionnaire users fill out..

Back Story As a young woman in finance, I was always frustrated with my work wear options. I was working 70 hours a week, on the road from Monday through Thursday, and I definitely didn’t want to spend my nights and weekends sifting through racks in a department store. So I started MM.LaFleur to take the work — and the stress — out of shopping for work.

What We Do I wanted to create a beautiful collection that not only met the professional woman’s needs, but also offered a seamless shopping experience. That’s where our personal stylists come in.

Looks from MM.LaFleur.CreditKarsten Moran for The New York Times

Coolest Trends Jeans or black leggings may have raised eyebrows even 10 years ago, but now women in senior positions pair those pieces with a blouse and a jacket, signaling a kind of duality: My pants show that I am young and keep up with the latest trends, but my top signals that I am professional and dependable. And more women are wearing flats, which once would have been considered too playful. Now they signal that you’re busy and always on the move.

Bonus Advice There’s nothing wrong with having fun with fashion, but we resist the assumption that women are supposed to be decorative. If a guy can get away with jeans and a gray T-shirt every day, why can’t a woman enjoy the same level of simplicity?

Emelyn Northway, left, and Dorie Smith, founders of the work wear label Of Mercer.CreditKarsten Moran for The New York Times

Of Mercer

Still trying to master that whole work/life balance thing? Of Mercer, founded by Emelyn Northway and Dorie Smith, aims to make styles that easily transition between the two so you don’t have to stress, at least when it comes to dressing.

Back Story Ms. Northway: The two of us were working in conservative environments in finance and consulting and didn’t have time to scour racks asking ourselves if something was work appropriate, nor could we justify paying over $1,000 for a boring suit. It seemed crazy that we didn’t have a go-to brand that could deliver.

A look from Of Mercer.CreditKarsten Moran for The New York Times

What We Do Ms. Northway: We hit the three key features we always looked for: using high quality fabrics, designing everything with the workingwoman in mind and manufacturing every piece in New York City. A lot of our focus is on functionality — utilizing wrinkle-free, machine-washable fabrics and design elements that make wear easier. We have a number of reversible styles (yes, really!); we incorporate pockets as much as possible; and we engineered an above-the-bust wrap dress (goodbye, camisoles!)

Why Did You Introduce a Maternity Line? Ms. Smith: We want to make the transition back to work as seamless as possible. We designed a collection of pieces that work with a woman’s changing body and circumstances pre- and postpartum so she can confidently focus on all the other priorities in her life.

Correction: 

An earlier version of this article referred incorrectly to the payment model that MM.LaFleur uses. Customers pay per box, not for a subscription service.

A version of this article appears in print on , on Page D3 of the New York edition with the headline: Dressing for the Office: These Women Want to Help. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe

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