MM.LaFleur is on a mission to solve all your “what to wear to work” conundrums. The New York City-based retailer known for its genius workwear bento boxes has just published a handy-dandy manifesto on the power of the work uniform, written by CEO Sarah LaFleur and Editorial Director Tory Hoen. The how-to handbook called Wear to Work: A Guide to Building Your Ultimate Professional Uniform covers all the sartorial bases, from how to streamline your closet to what accessories to wear to get promoted. Naturally, we needed to know more.
theFashionSpot: What are three work wardrobe faux pas women often make?
Sarah LaFleur and Tory Hoen: The most common mistakes are:
- Ill-fitting clothes. When it comes to looking professional, fit is everything. On the weekend, you can go crazy with oversized or body-hugging clothes, but in the office, clothes should be neither too loose nor too tight. You want a tailored fit that skims your body without hugging in any single area. If you tend to have trouble finding clothes that fit well, buy a size that’s a tad large and have a tailor take it in, so it fits you to a T. A good tailor is a professional woman’s best friend.
- Visible bra straps. Some things — like the color of your lingerie — should remain a mystery to your co-workers. Make sure the sleeves and back of your top sufficiently conceal your bra. Even better: Before you buy a dress or top, do the “Bow Test.” Stand in front of a mirror and bow forward at a 90-degree angle, then look up while holding your bow. If you can see your cleavage or any part of your bra, the cut of your top is too low.
- Banged-up shoes. Nice shoes can elevate an outfit — but not if you don’t maintain them. When your shoes start to look scuffed or worn, take them to your local cobbler to be shined, polished or re-soled. A pro can make them look new again, which will extend their life and keep you looking sharp.
tFS: What accessories should be in a woman’s work arsenal, and what shouldn’t?
SL and TH: Accessories should complete your look without distracting you from your cause. We love a well-made leather belt to add a bit of color and texture. For jewelry, you can’t go wrong with simple diamond studs, or a delicate necklace in yellow or white gold. If your outfit is quite simple, you might try snazzing it up with a bold necklace or earring. The more casual your workplace, the more you can get away with. Just remember that if an accessory is uncomfortable or distracting, it won’t make your workday any easier. An armful of bangles might look cool, but if they jangle loudly every time you start typing, you’ll drive your co-workers crazy.
tFS: Where should you invest your money and where should you skimp?
SL and TH: Prevailing advice will tell you to splash out on designer shoes and bags. We disagree! When it comes to workwear, you need neat, comfortable shoes — but a pair of $700 stilettos isn’t going to make your day any easier.
You should invest in a great dress (or two, or three!) that works from day to night and makes you feel like a boss. A tailored pencil skirt or pair of pants that fit you perfectly are definitely worth the money since you can wear them as the base of your outfit multiple times a week. A great blazer or structured knit is always a smart buy. It’s the quickest way to upgrade an outfit, and it can be worn over pants, a skirt, a dress or even jeans.
You do need an elegant (but functional!) bag. This doesn’t mean you should rush out and buy the It bag of the season. It does mean you should seek out a polished, versatile tote that can fit everything you need to lug around.