I have intensely conflicted feelings about MM.LaFleur. The idea of looking sharp and professional but having someone else do all the actual work is great; MM.LaFleur’s customer service is excellent; their branding and marketing is brilliant; their clothing is sturdy and conservative enough for any workplace and has a good balance of personality and versatility. Also, most of their stuff magically looks way better in photographs than I think it actually looks on me.
However, even though I did end up buying some of their stuff, I think I’m too hard to fit and too picky to be their audience. You’re best off with MM.LaFleur if you feel overwhelmed by the idea of picking work clothes, you’re not especially picky about color, and you have no emotional problem dropping $155-$295 on an article of clothing.
How it Works (for people unfamiliar with MM LaFleur):
You answer a short questionnaire, then a stylist at MM.LaFleur picks out 4-6 items and sends a “Bento” of them to you. You have four days to try them on as much as you like. You get charged for whatever you keep.
It’s a neat system, because it’s basically a no-risk trial… for your first bento. After the first bento, each one costs $25 unless you keep something, in which case the $25 ‘stylist fee’ is waived.
The questionnaire makes some assumptions about work clothing you’ve worn before– specifically, it assumes you’ve shopped at Theory, J. Crew, Banana Republic, Ann Taylor, or Elie Tahari enough to know what size dress fits you in that brand. However, it does let you list your size in ‘Other’ if you’re like me and have little to no idea.
It also asks for your bra size, which made me a little uneasy, because I have a 36-38 band size and them listing a blanket “38 or larger” option for band size made me feel like their stuff wouldn’t fit me. It discouraged me more than once from trying the bento. Turns out most of my fit issues have been bust-related, so I feel… unsatisfyingly vindicated?
Pros and Cons
Pro: They mostly adapted to my many stylistic requests after the first bento. The second bento, in fact, was stylistically perfect: 4/5 things I’d specifically had an interest in trying, and I think only one was a thing I had actually requested. Good job, MM.LaFleur!
Con: ….but ignored the answer to a question they asked themselves. Also, mostly missed my non-stylistic request. The Re-Bento questionnaire, which you fill out to order your second bento and beyond, asks if you want “accessories (belts, scarves, jewelry) in your next Bento?” I said no. They sent me a scarf. They’re probably so overwhelmed by demand that they threw a scarf in just to round out the box, but I’d rather get a smaller box than get an item I specifically vetoed.
Also, I said I had a strong preference for machine-washable clothes, and only 1/3 of the items they sent me were machine-washable.
Pro: Their fabrics are practical and good-looking. Most have a good combination of stretch and structure, they all drape beautifully, several are machine washable, most are wrinkle-resistant, and many feel better on the skin than average corporate wear.
Con: That doesn’t mean they’re mostly comfortable: they’re just comfortable by comparison to most corporate wear. If you’re interested in natural fabrics or synthetics made from plants, most of your options are in the coats and knits section. The Morandi was cuddly and the Rachel in crackle was smooth and heavy against my skin; the Graham Kimono was viscose, which also always feels nice (though not as nice as Ureshii’s rayons look I know the mentions are becoming a problem but they’re really soft). All the other stuff felt like synthetics– expensive, substantial, durable synthetics, but nothing especially enjoyable to touch.
Pro: Almost everything has pockets.
Con: I have large hands, and almost all the pockets felt too small. The Morandi sweater in particular made me sad, because it was warm and cozy and reasonably flattering, and didn’t make me itch despite my sensitivity to wool, but I couldn’t get my whole hands into the pockets and that was a dealbreaker for me. If I’m going to pay $230 for a nice sweater to keep me warm in the office, it needs to keep my hands warm too.
Also, somehow, there was an inverse correlation between “things that fit me really well” and “things that have pockets.” The Rachel has no pockets, and I kept wanting somewhere to put my hands. The Graham Kimono also doesn’t have pockets, nor does the NoHo pencil skirt. Those are the things that fit me the best. The Masha, on the other hand, is the only thing I tried on that had big enough pockets to make me happy.
and it fit me all sorts of wrong. (More on that later.)
Pro: Their clothing is “conservative, yet more interesting than your run-of-the-mill corporate attire,” to quote this astute review. That’s what initially drew me to their clothes– I don’t like conventional clothes, but I do like having something to wear to impress people.
And MM.LaFleur’s clothing does that. Most impressively, it does that in a way that’s more versatile than distinctive. If you rewear an MM.LaFleur dress, no one’s going to say, “Oh, I remember that dress from last week.” They’re going to just think you look good.
Not-Really-Con: That level of versatility doesn’t suit my personality. I have a really hard time making myself buy versatile things. Mostly I’m interested in MM.LaFleur because they’re one of the few corporate wear companies that mix their office-appropriateness with any personality at all. So it’s not really a surprise that I returned most of their stuff: the surprise is that I kept anything.
Pro: Their branding is amazingly well done and consistent.
MM.LaFleur’s slogan is “Live with purpose. Dress with ease,” and they really work hard to live up to it. They put together reasonably comfortable full outfits based on your personal preferences. Just because it mostly didn’t work well for me doesn’t mean it doesn’t work well for most people. And their design aesthetic is beautiful and simple enough that, honestly, if I need more work clothes I might try them again even though I feel like I’m not the right audience.
They also really do a great job selling themselves as something powerful and relatable: a woman whose personal style doesn’t fit the corporate mold but who’s savvy enough to understand which style rules to break. They have collections with names like ‘Contrarian’ and ‘Unsuitable” (MM.LaFleur women are rebels against corporate style!), photos of women in casual/natural poses or making silly faces (MM.LaFleur women are just like you!).
Con: I felt like they oversold parts of their branding.
Specifically, they talk about how comfortable their clothing is a lot. Sometimes it gets a little bizarre, in fact– on one blouse, they talk about how it “looks like silk crepe, but feels like your favorite t-shirt,” but… but silk is comfortable and I don’t know why you’d need to proclaim it’s like a t-shirt in order to sell it? Also, it did not feel at all like either a t-shirt or silk crepe. It felt like a slightly more breathable polyester.
Their stuff also had a tactile issue for me that I don’t know would be a thing for most people: several dresses and blouses were very smooth and comfy on the inside, where they touch your skin, but is kind of scratchy on the outside, so resting my hands on my clothing was uncomfortable.
Basically, their stuff was just mostly better-feeling than the average corporate clothing, not like lounging around in sweats.
Also: they sell their personalization pretty hard, but they had some really odd personalization issues for me.
Pro: They have styles that fit a decent range of body types, and their site has excellent filters for fit. You can filter clothes for “Petite-Friendly,” “Tall-Friendly,” “Middle-Friendly,” “Bust-Friendly,” and “Hips-Friendly,” which is unusually helpful branding.
Con: …but you can’t make use of those filters if you’re over a size 16. Also? Things just generally did not fit me well, which was a disappointment considering apparently the experience of every other person who’s reviewed MM.LaFleur. With the exception of one dress (the aforementioned Rachel, which I feel pretty guilty not having gotten pictures of), none of the dresses MM.LaFleur sent me fit me right.
The Etsuko, their best-selling dress, squashed me in the chest like I was wearing a wetsuit…
…and constricted the range of motion in my arms;
I could fit my bust into the Tory, the dress that got them the most media coverage, and I was surprised enough at its versatility and its breathability that I bought it. I’m not sure whether it was the right call, though, because it felt like it was large enough in the chest but expected my breasts to be lower down, so I still felt a bit squished up top but had poufing below my breasts;
I might just not be used to blousy fits, though? The stylist at MM.LaFleur said it looked like the right size for me.
The Masha, which I’d thought might have fit me based on this MM.LaFleur M Dash article, did not. The waist fit too tight for my acid reflux, and the bust did this weird drapey thing at the underarms that has happened with two separate garments now:
The blouse they started me out with fit me terribly too. Busty women: The MM.LaFleur Didion is not for you.
However, the Didion being in my bento is really not MM.LaFleur’s fault. I’d admired the lines of the Didion before on other women and had bought another version on clearance. The Re-Bento survey lets you select an option for whether you’d like to be sent other versions of MM.LaFleur items I already owned. However, since I’d never bought a bento before, that wasn’t an option, and I didn’t tell MM.LaFleur the previous Didion hadn’t worked on me. The stylist had to guess whether I liked the one I had. She guessed wrong.
I might have actually gotten this pencil skirt in the color they sent it to me, Truffle, except that it is literally the exact same color as a pencil skirt I already own and I don’t like duplicates. I did pick it up in Indigo, which is less smooth to the touch but is just as sturdy and doesn’t aggravate my reflux.
Pro: Their knitwear did actually look good on me, and was the comfiest stuff they had.
No con to that one. The Graham Kimono had a surprisingly graceful drape, and its color was vivid and saturated.
I did want it to be a slightly softer and slightly thicker fabric (and machine-washable. The fact that it isn’t bothers me– there are so many rayons that are less fussy with machine washing than viscose.)
The Morandi I just returned because of the pocket size and placement. Also, my fiance says it looks like a bathrobe?
Pro: MM.LaFleur ticks some nice ethics boxes: they’re woman-owned and manufacture in New York.
Con: They don’t seem to have an especial investment in environmental sustainability.
I’d like to conclude this review with my favorite cautionary tale about their stuff being well-considered stylistically but sometimes missing the mark functionally. Remember the Graham Kimono that I bought because it’s beautiful and fairly comfortable? Their website copy states, “Made from super-soft Italian jersey, it’s the perfect travel layer.” So I decided to take it on a flight with me, knotting it around my midsection the way I did above.
I walked through the backscatter X-ray machine in security. A TSA agent told me to untie the Graham Kimono and go back through the machine. The front tie was making the machine flag my groin area as suspicious and in need of a patdown. So, uh, wear it open if you’re going to wear it as a travel layer!
Edit 7/18/2017: Apparently this wasn’t overly comprehensive enough. If you’d like to see more of my reviews of MM products, here’s my speed review of the Rankin 2.0 blouse, and here’s my review of the Oshima pant (along with two competitors).
The rest of this you don’t have to read: it’s just specific notes on which requests they matched for which box, in case anyone is curious about the nitty-gritty details.
Overall request matching for people who want specific details.
Box 1: 15/20 if I’m feeling generous, 12/20 if I’m not.
Box 2: 17/21 no matter how you look at it. Pretty good!
The numerical rating, incidentally, is how many garments of the five they sent me fit my specified criteria.
Request 1: “No solid white, please”
Bento 1: 5/5. Two of the pieces were primarily white. That’s my fault, though: I should’ve been more specific on this one, so they get a good score based on my actual request.
Bento 2: 5/5, and there wasn’t a hint of white in anything (I clarified I wasn’t a fan after the first box).
Request 2: “Generally, I prefer jewel tones and/or black.”
Bento 1: 2/5, 3/5 if I’m feeling generous. No jewel tones at all! The only things that fit my request were a black topper (Sant Ambroeus Jardigan) and a black dress (Etsuko). They gave me the NoHo skirt in Truffle, which I could I generously count as a jewel tone: it was a slightly purple-tinged brown, but neither Justin nor I initially saw it as purplish at all.
Bento 2: 5/5. Two black dresses, a topper in a beautiful indigo, and a sweater I had specifically requested. The scarf, while not a thing I would wear, was at least in a color I would wear.
Request 3: “Tailored or curve-hugging fit.”
Bento 1: 3/5. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt on this one and guess that I probably also clicked “tailored on bottom, loose on top” on their survey. If that’s the case, 5/5, good job.
Bento 2: 5/5. I also feel like they tried to give me bust-friendlier stuff on Box 2, but very little of it actually fit my figure. A shame!
Request 4: “Strongly prefer machine washable clothes.”
Bento 1: 2/5. I feel kind of weird that I mentioned a strong preference for this and the majority of the clothes I got sent didn’t fit the bill: just the pencil skirt and the Etsuko. Bento 2: 2/5. Same deal: just the Tory is machine-washable. This is a 2/5 because I requested the Morandi knowing it wasn’t machine-washable.
Request 5: “No accessories.” (Bento 2 only.)
0/1. Seriously, why would they ask this question and then ignore the answer? They’d already given me 4 items; they didn’t need to give me an extra thing to fill out the box.