“That outfit is not appropriate for work,” my supervisor said quietly.
“Why?” I demanded.
In retrospect, the question was hilarious. I was wearing a too-short orange tee shirt and black cargo pants with the sides torn and the hems worn out from where I kept stepping on them. But I was furious. I was humiliated. This was my first job out of college, working for a nonprofit I believed in, and I worked really hard, I followed all the rules (I even tore through the employee guidebook searching for rules that my outfit broke), and I expected to be judged for what I did, not how I looked.
That, and other experiences like it, prompted me to study the unspoken parts of what ‘appropriate-for-work’ meant. I wanted to keep my sense of personal style, but I didn’t want to get pulled aside by supervisors anymore. But more specifically, that experience got me near-obsessed with finding a pair of work-appropriate pants I didn’t hate.
So are there pants out there that are work-appropriate, flattering, flexible, soft, durable, lint-resistant, machine-washable, and somewhat affordable? No, not all at once, that’s too much to ask, but you can get a decent subset of those from Ministry of Supply, MM. LaFleur, and to a lesser extent Betabrand. (And since the Betabrand Mondo Anniversary Sale makes their Dress Pant Yoga Pant extra affordable, I wanted to get this up even though I still haven’t gotten some answers back from Ministry of Supply. I’ll update the post when I do.)
Please excuse the photos today, it’s pouring outside and my photo-color-adjusting PC is out of commission. Whee, getting back into the swing of posting!
I’m generally skeptical of MM. LaFleur’s ‘bust-friendly’ filter. Multiple shirts under that filter fit me anywhere from ‘terrible sack’ (yes, Didion, I’m talking about you) to it-would-be-perfect-if-they-added-just-a-tiny-bit-more-fabric-across-the-bust (Bourgeois Blouse). I impulse-bought the Rankin 2.0 top anyway because of MM.LaFleur’s recurrent combination of impeccable style and convincing branding (a shirt that makes it look like I tried really hard when I actually just threw a thing on? Yesplz.)
It arrived in the mail today, and I’m actually kind of surprised by how it turned out, so I thought I’d show you.
Teresa Crowninshield is a coat company that excels at luxurious, comfortable, well-fitting coats with a unique design. For this weekend’s upcoming Secret Style Saturday event, subscribers to their email list will get a discount on five new designs. I thought I’d take the opportunity to tell you a little bit of why I’m so personally excited (and somewhat conflicted) about their coats.
Let’s start with the positives:
- Their coats are entirely made out of high-quality natural fabrics. Teresa Crowninshield’s signature Azurean coat is lined with a silk thicker and heavier than that of most silk blouses.
- There’s a coat for every body type: some coats I couldn’t have tailored to fit me better, and others look awful on me but would look fabulous on people with straighter figures. While Teresa Crowninshield only sells up to a size 16 on their website, they’ve “gone well into the 20s” for clients who needed bigger coats.
- Every design is both classically tailored and unique, usually with fun colorblocking. Teresa Crowninshield coats are appropriate for any occasion where you really want to impress people. They’re the kind of coat you choose to wear on stage with the President of the United States.
And now, the negatives:
- None of her coats are entirely vegetarian, and many of her fabrics are sourced from China, including angora. China’s got a history of animal cruelty when it comes to angora farming, and Tess doesn’t do anything special to ensure her Chinese angora is cruelty-free. (If you’re interested in avoiding Chinese angora but still want one of her coats, she still has some incredibly beautiful silk coats, and a few newer designs in silk-lined bamboo).
- Teresa Crowninshield coats are priced like something you’d wear on stage with the President. Your first coat will generally cost between $375 and $695.
That’s a reasonable price, considering the materials (I ballparked the cost of the raw materials of her Azurean coat at $222.40)* and the labor (Teresa Crowninshield coats are USA-designed and USA-made on a small scale, and each Azurean takes the better part of a day to make). That price also comes with perks– she gives you a lifetime 20% discount after you’ve bought your first coat (so subsequent coats will cost $300-$556).
That still doesn’t mean most people can afford that investment. So if you’re interested in a sharp-looking coat that has a less inventive design and less luxurious materials but is cheaper and weatherproof, maybe check out Mia Melon’s Ultimate All-Weather Coat for $129-$139.
Tess (the owner) was kind enough to let me take a bunch of pictures of myself wearing her beautiful coats at a local craft fair to demonstrate how they fit. Those are below the fold.
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.