In the third installment of our series on shopping for work clothes, Fortune tries MM.LaFleur on for size.
Today’s working women arguably have more items on their to-do lists—and less time to accomplish those tasks—than ever before. So, it’s no surprise that a host of online services have sprung up to help cross one of those items off the list: shopping for clothes.
But while that solves one problem, it raises a new one: Which company should you choose? As a young professional still building my office wardrobe, I decided to put five of the most popular online styling services to the test, all with a single goal: finding stylish, affordable workwear. What follows is the third installment in our weeklong series. To read previous reviews, click here.
How it works
MM.LaFleur was founded in 2013 by Sarah LaFleur to meet the needs of women in the corporate world who want a more interesting work wardrobe. The company is simultaneously a clothing brand—designed by Miyako Nakamura, former head designer of Zac Posen—and a styling service. While customers can buy MM-branded clothing directly from the company’s site or New York City showroom, first-timers are encouraged to order a free “Bento Box,” which consists of four to six handpicked pieces based on a customer’s preferences. There’s no styling fee for the first box, though those who prefer to keep ordering Bentos instead of shopping directly from the online store pay a $25 fee for all subsequent boxes (that amount is subtracted from any purchase you end up making).
The process of ordering the Bento is quite similar to that of Stitch Fix. The first order of business is to fill out a survey about your preferences for style, fit, color, and price. The budget question is an interesting one: Although there is the option to request pieces priced at $125 or less, choosing that option prompts a pop-up response from the site, noting that the average dress costs $250.
The service also asks you about your “girl crushes,” a.k.a., women you admire. Options include Marie Curie, Beyonce and Joan Didion. This idea also runs through the collection itself: MM items have names like the “Deneuve” and the “Winfrey,” presumably in honor of the legendary French actress and media mogul, respectively.
My first impression of the items in my Bento Box wasn’t great. Everything seemed a bit, well, corporate. It was only when I tried on each piece that I started to change my mind. Take the Emily dress, for example. At first glance, it’s a standard, conservative work dress. But trying it on, the design came alive. It was tight in all the right places, form-fitting, yet professional. And it had pockets! The fabric itself was heavy and wrinkle-resistant; it was the kind of dress you could wear season after season.
Emily dress ($165)
The other clothes were equally as impressive, with cuts that were conservative, yet more interesting than your run-of-the-mill corporate attire. I loved the deep teal color and stretchy, comfortable fabric of the Noho skirt and the cornflower blue of the Didion shirt. The Sant Ambroeus cardigan had a great structured feel and interesting detailing on the sleeves. All of these items were perfect for someone who already owns a lot of black.
From left to right: Noho skirt ($130), Didion shirt ($110), Sant Ambroeus cardigan ($175)
I wasn’t sent any accessories this time, but the company does sell jewelry, scarves and belts in its online store.
What blew me away about MM.LaFleur was the quality of the clothes. The prices weren’t exactly low, but they didn’t feel unreasonable given the great designs. I also liked that the clothing is made almost exclusively for women who work in corporate settings, so there’s no need to sort through a bunch of designs to find the things that are office appropriate.
The Bento Box gave me a good feel for the brand and is an excellent option for those who are unfamiliar with the company. Ordering and returning the clothes was a piece of cake: There’s free shipping both ways, and the Bento comes with a prepaid return envelope, which you drop in a UPS location four days after your package arrives.
The primary downside is that the selection on the site is quite limited. There are currently 21 dresses in the online store and just eight skirts. According to a representative of the company, MM launches full collections twice a year (spring and fall), but changes the mix of styles and colors continually. As an example, the Didion shirt pictured above, which was available in cornflower blue during the spring season, is now available only in fall colors.
Up next: Stylit
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