Fashion Startups To Know, Part Two: 25 Brands Making Bags and Shoes for Work

independent shoes and bags for workA while back we rounded up thirty workwear brands you probably hadn’t heard of, focusing on smaller, startup fashion companies serving up new, interesting clothes for working women. Shoes for work and bags for work (laptop totes and beyond) became such a huge portion of it we thought we’d save it for its own post — and here it is! Below: meet 25 companies on our radar catering to the market of working women. Ladies, do you prefer to buy from independent retailers, or do you just like to see what kind of products they’re imagining? Have you tried any of these brands? Do you know of any others that should be on our radar?

Independent Brands Making Shoes for Work

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The Nordstrom Anniversary Sale ends SUNDAY!

final 3 days of NAS saleDeal alert, ladies: it’s the final three days of the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale — after Sunday, all of the new fall merchandise currently marked down will go back up to full price. There’s still a ton of good stuff left , but even now it’s flying off the shelves. (WAAAH to the leatherish jacket I added to my cart last night at like 1 AM and was sold out in my size by 10 AM this morning.) We’ve already rounded up workwear in the sale, NAS shoes, and last week we took a deep dive at the highest rated items for work and play since customer reviews weren’t available in the early days. I thought I’d take a quick swing through the sale today to see what else is sticking out to me now — I’m still seeing new things.  Note that all of these have a TON of sizes left, and that reader favorite brands for workwear like Boss, Classiques Entier, Theory and Halogen have lots of stuff left, including full suits.

For the Office

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The Highest Rated Items Still Left in the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale

highest rated items in the Nordstrom Anniversary SaleAs I may have mentioned a few times, the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale is still going on, featuring tons of new fall merchandise temporarily marked down until prices go back up on August 8. I did my initial workwear review and rounded up my favorite shoes from the NAS when the sale first began a few weeks ago, but it’s been interesting to watch the progress of the sale — I’m always intrigued to see what becomes a best seller, what sells out, what gets rave reviews, and more.  Much has sold out — but there are still a TON of highly rated items in the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale. So I thought I’d do a “highest rated edit” of the NAS — these are things that have tons of good reviews, almost entirely 4-5 stars, and almost everything here still has a ton of sizes left.  I’m picturing a lot of workwear and shoes, but I’m also rounding up the highest rated lingerie, lounge, and weekend pieces in the NAS.  Ladies, what have you bought and loved, whether to wear to work or for the weekend? Have you tried any of these highly rated NAS styles — and do you agree with the reviews? 

The Highest Rated NAS Work Clothes

You can check out my initial NAS workwear review here — many of the pieces are still left but have zero reviews (or single 5-star reviews, like this dress). I always feel there’s strength in numbers, so these are the highly rated styles with the most reviews:

highest rated tops for work in the NAS

Pictured tops above, L-R:

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Weekend Wednesday: The Best Flip Flops

the best flip flops for your commute

Ladies, which are your favorite flip flops for your commute or for the weekends? Do you look for arch support, comfort, sustainability, or color? When we’ve talked about flip flops in the past, it’s almost always because we’re including them in a list of what not to wear to work — but because it’s Weekend Wednesday, flip flops are the main attraction today. So let’s hear it — which are your favorites? What flip flops are best for your commute, the weekend, or beyond?  

Pictured at top: blue / print / purple / purple / brown

Of course, we really don’t recommend wearing flip flops around the office — if you commute in them, change out of them as soon as humanly possible (if not in the lobby of the building or a block or two away). Still — we all buy them. So which are best?  The brands of flip flops most often mentioned as Corporette reader favorites are Okabashi, Reef, Rainbow, and OluKai. Other brands that have gotten the thumbs-up from readers are Havaianas, Chacos, Teva (the Olowahu style), Yellow Box, Sperry, Orthaheel, Ipanema, Vionic, Sanuk, and Tkees, the brand that looks like a Tieks typo.

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5 Tips to Stay Cool on Really Hot Workdays

how to stay cool on hot workdaysDid you hear that the highest temperature in the world last week was an incredible 129°F ? Even if you’re not dealing with crazy record-breaking temperatures like that, you’ve likely been dealing with a hellish commute if you walk, bike, or take public transportation to work. Aside from reveling in the frigid air conditioning once you get to your office, here are a few tips to stay cool on really hot workdays:

1. Use your drink for something other than drinking. Bring a cold can of soda (put it in the freezer for a while) or a frozen bottle of water and roll it on your wrists and other pulse points (here’s a picture pointing them out) when you want to stay cool. Once you’re at work, stop by the restroom to run cold water over your wrists.

2. Hack your commute. If you take public transportation, try to improve the most melty, disgusting portion of your commute. In most of NYC that’s the wait on the subway platform — not the subway ride itself. This may mean making yourself an iced coffee or a frozen bottle of water to take into the subway with you instead of grabbing one at your usual spot near the office; it may mean avoiding the subway entirely and taking the bus. If you can time it right (either with the help of an app or some of the newer MTA stops that tell you how far away your train is) you can wait to descend the subway until a minute or two before your train. (Try MoovitNextStop, or Transit App.) Wear as little makeup as possible so that you don’t smudge it when you’re wiping the sweat off your face, and if you have to/want to wear pantyhose in the summer, pop them in the freezer first, or just put them on at your office.

3. Pack a fan in your bag. It’s funny how a little breeze can make a big difference and help you stay cool when it’s hot, humid, and gross — so get a little battery-operated fan or a paper/wooden folding one (you know, the kind you can get in Chinatown). This one looks like a good bet, while this wearable one is intriguing… This model even has a misting feature — nice! (If the A/C at your office just can’t keep up, you can buy a small one like this for the top of your desk, too.)

4. Wear your hair up. On hot days you know your hair will end up off your neck, so you may as well plan ahead and make it look nice. Check out our roundup of easy office updos for inspiration.

5. Layer, layer, layer. Especially if you’re going from a hot, sweltering summer day into frigid air conditioning, you need layers. Outside: wear a skirt or dress (possibly layered with slipshorts for comfort), or lightweight pants like linen or cotton pique, with a simple t-shirt or shell. When you get inside, add the cardigan, blazer (keep one or more at work if you like), a scarf, or (if you must) pantyhose. Note that if you’re looking for a good sweater to put on at the office, a silk cardigan is going to retain its shape and wrinkle less in your bag than a cotton or poly-blend cardigan will. (If you absolutely need to wear a blazer when outside, check out our recent roundup of lightweight summer blazers.)

Ladies, what are your best tips that help you stay cool during the dog days of summer? 

Pictured: Pixabay.
Image credit for pin and other social media: Canal Street subway, originally uploaded to Flickr by m01229.  

how to stay cool on your commute

The Hunt: Professional Tote Bags

professional tote bagsSure, we all know what basics professional women are supposed to have in their closets, but if you’re buying one for the first time or replacing one you’ve worn into the ground, it can be a pain to find exactly the right incarnation in stores. In “The Hunt,” we search the stores for a basic item that every woman should have.

We haven’t done a Hunt for professional tote bags in FOREVER, so I thought we’d do one now.  With OCI/EIW coming up we should discuss what makes a great interview tote, which I’ve always seen as a pretty major subset of professional tote bags. A great interview tote should:

  • be large enough to hold a folder that contains the absolute latest version of your resume
  • have structure to it — if you put it on the floor it will stand up or at least lean (so — while I love me my Planetes Longchamp bag, I wouldn’t interview with it — it’s also for this reason that most of these bags are east/west bags rather than north/south bags)
  • be mostly solid and lacking logos all over it (so in my book most Neverfulls, Goyard, and MCM bags are out — but a Neverfull in an Epi leather is a different issue)
  • have enough organization that you can ditch your purse and just carry the tote bag (or, put another way, it becomes your purse)
  • not be primarily as a laptop tote — unless you anticipate needing your laptop during the interview, you don’t need the weight and the added stress of keeping tabs on your bag (but see our laptop tote roundup if you’re looking for one)

I once joked that if you’re just looking for something to shuttle papers to and from the office, most of the rainmakers I knew carried boat bags, or at least the tote bags one gets for donating X dollars to charity or attending a conference, suggesting it was all part of “what your tote bag says about you.” Now I think it’s just because those suckers add up over the years and they’re perfect for sticking in your office closet! (Although I will note – an LL Bean rep recently told me that this bag can hold up to 500 pounds because it was designed for carrying ice blocks through the winter. Ice blocks, huge binders, whatever, right?)

So ladies, let’s discuss — do you carry a tote bag as your regular purse, or only if you’re interviewing or otherwise carrying a folder? What do you look for in a professional tote bag? Do you prefer hand-held briefcase/satchel styles, north/west styles, east/west styles? Leather, nylon, or coated canvas? Have you bought any great ones lately, or do you still carry any older ones?

First, a roundup of some general categories:

Best-Selling Work Totes

Some of the best selling work totes of all time are linked to in our Hall of Fame styles mentioned above — here are a few of those, pictured, ranging from $168-$298: 1 / 2 / 3 // 4 / 5 / 6

Featured Work Totes

Best-selling, classic styles are great, but sometimes you want to know what else is on the market today.  So: six bags we’re liking today:

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