30 Workwear Brands You Probably Haven’t Tried

30 Workwear Fashion Start-ups and Independent Clothing BrandsEvery professional woman shops at Ann Taylor, J.Crew, and Banana Republic for workwear — but what other options are there? I’m always inspired to see the number of workwear fashion start-ups and independent brands specializing in an aspect of workwear. Many of the founders have personally held corporate jobs, or created the brand to fill a gap in the market they saw. (If it doesn’t exist, create it, right?) These are some of the workwear fashion start-ups and other companies on my radar — ladies, which companies are your radar? Which have you purchased from (or which are you eyeing)? 

(Update: We’ve also rounded up 25 brands making bags and shoes for work!)

Pictured at top: Of Mercer / MM. LaFleur / Carrie Hammer

Independent Boutiques for Workwear

  • Argent – “We make smarter workwear. Someone had to.”
  • Citizens’ Mark (eco-friendly) – “Modern suiting for a generation of socially conscious, empowered women on the rise.”
  • Executive Ponies (Australian company) – “For the girl bosses and business babes.”
  • Gurjot New York – “The first collection ever designed for businesswomen, by a businesswoman, providing the best quality, fit, and design.”
  • Kit and Ace – “Technical clothing for men and women.”
  • Layo-G – “A luxury brand that provides edgy, tailored clothing for modern day women.”
  • MM. LaFleur – “A wardrobe solution for professional women. MM.LaFleur creates luxury apparel and accessories with the same attention to detail as a high-end fashion house.”
  • Of Mercer – “[F]ashionable and work-appropriate dresses, blazers, suiting & accessories for desk to dinner and beyond.”
  • Pivotte – “[E]asy care & worry free clothing for women on-the-go. Shop updated classics in technical fabrics for work, play, travel & everything in between.”
  • The Unstainable® Workwear Collection from Elizabeth & Clarke (taking preorders) – “Using a similar process that a flower does to repel the morning dew, our tiny Unstainable® fibers keep spills suspended above the fabric, preventing stains.”

Companies Perfecting the Office Dress

  • Arkins (hemp) – “Arkins is a women’s wear clothing brand dedicated to sustainable fashion and made in the USA.”
  • Carrie Hammer (has sizes 0-36! and a few jackets that match dresses) – “Work dresses and made-to-measure, custom fashion for the modern professional woman.”
  • Elsa and Me – “Sweden born, New York-based, Nairobi-sewn made to measure women’s clothing.”
  • Emploi New York – “Shop for clothes for modern women, by the modern woman. Smart, stylish & sophisticated office dresses for you.”
  • Michaela Jedinak – “[C]lean cut, figure flattering and empowering dresses reflect contemporary classics and the latest trends. Over 50 exclusive styles.”
  • Nora Gardner – “Elevated essentials for work and beyond.”
  • Project Gravitas (built-in shapers) – “Innovative women’s apparel – with a Core Collection Made in NYC with luxury fabrics and a patented built-in shapewear lining.”
  • Wallis Evera (eco friendly) – “Wallis Evera creates clothing to spark dialogue and inspire change toward a more sustainable future. We focus on hemp, the most eco-friendly fibre in existence.”

Companies Specializing in Blouses and Shirts for Work

  • Campbell & Kate (for larger busts) – “Classic white shirts for the large busted woman who cares about fit and quality.”
  • Elizabeth & Clarke – “Get designer-quality blouses and tees delivered to your doorstop each season for $30 or less.”
  • Meredith Banzhoff – “USA Made tailored women’s shirts, tunics, dresses, and sweaters that make you look effortlessly chic with ease from desk to dinner.”
  • Front Room (for larger busts) – “If you’re full-busted, Front Room has you covered.”
  • The Shirt, by Rochelle Behrens – “The shirt reimagined for the perfect fit.”
  • Adea – “Adea sells women layering tops, lingerie, camisoles and other timeless wardrobe basics in lightweight, breathable Italian luxury fabrics.”
  • LeCou (dickeys) – “Our layering basics give you all of the look, and none of the bulk. Exclusive collar styles in cottons and silks.”
  • Tuxe Bodywear (bodysuits) – “Luxurious bodysuits, skirts and tights to keep women feeling confident and comfortable.”

Companies Reimagining Pants for Work

  • Aella – “We combine the comfort of activewear and the polish of ready-to-wear to create your everyday uniform – starting from the bottom up, with the most comfortable 24/7 pants you’ll ever wear.”
  • Betabrand – “Home of Dress Pant Yoga Pants, Disco Hoodies, Bike to Work Pants, and tons more.”

Special Sizes

  • Jeetly (petites) – “Petite clothing for professional women.”
  • Universal Standard  (plus sizes) – “a plus-size inclusive brand of women’s modern essentials in sizes 10-28. The curve-loving label is designed to go from work to play.”

(L-#)

Comments

  1. I love Of Mercer! I purchased a black Fifth Avenue dress (https://www.ofmercer.com/collections/dresses/products/fifth-avenue-dress) a couple months back and it quickly became my go-to for all my work events. The store has a great atmosphere and is such a pleasant experience every time I go.

  2. Anonymous :

    Kit and Ace was founded by Chip Wilson and his wife- the former CEO of lululemon, I don’t know that it’s truly an “independent boutique”, it’s all over Canada.

    I have some of their stuff- it wears well, but sizes run small (unsurprising, given that Chip Wilson is involved), but none of it is really work appropriate, except for a Friday, unless your office is casual.

    • Even as someone who works in a fairly casual office, the Kit and Ace stuff looks way too casual. Maybe some of the blouses below a blazer or cardigan, but most of it is too short, too low cut, too trendy, just generally too much for work. And the dresses….oh dear. Maybe on the weekends, but even then, it looks kind of like an expensive version of forever 21.

  3. WestCoast Lawyer :

    I seriously could have ordered half the items on the Kit and Ace web site, if it wasn’t founded by the jerk who created LuluLemon.

    • Add anti-Semite to his list of qualities:
      http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/lululemon-founder-in-centre-of-controversy-again/article28587856/

  4. Bewitched :

    How is Of Mercer sizing? I’m usually between two sizes, should I size up?

    • Anonymous :

      I had to size up from my J.Crew / Banana size, but it’s about the same as Theory. Hope that helps!

  5. TO Lawyer :

    I love Judith and Charles for beautiful, well-made work clothes. They’re pricy but well worth it.

  6. “For the girl bosses and business babes.”

    ……….really?

  7. Any of those brands do petite sizing? Other than the UK brand at the bottom…

    • +1

      So sick of wearing exclusively Ann Taylor suiting

      • I know MM LaFleur lets you filter by “petite friendly,” though I don’t have the personal experience to tell you how well those would actually fit petite women. Here is a rather old review of some of their stuff on a petite woman: http://www.f4family.com/2015/03/review-of-mmlafleur-bento-box.html

        • I am 5’2″ and I love MM LaFleur. It all depends on the dress style. I generally wear an 8P and find the 8 size in MM right (generally). The Nisa, Emily, and Sarah have all worked for me and look fabulous. The deneuve top is also great. The Wolfe looks better on me than the regular jardigan because ironically being longer, it creates a better illusion of height. All pants would need hemming. I would look for a pop-up in your area (they come to LA 3x per year or so) so you can avoid the try & return.

        • I just visited an MM LaFleur pop-up. They just expanded into W sizes and petites are next on their list – can’t wait. I found some of their dresses fit great (I am very short-waisted) and others would have needed to be tailored in order to have them hit at the right spot. I usually wear a 12P in brands such as Tahari, but needed a 14 at MM.

  8. Has anyone ever bought Misook? It looks like it would be really useful for the frequent traveller.

    • I have bought and returned. I am sometimes attracted to it in the NM catalog, often for the reason you mentioned, but I absolutely hated the material and cut when it arrived. It was a scratchy knit that was also boxy. I’m a boxy shape and it was too boxy even for me. I did not think the fabric was worth the price, either. YMMV – it was just one piece.

  9. Calibrachoa :

    The jumpsuit in the Carrie Hammer Tuxedo collection is certainly… Wonder Woman-esque to say the least. But some of those jackets, wow.

  10. SF Analyst :

    Not really a boutique brand, but Van Heusen has a great selection of pull-up dress pants in regular and petite sizes

  11. anonymous :

    I love the Betabrand pants. They are comfortable and great for my business casual office.

    • lucy stone :

      We’re business casual as well and we have an employee who loves these. They look great and I would have never known they weren’t “real” pants if she hadn’t shown me her waistband.

  12. Anonymous :

    I have a few things from MM LaFleur and I like them very much

    • I really like the styles from MM LaFleur too! However- has anyone had issues with the material pilling? Specifically, I have ordered 4 colors of the “Etusko” style. The first one I got pilled really badly after wearing a necklace so MM La Fleur replaced it for me after I complained (which was greatly appreciated). However, I have two other Etusko’s from maybe 1 – 1.5 years ago and they are starting to pill in parts as well. I always wash them cold gentle and hang to dry per the instructions. Just wondering if anyone else has had this problem.

      • Hi Ellen,
        I had the same problem with MM.LaFleur’s Etsuko dress and also their Nisa. I had worn each only about 6-7 times.
        I complained and their response was that pulling was a “natural result of wear over time”. They strongly suggested getting an electric fabric shaver, which actually did end up working out for me (got mine on Amazon, from Conair). However, I’ve never experienced this pilling issue with similar fabrics from Banana Republic, J Crew and even Express. They also offered me a flat discount to apply towards my next order, which I did end up taking because I do love their dresses so much and their customer service is excellent.

      • Me too re pulling on etsuko!

  13. I am really into MM LaFleur. Bonus for NYC ladies- you can go to their studio and have a stylist find the perfect dresses for your body type/work. The clothes fit just perfectly!

  14. I am a MM LaFleur addict. Slowly I’ve replaced most of my work wardrobe with their products and wear their clothing at least 3 days a week. It is seriously made perfect for my style.

  15. I’ve bookmarked this post so I can go through it all, thank you! I love MM LaFleur, 80% of my closet is from there. I have been on the lookout for better lingerie, and have recently found white rabbit (meh), negative underwear (haven’t tried yet) and third love (love for sure).

  16. Another vote for M.M. La Fleur. Just purchased two more items from there. My stylist, Lucy, is awesome! She does a really good job of recommending items for me.

  17. Will M.M. La Fleur work if you are cusp size? I probably wear 16 in most store brands, and if went to the plus size most clothes are cut too big for me. Do you get more than “wrap” style dresses?

    • Wildkitten :

      Maybe! I am a similar size and ordered some items for them and only one was flattering – which probably has more to do with my body shape than my size-specifically. But – it’s harder to find flattering things for size 16 women because there is more variety in our body shapes. I will say – I ordered some items and kept one, and I figured – hey – why not get the Bento Box? And nothing in the Bento Box worked at all. Your first bento is free, but subsequent bentos have a $25 styling fee, so you might have better luck ordering the items to see if they fit you and returning them, rather than getting a bento where it turns out nothing works for you.

  18. Anyone tried those Beta Brand yoga pants for the office? I want some but I’m not willing to risk $80 on something that might look too sweatpantsy if I tried them at my business casual office.

    • Wildkitten :

      People love them. I ordered the skirt and will report back. I suspect a big hurdle is that you can’t wear shirts that should be tucked in, but that look is unflattering on me anyway.

    • I have 2 pairs and adore them shamelessly. They look like real pants, albeit very fitted through the rear. Size up. They run long as well, could be hemmed easily though. Boot cut are fairly wide, slim more straight-legged for me. I ordered petite slim cut and they work perfect with 1 inch wedges. If you want to use my referral link you save $15 on your first order and I get a kickback.
      https://www.betabrand.com/referrals/landing/friend/?r=6fAf

    • I love the Betabrand yoga pants. I have several pants, a skirt and a dress. Keep in mind that the pants shrink in length when you wash them. If it doesn’t fit, the return is very easy!

    • I have 2 pairs and wear them regularly — though I agree that they look odd with tucked in shirts. I have ordered a number of other items from Beta Brand though and hated them all uniformly. The dress pant yoga pants are the only things on their website I’ve had any luck with.

    • I bought them and I work in California in a business casual office and would not feel comfortable wearing them to work. They are thicker than normal yoga pants and they have pockets and stuff but they don’t hang like normal pants because of the stretch material, so they are tight. They are, for me, expensive weekend wear.

  19. I was going to say that I was disappointed with MM LaFleur unfortunately. The quality didn’t seem up to the price point for me.

    • I have not had that problem with MM LaFleur but I am new to the brand. I think I generally have issues with machine washable work wear. While I like the concept of saving on dry cleaning, machine washable work wear doesn’t last as long and I think makes fabrics wear faster. Also, who doesn’t like the crisp clean lines of a freshly dry cleaned dress?!

    • I’ve had mixed feelings about MM.LaFleur’s stuff, to the point where I went through 2 bentos (overly comprehensive review here if anyone’s curious: http://www.reasonablypresentable.com/index.php/2016/04/28/mm-lafleur-review/) and own 4 pieces of their clothing, and I’m still uncertain whether I think the quality is worth the price. Their branding is amazing, though, and their customer service is great.

      I will say, though, that even the stuff that felt like it fit me totally wrong mostly looks great in photographs. Also, I managed to comfortably wear their high-waisted NoHo pencil skirt with pretty bad acid reflux. That is a pretty big deal to me.

      Also, I have an anecdote about a particular piece of their clothing that I personally think is hilarious. The copy on their Graham Kimono, which I own in Indigo, reads, “Made from super-soft Italian jersey, it’s the perfect travel layer.” I’ve worn it through airports 3 times. The first time, I wore it tied in the front, and the security agent made me go back through the x-ray machine with it untied because otherwise I’d need a groin patdown. “Oooookay,” I thought to myself, “keeping this untied from now on.” The third time I went through the airport wearing it untied, the machine marked me as needing a butt patdown. So, pro tip? The Graham Kimono is not *actually* a great travel layer if you’re planning on wearing it through airport security. :D

  20. (not that) Ellen :

    I have bought a few pairs of the Betabrand Dress Pant Yoga Pants, and I wouldn’t use them for either dress pants or to do yoga (don’t breathe well/wrong fit). They are OK for business casual IMO, but not much beyond that. Seriously comfortable though. The fabric is different for different color/prints in the pants. I have glen plaid and herringbone, and the fabric seemed a little cheap for what they cost. OTOH, I recently got a pair of the pinstripes and these I love. They are a substantial, soft ponte-feel knit that hang very well (the other 2 pairs don’t).

    I’m 5’4″ and typically a 31″ inseam is perfect to be able to wear a small, walkable heel. The petites are just a hair shorter than I like them; the regular I definitely need hemmed.

    I love the idea of this company and keep trying new things. I’m currently waiting on the active blazer and the Palazzo DPYP. I’m hopeful.

    • (not that) Ellen :

      Forgot to mention that I also got a pair of the travel cargo pants because I loved the idea of all those pockets that zip for airport days when you just need to shove something important (e.g. drivers license) into a pocket for a few minutes. They are great for that, but the fabric is too sturdy and warm (almost feels fleece-lined) for summer travel.

  21. shortperson :

    i’m a little obsessed with mm la fleur right now. my favorite is the noho skirt – -the first comfortable pencil skirt i’ve ever worn (i’m pretty petite w a stomach pooch). i also like the foster pant and the sarah dress (when it used to be machine washable). the only thing i have liked at kit and ace is the mulberry pant, which i think can pass at work.

    along the same lines of online luxury boutiques, i like m. gemi for shoes.

  22. The websites you listed were great; however, a major appeal of Banana Republic, J.Crew, Ann Taylor, etc. is that their work attire for young professionals is reasonable. A dress can run you $50-$120. Their prices are so reasonable that I cannot see myself spending $600 on a dress, regardless pay raises from the “just starting out” days.

    Is there any way to narrow this list to affordable brands?

  23. While these brands are aiming to fill a void that has been around for a long time, this niche market fails to take into account young professionals. As a recent law graduate, I don’t have the funds to buy from any of the above brands listed. Problem is, I’m forced to go to low end sources that aren’t good quality and only last so many washes. Can someone help a recent professional grad out and suggest work wear that is both quality and affordable (i.e. stuff under $100)?

    • Consignment shops.

    • Anonymous :

      If you really need cheap and interchangeable, consider Ny&Co. Nothing special, but they tend to have something to get you by. And if you need to buy a whole wardrobe, their coupons will help a lot. Get on their email list before you shop!

  24. I truly could have requested a large portion of the things on the Kit and Ace site, in the event that it wasn’t established by the twitch who made LuluLemon fromhttps://www.myhomeshoppingnetwork.com

Add a Comment

Thank you for commenting. On the off chance that your comment goes to moderation, note that a moderation message will only appear if you enter an email address. If you have any questions please check out our commenting policy.

work fashion blog press mentions