The iRelaunch Spring Style Edit with M.M.LaFleur and FirstSeven
Yes, Spring has most certainly sprung! Suddenly we find ourselves reorganizing our closets (reinvigorated by the very thought of ‘spring cleaning’) and dreaming up all the ways in which we can lighten up our daily look. Without heavy parkas and oh-so-cozy accessories in tow, we’re finally free to bear our post-hibernation legs and arms too!
But what if our foray into the deepest depths of our closets leaves us returning empty-handed? With a return to work interview on Tuesday, and a friendly coffee chat with a former colleague on Saturday, what are we to do?
As relaunchers, the very prospect of relaunching can be overwhelming in and of itself. Successfully relaunching whilst looking stylish too? That’s enough to have us doubling over! That is, however, if we try to do all of this by ourselves. Thankfully, we don’t have to! Unlike in previous times, relaunching has never been a more supportive journey. iRelaunch is one of the many organizations today that aims to provide those interested in relaunching with a playbook of sorts. Whether it’s a resume refresh, a renewed sense of confidence, or a return-to-work internship, iRelaunch has the tools that you need to succeed. Once you’ve taken advantage of our Return to Work Roadmap, attended one of our iRelaunch Return to Work Conferences, and listened to our 3,2,1, iRelaunch podcast, you still may feel uneasy about what your first impression says about you and your ability to get back to work successfully.
Have no fear – we’re here! Though we do not claim to be style savants ourselves, we’re fortunate to know a few! We reached out to our friends at FirstSeven and M.M.LaFleur to get the skinny on how to relaunch with style and grace!
Meet the Experts:
Getting yourself back on the career track requires summoning confidence to put yourself out there. What are some actionable wardrobe tips and tools to help us feel excited about this transition?
- Shelby: Logistically and financially, updating your entire wardrobe in a short amount of time can be overwhelming. I suggest focusing on investment pieces and to think of it as a process: Start with a few pieces that you can easily mix and match with current items you own while you rebuild your wardrobe. A blazer (or jardigan—the jacket/cardigan hybrid we invented here at MM), a great power dress, and well-fitting pants are must-haves and can be easily mixed in with other pieces to make your whole wardrobe feel new again.
- Lili: As cliche as it may sound, when you look good, you feel good, and this rationale parlays into your performance at the office. You want to make sure your wardrobe reflects your personality, fits your new office environment, and most importantly, makes you feel good! Take some time to go through your closet and try on your work clothes. Yes, it may be scary, especially if you haven’t worn some of these pieces in years, but it’s important. Throw out (or donate, if in good condition) anything that doesn’t fit properly. If you’ve been out of the workplace for a while, play close attention to the style and details of each garment. While many pieces may be classic and still totally appropriate, it's likely that several pieces have become dated. These pieces should be removed from your closet. It’s helpful to make a note of what you’re eliminating and to identify any gaps you might have. You can do this on your own, but it never hurts to reach out to a professional. Through this process, the stylist will discover gaps or holes in your wardrobe then help you fill them with a shop-worthy look book. You’ve probably heard this one: plan your look the night before. It makes a huge difference! If you’re a mom with young kids heading back to work, your mornings are probably extremely hectic. Figuring out what you’re going to wear shouldn’t cause additional stress. This also goes back to my first point about an edited well-curated closet. If you know everything in your closet fits you properly, is modern, appropriate and flattering, it really simplifies the whole process. You mentioned getting excited in your question… that’s an easy one. You’re reentering the workplace! While a little scary, it’s definitely exciting. One way to celebrate this success is by investing in yourself. Treat yourself to a fabulous pair of shoes or an amazing work tote. I guarantee you’ll be excited to wear your new pieces.
Tell us about your company and how it came to be. What makes yours different from others in the space?
- Shelby: CEO and Founder Sarah LaFleur started her career in management consulting and private equity. As a young professional, she had trouble finding well-made, comfortable workwear at a price point she could afford. The shopping process was stressful and inconvenient. She was working 70 to 80 hours a week, and the last thing she wanted to do was spend her spare time browsing racks of suits in a department store. After talking to her female peers, she realized she wasn’t the only one who was struggling to build a great work wardrobe. M.M.LaFleur was launched in 2013 with the goal of helping professional women harness the power of self-presentation—and to rethink the shopping process altogether. Not only do we design our collection in-house (led by our brilliant Creative Director and co-founder Miyako Nakamura), but we integrate personal styling into the shopping experience. We want to take the work out of dressing for work—and we want our customers to feel empowered by their wardrobes. We’ll be the first to say: Clothing isn’t everything. But it can set the tone for your day and impact how you feel at work.
- Lili: FirstSeven is a personal branding/corporate styling firm that is passionate about empowering professionals on how to dress purposefully in order to maximize performance and improve productivity. My co-founders and I met while working as stylists for an e-commerce start-up which folded last March. During our tenure, we helped countless women feel more confident in themselves by helping them navigate the challenges of wardrobe building and clothing selection. Most of these women struggled with workwear more than anything else. So, we founded an image consulting firm that we could scale at the corporate level. FirstSeven is based on the longstanding premise that “you have seven seconds to make that all-important first impression.” FirstSeven is different from other styling services in that our messaging and mission are rooted in the why. Why taking pride in your appearance matters and the science behind it. Our tone is always optimistic, empowering and inclusive. We don’t want to lecture on what professionals can and cannot wear, but rather educate and inspire them to take pride in their appearance, based on the positive result it can have on their career and self-confidence. Our conversation goes beyond fashion (although that is a key element) as we aim to motivate while educating on the importance of one's professional appearance. We are also brand agnostic. There is not one store, design or style that works for everyone, so it’s important for us to be able to tailor our services to meet the needs of our clients. Also, we’re not selling or pushing any merchandise. We’re sharing our passion and expertise, we’re not earning commission from any particular brand or merchandiser which makes us different from most styling services.
As Spring is finally peeking around the corner, what are some easy Spring swaps we can make to our winter wardrobe without spending a lot of money?
- Shelby: One easy thing you can do is invest in lightweight tops! They’re an easy way to transition between seasons by swapping them out for your sweaters and long-sleeve shirts. A lightweight sweater like the Daphne is a great transitional piece that you can use instead of heavier layers. I am also a big fan of wearing a belted sweater or cardigan instead of a coat during the spring. They’re three-season pieces that provide just the right amount of coverage.
- Lili: Ah, we can’t wait for spring! One of our favorite swaps is moving that classic black blazer to the back of your closet and bringing up the white or cream. This is an easy way to add a crisp and refreshing feel to your look, without making any other drastic changes. White is a neutral, so you’ll be able to style it in the same way you did the black. If you’re accident prone, opt for blush! Swapping a slim cut pant for a breezy wide-leg is another easy swap. As the temperatures rise, a slim fitted pant can become uncomfortable, especially if you commute via subway, bus or walk to work. A wide-leg or culotte will allow air to circulate, keeping you cool, on trend and, of course, professional and polished. Lastly, you can never go wrong with a dress! They’re easy to wear and we refer to them as ‘insta-outfits’. A sleeveless dress in a breathable fabric is perfect for spring. Make sure to have a jacket or a cardigan on standby since the temps are so unpredictable.
We all know that if we get out of sweatpants we will feel more ready to take on the day. But… do you have to forgo comfort for professionalism?
- Shelby: Absolutely not. In fact, we insist on comfort in your professional life! Outfits like the Foster pant and Morandi sweater, or the Soho skirt and Winfrey top, allow you to look professional while feeling like you’re still wearing pajamas. We once had a customer tell us she even slept in her Casey dress. Look for pieces where the fabric has some stretch and feels breathable. Take care to invest in quality fabrics that won’t lose their shape—they will keep you looking sharp and feeling comfortable.
- Lili: Not at all! Professionalism and comfort are NOT mutually exclusive. In fact, we believe comfort is key. If you’re uncomfortable, it can affect your demeanor, productivity and performance. This is an area where fit is extremely important. Knowing your body type and the clothes that fit and flatter your figure best will ensure you are comfortable throughout the day.
"What to wear to an interview?" is one of the top questions we get from relaunchers. What advice would you share for interview dressing in 2018? Do you have to wear a suit?
- Shelby: In general, you want to look polished and sharp—but your outfit shouldn’t steal the show. It should set the tone and then allow your ideas and personality to take center stage. You likely don’t have to wear a suit (unless you’re interviewing for a job in more formal industries like law or finance), but you should err on the side of formality. This isn’t a time to take fashion risks, so go for neutrals and subtle patterns. The most important thing is that everything fits well, and you feel comfortable. The outfit should feel like a more polished version of “you.” You don’t want to be distracted by uncomfortable clothes—and that counts for shoes as well. You need to be able to walk with confidence, whether you’re in flats or heels. No teetering!
- Lili: What you wear to an interview depends on the job, the company and the environment. A would-be Wall Street financial analyst is not going to dress the same as a potential marketing manager for an e-commerce startup. So, when you research a company, seek to discover more than its mission, goals and objectives; learn as much as you can about the culture and environment. Now, if you do have an interview with a conservative firm where a suit is a traditional and favored form of dress, there are ways you can modernize the look, or avoid it altogether. If a pant suit makes you feel uncomfortable or not yourself, opt for a sheath dress. A structured dress that skims the body (not too tight) with a tailored blazer layered on top is a perfectly acceptable ensemble for an interview. When you’re wearing something that you feel comfortable and confident in, this will come across when meeting with the hiring manager or your potential boss.
As relaunchers, our "workwear" wardrobe might be, ahem, a little outdated. What are some ways to leverage what we have but still look like we are on top of today's trends?
- Shelby: You can update old favorites with a modern investment piece like a beautiful blazer or jacket. Just make sure the older pieces you hold on to are well made, have clean lines, and that the fabric and stitching still hold up. When you can, prioritize ease of care and machine washability (after all, that amazing dress you held onto won’t be of much use to you if it’s always at the cleaner’s). Generally, anything that is classic or simple in design will stand the test of time better than something trendy. Busy prints and elaborate finishes, though fun, might not serve you as well as they once did.
- Lili: Just as there are simple swaps you can make when transitioning your winter wardrobe to spring, there are ones to help you modernize your work look. Here are a few ideas:
- Add a cropped jacket to a shapeless shift dress to create a more flattering silhouette while adding a stylish layer. Think a leather (depending on your work environment) or a tweed jacket (like this Rebecca Taylor number).
- Try a pair of joggers - not to be mistaken for the joggers you wear to work out or lounge around the house in. Opt for a pair in a luxe fabric (cashmere in the winter, and a polyester or jersey in the summer). Wear the joggers with a button-down and heels for a modern, office-friendly look.
- If you want to modernize your look, it’s importance to have some knowledge of trends. I’m not suggesting you completely revamp your wardrobe to accommodate these trends, simply be aware of them. Find a few that speak to you and try them out. This will ensure your look is up-to-date!
What is your favorite piece of advice for relaunchers when it comes to looking and feeling their best in their new start?
- Shelby: The most important thing in a wardrobe is fit. You have to feel comfortable and confident in your clothes. You should be able to put them on, know you look great, and then be able focus on your work. No tugging at hems or adjusting your clothes throughout the day! When you’re getting started on your relauncher work wardrobe, play it safe until you get comfortable enough to experiment with your personal style. And remember—it’s a process. Don’t put pressure on yourself to be the best-dressed woman in the office (at least, not right away!). Focus on choosing pieces that amplify your confidence. After all, you want your expertise and professional abilities to be the focus, not your clothes.
- Lili: Believe in yourself and this new venture. You are smart, accomplished and are entering into an exciting (maybe a bit scary) time; own it. How you present yourself is important, but it doesn’t define who you are. Wear clothes that fit properly and complement your personality and you’ll be all set. Hold your head high and show them what you’ve got! Knock ‘em dead!