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Despite the strides that women have made in the 21st century, there are still many challenges they face on the path to success.
Take women's work clothes.
Getting dressed for work as a woman can be difficult. It takes longer to do than guys, who can throw on a suit since they don't have the equivalent of a "work uniform." It's also expensive.
Young professionals have to be resourceful with their money, but they also have to look the part at the office. But it's more difficult than it should be for women to find well-tailored blazers for less than $A375-$A500. It's a similarly tedious search for flattering pants that aren't jeans or leggings, and for skirts and dresses with appropriate hemlines and necklines.
Shopping for work clothes that feel good, toe the fine line between stylish and professional, and don't totally break the bank oftentimes seems like it's a losing battle.
Of Mercer is a women's clothing brand born out of the problems that its cofounders, Emelyn Northway and Dorie Smith, experienced while working in finance and consulting.
"We found it almost impossible to find stylish, quality workwear that didn't cost a fortune," Smith told Business Insider. "Retailers also didn't seem to understand what was office-appropriate, making hemlines and adding embellishments that were definitely not HR-approved. It didn't make sense to us that the clothes we wore five days of the week should be so difficult to find, so we decided to do something about it. We were really the Of Mercer customer before we had a solution."
Because of Northway's and Smith's backgrounds, the Of Mercer cofounders understand the needs of their customer better (most designers at mass-market brands have never set foot in a corporate environment), and their designs reflect that. Of Mercer's clothes are uniquely designed for the workingwoman's needs -- whether that's a reversible dress she can wear twice on a business trip or a dress with underarm panels that look like cool design elements, but actually hide sweat stains when her office's AC is on the fritz.
Women will be hard-pressed to find such functional, modern designs anywhere else, and unlike other brands, with Of Mercer, they never have to question if something is office appropriate.
Better yet, all of Of Mercer's clothes are made in New York City's Garment District -- and made with the average customer's size and build in mind, instead of that of a professional model. Even though the industry-standard fit model is typically a size 0-2, Of Mercer fits all of its clothes on a size 6 fit model so the fit of a dress or blazer is proportionate whether it's a size 00 or 14. (You can find more information on the company's sizing here.)
"We chose our size 6 fit model specifically because she was curvier, ensuring that our clothes work for all body types," Smith said. "We also recently launched extended sizing, which is from a 14W to a 20W. For these sizes, we fit on a size 16W."
Keeping the average workingwoman top of mind through every stage of the design process is probably why almost half of Of Mercer's customers are repeat purchasers -- the styles really suit her needs.
I visited the company's flagship store in Manhattan where I saw all the clothes in person -- and what I tried on really impressed me.
I'm 5-3 and typically wear a size 2-4/small, and all the clothes I tried on fit me extremely well. Of Mercer's Lenox Blazer ($US195) and Mulberry Dress ($A220) are two of my favourite pieces -- the latter is a great dress for the hot summer months with a loose, breathable shape that's surprisingly flattering whether it's dressed up for work with heels or dressed down for the weekend with flat sandals. It also has pockets! I wish every dress I own had pockets.
The blazer is a true wardrobe workhorse that's easy to dress up or down and flattering for a wide range of sizes and builds. It's made of a stretchy, breathable fabric that, like a good chunk of Of Mercer's clothing, is machine washable. I have yet to find a blazer more versatile than this one for its price.
For those shopping online, Of Mercer includes fit and fabric and care details as well a designer's note and "special facts" for every piece on its site. The Lenox Blazer's special facts are that it's "good for athletic builds, tummies, and travel" and "a go-to for looking cool in a conservative environment." It's helpful shopping tidbits like these that make buying work clothes online a lot less intimating.
I could go on, but all in all, I had a great experience with Of Mercer, and I highly recommend any woman who has trouble finding affordable, high-quality work clothes check out the company's site to see if its dresses, pants, and blazers are the right fit for her.
I may not have to dress up for work every day like women who work in finance, government, or law have to, but if I did, you can bet a lot more of my work clothes would from Of Mercer now that I know it exists. The clothes are reasonably priced (the most expensive piece costs $A306), comfortable, stylish, and designed for the real workingwoman's needs, which is really all us workingwomen want at the end of the day.
Head over to Of Mercer's site to check out everything the brand has to offer women in the way of work clothes.
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