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The M Dash

Live with purpose.

How Sarah LaFleur Rewrote Her Own Rules on Dressing for Work

With 3 toddlers at home and remote work still her norm, M.M.’s CEO has embraced the joys of hybrid dressing.

By Sarah LaFleur

Like so many of you, I’ve spent the last year and a half in flux. In addition to navigating M.M. through the pandemic, I gave birth to a baby boy last August, and in September, my husband and I welcomed our twins, a boy and a girl, via a gestational surrogate. All of these big life changes and experiences—managing a turnaround while working from home, pumping, sleep deprivation—have had a profound effect on me. I could go into the deep stuff—my entire concept of work-life balance has monumentally shifted from where it was in 2019—but right now, I want to talk about something very specific and tangible: my wardrobe.

You see, like a lot of women, nothing mirrors my physical and emotional transformations better than my clothes. And in the context of our latest campaign, Rewrite the Rules, which is all about reimagining and reinventing everything from the contents of our wardrobes to the length of our workweeks, I’ve become quite the rule rewriter myself. 

Adopting a Hybrid Life and Style

My family and I are in between apartments this summer (we’ll be making the move to Brooklyn this fall after fifteen glorious years in Manhattan), so we decided to rent a house in rural Connecticut for the summer. We are literally living across from a horse farm. It’s the kind of hybrid work that I never thought possible 18 months ago, but here we are, Zooming for a good portion of the day, and taking walks in state parks at night after we put our babies to bed. 

I drive into the city to work in the office two to three days a week, and for me, it is the ideal balance. Now that the babies are older, they’re crawling and making a lot of noise, so I enjoy having a quiet place to go (whoever thought the office would be quiet? But alas, it is!). When I work from home, I can poke in and say hi in between Zoom calls. I know how privileged I am to be able to schedule my time this way, and while I hope we never undergo another worldwide pandemic, I’m incredibly grateful for this flexibility at this point in my life. 

I used to have a distinct work wardrobe, and I would change out of my clothes as soon as I got home. But now, with my new lifestyle, there’s no longer a clear separation between “clothes I wear to work,” “clothes I wear for dinner out with my girlfriends,” and “clothes I wear when holding babies.” I wear the same joggers on my walks that I wear to meet with our board of directors. I gravitate toward Power Casual styles, as opposed to the business casual pieces that filled my closet in 2019. 

The most important element of Power Casual dressing, I believe, is pants. While there will always be a place for a designed, beautiful skirt, in this new world of dressing where we are trapezing from one scene to the next, the utilitarian pant always wins.

The trick to being stylish? Owning pants in multiple silhouettes. As Miyako once said, “Anyone can wear a designed top. Only fashionable people wear designed pants.” So I have purposefully gone beyond the tried-and-true skinny pants. My go-tos are the Colby joggers, Hockley jeans, and Chester pants, which all have a tapered leg, but I also love the Rogalas (a culotte) and the Wesley (flared pants—girls, just trust me, they’ll look great on you when you tailor them to suit your height, since they come extra long for women of all heights).

On top, I typically wear the Avery or Charlie top when it’s warmer, and the Chadwick when it’s a bit cooler. Full disclosure: I also wear these when I’m rolling around on the floor with my kids. These knits are the most elegant versions of T-shirts, and not surprisingly, I reach for them because they really are impossible to wrinkle. They also have texture to them, so a little stain or spit-up isn’t as obvious. With these tops, I can go from PJs to Zoom-meeting-ready in under 5 minutes, and usually, that is all the time I have. 

The one item I rotate out is a jacket. Typically, I am sans jacket, but if I’m going out, or if I want to dress to impress, I always throw on a jacket. If I had to pick my favorite piece of 2021 so far, it would hands down be the Lilia. I never thought of myself as a “cropped jacket” kind of person, but it turns out, I am! The Emalis in poppy is another favorite. It’s the right shade of red, and when I want to make an impression, I throw that on. A jacket that works for most any occasion is the Moreland, and unsurprisingly, it’s been the #2 seller of 2021. (What’s #1? You guessed it: the Stella leggings, aka our gift to womankind.

Walking the Walk, and Appreciating My Body

I’ve gained weight this year—I’m now two sizes above where I was pre-pregnancy.  Initially, I thought I would “snap back” to my old size, but that proved to be much more difficult than celebrities and Instagram would have you believe. For a while, I continued to squeeze into my pre-pregnancy clothes, and I was absolutely miserable. Finally, about two months ago, I started buying the size I am now. It’s strange to say this, because as someone who runs a clothing company for women, I always told my customers, “it’s just a number, wear what makes you feel most comfortable.” And now, it was time to remind myself what I’ve been preaching all along. 

It was a bit of an investment (yes, even as CEO I pay for our clothing at employee prices!), but I bought a new capsule wardrobe for myself. On my shopping list were many of the items I mentioned above, two sizes larger. You might be thinking to yourself, “I already have this item. So why would I buy it again in a different size?” But it turns out, you bought it because you loved it, and I love these pieces even more now that I can comfortably wear them in my new size. The one category where I haven’t had to change sizes is knit tops, because they are by nature “stretchy,” and that’s why I also think they make great investment pieces. I can’t tell you how much happier I am in the morning when I slip on my pants and they’re not pulling at the seams, not showing underwear lines, and fitting the way they’re supposed to.

Clothes That Let Me Live in the Moment

My co-founder and Chief Creative Officer, Miyako, always values comfort when creating new pieces, but over the past year, it’s become even more of a priority. And I’m not talking about comfort by way of cashmere sweatpants and hoodies (although we love those, too), but comfort as a way of life. The divide between workwear and everything else is now just a blur, and what I seek more than ever is just “life wear.” And what I have learned is that while I love sweatpants as much as the next person, for me, life wear is something a bit more elevated and sophisticated, without sacrificing ease.

I want to be as involved in the day-to-day growth of my kids as I am in the growth of my company—which means most days, I’m going to get dirty. But that doesn’t mean I can’t look polished too, if only to remind myself, “I’ve got this” (even if some days it’s a bit of a scramble). 

Read on.

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