i love basic mall brands
I recently read a piece in the Atlantic called Ann Taylor and the Case for Boring Office Clothes and it got me thinking about how I still love basic mall brands of the Ann Taylor variety. If you peeked into my wardrobe, about 80% of my clothing comes from a store or brand you’d typically find at a mid-tier mall. I grew up in a mall town–King of Prussia–and shopping at mall brands has been a part of me ever since, even as I shop all the new and amazing brands crushing it in the boutique and e-commerce scene. For work clothing especially, I frequently shop Banana Republic, Ann Taylor, LOFT, and J.Crew. One of my main reasons is that they offer fairly consistent petites sizing, so that once I know my size in an item, I can keep repurchasing that same size without spending too much time in the fitting room. Another reason is that the clothing can be fairly cute and not boring as long as you know what you like and what you’re looking for. I have a couple different silhouettes that I usually gravitate toward and I also have certain patterns and textiles that I love–tweed and plaid for the winter, and scallops, florals, and lightweight linen for the summer come to mind. I don’t think there’s any shame in dressing in basically the same thing every day for work either–I love to change up my look a lot but sometimes uniform dressing makes life so easy.
The most important reason that mall brands still have my heart is that they’re affordable. While I love Reformation and other high-end brands, they’re quite pricey. I’m lumping in high-end department stores with this even though they’re usually located in malls–I definitely love Nordstrom but shopping there too often can feel really heavy on the wallet. With mall brands, I know they go on sale every other weekend (sometimes more). If you need something for an occasion or just want something new to spruce up your work wardrobe, it’s a lot easier to pick up a couple things that are 50% off at LOFT than it is stocking up at Vince or Theory. I love quality clothing (and there’s nothing that feels nicer than an Italian silk blouse) but I also love a good deal. I would probably need to make 10 times more money than I currently do to give up my Banana Republic separates. Especially in our modern world of beautiful influencers constantly pushing new shiny things to buy, it’s nice knowing there are affordable options at the mall that can satisfy both trend-based and classic tailoring needs for working women like me. It’s certainly easy to order something from a cool online retailer and exciting to take a chance on a new sustainable brand, but I also know I have 4 different malls I can go to and get an outfit (in reliable petites sizing!) in the same day.
In my outfit pictured above, I’m wearing an Ann Taylor Factory blazer (unfortunately sold out) and a Banana Republic dress (currently on sale plus an extra 20% and 40% off). I splurged on the shoes, which are Castañer from MatchesFashion.com, but shopping more affordable brands makes me feel better about splurging on accessories or statement pieces. I’ve reworn these pieces a lot, and definitely put all my clothes from mall brands through the wringer, and they hold up fairly well. While there’s a lot of societal pressure to shop sustainably or shop from higher-end brands, I think that if you’re a young professional, you shouldn’t feel obliged to spend over $200 on your clothing if you can’t. Mall brands for professional women have stood the test of time because of their commitment to classic silhouettes at prices that don’t break the bank. You can do what you need to in order to be better to the environment or respect the fashion industry, but there’s also no shame in snapping up that cute and reasonably priced LOFT shell top.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this not-so-secret confession of mine! If this was appalling to read, I’ll have you know that I like pineapple on my pizza and I also shampoo my hair every day (sorry not sorry). How do you feel about basic mall brands? Do you hate looking like every other working lady on the train or does it help you have an easy and balanced work wardrobe? Do you wear stuff from these brands just for work or do you also wear them off-duty? If you don’t shop at “mall brands” that are geared toward professional women, where do you shop for clothing for work? I did an Instagram poll a while back and most people actually said H&M, which was interesting. I have a lot of stuff from H&M but I think most of it is casual weekend wear (but I also know Gerome has quite the blazer collection from them). Do you feel guilty shopping from mass-produced brands, either American mall brands or European ones like ZARA and H&M? Share all your thoughts with me in the comments–I’d love to know how you all feel about this topic. As always, thanks for taking the time to read this blog post! If you want to follow me on social media, I’m @thisisyna on Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest and @disisyna on Twitter.