Closing The Gap

Fashion CEO Sarah LaFleur launches new program that will loan free clothes to women running for office

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Sarah LaFleur attends the 20th Anniversary Bottomless Closet Luncheon at Cipriani 42nd Street on May 15, 2019 in New York City.
Photo by Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images for Bottomless Closet

Running for public office can be stressful. Not only do you have to worry about raising campaign funds, developing a platform and drumming up voter support, if you're a woman, research shows you also need to be more concerned about the impact of your style and public appearance than a male candidate might.

To help alleviate the financial burden that comes with purchasing new clothes, M.M. LaFleur founder and CEO Sarah LaFleur is lending clothes from her company to any woman running for public office. This includes, she says, women running for a local position such as town council or women running for a more national role, such as the House of Representatives.

LaFleur announced the initiative in a letter sent to customers on President's Day. In the letter, she wrote that after the 2016 presidential election, the company asked customers how could they better support women, regardless of political party.

LaFleur says they received over 1,000 responses within 48 hours. "It was incredible hearing from all sides of the spectrum," she tells CNBC Make It. "From a Muslim woman in Texas saying she was scared for her life to a Bostonian PhD scientist who had voted for Trump saying, 'I need you to understand why this was important for me.'

"It created such interesting discourse," LaFleur says, "but the one theme that kept coming up was we just need to support more women who want to go into politics."

Women hold 23.2% of the House of Representative seats and 25% of the Senate seats, according to the nonprofit company Catalyst. Though free clothing won't be the sole solution to increasing these numbers, LaFleur says she does hope it will eliminate the wardrobe stress that many women face when running for office.

"I want these women to feel like they can focus on delivering their message — and clothing is the part that's taken care of," she says. "If we can deliver some sort of comfort there, then there is nothing that gives me greater satisfaction."

So far, LaFleur and her team have already received praise from many women in office who know first-hand how important wardrobe and appearance are to their job. In a message posted on her Instagram story, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY-Democrat) thanked the company for starting this initiative, writing, "When I was running for office (even now), accessing clothing for the job was a big challenge both logistically and financially. As a candidate, a large part of asking people to vote for you is helping them visualize you on the job."

To find out more information on how you can benefit from M.M. LaFleur's new program, you can email your name, location and description of the office you're running for to readytorun@mmlafleur.com.

"We never purport that clothes help move the needle on female representation," LaFleur said in her letter to customers, "but we want to do our part to make things a tiny bit easier."

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