Town native helps businesswomen dress to impress

Greenwich native Nora Gardner is coming home this week to promote her new line of women’s business clothing. — Ken Borsuk photo

Greenwich native Nora Gardner is coming home this week to promote her new line of women’s business clothing.
— Ken Borsuk photo

Greenwich native Nora Gardner always pictured herself climbing the ranks as a powerful, high-profile banker, but a perpetual wardrobe malfunction of sorts took her career from finance to fashion.

After working on Wall Street for nearly six years, Ms. Gardner told the Post, she was frustrated by the lack of clothing options available to her as a serious businesswoman, especially after she received a promotion. The business apparel available, she said, was not professional enough, cost too much money or didn’t appropriately reflect her position.

Even the limited clothing choices Ms. Gardner found, she said, were the same options available to her coworkers, who would occasionally show up to work in the same J. Crew dress or Ann Taylor ensemble — a situation that no one wanted to find themselves in.

According to Ms. Gardner, no matter what store she shopped in, it was difficult to find work outfits that were both functional and appropriate because designers tend to focus on creating trendy, sexy pieces. In the workplace, a woman wants to dress in something that “really inspires respect, commands respect,” Ms. Gardner said. With that concept in mind, she set out to change the game, and this week she will be back in Greenwich at Greenwich Avenue’s Out of the Box to show what she’s accomplished.

Having saved up money through her time working on Wall Street, Ms. Gardner originally hoped to use her savings to put herself through business school, she said. But after discovering a “hole in the market” for women’s business apparel, she said, the need for expanded options became so apparent that she invested the money in starting her own clothing line instead.

A former studio art minor at Georgetown University, Ms. Gardner said she began sketching and assembling a women’s work apparel collection that was sophisticated, attractive and modestly priced, while providing women with the power to create a consistent and memorable workplace image. After consulting with various designers and other industry professionals, Ms. Gardner made the endeavor her full-time job last April and by September had officially launched her collection of comfortable, flattering and appropriate dresses and suits for women in the workplace.

Now she’s bringing her collection home and setting up at one of Greewich’s top boutiques.

Those hoping to view Ms. Gardner’s collection locally may stop by Out of the Box on Greenwich Avenue today, Nov. 27,  and then, after Thanksgiving, on Nov. 29 and 30 from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Information may also be found by visiting and signing up for the newsletter or by going to

Out of the Box is located at 73 Greenwich Avenue.

Though it was a major risk to launch her own company, Ms. Gardner said, she felt passionate about creating clothing that would make women more confident in the workplace. With a background in finance, she said, she knew what it took to build a profitable company and believed she had the drive to make that company a success. While she is finding success thus far, Ms. Gardner called the process a “very humbling experience.”

Each day, there is something completely new to learn, whether it’s how to keep track of inventory, build a website or make in-store sales, Ms. Gardner said. And although every time she takes a “first step” something seems to go awry, by the second or third step she has mastered a new aspect of her business and is ready to move on to the next lesson.

The message of Ms. Gardner’s collection is that women must invest in their wardrobes in order to invest in themselves. One’s appearance makes an impression at the workplace, whether it is an interview for a job, a meeting or a presentation, Ms. Gardner said. The most important part of that impression is to make the right one.

The mantra “dress for the job you want” is something that should be taken seriously, she said. Accordingly, her business goal is to help women succeed and advance in the workplace by offering business attire that makes them feel confident and feminine, she said.

With everyday working women in mind throughout the development of her collection, Ms. Gardner said, she has tried to keep the price point of her apparel between $180 and $250. By working closely with Manhattan manufacturers, she has been able to ensure high-quality pieces, keep prices down and use lightweight, breathable fabrics, which will transition as the seasons change, she said.

While Ms. Gardner hopes to open her own store in the future, she is currently busy making sales at pop-up shops and doing trunk shows in local cities and works full-time at a showroom in midtown Manhattan, where she is able to work with customers one-on-one. The work, she said, is highly rewarding.

Working as a banker for almost six years, Ms. Gardner said, she had mastered most aspects of her job and felt as if she had plateaued, making it difficult to find her work gratifying. As a designer, however, things have turned around. Ms. Gardner is constantly using her creativity, interacting with others and helping women achieve more confidence, which has made all the difference, she said.

As for the future of her company, Ms. Gardner said, she hopes to expand her collections into a complete lifestyle brand. She is currently working with a shoe designer in hope of designing footwear for women on the go. Ultimately, she will add to that various travel accessories for business trips and other items that make professional life easier, she said.

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