Dai is the next big women's performance workwear brand you should know - here's what its clothes look and feel like

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dai womens workwear 8Dai

  • Dai is a new women's workwear brand founded by a former finance executive who wanted smart, comfortable, and high-quality closet staples without the traditional luxury price tag.
  • Like the technical workwear brands we already love (ADAY, Athleta, MPG Sport, and MM.LaFleur), Dai combines sleek, stylish silhouettes with properties of activewear - stretchy, breathable, wrinkle-resistant, and machine-washable.
  • Its pieces aren't exactly cheap (prices range from $175-$475) but that's because they're made from eco-certified materials with top-quality materials and precise construction, and in limited quantities.
  • We tried some of its top sellers, including tops, trousers, and blazers, and were very impressed with the feel of the fabric and versatility of the pieces.

When you put on a dress or suit from new women's workwear startup Dai, you feel like a thousand bucks. If you were shopping at a luxury European brand, that's also about how much you'd have to pay for your shiny new outfit.

Founded by former JP Morgan executive Joanna Dai, Dai is making sleek women's workwear that you'd expect to cost much more, especially for how well-constructed and comfortable it is. It's one of a growing number of direct-to-consumer brands in the last few years that is finally putting an end to the laborious search for more affordable, high-quality workwear.

Coming from eight years in the finance world, Dai developed a smart and polished style that was further nurtured through living in New York and London. The comfort and casual ease at the heart of growing up in California, however, was a glaring component missing from her workwear shopping experience.

Read more: 16 of the best places to shop for women's workwear - at every budget

dai womens workwear 7Connie Chen/Business InsiderMe in the Pep Top ($210), Trail Blazer ($475), and the Power Move Trousers ($225).

She thought about the qualities of the pieces she loved most in her wardrobe - timeless, beautiful fit, and well-made - and brought them to the designs at Dai. To be clear, they are still investment pieces, ranging from $175 pants to $475 blazers, but every one of your hard-earned dollars is going towards a purpose, including eco-certified raw materials, luxe, technical fabrics, and precise, elegant tailoring.

Dai tells Business Insider, "Finding the right suppliers to partner with was pivotal for the product and the brand, and we were uncompromising in our approach, so we tested ten different factories just within our first year."

Read more: We tried Athleta's performance workwear line for active women of all sizes - and the office-to-gym styles did not disappoint

dai womens workwear 9Dai

Having tried similar technical workwear from brands like ADAY, Athleta, MPG Sport, and MM.LaFleur, we're convinced that technical fabrics are the best innovation to happen to women's workwear.

Usually reserved for athleticwear, they feature properties of stretchiness, wrinkle resistance, and breathability. These all convert cleverly into other parts of life. Even if we're not increasingly active throughout the day, we at least want to be comfortable, whether we're sitting down all day or constantly bouncing between calendar events.

Dai's dresses, pants, blouses, and blazers are stretchy, soft, and breathable. They're also wrinkle-resistant, quick-drying, and machine-washable, but they don't look like the running top or yoga pants it sounds like we're describing. Its pieces, made by pattern cutters with more than 30 years of experience, are structured and cut precisely, with clear attention paid to fit and detail.

Read more: We tried these cult-favorite work pants with an adjustable hem for heels or flats - and we loved them

dai womens workwear 6Connie Chen/Business InsiderRemi in the Coolottes ($190).

You can shop these beautiful pieces of workwear on Dai's site, where eye-catching colors like red, plum, and forest green share the stage with versatile neutrals like black, gray, and white. Its simple styles will be wearable and relevant all year round, but you won't tire of wearing them since they're easily mixed and matched and can be accessorized in many different ways.

If the founder could only choose one outfit from the collection, she told Business Insider:

"I'd pick the original full suit look, which comprises of the Trail Blazer, Power Move Pants and Now and Forever Blouse. Not only is it incredibly comfortable, it's a power suit that establishes a sense of effortless confidence, as if it were (very comfortable) armor.

Worn separately, I think each standalone piece is incredibly adaptable and powerful. The Trail Blazer, inspired by the classic Le Smoking jacket in terms of its clean cut and longer tuxedo length, can also be worn over jeans for a polished day look, or with a dress and heels for an evening event. The blouse is a timeless classic, and the trousers are your feels-like-yoga, tailored go-to for everything."

The pieces she mentions are a good place to start while shopping at Dai (the Power Move Trousers sold out no less than five times in just over a year). Some other styles that caught our eye are the Power Line Skirt, with its front side vent and invisible pockets, and the Squared Away Dress, a modern geometric take on the classic black dress.

The UK-based brand does follow the UK sizing chart, so add four to your usual size to get your Dai size. For the best fit, we recommend measuring yourself and following the size chart on its site, or emailing wegotyou@daiwear.com.

We had a chance to try out a few workwear pieces from Dai. You can find our thoughts on styles from this up-and-coming women's workwear brand below.

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Now and Forever Blouse

Now and Forever Blouse
Now and Forever Blouse 2.0, $175, available at Dai

The technical stretchy jersey fabric Dai uses in its Now and Forever Blouse is like nothing I’ve ever touched before. It’s super soft, perfectly smooth, breathable, and stretchy — it looks impeccable, and I wish more of my clothes were made from this fabric. The cut of the shirt is also unique with its wide, stiff cuffs that bell out gracefully and fold up nicely; the subtle black silk tie that you can wear any way you wish; and the classic blue and white color combination. It felt so comfortable when I put it on, I forgot I was wearing a fancy dress shirt.

I have two criticisms, though, one being the price, which is sky-high at $175, and the other being the length — this shirt is not made for petite women. The sleeves are about three inches too long on me, so I had to fold them up and the length is also too long even when tucked. In other words, petite sizing would be very, very welcome! —Malarie Gokey, Insider Picks senior editor

The Now and Forever Blouse is up there with Ministry of Supply’s Easier Than Silk button-up and MPG’s now sold-out Milano Technical Dress shirt for the best work shirts I own. And, to its credit, it’s readily available as well, while those other two fluctuate widely in inventory. It’s also considerably more stylish.

I wish it wasn’t $175, but if that’s not a deal-breaker for you, you should be really happy with the purchase. The stretchy technical jersey is supple and cool to the touch, and it drapes beautifully, plus it tucks into pants and skirts without adding bulk. The detachable bowtie, contrast cuffs and collar, and mother of pearl buttons are all great style upgrades to the classic office blouse. The back yoke panel and box pleat — combined with the stretchy jersey — create a better fit on my 5’7 frame than nearly all non-custom blouses I own. I often choose to wear it on days that end in happy hour because it translates well to after-hours.

All in all, it’s expensive, but if you choose to swing it, it’s likely to become a hero style in your work lineup. —Mara Leighton, Insider Picks reporter

Power Move Trousers

Power Move Trousers
Power Move Trousers 2.0, $225, available at Dai

Dai’s Power Move Trousers are a sleek, streamlined pant, of which the tailoring and thick, technical fabric is very flattering on. Overall, they look and feel great, and $225 — while not ideal — is in the ballpark of similar (and thinner) options I have loved. My only complaints are that I wish they were a tiny bit longer on my 5'7" frame (a common complaint for me) or that they were offered in a hi-rise silhouette. —Mara Leighton, Insider Picks reporter

I usually dread putting on work pants because there's no way something that looks so tapered and crisp can be comfortable. The Power Move Trousers are a rare exception. They have a bit of stretch at the waist and sit comfortably above the hips so nothing's squeezing out as I sit at my desk, and the fabric feels delightfully smooth on my legs. I have them in Midnight, a dark blue that's deeper and more sophisticated than most navy work pant styles —Connie Chen, Insider Picks reporter

Trail Blazer

Trail Blazer
Trail Blazer, $475, available at Dai

I love the fit and feel of this blazer, which you can tell the moment you shrug it on was made with both style and mobility in mind. While weighty and on the thicker side, it's surprisingly breathable and you won't overheat as you transition through the various locales of your day.

The shoulder pads aren't overly bulky (which is traditionally a problem for my broad shoulders), and every edge is cut sharply, all in all contributing to a clean and flattering silhouette. If you want to roll up your sleeves, the slit cuffs make it easy to do so. Otherwise, the slits serve as stylish accents to the sleeves. The beauty of this classic blazer style is that it goes well with the Power Move Trousers if you want a matching outfit, but you can also use it to dress up a pair of jeans.—Connie Chen, Insider Picks reporter

The Coolottes

The Coolottes
The Coolottes, $190, available at Dai

I've worn these breezy jersey culottes to work, but more often than not I wear them on the weekends on a nice day out. The wide legs offer plenty of breathing room, while the stretch gives me the go-ahead to squat or skip as I please. At the same time, their crisp shape and cut show that I'm not resorting to sweats or leggings and I still want to put effort into how I look. —Connie Chen, Insider Picks reporter

Pep Top

Pep Top
Pep Top, $210, available at Dai

I'm a general fan of peplum tops because they bring out my otherwise non-existent waist. I love Dai's in particular because of its weight and structure. It'll move with you, but the folds at the peplum waist stay stiff and in place — even after you've washed the top multiple times. The sleeves hit at the middle of your upper arms, making it a good transition piece between cool and warm seasons. —Connie Chen, Insider Picks reporter

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