11 May, 2021

Working Girl

I’m a legal director living in London with my husband, having moved to the city from South Africa 10 years ago where I practised corporate law in a private practice law firm. Moving to London gave me the opportunity to transition from private practice into an in-house commercial legal role which I was keen on doing after having completed a short secondment at Nestle in South Africa. I’m a self-confessed bibliophile who enjoys playing with fashion, and I love to travel to destinations known for their delicious local cuisine.

My first experience of professional workwear was in the law firm I joined straight out of university. It was one of those straight-laced firms that had very specific rules on what was deemed appropriate – think tailored suiting, no bare shoulders and absolute derision for open-toe shoes for the women and brown shoes for the men, which I had no idea was something to be frowned upon. They even arranged a style consultant to talk to new trainees about what was acceptable for the office. I’m not ashamed to say that I was quite into it because I loved all things style and fashion, and to be honest I didn’t mind the suiting as I think I saw it as an opportunity to play dress-up and perhaps feel a bit more grown up than the university grad I most definitely was at the time. I really enjoyed those early years and I still have a few great investment pieces that I continue to wear today – you really can’t beat the silhouette of a woman in a beautifully cut suit jacket, a pencil skirt and killer heels. That being said I very much took full advantage of being able to have a bit more fun with my wardrobe when I left private practice to join an in-house legal team. My current office environment is still quite formal in the sense that I work at a professional services firm, however I did notice somewhat of a shift from every day suiting to a more relaxed approach to corporate wear, which is something I’ve managed to work with while developing my own personal style. I do think that the more senior I’ve become, the more confident I’ve felt in playing with different styles and shapes, some that might not at first glance be deemed to be suitable for the office, but with a few tweaks and carefully selected accessories have managed to translate quite well into workwear. And more importantly I‘ve also been able to wear them in my downtime, the latter being quite key for me. I think clothes are a valid tool of self-expression so I’d like the person I am outside of work to also be able to shine in the office. I’ve increasingly realised that being able to be more of my authentic self at work has worked wonders for my confidence and happiness levels and that can only be a good thing.

Now that lockdown restrictions are continuing to ease, it’s as good a time as any to take the opportunity  to explore the possibility of incorporating different looks into our wardrobes; getting back to that excited feeling when you consider what to wear to work, because I’m sure we’re all getting a little tired of the sweatpants and leggings. I suggest taking this opportunity to play around with a variety of looks – office appropriate workwear is no longer limited to suiting (although it will always have a place). Colourful dresses with bold prints, patterns and textures are very much in for the running.

Thandi x


Photo (top): Xavi Gordo