“Bring your personality to work” and “be as wildly fabulous as you feel”
Dress sense for the modern law office is changing, hastened by the Covid pandemic, but London legal leader Ayesha Vardag is taking the stuffy pinstripe and silk tie formality of the traditional law office one step further with her recent dress code memo.
Ayesha Vardag, 52, previously listed as one of the 13 most fearsome female litigators in the UK, cuts a colorful figure herself and has long held strong views on what her employees wear. One memo some years ago referenced the disturbing preference by some staffers to wear cardigans.
“I am seeing cardigans in the office. Look at the dress code in the handbook. Woollies are verboten,” she wrote.
She has also told staff to stop looking like “pretty young things” around the office, instead telling them to look “executive” and like “the president of a significant country”.
Of course family and divorce lawyer Vardag, the divorce “femme fatale”, has long been a trendsetter and stylish dresser, rejecting the traditional dress which, according to The Times, she said was the domain of bankers and estate agents.
Vardag wants her staff, who number around 120, to dress in the style of London upmarket private club Annabels, the club favored by blue bloods and celebrities.
A staff memo indicated that the new dress code could mean electric-blue sequinned jacket, gold leather trousers and scarlet Doc Martin boots, so long as they were not worn in Court.
The key, the memo said, was “elegance”.
Ayesha Vardag’s memo said: “Times change and Vardags keeps moving – there was a time for our dress code with double cuffs and cufflinks, formal dark suits and jackets.
“But now business suits are so much the domain of bankers and estate agents that they’re eschewed by some of the funkier London clubs.
“Still formal, still absolutely top-end and appropriate to the luxury market with which we engage, not undermining your gravitas as a professional, but you don’t have to wear ties, you can still wear your suits if you like (and probably need to for court, more or less) but day to day if you fancy an electric-blue sequinned jacket and gold leather trousers, if you want pink hair or scarlet DMs, if you want a purple velvet jacket, that’s all good.”
“This is, by the way, non-gender-specific. Not scruffy or ungroomed, not hoody-techy (except for the techy people, who I appreciate are hard-wired to wear hoodies), not trashy, always in good taste, but you can all be as wildly fabulous as you feel like, and express yourselves to the full. All part of one of our core values – bring your personality to work!”
“Fabulous Party Dressing”
The dress code for Annabel’s exclusive Mayfair club is intended to “encourage individuality and fabulous party dressing”, with guests told to “dress for the occasion, and be respectful in their choice of smart, elegant attire”.
Jeans, smart leather jackets and trainers are only allowed if they are in “good repair”, while sportswear and gym gear are banned unless guests are attending a pre-booked fitness event.
Ripped jeans, flip-flops and excessive displays of skin are not permitted at the club.
The Vardag Dress Suggestions
The Vardag suggestions however were detailed but insistent on retaining appropriate professionalism:
“Be elegant, sophisticated, classic but with glamour and style. If in doubt, just be classic. Simple and classic,” she said in the memo.
“Never be tacky or tarty and at the same time never be drab. It’s a delicate balance which most of you know instinctively. The naked look, with lots of flesh, is not ok.
“If nails are polished they must not be chipped and must be in (you guessed it) classic colours, not green, blue, black, etc. Clear lacquer or just oiling and filing may be safest in your busy and active lives but if you want to take on the scarlet commitment, hey.
“Imagine you’re running for Prime Minister, (I mean a serious Prime Minister) or head of a major global corporation and you want to inspire awe, respect, credibility and universally slavish adoration every single day. Easy!
“And keep up your health, exercise, fitness, most of all so you feel amazing and are strong and energetic, but it has the added benefit of making you look great too, as you are all gorgeous people, and looking fabulous boosts confidence like mad.
“I know I am in a glass house on this point. I have therefore been busy denying myself many pleasures, learning to love salad and doing the original Jane Fonda workout (still the best) daily. Which has made me drop a dress size, and that is something, though there are many more to go. And it’s definitely a good thing. Eat well, move a lot, watch what you drink, get outside as much as you can, and glow.
“The other thing to note is that the firm’s colours are red, black, silver/grey and ivory. Solid colours, not stripes, spots, etc. You can wear other colours — I don’t want to exclude your peacock greens and fuchsia pinks and personally I love them- but for public events or socialising, and on reception too, I would prefer that we harmonise our clothing colours to the brand colours.
“It looks amazing when we dominate a room with our beautiful, brilliant people identifiable in our colours.”