A Stylish Legal Director On Dressing For Work
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I work as an in-house legal director at a professional services firm where I lead a great team of commercial and technology lawyers. The beauty of an in-house role is that no two days are the same – you’re continuously learning and growing with the business. In one day I can go from negotiating a global deal to working on strategy to interviewing candidates. This constantly changing pace makes it an environment I feel incredibly engaged in.
My style is something that has evolved over the years. In my earlier career, I veered towards a more muted approach to dressing for work, keeping to the then traditional black, navy or grey suit – if there was a pencil-skirt suit, I’d be wearing it. The private practice environment lent itself to this and, if I’m being honest, a little part of me loved the element of roleplay as it gave me the confidence boost I needed as a junior lawyer.
As I’ve progressed I’ve developed my own sense of style. I’m a bit more playful with what I wear to work while still maintaining a good degree of professionalism. I’m very much influenced by how something makes me feel. If a piece makes me feel confident while still maintaining my feminine energy then it’s most likely a winner for me. I work in a male-dominated industry but I’ve never sought to match the masculine energy, I don’t think we need to compromise on our femininity to make it in these industries.
I would also say that I dress according to what I have in my diary. If I know that I’ll be presenting or will be in meetings, I’ll most likely wear a more formal outfit like a structured dress with heels. If I’m working from home or when I pop into the office on a Friday I’ll most likely dress down in a more casual dress with boots, jeans with a blazer or a jumpsuit.
Over the years, I’ve learnt to avoid trends. This has become evident as I appear to go back to the same pieces year after year. I suppose some might say that doesn’t leave room for evolving style, but I would argue updates are easily made by adding smaller items without having to completely change your look. I would recommend investing in key pieces: a tailored suit, a beautiful white shirt, cashmere rollnecks and a dress you can rely on for almost any occasion.
My go-tos are midi dresses with cinched waists, high-waisted trousers, rollnecks and an abundance of silk shirts. White in the summer and navy/burgundy in winter. I absolutely love dresses from the likes of Ulla Johnson, Tory Burch, Cefinn and Whistles as they’re just so easy – it’s one item which takes the thinking out of what to wear. If I’m wearing a dress I’ll work from the colour and length of the dress to decide footwear and the need for a blazer or coat. In the colder months, I’ll layer it over a rollneck.
I consistently turn to leather in the colder months. A leather dress is professional with a side of edge. I've just bought two: the black belted leather dress from Cos and a marigold one from Raey. On my wish list is a yellow leather dress from By Malene Birger.
When buying something I ask myself if it’s something I’ll wear for the coming seasons and I’ll also think about how well it will work with my existing pieces. If I need to do too much with something to make it work, then I’ll most likely not buy it. If it’s an investment piece I’ll sleep on it for a couple of days. If I’m still thinking about it then I’ll go back and get it.
The way we dress for work is changing. This is in part due to Covid, and also because the industry is relaxing its approach more generally. I do, however, find that the more senior lawyers tend to stick to more professional attire.
There is a definite crossover between my work style and off-duty style. Over the years I’ve been conscious of adding pieces that can work for both downtime and the office. Of course this doesn’t apply to everything in my wardrobe as some items are very much office driven, but I have found that switching things up like shoes or removing a belt can help to bring an outfit to a more casual look.
I dress to reflect my personality and my profession – but with my personality in mind first. I think a person has more gravitas if they lead with their personality – the more you can be yourself, the more likely you’ll be comfortable and therefore confident in your role.
There are pieces in my wardrobe that I rely on time and time again. Fourteen years ago in Toulouse I bought a black midi dress, fitted at the waist with a boatneck and full skirt. To this day, I know it will always make me feel good. Pairing it with stilettos and a great handbag makes it an outfit that can’t be beat. The stitching and cut is still impeccable after all these years which is admirable.
My most treasured items are a midi-length black leather vintage skirt, my white Roksanda dress and my Proenza heels – the most comfortable shoes I’ve ever owned. I saw the Roksanda dress on an episode of Suits – I’ve never clicked ‘add to cart’ that fast before. I wore it to one of my panel interviews as part of my progression to director. I felt incredible in the dress and I think that came through in how confident I was, which must have played a role in my successful appointment.
I’m not too big on accessories as I feel my outfits do most of the talking. My shoes are either pointy toe heels or boots, I tend to wear the same jewellery, and I generally use the same bag as it’s large enough to fit my laptop, notebooks and papers. If I'm offsite or seeing clients I'll use my navy Celine Phantom – it's such a sturdy classic bag. Otherwise I'll pop into the office with a standard tote. I’m currently using the Anya Hindmarch x Waitrose bag – not very glam and I'm not sure it's the intended purpose but it's great.
I always think it’s worth spending a bit more money on a tailored suit as you’ll be able to rely on this to make you feel good for interviews, strategic meetings and significant presentations. A pair of good pointy toe black heels, a navy coat, cashmere jumpers and silk shirts.
When it comes to brands, I really love Roksanda. As a designer, she knows how to dress a woman – I’ve got quite a few of her pieces and in fact wore one at the registry part of our wedding. Ulla Johnson is the midi-dress doyenne. I’m also partial to Cos for more affordable pieces, I find they’re great at creating items to layer with existing pieces. I also love Seraphina for beautiful and timeless dresses – they can’t put a foot wrong in my eyes. And Raey’s pieces are classic with an interesting twist, wearable both in and out of the office.
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