25.10.2018

5 Joburg Women Share How They Dress For Work

Solange in the streets, Beyoncé in the boardroom – women on their work wardrobe

workwear

By Heather Clancy

Dressing for work is a lot like dressing for a party. Except the party is almost every day and you get paid to be there AND it's really boring and stressful sometimes… So here's the gag, it's not like a party at all. And that can often seem like the guiding principle for a work wardrobe. How non-party-like can I look? How can I take the party right outta this outfit?

The closer to the money, the more you have to dress like money. Lawyers, bankers and people with jobs that your grandparents would understand are still expected to dress like they understand their taxes. 80s power suits, merciless pencil skirts and shiny stockings walked so your barely appropriate sheer number with slightly distressed jeans could run. The doors of work-appropriate attire have swung open and now every agency with a foosball table is encouraging casual Fridays every day. This laissez-faire approach to work lewks should make things easier but in a world of choice, the options at approximately 5am can seem overwhelming.

Solange in the streets, Beyoncé in the boardroom? We quizzed 5 young women on their work wardrobe and got the minutes.

Lerato Kekana

"Stay true to yourself, find what you love and love what you do. If you do not do what you love, you will not reach your full productive potential."

1. What's the most versatile item in your work wardrobe?

My doeks and headwraps. And I also wear a lot of black so those items can be reused and recycled quite a bit.

2. Is there anyone that inspires your style when it comes to your work wardrobe?

I draw a lot of inspiration from hippy vibes, African art and traditional fashion. I am also obsessed with rebellious fashion. I look to Nomzamo Mbatha, Janelle Monae and Solange for inspiration.

3. What's your best piece of career advice for young women?

Stay true to yourself, find what you love and love what you do. If you do not do what you love, you will not reach your full productive potential.

4. What do you wish you knew about working before you started?

To never ever get comfortable or give into fear.

5. What items are you looking to add to your work wardrobe for summer?

Lots of maxi dresses and jumpsuits. I am obsessed with slip-on shoes! They are like formal sandals I LOVE it! So you can dress an outfit up or down.

6. Complete the sentence: My favourite items to wear to work are ____

Power suits, heels, jumpsuits, doeks.

Kira Gimpel

"Working in fashion doesn't mean you have to pretend to be someone else, it means you've got to fully believe in yourself and your style and run with it."

1. When it comes to dressing for work, how would you describe your approach?

My job requires a helluva lot of running around before, during and after shoots and also networking and representing ELLE, so I'll always make sure my look is functional and fashionable.

2. Does your work style differ to your weekend/casual style?

Not really. I've developed a style I'm comfortable in for every day of the week, and believe it's important to wear things that make you feel good every day.

3. Is there anyone that inspires your style when it comes to your work wardrobe?

Cassandra Twala! She wears beautiful basics and local pieces in such a great way.

4. What's your best piece of career advice for young women?

To constantly work hard, be willing to learn and always put yourself first.

5. What do you wish you knew about working before you started?

That working in fashion doesn't mean you have to pretend to be someone else, it means you've got to fully believe in yourself and your style and run with it. And also, that tax is so real.

6. What did you wear on your first day of work?

Probably tailored trousers and a t-shirt with sneakers. Not much has changed since I started working tbh…

Buhle mbete

"You have to start somewhere. Be patient in your career journey and remind yourself daily what it is you're working towards. There will be days when you feel unappreciated, overworked or even demotivated but don't let that get to you."

1. When it comes to dressing for work, how would you describe your approach?

Simple and comfortable with a touch of elegance. I'm in the creative space so there really isn't pressure to dress a certain a way, as long as you're presentable; but I love dressing up and looking good. For me, it's a confidence booster and a representation of my bubbly colourful personality.

2. What's the most versatile item in your work wardrobe?

My crisp white shirt. It's the perfect length, I can wear it with tailored pants or jeans for work or rock it with sneakers on the weekend.

3. What's your best piece of career advice for young women?

You have to start somewhere. Be patient in your career journey and remind yourself daily what it is you're working towards. There will be days when you feel unappreciated, overworked or even demotivated but don't let that get to you. Always remain calm and respectful even in the most challenging circumstances. Lastly, have FUN! Enjoy each and every stage of the journey, no matter what difficulty you're faced with. Everything eventually passes, and when it does you'll know yourself a bit better.

4. What do you wish you knew about working before you started?

I wish I knew how important it is to be emotionally intelligent in the workspace.

5. What items are you looking to add to your work wardrobe for summer?

A blush pink pleated skirt, a colourful chiffon blouse and a pair of cute mules.

6. Complete the sentence: My favourite items to wear to work are _______

Pants, I find pants so comfortable for work.

7. Do you dress differently if you have an important meeting? If you do, how so?

I do. In between the nerves and preparation for that meeting, I'll incorporate an item I absolutely love when choosing my outfit. Most of the time, that's a pair of pants or a well-fitted blazer.

Kat Dewar

"So you know that thing you actually looove doing? Find a way to work it into your career, no matter how crazy it may seem – it can happen, believe and do it!"

1. Does your work style differ to your weekend/casual style?

As I work mainly in a somewhat corporate office (my architecture job is my main dish), my style does seem to differ a bit between workdays and weekends. I'd wear a high-waisted tie loose pant to work with a button up, loafers and a tote, but might add a Nike crop top and sneakers, and maybe even a kool-kid fanny pack for the weekends. I'd say my style overlaps well between work and play. I often wear sneakers or jeans to work, but I'll make sure they're paired with something a little more "together" or streamlined for the office. I never thought I'd be a white shirt type of gal, but gimme white sneakers or high-waisted jeans with it, and I'm all in.

2. What's the most versatile item in your work wardrobe?

The most versatile item in my work wardrobe is probably my outerwear and jackets. I'm a sucker for an oversized blazer or knit, and they go well with black trousers for work, and just as easily for going out to dinner afterwards. For summer, it's probably my ever-favourite lightweight high-waisted tie Mango slacks – can anyone really tell (or care) if you wear black pants five days in a row!? Plus, they work well with fitted or loose tops, sandals or boots, so basically that's probably what you'll find me in most days of the week.

3. Is there anyone that inspires your style when it comes to your work wardrobe?

Yeah, there are a few people and brands that inspire my workwear style. I am basically in love with anything Lulama Wolf, Peggy Gou or Alexa Chung wear, and while their styles may be a bit more casual and colourful than my go-to work style, it's cool to get ideas about how to dress up a casual piece (like a distressed pair of jeans or something) for the office. Jane Sews is also a breath of minimalist fresh air when it comes to inspiring basics for my work wardrobe – a classic loafer, a well-tailored shirt or just-the-right-amount-of-comfy culottes, yes, please.

4. What do you wish you knew about working before you started?

I wish I knew that what work means, can be whatever you want to define it as. My mother once told me that it's fine to have your normal job to support you and to do your passion work after "work" work, and so thought everyone was kinda bleak with their normal job. But that eventually didn't vibe with me and I decided that work could be anything I wanted – anything that made me happy and passionate and that I would want to get up every morning to do. So you know that thing you actually looove doing? Find a way to work it into your career, no matter how crazy it may seem – it can happen, believe and do it!

5. What items are you looking to add to your work wardrobe for summer?

For summer, I'm looking to add more loose wide-leg pants, as well as skirts to my wardrobe. I find more versatility in separates rather than dresses or one-pieces. Also, a wide leg is so cool to wear with a fitted shirt or tee to work, and then a crop or bodysuit at weekends! Also, for some reason, I'm leaning very much towards stripes and patterns for summer.

6. Do you dress differently if you have an important meeting? If you do, how so?

It depends what type of meeting - sometimes I'm on a building site, so out of practicality and also social-gender-prescription (snore and also eye roll) I wouldn't wear a skirt and would wear boots or safety boots and a hard hat. At a client or private jewellery meeting, I'd dress a little smarter, or co-ordinated than usual – like hey, this girl is a vibe, let's give her money – so yeah, I do dress differently for meetings for the most part. It's about expressing yourself, knowing who you want to be, and then kinda making whatever you want to wear work for you! Work is work, but it's also the biggest part of your life, so do you, always.

Khensani Mohlatlole

"Approach everything with the confidence of a mediocre white man."

1. When it comes to dressing for work, how would you describe your approach?

My approach to dressing for is always about comfort and ease of movement firstly – sometimes I have to run up and down or do a lot of bending and reaching so off-shoulder blouses might make that difficult. After that, it's about feeling good and pretty.

2. Does your work style differ to your weekend/casual style?

To an extent, I try to dress a little more conservative and modest for work – such as covering my tattoos and lots of skin. I also stay away from more casual items like light-wash denim and tank tops.

3. What's the most versatile item in your work wardrobe?

The most versatile items in my closet have to be my suit/two-piece collection as they're so easy to switch up. I can mix and match blazers and trousers, wear blazers as dresses or change the silhouettes with belts and dresses underneath.

4. Is there anyone that inspires your style when it comes to your work wardrobe?

Lately, I'm channelling a lot of 2015 - 2017 Céline, 80s power dressing and whatever I think a rebellious librarian would own.

5. What's your best piece of career advice for young women?

Approach everything with the confidence of a mediocre white man.

6. What do you wish you knew about working before you started?

I wish I knew that high school never ends! Oh, and that my parents weren't kidding about how drained they were when they would get home.

7. What did you wear on your first day of work?

On my first day of work, I wore a cream satin blouse beneath a grey pinstriped blazer that I wore as a dress with square-toe black leather boots and a red wool trench coat over everything. Oh, and lots of rings..

8. Do you dress differently if you have an important meeting? If you do, how so?

I believe in power dressing so if I have an important meeting, I do my best to emulate a powerful woman character – be it fictional or real. My go-tos are Miranda Priestly, Jessica Pearson and Blair Waldorf.

seen this?
crystal birch x espadril
summer swimwear
female rappers who shaped hip hop