Exclusive: Top divorce lawyer Ayesha Vardag told female staff to ditch the cardigans in incredible 1,000-word dress code email

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By Aishah Hussain on

Leaked to Legal Cheek

Ayesha Vardag — Credit: Vardags

One of the country’s top divorce lawyers told female staff to ditch the cardigans and that they could be “discreetly sexy” (according to their preference), in an incredible 1,000-word dress code email leaked to Legal Cheek.

It has emerged that Ayesha Vardag, who runs plush bijou law firm Vardags in London’s Old Bailey, dished out personal fashion and lifestyle pointers in an email titled, ‘Attire and image — dress code and beyond’, to staff in July 2019.

“We need to be looking fabulous at all times, including during the summer heat,” the ‘diva of divorce’ writes in the email, before going on to tell new starters and remind old staff of “a few elements to the Vardags brand”.

Women are advised to dress “formal” but are also told they can be “discreetly sexy and colourful and flamboyant at the same time according to your preference”. They should aim for “a Chanel/Dior/Armani look” and “nothing homespun or homely or what you’d cosy up by the fire in”.

Trouser suits are “just fine” but “cardigans are almost never ok”. In fact, Vardag claims in the email she “once sent a trainee in a cardigan out of a client meeting until she could borrow or find a jacket to wear”.

Also considered by Vardag to be a fashion faux pas in the office are “jersey and stretchies” which are “to be treated with extreme caution”. She adds: “Some can be classic and formal but often they look a bit teenaged or low-rent. Baggy, billowy, shapeless things are not good.”

Vardag offers further tips on female accessories. These include stockings and tights which should be sheer, black, dark grey or natural; scarves which should be “silk and classic, not raggedy and sloppy or the sort of thing you might stuff in your backpack on your gap year”; and “elegant” shoes. “I don’t say high-heeled, as I feel high heels have been disenfranchising and disabling women for decades,” she adds.

There’s advice on hair, too, which “should always be squeaky-clean and should at least appear natural”, as well as guidance on nails. “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.”

“Be elegant, sophisticated, classic but with glamour and style,” the email continues. “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.”

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Vardag lays out rules for men, too. “It’s a Savile Row look we’re espousing”, writes Vardag, who goes on to encourage male staff to dress “classic, tailored [and] formal”. Cravats and formal waistcoats she doesn’t mind, but woolly jumpers or singlets, tweed or top-stitched trousers are a no-no. So are “super-tight trousers or pointy toes” which are “sternly frowned upon”.

Further, men are advised to wear “classic” shoes that are “black” because, as the old adage goes, “never wear brown in town”.

Vardag concludes with advice on health and fitness. “Eat well, move a lot, watch what you drink, get outside as much as you can, and glow,” she writes.

When approached by Legal Cheek for comment, Vardags director of strategy, Stephen Bence, said:

“As a top City law firm, we hold ourselves to the highest possible professional standards, extending to our dress code — to which every employee consents upon joining the business. While most of our staff have a full understanding of the standards we hold ourselves to, the occasional reminder is needed.”

Read the leaked email in full

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