Determining what to wear to work is never an easy choice, but it can be even more of a challenge when your job isn’t the typical 9-to-5. In a bid to shake up our own work wardrobes, we sought out the advice of some of the best dressed women working today. Next up is Thandi Maqubela, the London-based lawyer known equally for her outfit inspiration and workplace musings over at @ThandiMaq, as she is within the legal field.
As Thandi balances motherhood, content creation, and a full-time job, we asked her what workwear means to her and how her personal style changes for each of the (very) different roles she plays day-to-day.
1. THE CO-ORD
Photo:SARAH ELLEN TREACHER; Styling: COS Co-Ord; Anthropologie shoes
There are a handful of pieces that can really save time getting ready in the morning, and the co-ord is the instant outfit that requires no additional planning. Wear tops separately with jeans for weekends or double up like Thandi for an office-ready look that is as comfortable as it is dress code appropriate.
Your 9-to-5 job is as a legal director and commercial lawyer. How did you get into this career, and how have you found the journey to your current position?
I’m a mergers and acquisitions lawyer by background, having studied and qualified in South Africa, where I also spent early years of practising. I was given an opportunity to go on a secondment to Nestlé for a few months, and that was my first exposure to the life of in-house counsel. I enjoyed it, so I decided to move to London and coincided the move with a transition into the in-house legal world. After a short stint at a boutique consulting firm, I joined my current firm, where I’ve progressed to the role of legal director. It’s definitely been an interesting journey, one I’m still navigating through, and while it is challenging, I’m still very much enjoying the process.
How does what you wear to the office differ from your off-duty and weekend wardrobe?
I’ve increasingly tried to incorporate pieces into my wardrobe that can traverse both my office and downtime looks. I find that with a bit of styling or replacing an item—say, for example, a blazer and heels in exchange for a roll-neck and trainers—I can wear the same pair of leather trousers at work as well as at the weekend. Living in a typical London house means wardrobe space is limited, so a capsule wardrobe definitely helps with that challenge! But the mix also allows me to express myself in the way that feels most authentic, as I’m largely the same person at work as I am outside of it, and I’d like that personality to shine through. There are, of course, certain items that are specifically made for the office environment, and I tend to save these for days when I have client meetings or when I’m presenting.
SHOP MORE CO-ORDS
2. THE BLAZER
Photo:SARAH ELLEN TREACHER; Styling: Raey jacket and trousers; Proenza Schouler shoes
You may be expecting navy pinstripes for the boardroom, but Thandi isn’t your typical workplace dresser. Swapping a full suit for a blazer makes tailoring feel instantly fresh, especially when paired with sleek leather, a loose midi or contrasting trousers. It's the ideal desk-to-dinner look for chairing meetings or after-work plans.
As a lawyer, mother and content creator, you have to wear a lot of different hats. How do you stay true to your own style while still meeting the needs of all of these?
This is a really well-timed question as I’ve recently been thinking about my personal style and how I’d like it to evolve to meet me where I’m at in life. I think wearing these different ‘hats’ is influencing where I’d like to land on this. Being comfortable is key to me as my view is that confidence naturally flows from that. My job requires me to move between meetings while working in the office, chairing meetings and giving presentations, and I want to know that I look and feel good while doing these things, while also being able to move freely and not be pulling at my dress or thinking about how the tailoring sits on me. Equally, having a toddler requires a certain level of agility because they move so fast and you have to be able to keep up!
What does a typical day look like for you?
I can’t say that my work life is typical, as no day is the same on that front, but I love the job for this very reason—it keeps things exciting. I do, however, like to stick to a routine in terms of how I start the day, as it sets the tone and gives me energy. I’ll start with some form of a workout, either a run or lifting weights. I find that I get my best ideas or solutions while I’m out running. I like to block out the first hour in my diary (not always successful!) to deal with emails that have come in overnight given that I work with the US quite a fair bit, but this time also helps me get into the mindset of what I have in my diary for the rest of the day. If I have any time left over in that hour, I’ll force myself to tick a couple of things off my to-do list. My day then tends to consist of client negotiations, internal leadership meetings, catch-ups with my team and stakeholder management. At least once a week or fortnight, I’ll set aside time to think and work on the strategic aspects of my career progression, and that ticks along while working on my day-to-day, but I find if I don’t dedicate time to do it, there’s a risk of getting distracted with things that won’t support the trajectory I’d like to be on.
SHOP MORE BLAZERS
3. THE DRESS
Photo:SARAH ELLEN TREACHER; Styling: The Fold blazer; Raey dress
If ever you need further proof that dresses can work for the office, too, take notes on Thandi’s structured approach to styling up. The same dress that can be worn with sandals and a casual jacket can feel instantly sharper with slingbacks and a boxy blazer, making it a key piece in her wardrobe for its sheer versatility.
You originally hail from South Africa but live in London. What is the difference between South African style and British, and what do you love most about each?
I think that the different styles are so unique, but both are expressive in their own special ways. There are a lot of incredible South African designers who have found success at home as well as on a global scale, which is a testament to how special the talent is. I feel like British style has evolved over the years, and it’s now difficult to pinpoint a “British look,” which is a good thing, as it means that people have been given the platform to play with their looks in creative and interesting ways. I love that I can walk down the street here and see so many different looks in the space of five minutes, and no one bats an eyelid.
Who are your style icons, and how have they influenced the way you dress?
My first mention has to go to Tracee Ellis Ross. She’s the epitome of how I’d like to dress now and when I get older. She has so much fun with her clothes—she really wears them. The clothes most definitely don’t wear her. She just exudes confidence. I also love how Solange Knowles, Lisa Aiken, Vanessa Kingori, Olympia Gayot, Marjon Carlos and Abisola Omole approach personal style. If you look at all these amazing women, you’ll find the common theme that runs through is that they are the embodiment of what I believe when it comes to style: Clothes are a very valid tool of self-expression. It’s no surprise that these women are also bossing it in their careers! I’m also going to throw in a fictional character, Jessica from Suits. Her outfits have definitely inspired plenty of “add to cart” moments for me!
SHOP MORE DRESSES
4. THE TAILORED TROUSERS
Photo:SARAH ELLEN TREACHER; Styling: COS jumper; Aligne shirt; Toteme trousers; Arket shoes
No matter how your style changes over time, a pair of tailored trousers will work hard in any well-curated capsule. Neutral colours can be the foundation of a look and allow you to introduce print and colour throughout the rest of your wardrobe for a contemporary take on power dressing.
How has your style evolved from when you first started out to now?
It’s really interesting to see how my style has evolved over time. Thinking back on the early years of my career, I think I found security in the muted colours typically associated with lawyers, so black, navy and greys. That was probably driven by the fact that I was a junior lawyer and didn’t want to stand out. I also thought it was presenting as a more serious and capable lawyer. As I’ve progressed, I’ve definitely become more comfortable with having fun with my wardrobe, introducing colour and working with different shapes. Women are often made to feel like we shouldn’t care about how we look and present, especially in the traditional corporate world. I don’t think being open about a love of fashion and beauty detracts from one’s capabilities in the workplace. If anything, it adds gravitas. If someone is willing to be bold and stand out, then surely that kind of confidence extends to other areas of life.
What’s your favourite go-to outfit, and how does it make you feel?
I feel most confident and “me” in a midi or belted maxi dress and heels—I’d say 80% of my workwear wardrobe is a variation of it. I recently wore a a gorgeous green Emilia Wickstead dress from MATCHES which just ticked all of my boxes, as it was so beautifully made. I just really enjoy leaning into my femininity, especially in a space that is still predominantly male at a leadership level.
SHOP MORE TROUSERS
SHOP MORE OF THANDI’S STYLE