For those hunched over a laptop at home, they are a sensible – if slightly unglamorous – way to stay snug.
Wear a cardigan in the office, however, and you are likely to receive a dressing down – at least if you work for top lawyer Ayesha Vardag.
Dubbed the ‘Diva of Divorce’, she has forbidden her staff from wearing ‘woollies’ in the workplace. Instead, they should aim to look ‘executive’ and like ‘the president of a significant country’.
She also warned ‘hair should be executive, and very long hair should be pinned up’, so that staff look professional, and not simply like a ‘pretty young thing’.
Ayesha Vardag wrote staff a lengthy 1,000-word dress code email advising women to dress ‘formal’ but said they could also be ‘discreetly sexy’
Ms Vardag runs law firm Vardags in London’s Old Bailey and sent the email advising staff to look ‘fabulous at all times’
In an earlier 955-word directive about the firm’s dress code, she emailed staff to advise that women could still appear ‘formal’ but also ‘discreetly sexy and colourful and flamboyant at the same time’ by adopting ‘a Chanel/Dior/Armani look’. However nothing should be ‘homespun or homely or what you’d cosy up by the fire in’.
The two emails – leaked to legal gossip websites this week – have attracted online derision in the industry, while another top divorce lawyer last night said Miss Vardag was ‘out of touch’.
Diane Benussi, managing director of Benussi & Co in Birmingham, told the Daily Mail: ‘I hire my staff for their brains, generally. I want decent lawyers – not clothes horses. If you want models you go to Vogue, don’t you?’
Cardigans have undergone a resurgence in recent years, with Taylor Swift writing a song called Cardigan and designing her own for fans to buy.
Ms Vardag also noted they shouldn’t wear anything ‘homespun or homely’ adding that ‘cardigans are almost never ok’
But Miss Vardag, 52, made clear she was not a fan by emailing a dress code reminder to all 120 staff on Monday.
Headed ‘Cardigans!’ it read: ‘I am seeing cardigans in the office. Look at the dress code in the handbook. Woollies are verboten.’
After discussing hair styles, she added: ‘Look like a pro, not a pretty young thing. Take yourselves seriously, so clients do too.’
Stephen Bence, the firm’s director of strategy – and Miss Vardag’s husband – said: ‘We hold ourselves to the highest possible professional standards, extending to our dress code – to which every employee consents upon joining the business. Cardigans, while excellent for many occasions, are not compatible with our chosen style.’
In her near-1,000 word directive from 2019, Miss Vardag describes how she ‘once sent a trainee in a cardigan out of a client meeting until she could borrow or find a jacket to wear.’
She said jerseys and ‘stretchies’ can often ‘look a bit teenage or low-rent’ but tailored jackets or formal dresses or suits do tick the right boxes.
Ms Vardag concluded the email with wisdom on health and fitness adding, ‘eat well, move a lot, watch what you drink, get outside as much as you can, and glow’
Shortly after the Government announced on Tuesday that Britons should aim to work from home again, Miss Vardag emailed most of her staff to say she expected ‘them all to continue coming into the office’.
Mr Bence said: ‘It is the only way we can continue fully to operate the firm’, saying it is Covid-compliant.
Miss Vardag rose to prominence for her role in a landmark 2010 Supreme Court case which made prenuptial agreements legally enforceable in the UK.
One lawyer tweeted yesterday: ‘Really shocked this person would focus on style and imagined prestige over substance.’