Secondhand September: Let’s be CEOs

Secondhand September: Let’s be CEOs

I don’t often give myself a shout-out on this blog, but can we agree that the lighting plus suit combo in the first photo below immediately qualifies me to run any and all companies in the entire world? 

For those readers who have been visiting me over on Instagram, you already know it’s Secondhand September in the UK, and I’ve decided to crash the party and only feature secondhand clothes on the blog this month.  There will be one exception, for a post I’ve been working on for about a month.  The goal is to keep the topics of the blogposts broad – that is, not just about secondhand being great – and to show you a good range of the things you can find in the many op shops, vintage stores and online auctions of this great country.

There has been a real trend towards trouser suits for women over recent years, which has had me on the hunt for stylish but sustainable options.  You can easily pick up a suit at Zara, but we all know that the best suit is the suit you find in a secondhand shop.  Preferably vintage, from the 70s, but we can’t have everything in life so I just decided to be grateful when I was presented with this little number from Cue.   It’s in immaculate condition and features my favourite – the slightly flared leg that pools over your shoe.  Such a nice change from the standard tapered trouser or the wide leg culotte styles that have been dominating the trouser scene in recent years.

Wearing a trouser suit as a woman feels like a power move in New Zealand, and I say that as a woman who is (a) a lawyer and (b) works in the finance industry.  You would expect me to be living in the most Suit Adjacent world possible, but in fact I haven’t seen a woman in a traditional suit like this in many a year (honestly, where are all those Zara suits being worn?).  More and more, workplaces seem to be becoming more relaxed about what we can wear, and so one must ask – is there any point in owning this suit? 


I’ve pondered this at length (okay, maybe for a solid 15 mins) and I think the suit still has its place.  We must, as always, remember that my philosophy is “I do what I want [vis a vis clothing]” so obviously I am fine with wearing a suit while everyone else is in chinos and jeans, but regardless.  There’s totally a place for wearing an outfit that makes you believe you are a Business Woman.  You might not wear it every day, but the trouser suit is perfect for when you feel like saying: hello. I have prepared for this meeting and I know that when you call a women ‘intimidating’, what you mean is ‘knows her shit and didn’t make me feel like the special snowflake I believe myself to be’.  

You can also mix and match a suit, since it is essentially just a Business Co-ord, and in this case I am wearing a tshirt from Wilson Trollope underneath in case I want to kick back with the team later without a blazer making me look like I might be performance-reviewing them all later that afternoon.  I do not think the jacket can be worn with other things – always keen to hear a fresh idea though – but the pants alone are definitely fine.


The thing to keep in mind with suits, and I realise the hilarity of what I am about to type, is that they must fit properly.  This suit is off the rack (and it was the only suit on the rack, so sizes were a bit limited).  I bought it when my thighs and…other muscles…were less massive.  You can see the strain across the front of these trousers.  You can also see that the sleeves are a fraction too long (jacket sleeves should be longer than you think they would be) and it annoys me that I haven’t had them tailored yet but it also annoys me that I will have to pay someone for such a small amount of hemming. In real, day to day life, where I am moving around/sitting at my desk, these things don’t matter so much.  But if you’re buying a suit, please do not use these photos as a reference.


I’d also always recommend you glam up a suit somehow.  Here I’ve worn my seed pearl earrings.  Last time I wore this excellent DNA top I found on TradeMe and then carried my beloved Deadly Ponies back in black and grey snake effect.   You’re trying to avoid looking like too much of a worker bee – you are a fabulous butterfly, or perhaps in this suit, a fancy tropical moth.  Capable of wearing grey, but with pizzazz!  Never to be mistaken for one of the grads from a distance (which reminds me of the time a grad programme candidate obviously had a full on panic at the drinks/networking portion of the day and asked my boss, a 40 year old man, if he was also an applicant for the grad programme.  I laugh still, to this day).


Finally, an important digression regarding dressing up as a lawyer.  When I think about what I might wear to work on days when I need to exercise my powers of influence, I think of the Top Notch Ladies of Law (TNLL) in New Zealand.  The TNLL are not wearing grey suits – they wear fabulous outfits from women they are on first name terms with, like Dame Trelise, or they wear luxury brands from overseas.  I love the TNLL, although I shall never join their ranks.  They are all kind of bad asses, doing Deals and mentoring young women and wearing diamonds that could blind you at a hundred yards. 

However, the essence of being a TNLL is wearing things that say: hello.  I have not had to prepare for this meeting because I know everything there is to know.  I’ve had to work twice as hard as my male colleagues to get to this place.  When you say I am intimidating, you are correct.  You should be intimidated.  I am amazing.  But in a nice way, where you also feel inspired and like they will have a really good gossip with you over a glass of champagne at the next industry function you both attend.  They always have a really good grasp of colour theory.  If you know a TNLL, email them immediately and ask them if they have time to have a coffee with you sometime soon.  They have much to teach us (mostly about working incredibly hard, but also things like office politics and savvy investing).