“This was way out of my comfort zone”
Our deputy editor, Wanita, is a born-and-bred Capetonian who wears jeans every day. Here’s what happened when the boss, Danielle — a fashion-savvy, heels-loving Joburg export — challenged her to a week of Joburg style.
Once, at varsity, I met up with two friends at a club and we were all wearing the exact same outfit: Blue jeans, blue denim jacket, white shirt, sneakers. We high-fived each other for our savvy style — the pre-Instagram equivalent of #twinning. My brother’s ex-girlfriend used to call it the “Cape Flats uniform”. Hit up any twenty-first in a Cape Town community hall and you’ll see why. (Also, take foil…you’ll be leaving with samoosas and pies.)
In the latter half of my thirties, jeans are still my daily uniform. The takkies get swapped for boots and the colour of the shirt changes, ’cause, you know, professional. But ain’t no one gonna get between me and my denims. Except my boss.
When the boss signs you up for a “fashion challenge” you know it’s a thinly-veiled intervention. So you don’t say no. Even when she announces — all casual-like, as though she’s only just that minute thought of it — that said challenge is to dress Joburg chic (a.k.a. Dan Weakley) for a whole week. The quintessential Cape Town look is laidback-cool: Barely-there make-up, flat shoes, plenty of denim. The Joburg look is…not that.
I completely forget about the challenge and rock up at the office in jeans and boots. It’s a blessing in disguise. As I’ll soon discover, I only have so many outfits that are both warm enough for Cape Town’s first real week of winter and chic enough to not get you thrown out of Melrose Arch with the rest of the riff-raff.
After yesterday’s fail, I feel like I have to bring it hard. For me, this is going full Joburg. A skirt. At the office. In winter. My Instagram feed erupts in praise. I can’t help wondering if the internet has been quietly judging me for years.
Dan says: “Jozi girls love structure. We don’t believe in slouch… Clothes need strong lines and a clean silhouette. Totally rocking the silhouette on Day One – with extra points for monochrome. Black is not just a colour, it is The Colour.“
Hooray for pants! Not jeans, but so much more comfy than yesterday’s skirt. It’s good to know I could spontaneously go upside down or bang out an office burpee without flashing my colleagues. Not that I do that kind of thing, obvs.
Dan says: “Jozi girls love layering. No, Cape Town And Other Girls, not in artful draped layers of puffer and pastel, but in a real, it’s-freezing-in-the-morning-when-I-leave-in-the-traffic-but-sunshiny-and-steamy-by-midday, so requires a good scarf (hello there!) and the rest of the winter line-up.“
Ok, so I only own one pair of pants that’s not jeans or leggings. Which means it’s dress time again. This little number was a hand-me-down from my mom. She’s been trying to stage a get-Wani-out-of-jeans intervention for 20 years. (The black skirt from Tuesday was a birthday gift from her.)
Dan says: “Jozi girls never let a good outfit get in the way of a great accessory. Think your dress doesn’t need adornment? Think again. Ears? Ditto. Neck? Yep, you got it. Full marks for the belt and — for you Wani — for rocking the dress in winter. Because I know how deeply that must have cut.“
Friday arrives just in time. I’ve run out of outfits. I literally bought this dress two weeks ago and I know it’s Dan-approved because she was in Cotton On with me at the time. On a whim, I throw on a red coat that usually only sees daylight on Sunday mornings for church. The Insta post gets over 300 likes in an hour. What is this fashionista life?
Dan says: “Jozi girls love colour. Not soft cloud, not restrained colour. Colour — vibrant, deep colour. On our lips and on our person. A bright something is the single-most cheering thing on a frosty Highveld morning… Something that Wani has got to agree on. Right, Wani?! Like you can fake being warm.“
It was with relief and grinning enthusiasm that I slipped back into my denims come Monday. But, full disclosure: I actually kind of enjoyed playing dress-up for a week. It was fun — albeit stressful — planning outfits instead of just grabbing one item off each shelf of my cupboard. And it’s nice when people compliment what you’re wearing. I also learnt a few things – mainly, that my wardrobe is way too casual (this shouldn’t actually have been a surprise – one of my criteria when choosing a career was whether I’d be able to wear jeans to work). So, since the challenge I’ve been trying to implement Smarten-Up Mondays. I’ve even gone clothes shopping for more formal attire. I walked out with boots. And jeans.
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