Saturday, October 28, 2006

Get dressed for office
Madhurika Jain

Office wear should be slightly conservative and stylish without becoming casual
Office wear should be slightly conservative and stylish without becoming casual

Office wear should be slightly conservative and stylish without becoming casual

Sometime back during a seminar on fashion, the question came up as to why the branded office wear in India has not taken off as it should. After some deliberations, it was decided that the powerful women in corporate India, who strode ahead in the corporate ladder like Shobana Bharatia, Naina Lal Kidwai and Anu Aga still stick to the traditional sari and this vitally affects the Rs 1700 crore office wear market.

Today, there is no brand with a national presence when it comes to office wear and the shops show you evening wear, when you ask for office wear. Sure the Raymond retail brand has come out with a good effort. Still it is a problem when you shop for office wear. The basic things required are that this brand should make them feel comfortable, no unwanted attention and at the same time show the modern and youthful attributes of the wearer and should cost between Rs 1500 to 2000.

Fashion designers say that office wear should be slightly conservative, but stylish without becoming casual. It has to project the image of success. It should send the message that you have fitted into the work environment with ease, the keywords being comfort and style. No use giving a boardroom presentation if you want to project a sophisticated look but cannot manage a perched dupatta or a wayward sari.

In India, saris and salwar kameez are still ‘formal wear’ for many blue chip companies. But more women office executives in their 20s are opting for western attire. They have found that it can be semi-formal for board meetings as well as for the subsequent cocktails or dinner. Further, you have a wide range of material like cotton, lycra and linen.

Of these, linen and lycra can maintain their crease and fall and if you take care of your figure, these can remain good for a couple of years. The choice of colours is all important, with black and white being the current favourite and brown and beiges also making an inroad into the fashion scene. For weekends, one should prefer feminine colours like mauve, peaches and pinks.

Of late, power dressing has begun to mean trousers and shirts too. Of course, if you have the figure to carry off pencil trousers, it is fine. The concept of power dressing with short skirts and jackets has not yet taken off in India. According to Janaki Bhatt fashion designer, as on date the options for western formals are limited, as this segment is still has only the traditional suits, although in Mumbai and Delhi, you will have better luck.

Another problem for the lack of branded office wear is that many women are not willing to dress in attire which other colleagues are also sporting, when office wear becomes branded. You want to stand out in a board meeting and still not hog too much of limelight.

The accessories also have to be matching. The following suggestions would be useful.

Jewellery: You can wear jewellery with office wear. But ensure that you stick to smart sleek designs with a sophisticated look. According to fashion experts, a bracelet, slim chain with pendant and small diamond solitaire earrings look good.

Handbags: It is advisable to have an expensive brief case, especially made for women executives and the choice of colour is limited to black or brown.

Watches: When it comes to watches, surprisingly one has two choices. You can have either the wide base simple masculine watches or the ultra feminine variety that has slim gold or silver watch chains.

Footwear: Your footwear for the office can make or mar the overall effect you create in your office. Here again the credo is sandals if the dress is Indian and leather shoes if you are sporting western wear. Ensure that the colours are plain and there are no showy crystals or sequins in them. And it is essential that if you have to work long hours, your heels are not very high.

Hairstyle: Hairstyle has to be of the conservative type. If you are going to colour your hair, then ensure that it suits your complexion and is natural. Ponytails or buns are definitely out and the maximum you can sport is to keep a short bouncy style. Actually your hairstyle tells the other staff, especially men, that you are a no nonsense type.

Also, short nails well manicured are preferable and the nail polish should be of a single tone light shade. Long nails are a no no. It is essential that your makeup should be minimal and should vary with the season. Beauticians advocate pastel shades of lipstick and light eyeliners. — MF