5 Professional Wardrobe Essentials

Chetna Mehrotra , 31 May 2012
Dressing for work
Dressing for work

Every work day, our to-do lists start with what do I wear? Whether a boardroom meeting, an official lunch or just another day at work, different occasions demand a different cluster of color, pattern and style.

Shirts, skirts and suits always figure in a list of work essentials – unless of course, you are among those here on our Indian subcontinent whose staple office wear is Indian attire. So how about giving it a thought as well?

1. You all know this one: A crisp white shirt for both men & women.

White shirt
White shirt

A white shirt is as essential to fashion as cricket is to India. They can be clustered with charcoal, black or navy trousers. Women can add accessories like a pearl necklace (high on authority) or a stole in accent colors like bright pink for a youthful effect, turquoise for a graceful effect or red to exude power & dynamism. Men can add a tie: striped, or my all-time favourite, paisley. And yes, you can experiment with colors for those sit-down dinners (dark shades of blue, brown or even purple).

2. Indian comfort.

Naina Lal Kidwai
Naina Lal Kidwai

For the millions of women in India who want to dress formally while celebrating their Indian identity, here is what I suggest. For an extremely formal occasion, like executive board meetings, wear a silk/cotton silk saree with a three-fourth length blouse or a collared jacket blouse. Big and powerful names like Chanda Kochhar, Shobana Bhartia or Naina Lal Kidwai, sport this style with great elan.

If it’s a less formal event like a business lunch with colleagues or clients, you can wear a long collared kurti in silk (depends on the weather conditions) or cotton with narrow/tapered pants and a complimentary stole. Or you could wear a collared knee length kurti with tapered pants. Do not forget to add that dash of individual style with your accessories!

3. The “suit”-a-bility factor (and jacket too!)

Suits
Suits

In my opinion, a well-fitted suit in classic fit and colors like charcoal, navy or grey never goes out of fashion, and it is a safe bet every time you make those boardroom presentations! And remember: it’s better to have 2 expensive suits than 5 cheap ones. One of those two must be a navy colored suit! You can also buy suits with geometrical patterns: pinstripes, chalk stripes, or bird eye (my favorite!).

Women can opt for skirt-jacket suits or formal dresses with jackets. Who says colors are for casuals? Try royal blue, red, emerald green etc in your outfits. You gotta make your work interesting! And a well fitted jacket for women sure makes a statement. A jacket that’s a little fitted and creates that tailored waistline looks professional, yet feminine.

4. “Shoe” me what you got.

Shoes
Shoes

A pair of neat & sparkling shoes will definitely complete your professional outfit. Men must invest in the classic black pair, and then add a dark brown or an ox-blood pair in their collection. Women should invest in black and nude shade pumps. They go well with both Western and Indian attire. You could add an open peep toe version or wedge heels, and then start experimenting with colors. Get a deep grape, dark purple or tan shoe to make your outfits more interesting. Who says work wear is boring?

5. “Access-orize.”

Accessorize
Accessorize

Paraphernalia adds a tinge of personal style to otherwise common work wear. Be it a long tunic and pants or a white shirt and navy trousers, you can accessorize it to give your outfit your signature trademark. I am a great fan of stoles. On Indian attire, you can drape it around your neck and let it fall on the sides. Stoles come in varied textures, patterns and colors, and are available at Fabindia, Anokhi, Khadi Bhandar and other Indian handloom shops. Jewelry is another wonderful way to accessorize your outfit. You can try pearls in different forms and colors. Men can look at cufflinks, belts, pocket scarves, and ties. A good handbag can speak volumes about your personality, for both men and women. A basic black bag is good for a start. You can then invest in brown, tan, blue, green or grey, depending on your outfit.

So remember: start with the basics and then add accent colors. Do not let your work wear look boring – there are many ways to make it fun and interesting!

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