Dressing for working women

Make the right choices to look your best at the workplace

Business dressYou walk into a strategic business presentation with international clients wearing baggy jeans along with a tee which says “Vote The Next Time, Hippie!” or “It’s Not PMS, It’s You!” or worse,” “Sorry For Being Sexy”.

You might make an impression or even be asked out in the evening, but the crucial business contract is coming nowhere near you. While you try to be crisp and business-like, your clients are probably staring at the T-shirt which also says, “They’re real, but the shirt is fake” and weighing the validity of your claims.

Choose the right style

Style faux pas cannot be excused, especially if your company’s image depends on yours. As far as career clothes are concerned, they depend on your office environment, corporate culture and what tasks you perform. Your age and position in the office should also be kept in mind. Industries like hospitality, retail, and airlines, demand a specific uniform and formal dress code at all times. However, if the environment is creative, there is scope for personality. But creative doesn’t mean sexy. It’s important for women to never let clothes come in the way of their professional image.

Strategic planning of business clothes is like a business presentation. Think of yourself as a brand and the clothes like your packaging – especially if you represent your company and have to go out or meet clients often.

The easiest and perhaps cheapest way to manage this is to buy basic pieces to mix and match [without mixing fabrics arbitrarily]. This makes professional dressing much easier and also gives you a lot of choices.

  • A basic, tailored suit. Black is the best choice here, but also try brown, grey or navy. These colours give you more options as to what goes under it. The classic collared blouse would be perfect.
  • A crisp white shirt or blouse. A white shirt or blouse is always in and can be worn with anything. Combining it with a skirt or a trouser will make you look simple and elegant.
  • An A-line or pencil skirt that falls a little above or right below your knees. Choose A-line skirts for a larger lower body and a pencil skirt for slimmer hips. Both these shapes are classy.
  • A perfect cut and the fit. Simple, timeless styles are great on their own. As for the fit, the right clothes can flatter your body and boost your confidence. You can look great no matter what size or shape you are. The trick is to wear clothes that suit your body type and camouflage your trouble areas while playing up your best features. Clothes with clean lines, flattering shapes and well-placed hems manage to do just that.
  • Checks and pinstripes. Big, bold checks hurt the eyes and take away the sophistication of the cloth. Also, while horizontal stripes make you look wider, vertical make you look leaner. Pin stripes are flattering in black, dark brown or navy blue. But never wear the same pattern of a particular type from top to toe.

Colour and fabric

They play a huge role in giving an illusion of a perfect shape. Darker shades of colours like blue, purple and brown help to hide flaws while lighter colours like white, cream yellow add to your frame.

Latest trends

In India, as far as formal pants are concerned, women prefer charcoal-black, beige and olive-green. The material is usually imported polyster viscose fabric. While cotton linen is upmarket and will be more popular in the coming years, it’s not preferred by those who have to commute by public transport or need to move out often in the day. In linen, popular colours are off-white, black, beige and ash. They can also be teamed with off-white stoles.

Off-white cotton shirt, along with black trousers, is also an eternal favourite in India. The hem of the trousers is usually upto 18-inch wide with a straight cut. The shirt in crisp white cotton is either full sleeved or a deep incut sleeveless blouse. The length varies between 22-25 inches and the neck is usually V-shaped.

In the West there are more varieties in the form of linings or fabrics and an ample play with differently-shaped buttons, stylised pockets and zippers, in India it is kept simple because of the climate.

As for formal social gatherings, the clothes need to be graceful, yet not overly sexy. The colours here could be varied, but prints need to be sophisticated and styles chic. Here, a simple dress with one interesting detail is ideal. You can wear it without feeling conspicuous. But it’s best to avoid a plunging or backless style.

Be comfortable in what you wear. Also, what you wear should make you look and feel good.No matter what the cost or the label, if the outfit doesn’t flatter your body, forget it. You don’t need it when you are supposed to come across as a confident, beautiful and intelligent woman with a style of her own.


While in office, prefer shoes that are the basic pairs of black and brown heels [closed-toed with a 3-inch heel]. With formal evening wear – sling-back shoes [in silver, black or matt gold], evening pointed shoes [in bronze, gold and silver], classic evening pumps [with 1 1/2 inch heel in silver, gold or black], evening platform shoes [with a 2 1/4 inch heel] and the high heel sandal with the instep cut out and a peak-a-boo toe will never let you go wrong. For a better impact, you could always add other accessories like jewellery and purses without overstepping the formal-fashion boundaries.

Just because your colleagues don’t dress professionally doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. You are judged not only on your work performance, but also on your appearance. However, despite these pointers if you are ever unsure about what can work for you, simply turn to the eternally elegant silk saree of the right colour.

No matter what the occasion, that’s one outfit which will never let you down.

Gayatri Pagdi
Gayatri Pagdi is a Mumbai-based health journalist. Her areas of interest include emotional, mental and spiritual health.


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