Power Dressing for the Corporate World

Jayanti Krishnan 

Let me begin by wishing you all a very happy International Women’s Day!

Women have broken age-old stereotypes and are rocking the world. With a home, children and a million responsibilities to fulfil, they have still managed to emerge as superstars and do very well for themselves.

In our first edition (January 2018), I had written about the inner facial regime in the piece ‘For a Radiating You’. I had said that masking ourselves with right attitude and confidence plays a major role in determining how we feel about ourselves.

In today’s corporate world, it becomes extremely important to convey the right message through our image. Apart from attitude, smile and confidence, our dressing style is another dimension that our image portrays of us.

It is often said, ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’. On the flip side, if the cover is attractive, the book is likely to get the desired attention. Quite evidently, our appearance has a huge role to play in the impressions we leave on people and the way we are perceived in everyday life – professionally and personally.

Today, I bring to you some tips on Power Dressing from two experts in the area of image consultancy and fashion. Each of them have laid out their recommendations towards dressing up for the corporate world in both Western and Indian formals.

Do go over, adopt what works the best for you, and transform yourself as a powerful corporate professional.

Western Business Formals

Sindhu Jiju, Nesh Artistry, Australia

Research has proven that when you see a person, it takes only three seconds to analyze and form an image of that person! Hence it becomes imperative that we take care of our image.

Invariably, when we think of formal work wear, we tend to visualize formal western business suits. However, that need not be the case all the time. In India, sarees and salwar kameez, also constitute as formal work wear. However they must be styled differently to bring out the power.

Focusing on western formal wear, I have laid out a few aspects and some tips that can come in handy.

Colors and fabrics play a big role in projecting the look of authority. For top wear, go for soft colors like white and pastels. For pants and suits, always go for black, grey, and navy blue color. They always enhance the look.

Tailor your clothes using Cotton, Linen, Khaki, Twill, Wool or Corduroy. They are good fabric choices. Fabrics like denim and heavy cotton materials are not used in formal wear. Avoid fabrics that are either too transparent or cling to your body.

With that basic rule set in place, let me now touch upon each element of clothing:

CapturePants and Suits: The current trend for formal pants is cigarette pants. And, of course, standard pants (suits) made from wool and wool blends work for all seasons.

Some tips:

  1. Avoid wearing pants made from synthetic fabrics like rayon and polyester blends.
  2. Make sure pants are pressed and as wrinkle free as possible.
  3. Remember that the hem of the pant should cover the ankle but not drape to the floor.
  4. And, even if you have a lovely figure, stay away from pants that are too tight.

berufSkirts and Dresses: Skirts or dresses are the most recommended formal outfit that enhances the grace of a woman. While the right color, fabric, material are important, the most critical aspect for a skirt or dress, is its length.

Some tips:

  1. Avoid skirts or dresses with high slits. They are never appropriate.
  2. Always go in for pencil skirts or dresses. They always go well with sweaters, blouse, jackets and a lot more.
  3. Ensure the slit in your skirt or dress is not impairing your mobility (walking, climbing up stairs etc).

Capture2Shirts and Tops: You can go in for collared shirts, formal tops, high neck blouses or kurtis. They go well with both pants and skirts.

Some tips:

  1. Go in for the ongoing trend of fine-gauge knit shells tops, but ensure they are not transparent (see through).
  2. Use scarves, if collared clothes do not appeal to you. The scarf can be colorful but must have geometric prints, small prints or plain ones with thin borders.
  3. Pair your long or knee length kurtis with cigarette pants.
  4. Layer up your attire using a jacket.

Well, power dressing comprises of you as a whole. While we have gone over the clothes, let me walk you through the additional aspects that enhance a woman.

budfAccessorize with jewellery, bags and footwear: To get that classy edge and complete the entire look:

  1. Go for the global favorite – pearl ear studs. You can keep it small or medium and avoid anything that looks too big or chunky.
  2. Add in a chain, with a small pendant to further enhance. While globally the preferred metal is silver or platinum, in India gold is acceptable. However, keep it thin and simple.
  3. Carry a medium size handbag that is well coordinated with your footwear.
  4. Wear a footwear with a closed back and a heel of about 1 or 1.5 inches. Ensure your footwear is comfortable.

And, last but not the least, let us now look at the aspect of makeup.

Makeup: Let me begin by saying that makeup does not mean that we should look all dolled up or glammed up. All you need is:

  1. A simple yet well groomed look with clean, non oily face, light eyeliner, and pastel shades of lipstick.
  2. Well-manicured nails. They need not necessarily be painted.
  3. Painted toe nails, if you wearing open footwear.
  4. Neatly tied back hair must, so that it does not fall on the face. If you have short hair, leave it open. But, ensure it is away from the face.

I hope these guidelines help you to transform yourselves. Feel free to tweak these based on your personality.

Indian Business Formals

Reema Bali, BaliKa Boutique, New Delhi (https://www.etsy.com/in-en/shop/Rbalika)

A common challenge faced by most working women in India is the choice of clothes to wear at the work place. With the pervasive nature of the corporate culture in our working sector the dress code needs to be tweaked to our culture and ethnicity.

Also, Indian formal work wear also depends a lot upon the sector and the kind of organization one is working in.

For example advertising agencies do not have strict dress codes and allow their employees to be casually dressed. However when it comes to a client presentation at the same office there might be an unwritten rule to be formally dressed – Indian or western.

On the other hand, law firms are in a strictly formal space and the only time informal or casual dressing might be seen as appropriate would be either on Fridays or on working weekends as long as there is no client interaction.

Despite such unsaid rules and the set stereotypes women often face the problem of deciding what is formal and what is not. And with the invasion of many western cultures in our working styles, the dress code has seen many changes; still there exists many a stereotypes!

Let us decode the Indian formal office wear for working women:


The six yard drape has always been a formal wear since times immemorial. The elegance and grace attached with this unstitched garment still makes it the first choice for many working women in the urban area (like their counterpart in villages who still sport a saree irrespective of the labor they are involved in!).

However the saree wearing women are not free from the stereotypes attached with them like age, background etc. ​​

Few things that one needs to keep in mind while deciding on for a saree to work are:

  1. Fabric: Knowing that you need to spend eight or more hours in a saree, you must choose the material keeping in mind the environment at work. I would recommend cotton, as it is something that can be worn all year around without any discomfort.
  2. Print and work: You should avoid wearing bold and loud prints and heavily embroidered sarees to work. They are best suited for festivals and other such occasions. Go for sarees with block colors, stripes and checks for office wear.
  3. Blouse: The age old matching blouses that come with the saree itself are always the first choice. However the blouse as a counterpart to the saree has seen a paradigm shift. These days contrast blouses in various patterns and prints are finding their way into many wardrobes. A new trend is to wear crop tops with sarees. While they look good, avoid wearing them at work place. Instead, you can go ahead and wear formal shirts with saree and make it a true fusion of western and Indian clothing.
  4. Jewellery: Try and keep the jewellery minimal with may be at the maximum one statement piece. Avoid wearing long and dangling earrings to work. Saree on its own is an extremely elaborate garment which need no accessories. But, you can add minimal accessories to it, and enhance your personal style.


Kurtas have seen a major fan following when it comes to be a work place formal attire.

Apart from being extremely comfortable they are also very versatile in terms of how they may be accessorized.

You can:

  1. Choose kurtas in linen, cotton or handloom material.
  2. Wear long kurtas with high necks. They do not need dupattas.
  3. Pair them with a contrasting stole or scarf.
  4. Wear cut sleeves jackets in contrast colors and textures to enhance the look.
  5. Pair them with leggings, churidaar, salwars and now even with trousers. However, do wear a trouser only for high slit kurtas.
  6. Go in for the latest trend of quirky (like owls, scooter, cameras etc.), out of the box and kitsch prints. Avoid bold and loud prints.

While accessorizing for kurta, always go for big round ear studs, statement rings and simple necklace. Avoid dangling earrings. Do remember to wear only one statement piece and not many.

Capture9Palazzos and skirts

More often than not palazzos are not considered as formal wear. However they may be worn on Fridays or occasions being celebrated at work place.

Long and flowy skirts are being paired with kurtas but, I would not recommend them. They border on informal wear.

Do remember, work is a large and integral part of our day to day lives. You must wear something that you are not just comfortable in but are also confident about!

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