Indian women are making waves in the workplace and are much more aware of the importance of proper office wear for women in dressing for success at work.
In the 1970s and ’80s when working women in India were just about starting to climb the corporate ladder, you’d see a lot of them in professional careers like teaching, banking, and back-office jobs.
Choosing office wear for women can be more complicated than workwear for men. On the other hand, women’s workwear comes with many more options for exploring work fashion than work clothes for men.
These women’s business wear options, though fun to explore, can create some confusion and indecision which might lead you to look at your overflowing work wardrobe and exclaim, “I have nothing to wear!”
Whether to avoid such indecision or if you’re just tired of looking boring and insignificant at work, you can use these work fashion tips to fine-tune the art of professional dressing for ladies so you can dress for success and style.
10 Work Fashion Tips For Your Work Wardrobe
Would you like to highlight your skills and professionalism at a business meeting, a job interview, or at an event you’re hosting?
Consider the tips here to help you choose fashionable and elegant work clothes so you can make a style statement at work with your professional business attire for women.
1. Sarees are still in style
While pantsuits and Churidar-Kurtis may be favoured among young professionals in today’s corporate India, the neatly donned, pinned up sari or saree used to be the most commonly worn women’s professional clothing in India.
Sarees are dignified, respectable and graceful, and many schools and colleges mandated – and some still mandate – the saree as the preferred office attire in professions such as teaching, and also among hospital staff.
Women in the 1980s and ’90s mostly wore sarees to the workplace because of social and cultural reasons, but today’s generation looks beyond these factors when choosing office clothes for women.
A well-draped saree can make a statement in elegance, style and confidence, which is why many female CEO’s in India, like Naina Lal Kidwai, Chanda Kochhar and Shikha Sharma have made the saree their favoured style statement.
Swati Piramal, Director of Piramal Healthcare says, “I feel when I’m outside, I’m an ambassador for Indian culture. I even try to wear a heritage saree to all my public seminars.”
In a corporate setup, it’s important to understand what types of sarees are appropriate to wear, and how they are worn. While well starched and pressed simple cotton sarees are a favourite, it is not uncommon to see some chiffons as well.
Colours and patterns are very important too. Garish patterns and loud colours are a strict no-no, while sober colours with thin borders or delicate embroidery are graceful and make one look dignified.
Blouses with deep cuts and without sleeves are ok for party wear, but not appropriate as professional attire for women.
It is also extremely important to learn how to drape a saree correctly and keep your “palloo” neatly pinned up, and not “floating” like when wearing a saree to a party.
While choosing office wear for ladies, what’s most important is to feel comfortable in what one is wearing, and not project an image other than what one is.
So, if sarees are really your thing, nothing can parallel the grace that comes with this traditional Indian business attire for women.
2. Western clothes or Indian? It’s your choice
The ’90s saw a big change when work fashion and women’s workwear in India took on a whole new dimension.
With the boom of the IT industry, large numbers of women were starting to take on core responsibilities in the corporate world. The modern Indian woman took to the salwar kameez as a more convenient option for office attire.
Kurtis and trousers are popular office clothes for women today, although in more formal setups churidar kurtas are more common.
With globalization becoming a hot keyword, there’s a considerable shift in the way women perceive modern business clothes. Young professionals prefer wearing Western business clothes or Kurtis, to sarees for more reasons than one.
As a 26-year old HR professional says, “It’s easy to carry off a Kurti or a pant-suit while at work, and much more difficult to manage a saree if you’re not used to it.” The key here is the phrase “used to it”.
In the last decade, Indian work fashion has changed a great deal and corporate attire for women has come to include ladies suits for work such as pants suits and skirted suits.
Some women feel that wearing Western office attire to meetings and client visits definitely make a stronger power statement and can increase their acceptability among their male peers.
Formal business suits for women with their easily manageable trousers and the non-creasy shirts have taken a front seat among women’s professional clothing in India.
3. Casual work wear can be chic too
Many companies allow business casual attire for women as part of Friday dressing or even as everyday office clothes, and it’s not unusual to see working women in jeans, T-shirts and sneakers.
But if you choose to go casual, choose smart business casual outfits. Women at work need to ensure that their work attire doesn’t slip into the sloppy zone.
Casual work attire doesn’t mean you can’t wear chic work clothes. There are a lot of options for casual work wear that can look just as fashionable and classy as formal work wear.
4. Know your company’s dress code
Probably the single most important tip for choosing the right business dress is to know your company’s dress code. This is extremely important, as you do not want to unintentionally break any company rules.
For women, it is common to find a number of corporate dress restrictions that may ban wearing low-cut shirts, tank tops, mini skirts or dresses above the knee.
But these restrictions on work dresses may be only valid on in some professions, while in others such work outfits may actually prove to be perfectly acceptable.
To save yourself time, money, and prevent potential embarrassment, you want to make sure you know what office clothes are acceptable and what is not before you start shopping for your work wardrobe.
5. Take a cue from your co-workers
You may also want to observe what kind of business clothes for women are popular in your workplace.
Checking out what your coworkers and bosses wear is a great way to get an idea of what work clothes for women are fashionable and trendy in your workplace, as well as what’s not.
Although you need not worry about what others think of you and your appearance, you don’t want your work outfits to be the subject of talk and gossip.
If you’re the kind who likes to dress to stand out, display caution when choosing your office attire to avoid unintentionally ruffling any feathers.
6. Research workplace style trends
Your research on workplace style trends can start with exploring the internet and fashion magazines for the kind of work clothes you believe will look best on you.
If you’re interested in dressing for a job interview, or for a workday, or an important business meeting, it may be a good idea to turn to career or business magazines for work outfit ideas.
You can browse fashion magazines or websites that feature the latest women’s corporate wear trends. You can print out patterns of work suits for women, show them to your tailor and ask if s/he can create something similar.
Pinterest boards are another great source of workplace style trends. Be on the lookout for any work fashion tips and pictures on office wear for women that you can use as style inspiration for your own professional clothing.
7. Stick to a budget
When choosing women’s professional clothing, if you’re not careful, you could end up spending much more than you need to and run up massive shopping bills buying business suits for women.
We don’t advise buying cheap business clothes for women because quality shows and poor quality work outfits will reflect badly on your style quotient.
But there are definitely ways to save money on women’s work apparel and buy chic business attire without breaking the bank.
One of the best ways to save money when shopping for women’s business suits is to use the internet to look for discounts and bargains online.
Be on the lookout for any daily or weekly sales on work outfits for women. The same rule applies when you’re buying office clothes at local stores.
You may also find retailers that offer you discounts for multiple purchases on work clothes online. These discounts are great if you’re looking to buy matching accessories to go along with your new office attire.
Another (rather surprising and uncommon) way to acquire affordable women’s work attire is to buy used work clothes for women.
Many women do not realize that some wealthy people only wear elegant or formal work outfits once or twice before selling them to consignment shops or donating them to local thrift stores.
8. Use your best judgment
Perhaps, the best thing you can do when you want to buy classy office dresses for women is to use your best judgment. Many women do not realize just how far a little common sense can go.
Trust your instincts. If you think your butt looks too big in it, it probably does. If you have to wonder whether those cute dresses for work would be acceptable for a business event, its best to choose something else.
If you’re looking to dress for a formal event, for example, one at which you’ll be the star attraction, or are receiving an award for a worthy cause, such as your participation in local charities, you’ll want to dress in classy and stylish work clothes.
Although we all love to look attractive and wear trendy business attire, it is important that you look elegant and dress appropriately. A sober and understated look is always better than going overboard with the bling.
Skirts are less commonly worn than pants in India, owing to the fear of being seen as inappropriate. But when chosen carefully, they make very smart outfits for a business environment.
Just remember that your skirt length should be at least till the knee (pantyhose is also recommended) and a small slit is usually advisable at the centre back to allow you to sit comfortably.
9. Make a statement with stylish business suits for women
Being professional in the workplace doesn’t mean wearing drab and unattractive clothes. You can be a serious worker and a fashionista at the same time.
Women who worked in large multinational companies in India became used to seeing their foreign counterparts dressed in office suits for ladies, such as pant suits or skirt suits, and a few ventured to try these out.
Business suits for women combine a blend of fashion and professionalism, so you can still manage to look chic and attractive without flouting your office dress code.
Many women want to wear fashionable work tops at the office but are not able to do so because of professional dress codes. Others don’t know what work wear to select that looks serious, yet feminine.
Business suits for women help you express your femininity in a professional and stylish manner. Their cut, colour and drape set them apart from men’s clothing.
There is a variety of business attire on the market that is rich in texture and style. While available in rich colours, the type of fabric and the designs created for women’s business suits are usually understated.
You might find a deep red or vibrant maroon-coloured suit, but usually not a floral pattern. Though a little conservative they serve as excellent work wear. These suits come in great stylish cuts and flattering shapes, which make it perfect for women at work.
The fabrics used in business suits for women may be cotton, jute, or even wool. Textured fabrics or self-detailing are popular too, and they lend a distinct character and definition to your business attire.
There are a number of things you need to consider while buying career suits for women. The first thing to consider is the shape of your business suit.
Women are not square-shaped like men. Their bodies have curves and that should reflect in their formal workplace attire too.
It is not necessary to hide your curves to be considered professional. Do not buy boxy suits – instead, opt for ones that are delicately shaped to give you a good fit.
To accentuate your figure, go for well-tailored business suits, rather than ready-to-wear outfits. Simple, yet elegant designs for business attire can make them look pleasant, yet professional while accentuating your looks and figure.
You can find several suits in the market that have detailing such as darts (tapered tuck made in dressmaking) in blazers.
You can also find attractive buttons on the sleeves and a cinch on the waist that will give the dress a feminine look. If you have decided to get your suit tailored, then do some research on the latest fashions.
Business suits for women can be made to look more feminine by some clever accessorizing and incorporating feminine add-ons.
You can accentuate the look of a formal plain black business suit and a nice shirt with long collars or a brightly coloured blouse.
It’s a great idea to add a scarf or stole or neck-kerchief of a similar or contrasting colour. You can also occasionally wear feminine tops inside your business suit to create a fashionably feminine and professional look.
10. Comfort is key for work shoes
Shoes and accessories are a very important part of an Indian woman’s business attire. Faux leather or fabric in dark shades (black, tan, navy) to coordinate with the rest of your attire is appropriate, while white or pastels are not.
Often given the least thought, your choice of footwear at work can make or break your day. That, however, does not mean you need to strut around in not-so-aesthetic ergonomic slippers in the boardroom.
With a little smart shopping for work shoes, you can keep your feet comfortable without having to compromise on your style quotient.
You have probably, at some point, faced the repercussions of wearing the wrong shoes at work – sore heels, calluses, bunions, painful shins and achy backs are some of them.
If your job requires you to be active, stand for prolonged periods of time or walk around a lot, it helps to invest some time and effort in choosing the perfect pair of business shoes to carry you comfortably through the day.
Avoid high heels or block heels at all cost! Wear comfortable flat shoes, preferably with the toes covered and follow our tips to choose sensible women’s business shoes like the ones below.
Wedges give you the pleasure of wearing heels without actually bearing the brunt of the discomfort they cause. They are comfortable and fashionable and you can wear wedges with almost anything.
If you’re the daring kind, make space for flat, ankle-length boots in your work wardrobe. Choose elegant boots without gloss, fringes or metallic detailing. These look great with skirts and even trousers.
These are an all-time classic and extremely versatile. Whether it is the traditional salwar-kameez, a casual Kurti with trousers or a power suit, ballerina-style shoes can complete any work attire.
Since your feet stay covered, you can tide through dusty outdoors and freezing boardrooms. Make sure you buy a pair with cushioned heels for comfort and support throughout the day.
Wear a pair of slip-on shoes with a thick base and cushioned heel and you’re all ready to brave a long day at work. You can even slip them off to put your feet up under your desk. The best part is that you can make your slip-on shoes look as formal or casual as you wish.
A must-have in every career woman’s wardrobe pumps spell “power dressing”. Choose one with a small heel and a less steep “slope”.
Make sure that the heel is thick and sturdy, preferably with a “raise” in the front. This will prevent your feet from sliding down to the front.
While comfort remains the highest priority when choosing work shoes for women, make sure you choose a design and colour that is appropriate for the workplace.
Here are some tips to help you choose the right work shoes:
- Pick neutral colour tones like black, brown, beige and navy blue. These can be matched up with anything.
- Avoid flashy and gaudy detailing, such as big bows, metallic studs and vibrant colours. There are plenty of stylish shoes that look classy and dressy without drawing unwanted attention to your attire.
- Do a test walk with a pair before actually buying it. If it doesn’t feel right within the first five minutes, don’t even think about buying it or you’ll live to regret it.
- Also, note if the shoes make loud clickity-clackety sounds when you walk. Anything that is too loud will be a distraction at work.
- Faux leather, suede and fabric are good materials to choose from.
- Always keep your office dress code in mind while shopping for shoes and find out if there’s a policy against open-toed sandals or backless shoes.
Final Tips For Women’s Workwear
The work attire of an Indian woman is not complete without a smart briefcase or purse. Keep your makeup, accessories and jewellery to a minimum at work.
It is who you are inside that really matters. But what you wear to work also creates an impression about who you are.
Besides, when you take pride in your appearance and look good, you will feel good and your confidence levels will go through the roof.
When choosing your business attire, be aware of your body type, and your comfort with different types of clothing.
Sarees are now worn mostly during celebrations or parties, rather than on a daily basis. But if you’re comfortable wearing them, they can become your signature style.
Use the tips above for choosing your office attire, so you can dress for success, and get the edge you need to reach the top of your profession. What sort of work dresses do you prefer? Do comment below and let us know.
About the author:
Priya Florence Shah is the publisher of Naaree.com and offers career coaching services for work-from-home moms. Sign up for her Free Job Interview Email course and learn secret interview strategies that only elite job applicants know about.
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