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The Saree: Elegant Indian Business Attire For Women At Work

While pant suits and “churidar-kurtis” may be favoured among young professionals in today’s corporate India, the “sari” or “saree” still is the classic business attire. Draped elegantly, this garment can make a statement in elegance, style and confidence.

Today’s Indian CEO’s 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 sari to all my public seminars.”

In a corporate setup, it is important to understand what types of “saris” are appropriate to wear, and how they are worn. While well starched and pressed simple cotton saris 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 not appropriate in a business setup. It is extremely important to drape the sari correctly, and have the “palloo” neatly pinned up, and not “floating” like when wearing a sari to a party.

With “globalization” becoming a hot keyword today, there is a considerable shift in the way women perceive business attire. Young professionals prefer wearing Western business clothes or “kurtis”, to saris for more reasons than one.

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 sari if you’re not used to it.” The key here is the phrase “used to it”.

While women in the ‘80’s and ‘90’s mostly wore saris to the workplace because of social and cultural reasons, today’s generation looks beyond these factors.

Some women also feel that wearing Western business attire to meetings and client visits definitely makes a stronger power statement. This is seen to increase their acceptability among their male peers. However, saris are still the preferred attire in some professions such as teaching, and also among hospital staff.

While choosing business attire, 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 the sari is really your thing, nothing can parallel the grace that comes with it. No amount of “Westernization” or “Globalization” can take that away from an Indian woman.


Proper Business Attire: What Do Women In India Wear To Work?

Indian women are making waves in several professions, and are today much more aware of the importance of smart dressing in a business environment. In the 1970’s and ‘80’s when the number of working women was just about starting to climb, you’d see a lot of them in professions like teaching, banking, and back-office jobs.

Indian Sari SareeThe neatly donned, pinned up ‘saree’ was the most commonly worn attire to the workplace. It spelt dignified, respectable and graceful. Many schools and colleges mandated, and some still mandate the ‘saree’ as the attire to be worn by teachers and lecturers.

The ‘90’s saw a big change, and business attire for women in India took on a whole new dimension. With the boom of the IT industry, large numbers of women were starting to take on more core responsibilities in the corporate setup.

The modern woman took to the ‘salwar kameez’ as a more convenient option. Women who worked in large multinational companies were also used to seeing their foreign counterparts dressed in pants suits or skirted suits, and a few ventured to try these out.

However, it is in the last decade that the pants suits and the skirted suits have become a big hit with Indian women. The easily manageable trousers and the non-creasy shirts have taken a front seat among business attire for women in India.

Skirts are less commonly worn than pants, owing to the fear of being seen as inappropriate, but when chosen carefully, they make very smart outfits for a business environment. Skirt length should be at least till the knee (a hose is also recommended) and a small slit is usually at the centre back portion.

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.

Kurtis and trousers are also widely worn to the workplace by the modern Indian woman, although in more formal setups chudidar kurtas are more common. Many companies encourage a casual dress-code today, and it is not uncommon to see women in jeans, T-shirts and sneakers. But if you choose to go casual, ensure that it doesn’t slip into the sloppy zone.

Shoes and accessories are a very important part of an Indian woman’s business attire too. 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.

High or block heels are to be avoided at all cost! Wear comfortable flat shoes, preferably with the toes covered. The business attire of an Indian woman is not complete without a smart leather briefcase or purse. Keep makeup and jewellery to a minimum.

It is who you are that really matters. But what you wear creates an impression about who you are. Besides, when you dress smartly, your confidence level gets an instant boost and you feel good, ready to take on the world.