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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.