I Wear: Power Dressing

I had a day full of meetings and it felt like the perfect opportunity to bring back a look that I used to sport before I left the corporate world (and surprisingly found I’d been missing!) – the power dressing look. These photographs were shot in the night after I got back, indoors, so they aren’t as clear as I’d have liked.

Formalwear is something that’s still a new challenge for most Indian women. Our hot, dusty climate makes business suits quite impractical. A lot of women opt for the ubiquitous salwar-kameez instead and indeed, it is probably the best solution for everyday office wear. But once in a while,a real power dressing look may come in handy.

My power dressing look is a derivative of the dressing principles I watched dad follow over the years. First of all, everything in one of two colour families – blue/grey/white/black or cream/beige/red/brown. Belt & shoes must match. Absolutely no white socks for formalwear.

To this, I added my own individual aesthetic sensibilities. Silver/white gold jewellery with the first colour family and gold/pearls with the second. Scarves for colour. And high style through jewellery rather than shoes (sensible shoes only!).

Here’s what my comeback look was like:

The straight, no-nonsense lines of a cotton half-sleeved shirt in grey. I’m extra partial to shirts that can be tucked into the trousers. Sadly, most women’s shirts have short tails, which means they have to be worn hanging outside the trousers. While that look may be acceptable for daily office wear, for a extra polished look, I think nothing beats the shirt tucked in.

Predictably (or shall I say classically?), the trousers were black, straight fits. Pinstripes are another power-dressing staple. Besides on trousers, they have the additional benefit of making the legs look longer. Height adds an illusion of power, after all.

When the shirt is worn tucked in, it’s vital to wear a good belt. I’d have preferred to wear a regular sized belt but it wasn’t handy so I picked this slim black one with a rectangular buckle instead. Black faded into black and I don’t think the width difference showed at all.

I’ve had this bag for almost 8 years now. I bought it right at the start of my career, needing something other than the colourful, flashy stuff I’d use to tote my stuff around, in college. A trip to Dharavi’s leather market yielded this and would you believe, it’s stood me in great stead all these years, through job changes, monsoon, train travel et al! I’ve only needed to have a zipper fixed once. It’s pure leather so cleaning is no more than a swab with a dry cloth, once in awhile. The bag has two large compartments, a mobile phone holder within and a zipper side pouch on one side. It usually carries wallet, keys, mobile phone, diary, papers, sunglasses, headscarf, face towel, make-up, lunch, a small water bottle, a book and has room for more! Also, it doesn’t show any unsightly bulges, holds its shape and the handles are sturdy enough to carry the weight and withstand the rigours of daily travel. A great investment, indeed!

And now for the accessories – my trusty steel watch, a single ring on each hand, a silver heart charm bracelet and a silver square in each ear. This last is also years old but always felt too ‘old’ for my usual fun sense of dressing. But it added just the right degree of prim womanliness to this otherwise masculine outfit.

I’ve always had a thing for scarves (see Scarf It Up!). But a colleague once told me that I looked like a flight purser in this very outfit (quite aggravating if one is not employed in the airline industry). Colourful scarves worn like ties have come to be synonymous with the hospitality sector, so I had to junk that idea. the collar of this shirt was too high for me to wear the scarf knotted around the neck and it was too hot for a cravat tie. So I junked the scarf and looked for something else to break the severity of this look. This pretty blue stone dragonfly brooch did just that! Unconventional in such matters, I usually skip the over-the-heart location in favour of other places like a collar lapel, the belt loop or even a thigh. A spark of bling on the neck or a pop of colour against staid fabric really adds a dash of fun to this look. Who said power can’t be fun?! For this time, I positioned it right in the middle of the chest, between two shirt buttons (also avoiding any accidental opening).

Footwear was a basic, black leather pair of square-toed shoes. I know these look rather masculine but they’re comfortable and durable, both things that give me the kind of confidence needed to pull off power dressing. Indian women’s footwear has a long way to go before it can discover the notion of ‘comfort and beauty’.

Imagine my delight when I spotted these at Hush Puppies! Leather pumps with flexible PVC soles (heels part of the soles) and a suede stripe running across the top. They were comfortable, feminine and dignified. The pair is available in jet black, midnight grey and chocolate brown. After drooling over them for over an hour, I came home with the grey pair. Maybe I’ll nip back for the brown, later this week! This pair would go perfectly with a skirt or dress just as well as it does with these trousers!

I Wear:

  • Grey cotton half-sleeved work shirt:
  • Black pinstripe straight fit trousers: Stop
  • Black leather square-toed shoes: Bata
  • Black leather double-compartment bag: Dharavi market, Rs.900 (8 years ago)
  • Black leather belt with rectangular steel buckle: Shoppers Stop
  • Steel wristwatch: Casio
  • Silver rings: Local silver market
  • Silver heart charm bracelet: Estelle
  • Steel square eartop: Shoppers Stop, ~Rs.400 (10 years ago)
  • Blue stone dragonfly brooch: Alpha, Irla market, ~Rs.400 (6 years ago)
  • Grey leather pumps: Hush Puppies, Rs.2100

5 comments on “I Wear: Power Dressing

  1. Gautam
    September 27, 2011


    Powerful dressing!

  2. phantomlover
    September 27, 2011

    Wow.. you are on a writing spree, Ms Pandyan!! Nice to read your rant, loaded with a ton on generalizations as usual, this time on your own sex. Your listing of brand names is very interesting and a bit unique, especially the Dharavi bit. Quite novel 🙂

    As regards power-dressing as a whole, do you really think that wearing a man’s shirt, dark trousers and square-toed shoes make for a more ‘efficient’ looking lady? Or a western attire is more superior to an Indian one? Hate to sound rabid, but it is this very mindset of westernized Indian ladies, that is creating havoc on the thinking of those, who favor a more traditional approach. Is work all about giving output, or is it about creating the right westernized atmosphere? Can a working woman be efficient (as well as glamorous and seductive), in a khadi churidar + jooties, or does she necessarily have to wear short tailed shirts, broad leather belts and pumps, just to look the part??

    Since this blog is on your own sex, I won’t comment further. But I find your mindset quite depressing. Not for us guys.. but for the members of your own oppressed sex. But this time, the oppressor appears to be another woman.. 😦

    • IdeaSmith
      September 27, 2011

      @phantomlover: A pseudo feminist/nationalist rant to a style post, really? Wow.

      • phantomlover
        September 28, 2011

        No sweetie.. I am not a member of the Pramod Muthalik brigade.. far from it. If a lady is more productive [work-wise ;-)] in a bikini , so be it. but we do see trousered and coiffed ladies in most shopping malls, boutiques and parlours, trying to ‘look’ the part, trying to ‘look’ efficient.. But does it really make any effect? Would any other dress decrease their efficiency?

        Work is all about knowledge, sincerity, productivity.. or does wearing a western attire, (sometimes totally unsuited to the female concerned), make for a more productive individual?

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