What do you wear when you:
- make an important presentation at the office
- attend an important annual meeting
- sit for an important qualification exam
- want to dazzle your clients/rivals in business
Or you haven’t got such occasions yet?
I gave consideration to women’s ‘office wear’ this time.
Women’s Work Wear in the West
Fashion always reflects the mood of the society. When women started to make advance to society, they achieved practical and comfortable clothes typified by Chanel Suit. It is also considered as the origin of “Power Suit” or “Power Dressing”.
The term “Power Dressing” is defined as “The practice of dressing in a style intended to show that one holds an important position in business, politics, etc.” It’s not only about “dressing for work”, but it implies that the person is/will be in an “important position”.
This term reminds me of the characters in the 1988 film “Working Girl”. In 80’s, the ‘career women’ needed to show that they could get things done ‘as much as men can’ in business. Therefore, the ‘power dressing’ meant jackets with massive padded shoulders, like men’s shoulders.
But in 90's to 00's, women realised that they didn't need to imitate men to succeed in business. It made their work wear relaxed with natural silhouettes, no shoulder pads.
This is what happened in the West. What about here in India?
‘Office Wear’ in India
I have worked for only one Indian company. In this company, we hardly had occasions to directly meet the clients, and there were no dress codes as long as your outfit doesn't offend your colleagues. So my own experience of office wear culture is pretty limited. Please correct me if any part of my observation is wrong.
In India, though varies with the industry and the company, it seems to me that generally women’s 'office formal' is either sarees or neat Western suits. I feel many Indian women are still in a process to figure out how to develop it. Should I wear a blazer? Surely monotone. No jeans, then which pants? What silhouette? If skirt, what length? What tops? Colour? Pattern? Kurtis are easier to handle, aren't they...
I often find articles and videos like "How to dress for office?", "What should I wear for work?". Lots of sites show what outfits are liked and appropriate for Indian offices. But 'appropriate' is from the view of others, isn't it? For ambitious women who want to stand out in business and achieve a lot, safe office wear might not be enough. I guess they want to have practical, elegant, unique, at times aggressive outfit, to appeal their professionalism and individuality.
‘Power Dressing’ for Achievers
The women with high positions in business in India, in the photos, look like they select their outfit with their own aesthetic to project their image (not necessarily super ‘fashionable’). If fashion reflects the society, along with the increase of such achievers, surely more women would seek for different information about ‘office wear’. Women would consider their office wear not as ‘should wear’ but ‘want to wear’, ‘wear strategically’, ‘wear to kill’!
Career is, of course, something you build upon your ability. And even if your outfit is not super neat and respectable for office, it doesn’t mean your work is shabby. But for women who achieve what they want in business, clothes can be a weapon from at least 2 points:
- You can manipulate the impression you give to others. It is actually a fun!!
- You can get a confidence "I can do it!"
And, I think it is a pity to think that only women care about outfit because women are still 'the gender to be gazed' therefore 'the gender to dress up', in the context of 'power dressing'. To dress is a method to express oneself and to design one’s feelings about oneself. If most white-collar men don't care about fashion and repeat monotonous businesswear every day, it is only that they are left behind by women! For example, I think kurta looks wonderful on Indian guys, but it is not accepted as 'business wear'. Why??
Our Own Office Wear
In addition, I wish that Indian career women build uniquely-Indian 'power dressing' business styles. I love to see Indian businesswomen in sarees, but in other Indian 'ethnic' clothes or even in Western clothes, I want you to keep the uniqueness of India, or even of each state, religion.
I have started MIRCHI KOMACHI as a brand for street fashion, but the basic idea remains the same. Even in Western clothes, I want Indian women to wear Indian unique 'Western' clothes with pride, to clad in confidence. I'd love to see many many Indian women in such ‘office wear’ or 'power suit' accomplishing their dreams.
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