Get yourself tailor-made for the business life
by Elizabeth Flock, Nilofer D'Souza | Jul 25, 2009
Read it at Forbes
hey’re alien to that amorphous thing called Indian culture, and a decidedly unwise choice for the weather in most parts of the country. But in the climate-controlled corridors of the business world, you’d have to be extremely successful — and brave — to get away with a suitless wardrobe. It must be said: Women in India have more choices. Many of our top female executives favour the traditional elegance of a sari. Men in the boardroom almost exclusively wear suits.
Our more seasoned readers are, we know, well-versed in matters sartorial. But, for the benefit of the ones starting out on their journeys to high places, Forbes India, with some expert help, put together a quick, but comprehensive guide to the business suit.
Men: Tom Ford, creator/designer of the TOM FORD line. James Bond wears TOM FORD suits
Anna Zegna, Image Director of the Ermenegildo Zegna Group, Italian fashion house
Gautam Singhania, Chairman and MD, the Raymond Group
Zulfi Shahpurwala, Managing Partner, Kachin’s, a Mumbai-based tailor for bespoke suits.
Women: Charu Sachdev, CEO, TGS International, a franchisee of the Stella McCartney brand
Sathyajit R., COO, Allen Solly, Madura Garments
Helena, Bangalore fashion designer.
When it comes to styles, says Tom Ford, “A man should always choose a style that he feels comfortable in — that is the key to dressing appropriately.”
Italian Narrower, with strongly padded shoulders and tapered sides, no vents; best for the tall, slim man.
British Regal, military-like, with double vents, moderately tapered sides, and minimal shoulder padding.
American More casual, usually with a single vent; conveys a relaxed, younger image.
Mandarin Influenced by traditional Eastern cultures; with a high, square neck. (Image Crobis)
The suit should be shaped at the waist (but not made too slim), with a full body and broad shoulders. Pants should sit below your navel.
A double-breasted suit will hide the paunch. Pants may sit above or below the stomach — as per personal comfort.
Pinstripes are a bad idea, you’ll just look too tall. Go for a well-tailored, double-breasted suit.
A single-breasted two- or three-button suit will make you look taller.
Counterview Singhania says, “I don’t believe in body types. I say wear what makes you comfortable. I like a double-breasted suit. But it’s about what you want to project.”
Gold goes well with dark skin, silver with lighter skin. (Image: Omega)
Should match your shirt, suit and skin.
Wallets are too bulky for suits; a money clip can hold your money, credit cards, keys and mobile all in a flat, lightweight place.
Beware, tie-clips can appear flashy if the design or metal is too bold.
As subtle as possible.
When it comes to fabric, Singhania is emphatic: “Wool is the most comfortable, because it’s made of natural fibers, and has breathability. I only wear pure wool.”
Poly-wool, a polyester/wool hybrid, is cheaper and easier to maintain.
Can you wear a linen suit to a meeting?
The experts say yes, but at your own peril; it crushes and the creases remain. Linen states that you’re laid back. It’s best for summer.
Some colours are best avoided. White went out after Travolta and Mithun Chakraborty. Baby blues, greens and the like are decidedly uncool. Stick to black, navy blue, and grey. Eighty percent of suits sold in the world are in these colours. Keep brown, and its off-shoots, mushroom, beige, and olive, for casual meetings.
Tip: Zegna says beige suits will be big this summer.
Shahpurwala says, “There are two kinds of people in this world — a blue person, and a black person.” And he insists solid colours are best: “Nothing too obvious or jarring; the colour should be subtle.” Singhania thinks a man can pull off any colour, as long as it’s in a darker shade. That is, if it’s burgundy, it had better be dark burgundy.
Zegna says if you can remember one thing, it’s this: “It’s important that a man wears the suit, rather than the suit wears the man.”
Singhania says the knot is the most important part of the tie. The most easy and popular is the four-in-hand or Windsor. Keep the pattern simple. Don’t wear the same colour tie and shirt.
¼ inch of the shirt should show at the collar while standing, and ¼ inch at the cuff.
Unless you’re a Michael Jackson-standard dancer, no white. Socks should be one shade lighter or darker than your pants and reach mid-calf.
Shahpurwala warns that if the jacket isn’t perfect, it will ride back, and if it’s too tight, the shirt will pull down and hurt your neck.
Tom Ford says, “Men should always have their jackets buttoned. It is the easiest way to sharpen the silhouette and lose 10 pounds.” Shahpurwala differs — he suggests keeping one button unbuttoned while standing and unbuttoning all buttons when you sit.
Should flow smoothly down the legs, with no bulges. Not too tight at the crotch. Must rest gently at the top of the shoe.
Black goes well with black and grey suits; brown is good for navy suits.
In style THIS YEAR
Side vents give an accent to your waist
Peaked lapels for single breasted suits
Three-piece suits, wait for winter!
Wider ties are replacing skinny ones
Jackets wider, with stronger shoulders
Double-breasted and classic two-button suits
The best suits are bespoke, custom-made for you. Shahpurwala says, “The suit needs to fit you like a glove.” While it is the most expensive option, bespoke is cheaper in India than in the West. Slightly cheaper: Made-to-measure, where you can pick a suit off the rack and get it altered for you. And, of course, international designers, like Zegna, Valentino, or Ford, make amazing off-the-rack suits.
Jackets are made in three ways:
Fused: The cheapest option.
Semi-fused (half-canvassed): Half-stitched, has two layers.
Sartorial (canvassed): Made entirely by hand, the most comfortable and most expensive. Has a middle floating layer that you can find by pinching the suit. “The construction is essential to ensure an elegant draping,” Zegna says.
Contemporary A more fitted look, usually with shorter jackets. Cotton, linen, silk or satin, and in a wide range of colours. Best for the more daring soul moving away from the classic.
Mix it up a bit: Go for the classic cut, but with more modern fabrics and colours. Or tone down the formality with a bright tank-top instead of a shirt.
If you’re comfortable in a skirt, a timeless A-line or a pencil skirt works best.
If you plan to buy suits every season, indulge in passing trends like pleated skirts.
Classic Jacket with padded shoulders and pockets; a straight fit, over formal shirt and trousers. Typically black, blue or grey wool. Works best if you’re a recent suit convert, or if you have no clue what the person you’re going to meet is like.
Women’s figures can be broken down into three main categories, within which there exist many more.
A three-button jacket tones down the heaviness on top; high-waist pants balance out the bottom half.
Short jackets with boot-cut pants hide the flaws.
For both the top- and bottom-heavy figures, if you prefer skirts, choose the A-line; the pencil skirt will not be flattering
Most women hate you. Never mind. Play up your figure with a three-piece — waistcoat, jacket and trousers — or use just a waistcoat. Try tapered trousers or pair your waistcoat or jacket with a pencil skirt.
In style this year
“The Jumpsuit is a big trend internationally,” says Charu Sachdev, CEO, TSG International. “Also, this season the suits are slouchy and slightly oversized. The suits can be used as separates — the longer boyfriend jacket with the strong shoulder and the pushed-up sleeve can be worn over little cocktail dresses or with cropped pants.”
Jumpsuits are worth the investment if you have a lot of evenings to dress up for; as a business suit, it doesn’t make the cut.
Tapered-fit pants have become very popular, but for most Indian women, it doesn’t work. Tapered pants accentuated the hips, so they work best if you’ve got a narrow waist.
A one button pant suit is a polished and easy look to pull off. It accentuates your neckline and can be worn with a blouse or tee-shirt underneath.
Women’s business wear has more variations in styles and colours than men’s suits, and far fewer conventions. There are, though, a few sensible guidelines.
You must have that gorgeous white shirt. Choose frills in front if you are small-busted, or a simple fitted white T-shirt with a V-neck if you’re big in the bust. Fabrics can range from cotton to silk to even crepe. Stock up on the kind that fits you best, hiding the figure flaws.
Nail polish in blacks or blues come across as very loud. Keep it simple and elegant with pearly whites or beiges.
Even when seated, the skirt should fall below the knee to be office appropriate.
MAKE - UP
Don’t overdo the make up.
Women’s jackets are usually stitched with the lapels right-over-left, the opposite of men’s suits.
The second must-have: A pair of tried-out heels that give you all-day comfort. This helps you avoid blisters on those trying days when you need to walk across different kinds of surfaces (gravel, concrete, marble, carpetted hallways, stairs).
Jewellery Pearls — white, pink, or grey — are the safest way to dress up a classic business suit. To notch up to the contemporary look, a simple long chain with stud earrings, or, conversely, long earrings and a short chain coupled with a chunky bracelet.
Shoes For the classic look, stick with regular pump heels. A bit wilder: Wedge heels with a gladiator look — but they may be a bit too much for a formal meeting.
We recommend keeping it simple and functional. If you tote a laptop and files, choose one that holds the lot plus essential purse contents. It projects a crisp, clear-cut image; better than staggering into conference rooms festooned with several bags.