Tweak festive work-wear rules

Your clothing on pre-festival days can have an offbeat aspect—a bright accessory, an unusual print, or a dramatic silhouette


Shaded ‘bandi’ with printed shirt by Dev R Nil; and (right) suede loafers.
Shaded ‘bandi’ with printed shirt by Dev R Nil; and (right) suede loafers.

We know that every fashion by-law ever made is meant to be broken, but it should be done smartly, especially when it comes to dressing up in festive gear at work. Here are some rules to play around with.

Festivals are all about silk

Tweak: Go for an all-cotton look

Choose the minimalism of cotton over the sheen of silk. “I love the feel of cotton. Silk is too shiny for me,” says Kochi’s Pratheek Thomas, co-founder of Studio Kokaachi, a comic and picture-book publishing house cum storytelling studio. So the cue is to club three or more cotton silhouettes in varying textures and colours, with innovative prints or weaves. Menswear designer Arjun Singh, of the fashion label Wedding Lounge, who designs for movies and specializes in bandhgalas, says: “The best fabric for traditional wear to work would be 60% cotton and 40% linen. It falls well and works for all weather conditions. You can try a short, cotton kurta with straight Aligarhi pants (slim-fit bottoms, where the flare is not more than 14.5 inches and comes without gathering at the ankles), salwaars or denims. Peshawari shoes go well with this look. A long kurta with churidaar and jootis, mojris or chappals is another option. Both can be worn with a textured cotton herringbone, brocade, or digitally printed shirt-fabric bandi.”

Tone everything down

Tweak: Add one perky element

Your clothing on pre-festival days can have an offbeat aspect—a bright accessory, an unusual print, or a dramatic silhouette. “Add an interesting (textured or printed) jacket, bandhgala or bandi to any shirt. You can go for a little print—geometric, or prints of everyday items—on the shirt. But keep the colours monochromatic or dual,” says Kolkata-based Nil of the fashion label Dev R Nil (Debarghya Bairagi and Navonil Das), who design ingenious clothing inspired by the everyday environment, for men and women. 

Traditional wear means ‘kurta’-pyjamas

Tweak: Wear a ‘dhoti’ with a long shirt

Contemporary fashion stylists and trend lovers are opting for dhotis over kurta-pyjama sets. “A dhoti is comfortable and a style statement. I feel at home in it,” says Mumbai-based Ram Patnaik, founder of RAW Entertainment, a company that creates audio-visual content. Patnaik, who is from Odisha, prefers to wear this traditional drape with kurtas or long shirts. Mumbai-based celebrity stylist Nitasha Gaurav, who styles the likes of actor Ranveer Singh, says, “As most men may not like or know how to drape a traditional dhoti, stitched dhotis and their variations like the dhoti pants are better (options). These could be worn with kurtas and bandis. You could try a dhoti in a contrast colour or a neutral colour with gold border. Even printed ones look nice. Silk or cotton-silk is more festive than plain cotton.”

Do not mix and match

Tweak: Mix prints or weaves from a family 

“We love the idea,” says New Delhi-based couturier Vineet Bahl. But Bahl believes that the way you mix and match matters a great deal. “Do not mix bold prints or big florals. Geometric (prints) are easier to work with. In menswear, fewer colours and less flamboyance work better,” he says. His suggestions: A light sherwani with a geometric print and a kurta with another geometric print, or a white shirt with a printed waistcoat and a printed scarf (from the same family of colours). “Try blue, ivory and beige,” says Bahl. 

Wear only Kolhapuris

Tweak: Slip into ‘chappals’ or sandals

Step out of your comfort zone and opt for subtly embellished mojris to work or go for minimalist, classy and elegant handcrafted sandals or slip-ons. “(Other than) Kolhapuri chappals, you can wear leather sandals like gladiators with two or three straps, covered shoe-like sandals, black or grey velvet slip-ons depending on your outfit, pointy-toe shoes with laces (especially with a bandhgala), or Rajasthani leather (not cloth) mojris done in a modern way that can be worn with denims at a later date,” says Pune-based Naman Shah, founder of Cuero, a brand that makes handcrafted shoes for men and women. Shah suggests it would be better to pick burgundy or any shade of brown, and avoid black, which is the most common colour.

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