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Published on: 02/14/13 1:33 PM

Feature: Clothes Maketh The Woman

 Clothes maketh the woman

Always be well dressed. Grunge is no longer in. Here, Sheila Kumar reprises some of your mama’s favourite sayings and some she wouldn’t dream of saying!

Let me tell you a secret: The well dressed man or woman scores over the take-me-as-I-am person. Each and every time. Clothes really do make the man or woman.  Your mom — and mine — were right. Dress like a lady or a gentleman and you’ll be treated like one. Dress like a tramp and that’s how you’ll be viewed. Let’s take a closer look at these and other adages that hold good, for ever and ever.

Always be dressed up. 
Oh, we aren’t advocating that you always be clad from head to toe. The point is, dress well. Always. Whether it is for the office party, that hot date or to go get a packet of milk from the booth down the road. Don’t ever venture out in clothes that will cause you to blush when you run into that hunk next door, the PYT down the road or your mother’s friend, natty aunty Nita. Because it is a cinch that you will meet them, specially when you are under-dressed. So, be prepared, like a good Boy/Girl Scout.

Get the habit.
Reach out for good clothes every single time you head out of the door. Better still, put your old faded and deeply grungy tees where you can’t easily reach them.  Soon, it will become a habit to dress well whatever the occasion, the weather, your mood. And of all habits, this is a great one to cultivate, in terms of dividends.

Impress, impress.
 A well-clad man or woman carries his/her own halo, or first image, that imprints itself on the viewer’s eye. And stays there. After four or five sessions where you have always worn classy, well-fitting clothes, it won’t matter if you do dress down in jeans for the fourth meeting. The other party is already impressed. And will stay impressed.


Tone it down. Because no one ever likes a loud flashy person. In fact, that is precisely the kind of man/woman most people shy away from. It’s a thin line between bold and crass, between cute and crude, so don’t ever cross that line.


Get daring. This is for femmes only. You can wear neons, animal prints, checks and dots. Just do it in small doses, carry it with confidence and remember the cardinal rule: wear only one of the above mentioned at a time.

Made to measure. 
Tailored clothes look far more dressed up than off-the-peg clothes …those looked great on the peg but not so great on you, when you actually wear it. The best dressed men/women the world over know someone who does a mean line in alterations. That is how they buy haute couture, then wear the outfit like it was made by Gudda, Tarun, Donna or Donatella,  specially for their special proportions.

The ideal match. 
Accessories are as vital to dressing up as the outfit itself, surely you don’t need to be told that. Invest in quality shoes, handbags, scarves, light stoles in solid colours. Mix and match your clothes to these accessories for the finished look.

Flash some style. 
Cultivate a certain style and then play with it. You can be Mr/Ms Sportif, Elan, Smart, Sexy, whatever. Find the look that suits you, build up your wardrobe around this look, and wear it again and again. And again, till the look is part of you. And part of how people perceive you.


Turn critic. This is a cultivated art. Look critically at what people wear. Mentally re-dress them in clothes that suit them better. And since criticism begins at home, every time you look in the mirror just before heading for the door, look at yourself like a critic. A ruthless, unflinching, stern critic with high sartorial standards.

Look appropriate. 
Be known for how you always wear just the right clothes for the right occasions. Play it down where you must, dress it up where you must. Aim to be eye candy, to brighten someone’s day the moment they set eyes on you.


Out of the closet. That’s it, discard, discard. Just as you have learned to acquire, you must learn to be a ruthless discarder, too. What do you discard? Well, all the clothes you haven’t worn for the last 18 months, for starters. The shoes that have scuffed toes. The belt with the tarnished buckle. Outfits that are too tight, too loose, too tacky. Out it all goes. You may have a depleted wardrobe but, and this is important, what you now have is quality stuff that fits good, looks good and makes you feel great.

Don’t dish dirt. 
More people (okay, more men) than there should be wear lovely clothes that have a small splotch down the front or a muddy ring around the neck or some stain. The wearer often does not notice or worse, thinks others won’t notice. But believe it or not, dirt really screams for attention. Scrupulously check your clothes and ensure they are spotlessly clean. If not, into the dirty clothes hamper they go, for wearing on another day, after they are cleaned.

Quality content. 
You need good clothes that speak class and style, not closets full of mediocre stuff that does nothing for your image. No one really notices if you repeat your outfits. What they do notice is that you are always well dressed. All dressed up, as your mama says. And mothers are always right, aren’t they?


Let your locks shine. It’s a simple fact but the most dressed up look comes undone if the hair isn’t dressed up, too. Or down. Whatever, it should be a well groomed clean look. Grunge went out years ago, so don’t look outdated.

Go places. 
Whether you are travelling by train, ship or plane, dress well. It really matters. You can see the effect reflected in the eyes of the attendants, your fellow travellers, the person who comes to meet you at the other end. And in their eyes, you will see just why it’s worth the extra trouble of dressing up.

Skirt the ‘c’ word. Casual.
 It’s a done-to-death concept. Casual was invented by the lazy designer who ran out of ideas, the sulky teenager who tired of rows with her mom about wearing the same pair of dirty jeans for the sixth day in a row. Soon, casual became the mantra of all who lived in track suit bottoms and faded tee shirts that proclaimed loyalty to Mickey Mouse or obscure institutions in the Midwest of the USA, with sneakers that sported the falling apart look. The truth is, casual people are treated casually.


Visual SMS. Just as you wouldn’t dream of paying a condolence visit in your leopard print outfit or dress shirt, don’t dress down for a party. Never mind if the guests are only your cousin, her husband and their new neighbour. Since your hostess has taken the trouble to cook up special dishes and do up her house to entertain you, the least you can do is to turn up looking good. Always dress to convey a message, an image, of power, efficiency, intelligence, good looks.

This rather dated piece ran in DECCAN HERALD of 14 Feb 2013.

Related Links:

Humour: Fashion sure is an enigma!

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Feature: Down with brown!








Sheila Kumar • February 14, 2013

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