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The rising trend of African wear in the corporate office

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African wear is gradually gaining roots in the corporate offices since the introduction of the National Friday wear program in Ghana. Most companies prefer styling up in their customized African print while others wear general African prints styled to their design. The result of this culture has been the exponential increment of both small and large scale enterprises like boosting the sale of African prints on the market, fashion designers making money and increasing the production of such textiles; not forgetting the unique identity it gives to companies who have customized their African prints.

In spite of the fact that only a day of the week has been allocated for this purpose, the trend of African wear for corporate offices is rising. Some people opine that, African prints are very comfortable to be in and very easy to accessorize and as such, one can always improvise to fit business occasions like meetings, presentations, summits and other business purposes. How then should a corporate worker spruce up in an African print for corporate environment?

Choosing the right Fabric:

  • Texture: One needs to be mindful of the kind of fabric one chooses for the corporate environment. Choose one that sits well on the skin and does not cause any form of irritations to the skin. Avoid very heavy fabrics which do not allow circulation of air to and from the skin, thus producing a lot of heat and sweat. If one also decides to choose a lighter fabric, be sure it is properly lined. And watch out for threads hanging out from any part of your dress or shirt; so it doesn’t look funny walking around.
  • Colour: The temptation of picking something colourful is exceptionally high when one wants to look stylish. Avoid looking like a flower pot by shunning prints with so many colours and broad patterns. It becomes a distraction, especially when interacting with clients. For a suave look, just aim for something beautiful but not so bright. For businesses with customized prints for work, if one could not wear theirs, they should get something similar to what is acceptable so they do not look like a visitor at their workplaces.

Style:

  • Men: Men do not have much to do with African prints except of course their shirts for work. Unless one works with a fashion, a creative or a media company, one needs to kindly avoid using bright African prints for jacket or suit. Stick with the well-fitted short or long sleeve shirt. Shirts should be crease-free and worn with neatly ironed black, grey, navy blue, brown or a dark shade of the most dominating colour of the print trousers, with neatly polished black or brown leather shoes, or a more casual loafer and a pair of socks that blends with the trousers. In a dark coloured suit, an African print vest is simply stunning.
    • Women: The challenges that come with picking a style appropriate for work increases when it has to do with African prints. If one finally decides to wear a blouse, avoid styles that cut low exposing the cleavage. The style should not be ‘wild’ and by all means, make sure the undies are well covered. The blouse should have enough space so that it is not too tight or restricting. One needs to look smart and comfortable at work.

What to wear with an African Print?

Depending on the style of the blouse, the usual pencil skirts, trousers or even flare skirts may fit well or not. For a blouse with no exaggerated additions or for a small top, wear a flared skirt or a trouser that is not too skimpy or smallish. For a broad or big blouse, a pencil skirt or a fitting trouser is advisable. But of course, it is subject to one’s stature which varies with every lady.

If one decides to go with a straight dress, shun from bright or loud colours. The style should be simple but classy. Nothing too loose or tight, just well-fitted. There should be absolutely no form of excessive skin exposure either around the chest or the thigh. To allow free and easy movements, there should be an open beside or behind the dress just enough for movement and not as much to expose too much skin.

If one decides to use African prints for the skirt, the same rules apply. A flared skirt will best fit a small top, whereas a print pencil skirt goes with a broad or big top. Do not use African prints for trousers to work unless to a creative, a fashion or a media company.  Wear African print skirt with a simple blouse; not too bright! Preferably the dark shade of the colour with no or small patterns. A nice blazer will switch the look up to another level of class and elegance.

Accessories:

The way one accessorizes can make the look spot-on or clumsy. The latter is not advisable.

Bags: Either as a handbag for ladies or a laptop bag for both genders, a dull colour will best fit when looking colourful or bright, the same way a colourful bag will do the trick when one is in a dull outfit. It’s all about complementing the total look. In case one wants to wear an African print bag even though he/ she is dressed in an African print skirt or top, one must make sure it is the same fabric as the dress or something similar that blends in with the dress. Let’s reduce the wearing of African print straight dress and accessorizing with fully covered African print bags. A black bag or a bag with the darker shade of one’s favourite colour will work perfectly.

Shoes: For a corporate environment, it is not advisable for men to wear a shoe fully covered in an African print. This draws too much attention to one’s feet. A strip of African print on a black or dark brown leather shoe can do the magic. For ladies, either the shoe is fully covered in an African print from the same fabric one is wearing or the bag one is holding or stick with the black or dark brown low heels.

The neck or the area around the neck: Accessorizing the neck for both men and women either with a necklace, a tie or a scarf also comes with its own dos and don’ts. Using an African print around the neck means the brighter the necklace, tie or scarf, the darker and plain (or smaller patterns) the shirt or top but the darker the accessories the brighter the tops or shirt. Let’s not forget African print earrings to be worn should be small but nice.

When we descend on the body, accessorizing the chest area with either an African print brooch or a piece of African print in the breast pocket of our suit, should strictly be on a plain or a smaller patterned shirt or blouse.

Now to accessorize the hands with either African print wrist watch, beads, bracelets or cufflinks, the smaller the better. It shouldn’t be too bright unless of course, the dressing demands otherwise.

Men who would want to use African prints for belts, the less colourful it is, the better. One does not need to draw attention to one’s waist area at work.

Dressing in an African Print for a presentation:

Whenever there is a presentation at work, the presenter aims at gaining some form of attention and cooperation from those listening to the presentation. Captivating the attention and holding the interest of listeners are essential. This is why one cannot compete with his/ her dress for attention during a business presentation. One needs to come off as confident and knowing what he/ she is about, not the other way round. This is why brightly coloured, large patterned and detailed design fabrics should definitely be avoided.

Day, season and weather cannot be overlooked when choosing an appropriate African print fabric or style. The day should inform one on the kind of fabric to choose. In a rainy season, a heavy African print sewn as a long sleeve shirt or blouse is advisable because of the cold weather. So, obviously a summer season will demand the opposite; a light fabric (not transparent) sewn as a short sleeve top. And when the weather is just right, dress right!

Another fact is that all these tips are susceptible to the stature or shape of the individual. Since we cannot go into styling up for all the body types, let’s simply say if one’s upper body is bigger than the lower part, wear a small looking top on a flared skirt or loose trousers rather than a pencil skirt or a tight trouser. Which is to say that if one has a small upper body and a broad down or hip, a broad top on a pencil skirt or a tight trouser will flatter the figure perfectly. It is all about comfort and confidence when styling up to a corporate world. Simply have the image of the company you represent at the back of your mind and dress accordingly.

Men should perform their tonsorial duties as they always do and ladies’ makeup and hairstyles for work should not be affected by the presence of the African print. Go simple, beautiful and neat just as always.

One will notice that most of the tips centres on colour, style and texture of the African print; this is to say that once these elements are not in the right proportion, the look slips into a church look not a corporate look. Walk the fine line with class, confidence and the concept of thin slicing at the back of your mind!

This rising trend of African wear in the corporate offices has gone a long way towards making Ghanaians embrace and accept their culture by creating some sort of positive conformity where they feel left out if they don’t wear made in Ghana fabric on a Friday. The question now remains, should African prints be relegated to just Fridays or should be worn in any day of the week like it is done in Nigeria?

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Vogue & Style

The Ultimate First Impression

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…Confident, Audacious and Stylish

Several invitations are shared all year round for people to attend summits, conferences, workshop and the likes. These events offer networking opportunities for attendees to establish connections and create impressions with other professionals in their field and beyond.

Lots of people look out for various things when they meet someone for the first time, but what leaves a lastly impression on anyone is how well dressed the other person was. Because like it or not, your entire outlook speaks a lot about you on the first meet. Hence the need for you to look appropriately dressed while having some style and sharpness to it. It is very important!

People have had experiences where they were not really regarded just because of the way they looked whiles others who dressed elegantly had luminary treatment. It’s all in the branding people; dress the way you want to be addressed.

Why Attire Matters at Business Conferences

The hard truth about these events is that, because there are so many people to talk to at a time and so many “big names” to meet, people pass judgement on your appearances very hastily. This may not seem fair but it’s the hard truth, the way you are dressed may give you that unique opportunity to leave a good first impressions and have a good networking session.

Looking good also makes you seem like a very valuable contact and will give you an urge over someone who didn’t bother to look the part.

Whether you are dressing as a participant to a business conference, or the presenter/speaker, a very careful consideration has to be given to your dressing to make you stand out and achieve your goals for the conference.

What to consider

First thing to consider is to enquire if there is a dress code for the business conference, this will definitely be your guide to pick your attire.

Sometimes no dress code is mentioned so you have to pick out your attire based on your experience or someone else’s. Most business conferences have seen attendees dressed in business casuals, but it depends.

It is also wise to consider the venue of the conference and the various corporate institutions that may be in attendance.

Ways to Dress for a Professional Business Conference

As an attendee or as a presenter, there is something for you. To fully prepare yourself for a conference, must haves like; dress trousers, skirt, dress, button-down shirt, blouse, suit jacket, belt, leather shoes, socks, pantyhose, necktie and simple accessories should be ready to pack.

If the conference is a bit business casual you may want to add khaki trousers, dark-wash denim jeans, sweater, polo shirt, blazer or sports jacket.

Attendee Attire

  • Suits or Blazers: Having a form of structured jacket is a good idea to have on you whether you wearing it or just neatly holding it. Men especially should have this.
  • Trousers: Black, grey, navy blue, and brown trousers are the standard colours of choice. You may want to consider khaki trousers as well but must be pressed and wrinkle-free.

Women may choose to wear slacks, khakis, or try out a knee-length pencil skirt. Dark colours, like black or dark brown, are the most traditional and best received.

  • Tops: Wear a button-down collared shirt or polo shirt. Light and dark colours are both acceptable, but avoid anything bold or flashy.

Women may consider a knit blouse, silk blouse, or close-weave sweater. Choose a top that flatters your figure without being skin tight or low enough in the front to be revealing. A solid colour works best for casual fabrics, but a print in a rich hue can look appropriate on nicer fabrics like silk.

  • Ties: Decide whether or not you want to wear a tie. Ties make you look more professional, and you may want to wear one if you intend to mingle and establish contacts for the future. If leaning toward a business casual style, however, ties are not necessary.
  • Shoes: Wear black or brown leather shoes. Men can opt for a lace-up style or a more casual loafer, but either way, your shoes must be polished and in good condition.

Women should wear flats or a low heel (no high heels). Closed-toe pumps or flats, are preferable. Black and brown leather are ideal.

  • Socks: Match your socks to your trousers. This applies to both men and women. Black socks are the most common and most versatile colour, but you should try to match the colour of your socks to the colour of your shoes or trousers in order to blend the two together. Avoid white or coloured socks that might stand out.
  • Skirts/Dresses: Check the fabric to see if it is clinging to you. If so, wear a slip underneath.
  • Accessories: Minimize your accessories. Avoid non-traditional jewellery, like lip piercings, and only wear subtle pieces that do not look flashy.

Dress up for dinner. The required dress code for meal functions can vary. Luncheons may only require business casual dress, but most evening receptions require you to dress up. Women should opt for conservative cocktail dresses and men should go with a suit and tie.

Presentation Attire

  • Shirts and Jackets: Wear a collared, button-down shirt. Basic colours like white or light pastels work best, but bright colours and patterns should be avoided. Remember to throw on a wool suit jacket. Choose a single-breasted style in a dark colour like black, navy, grey, or brown. The jacket should be tailor-fit for both men and women.
  • Trousers: Match your trousers to your jacket. Garments that come as part of a two-piece suit are best, but if you buy your slacks separately, you should match the colour to the colour of your jacket.

For women consider a knee-length skirt. Both trousers and skirts are appropriate business attire for women. Select a pencil skirt that matches the colour your suit jacket, preferably black, navy, grey, or brown.

  • Shoes: Wear polished leather shoes. Men should consider formal lace-up styles, like Oxfords, in black or dark brown.

Women can wear low heels, but avoid high heels or strappy styles that look more sexy than professional. Black and dark brown shoes are the most appropriate and least distracting.

  • Socks: Stick with socks that coordinate with the colour of you suit. This applies mostly to men. Black socks are the most common since they create a smooth transition between dark slacks and dark shoes.

Ladies slip on nylon pantyhose. Hosiery is necessary for skirts and recommended for trousers, as well.

  • Ties: Choose a conservative tie, if you are a man. Select a tie made of high-quality fabric, like silk, and a subdued colour or pattern. Avoid bold patterns and character prints.
  • Belts: Match your belt to you suit and shoes. The colour of your belt should fit in with the colour scheme the rest of your outfit follows.
  • Accessories: Always keep your accessories to a minimum. This applies to both men and women. Watches and other jewellery should be low-key. Avoid any non-traditional jewellery, like eyebrow piercings or nose piercings.

Ultimately, what you wear matters. So choose what best depicts your personality but before anything else, know where you are going, the kind of people attending and that will give you an idea of what you should wear, whether business professional, business casual, or a presenters attire.

Even though you may be overwhelmed at the amazing benefits you will enjoy at the conference, take another second to think about the most important thing; YOUR STYLE OF DRESSING. In reiteration, whether you believe it or not, your style of dressing to a business conference is key and must be totally considered and thoroughly planned.

Indeed appearance matters a lot! Dressing well shows you respect yourself; that you are confident and can be trusted. Also note that one’s success begins the moment someone looks at them and their appearance.

Don’t forget, along with your amazing attire, your personal hygiene is also important. Make sure you don’t have any bad odours, your fingernails are neat, and a nice haircut/hairdo etc. and you are good to go.

Be Confident, Audacious, and Stylish! Connect with everyone, make that lasting impression!

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