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.
- 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 lookup to another level of class and elegance.
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 wristwatch, 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 of the kinds of fabric to choose from. 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!