Tennis: Fashion aces & faults at Wimbledon

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Know how tennis players love making fashion statements on court? Well, trust the Williams sisters to go crazy with their fashion choices, then explain them away with unlikely inspirations. So while Venus Williams donned a Tina Turner-inspired dress, younger sis Serena borrowed the strawberries-and-cream colour palette.

Venus’s fringed dress rides up a bit too much while playing, and has a deeply plunging neckline apt for red carpet dresses. And while the dress incorporates a major trend this season—lace—it’s not a dress for the genteel All England Tennis Club. Venus defends her dress, saying:

“Here it is all about white. There is no illusion this time…[It] still has the lace motif. I think it’s just a fun, elegant dress.”

A bit too fun, perhaps?

Meanwhile, Serena’s simple white tennis dress with pink piping is a quick reminder of the quintessential snack at the tournament—strawberries and cream. And the fashion-conscious young lady has perfectly coordinated her look with matching underpants, the Nike swoosh and laces on her shoes, and even her nails!

Our verdict: Serena’s outfit  gets our nod; Venus teeters on the brink of fashion disaster. Serena wins in straight sets.

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Monsoon mini-guide: Must-haves and must-gags

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The rain gods have arrived, and they’re showering their love on us. It’s time to show some R.E.S.P.E.C.T. to them and to ourselves, overhauling our wardrobes for the next coupla months.

Here’s a handy tip: Come monsoon, and what you wear is not a question of trends, but of comfort and practicality with a chic factor. After all, no one wants to wade through knee-high water in six-inch stilettos.

So here’s our guide to monsoon wear must-haves and must-gags, with some super chic options marked with an *:

Clothes

Must-haves

  • Capris, foldable jeans for omniscient shallow puddles
  • Comfy blouses and shirts that don’t cling to you
  • Kurtas and churidars in georgettes (minus the dupatta)

Must-gags

  • Extra-long trousers
  • Transparent and translucent tops
  • Loose-flowing skirts (remember the strong winds?)

Don’t forget

  • To carry your windcheater. Umbrellas are useless in gusts of wind.
  • To bring out your boleros  and shrugs. They’re perfect for the now-hot-now-cold weather*
Shoes

Must-haves

Gum boots(if you can!) or non-slippery ballet shoes

Crocs* (not the ones with the holes, but the comfy chic styles; they’re a tad expensive, but worth every paisa)

Crocs for monsoon 

Must-gags

  • High heels
  • Your brand-new or old Jimmy Choos, Manolos etc

Don’t forget

  • You can always do what the New Yorkers do—change into your heels/ formal leather shoes in office*
Hair, Makeup and Accessories

Must-haves

  • Hair clips and pins to keep your hair in place*
  • Moisturiser

Must-gags

  • Layers of makeup
  • Too many hair products

Don’t forget

  • To use a good anti-frizz serum after washing your hair. It works wonders!*
  • To carry a comb with you, to smoothen our messy hair. Wet hair rarely looks good in real life.

What do you think of this mini-guide? Share your suggestions and tips in the comments box, or write to us at speakingchic [at] gmail [dot] com.

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Zara Review (with spy shots)

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I’ve just come back from a wonderful trip to Turkey, which included tonnes of shopping, including at Zara and Mango. So I thought it’d be a perfect time to test the Zara store in Mumbai. Here’s my honest review (with cool spy shots).

I’d heard scary stories the day before I visited Zara’s Mumbai store—there was a queue to go in, it was packed, long lines at the cash counter… you get the drift. But surprise! No lines to get in, enough elbow space, though Zara was a bit crowded for an Indian store.

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Zara is a sprawling two-floor store, with men, kids and women’s casuals on the first floor, and the ground floor dedicated to women’s wear. The men’s section was unexpectedly crowded, which is good news, because it indicates that Indian men are acquiring good fashion taste. I spotted some basic guys’ tees for Rs 895.

Coming to the casuals range (the TRF line), there were basic half-sleeve tees for Rs 445, jeans-like-leggings (Rs 1590; not called jeggings here), graphic tees, leggings, and a couple of really cool jackets. One was a pink cotton ruffle jacket (Rs 1790), and the other a smart short-sleeved blue leather jacket. A lot of the garments reminded me of the Istanbul store, indicating that they from the latest collection.

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I brought out my camera, but I’d only taken two pictures before an Oriental-looking guy called Mike said, “Sorry, photo not allowed.” I mumbled a sorry and put it back inside. Moments later, I saw an Oriental-looking girl, and guessed that Zara has sourced staff from other stores in Asia.

On the lower floor, I spotted formal blazers (useful for formal meetings), cocktail dresses, tunics, blouses, jeans and trousers.  

The striking trends in the Zara collection were floral prints in easy, flowing silhouettes, whites, graphic prints, and a bit of lace and cutwork. And then there was the key trend this season—denim. Besides the jeans, there were skirts (Rs 990), shorts, a dress or two and even denim-look slouchy pants (Rs 2190)! The party dress selection was more classic than trendy, but very wearable.

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Among accessories, the stoles and bags didn’t deserve a second glance, but there were plenty of shoes to keep us girls happy, and several were available in my hard-to-get size (a tiny 36). Again, Zara had made an effort to stock the hottest shoes, such as strappy flats and gladiator-style stilettos. Unfortunately, the shoes are priced similar to or bit higher than Charles & Keith and Nine West. I even saw a pink pair for Rs 5000!

BTW, I noticed Zara had tried to give their collection a desi appeal with a FabIndia-like printed skirt on display and several tunics that were clearly India-inspired.

The Verdict:

Will I go to Zara again? Yes. Is it now my favourite store in Phoenix Mills? Nope, that’s still Landmark. Would I recommend the store to others? Yes.

BUT… Zara needs to get its pricing right, since I found prices undeserving, even surprising or just appalling! And if you’re an avid shopper abroad, then you don’t need this store.

Meanwhile, I’m hoping Zara’s mere presence in India spurs Mango to pull up its socks and give us better stuff.

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Curves are back, and how!

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I love curves. I heart Crystal Renn, my laptop’s rounded corners are a blessing in disguise, and I prefer dome-shaped structures to unseemly glass buildings any day.

So when I saw some very smooth and sexy curves on the streets over the weekend, I whistled. I lost focus and the model ran through my mind all day.

Stop thinking whatever you are, people! It was a four-wheeled beauty— a Volkswagen Beetle, bathed in red. It’s cute, yet smart. Powerful, but not intimidating. Strong, but curvy. If that isn’t sexy, what is?

As if reading my mind, Volkswagen today announced in a TOI ad: Curves are back.

The timing couldn’t be better. The car’s on my wish list now, and if anyone knows a way to make pots of money very quickly, please contact me offline.

PS—Volkswagen has not paid me for this blog post.

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At Office: Leafy business

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The monsoon is almost here, but that doesn’t stop us girls from making the most of the sticky heat. Ruchi arrived for a meeting at work in a super comfy and super stylish skirt-and-blouse combo.

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I particularly love the skirt’s ruffles and diagonal pleats that make Ruchi appear taller. And the blouse is endearing too—the maroon leaf print is perfect for the end-of-summer, and a great visual break from the ubiquitous floral prints.

Thanks Ruchi, for showing us how much fun skirts-and-blouses (and office wear) can be!

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Chic Reads: South Mumbai gets a Landmark

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South Mumbai bookworms, your book-hunting woes are over. For we have the mother of all bookstores—Landmark— within our reach now.

Located in the heart of Mumbai—the Palladium (Phoenix Mills), I paid a visit to the store soon after it opened.

I expected something a tad better than the unimpressive Crossword, and boy, was I wrong. For Landmark is at least a hundred-and-a-half times better than the puzzling bookstore (pun intended). And it’s not just to do with Landmark’s amazing collection.

There are rows and rows of books, encompassing genres and themes I never thought would find place in an Indian bookstore. And so, there’s something for everyone—kids, teens, music and film lovers, graphic novel fans, and even history and war buffs.

I was quickly lost in the store, as it surprised me with the width and depth of its collection. In the dictionaries and languages section, I discovered phrasebooks in the most unlikely languages, like Turkish!

I especially loved their Travel section, which wasn’t just about Lonely Planet guidebooks, but also travel books that bring a place alive with their words. Their fiction collection is humungous, to say the least. And the staff is helpful too.

So what’s in it for fashion lovers? Well, fashion books I never thought I’d see sharing shelf space in India—fashion marketing and design text books, fun books on fashion design and fashion illustration, books on luxury brands like Bvlgari, and even Scott Schuman’s Sartorialist (my heart leaped with joy on seeing this one). 🙂

A book lover could easily spend a day at Landmark, browsing through the store and unwinding at the gaming consoles. I’m marking such a day for when the rain gods pay a visit. 

Final word: Speaking Chic has a new favourite haunt!

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Summer Eeeks: Black Boots

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There are fashion rules, and then there are some more. There are some that are meant to be broken, and some that are so sacrosanct that the rule-breaker should immediately be cuffed by the fashion police.

So who’s the felon here? It was a 30-odd-year-old woman at a doctor’s clinic a recent afternoon who stunned me with her stupid summer sartorial choice: red tee, blue jeans, the brown monogrammed LV bag you see at every corner (they’re now an eyesore, Mr. Jacobs), and, the worst of all— black boots!

I sneakily took a picture of the offending booties. Here they are:

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But that visit to the doctor’s wasn’t a complete loss after all. For the woman next to me wore the ideal summer footwear: comfy and casual slip-on wedges with floral straps.

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What are your fashion rules for summer? Drop in a comment!

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Chic Reads: Books we love

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Among the hype and hoopla over Earth Day, we forgot there’s a window of opportunity for bookworms worldwide—World Book Day celebrated April 23.

As a celebration of this day, the Speaking Chic team drew up a list of books that we find stylish. FYI, by stylish we mean: 

  • Books that we love, that make us laugh or cry, that take us by surprise or anger us.
  • Fun reads
  • Fresh styles of writing
  • Creative/ cool works of literature

Here’s our list—a mix of international and Indian writers (in random order):

  1. Cervantes’ Don Quixote—The book that everyone wanted to read, but didn’t because of its size!
  2. William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar— “Friends, fans and followers, lend me your eyeballs.”  Classic. (Also: Hamlet, Macbeth and A Merchant of Venice)
  3. Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary and D H Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover: Late 19th century, early 20th century. Married women having affairs. Ooooh.
  4. Chetan Bhagat’s Five Point Someone—Yeah yeah, it’s a total time pass yaar, but Chetan’s voice struck a chord with young urban Indians.
  5. J R R Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy—The imagery, the imagination, incredibly irresistible for all fantasy lovers.
  6. Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude—My introduction to magical realism. After the second reading, I was sure it’s of epic proportions.
  7. Amitav Ghosh’s A Glass Palace—Excellent historical fiction.
  8. Amartya Sen’s The Argumentative Indian—Gave me a new perspective on what it is to be an Indian.
  9. Philip Kotler’s Principles of Marketing Management—Perhaps one of the most “mugged”  books ever?

And here’s a sampling of what people thought was stylish:

1. Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point

“It was my first non-fiction and it made me look at things bit differently. Things that appear obvious on the surface might have some other phenomenon lying beneath.”

— Prakash, tech student at Austin, Texas

2. Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead

“It’s its the best book I’ve ever read, because it teaches a very important fundamental of life–
every man is capable of living a self sufficient life, instead of living like parasites dependent on others.”

— Rahul, working in outsourcing industry, Delhi

3. The Goddess Dairies

“It’s a treasure trove of stylish info on everything from being a domestic goddess, to sex goddess, to style goddess. It had great tips; from how to remove stains on silk to dressing up stylishly.”

Chelna, writer, Mumbai

4. Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged

“Just one thought: life-changing!”

— Sia, copy writer, Mumbai

What’s the most stylish book you’ve read? If we missed out on some super stylish books, let us know! Happy reading.

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Myths about bitches

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Love or hate Shashi Tharoor, he is not one to mince words. In the midst of the recent controversy, Mr Tharoor became the unexpected champion of Indian women professionals. Here’s what he said (emphasis mine):

“Our media cannot accept an attractive woman as a serious business professional.”

Woah, harsh words, though they do ring true in India and all over the world. In the US, even Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s been called a b****, as are successful and supposedly aggressive women around the world.

Now that Su-Shi (cutely dubbed so by Shobhaa De) have got the ball rolling, we’re taking this a step or two forward, and bursting myths about us women professionals in India and around the world.

Bitch on Board

Myth: We are b****es

Fact: No, we’re not. We like being good (except for a few handful who spoil our name), but come along and spoil our happy party with your superiority airs, and we gotta play the b**** card.

Myth:  We’ll do anything to climb the corporate ladder.

Fact: Hell, no! We have our value system, and we like to stick to it.

Myth: We don’t care about our family and friends.

Fact: That’s so not true! Our family and friends are our support system, and we love them, enjoy spending quality time with them, and just talking. Notice the crazy hours we spend chatting on the phone with our friends? That’s coz we love them!

Myth: Since we work together and we’re friendly, it’s okay to flirt with us.

Fact: Oh puhleeze. It’s not okay! Office sleazeballs  can GTH.

Myth: We gossip about our female colleagues.

Fact: Yep sure, but not as much as the men do! (Admit it, men love to gossip!)

Myth: We don’t deserve praise/ appreciation for our work.

Fact: Why not? If we did it, we’re going to take credit for it.

Myth: We are not serious about our work/ we work for fun and pocket money.

Fact: Any idea what a kilo of tomatoes costs these days? Mangoes? Rice? And BTW, even if we do work for fun, what is anyone else’s problem?

 

Any more myths to burst, ladies? Would love to know!

PS- Please share this with every guy in your office. Or at least some male friends.

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The Bronze and the Beautiful

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“Eeeeeks! How can you come to that big party next week with such a horrible tan?”

That was someone’s reaction when she met me  just after my week-long super awesome Rajasthan trip. And then, the tips started pouring out— besan, malai, turmeric and even tomatoes made it to the “Quick Ways to Get Fairer” list.

It turns out we’re a nation still obsessed with fairness.  And it’s not just with the fairness creams for both women and men (think John Abraham and Shahid Kapoor). It’s in the attitude.

Like when I took up swimming as a regular well-balanced exercise, I got replies like, “Woah! What about the awful tan?” and “My mom will kill me if I get any darker.”

Yep, swimming often does darken your skin, and despite the copious amount of sunblock I applied, the tan came. But guess what? I love it and I grab every opportunity to show it off.

So when I saw the April cover of Vogue India, hailing the country’s dusky women, I couldn’t but stop and think—this is just what we need. Some of the photos are gorgeous and they show India’s lovely “dark” skin like never before. It may be just another cover shoot for the magazine, though there’s obviously some thought gone into it.  Could this be the step that can change the perception of Indians and the fashion industry? I certainly hope so.

Meanwhile, check out what Vogue stylist Anaita Shroff Adajania and the models have to say about the idea of a bronzed-beauties shoot:

 

PS—I’m not the only one who’s loving it. Check out Vogue UK’s coverage of the path-breaking(?) cover and the Feminista’s perspective on the cover and the colour issue.

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