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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5 things that ruined the IPL experience

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Cricketainment (noun): A combination of cricket and entertainment.

Example: The IPL is to cricketainment what Burberry is to trench coats.

As a culture blog, we just had to know what the most overused concept this summer was. So we ventured out for a Mumbai Indians match to get a first-hand experience of cricketainment and the IPL.

And oh, what a pleasant surprise it was! It was organised well (we guess it’s to do with the foreign management), there was food aplenty, and the fans were cooperative. Sadly, there were a few things that threatened to ruin our IPL experience (and these need to disappear ASAP):

  1. Too much music: Team song played after every four or six, and between overs. How on earth do the players stay focussed? (No wonder some of the good players are out of form in the IPL!). And there was also some recent trashy hits that made us cringe.
  2. A very irritating emcee talked before and during the match. Between overs, he’d shout out, “Mummmmbaaaaaaaaaaiiiiiiiiii!” And the shrill “horn” that suddenly rings out—URGHH!
  3. EVERYTHING is sponsored—from the timeout to a sixer.  Not so sure about the match results though (ahem).
  4. Cheerleaders were boring (and looked bored).
  5. Parties and after parties? Sorry, is this cricket season or Oscars season?

Nevertheless, we came home a happy bunch, and not just because our team won. It wasn’t the loud music, the cheerleaders or even the thrill of being part of the crowd. It was a good game of cricket. And that’s what we want. Nothing more, nothing less.

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Street Chic: Simple style with LV

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Speaking Chic kicks off a new feature: Street Chic! In this feature, we’re going to hunt for great looks and outfits worn by people we spot at restaurants, theatres, malls and the streets, of course.

We bumped into Kanika at a hotel and were immediately taken in by her little LV! She chose her brand-new bag to be the centrepiece of her look and keep it muted with her knotted blouse and skinny Esprit jeans.

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Besides the eye-catching bag (colour not so great in the photo), we liked her other accessory– her criss-cross strappy high heels. They’re a great take on the gladiator style that’s so popular these days.

What do you think of Kanika’s understated chic look? Tell us!

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Celebs: The Sari’s State

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Indian women love the sari, and we love it even more when a famous international celebrity dons the traditional drape at a fancy party. But the shocking appearance of Liz Hurley in a sari sans blouse (aka choli) didn’t go down too well with quite a few women (such as my mom and your mom and most other moms).

But our homegrown Bollywood beauties came to the rescue, and showed us how graceful and non-bosom baring the sari can be. Kajol, Sridevi, Rekha and even Urmila Matondkar rocked the sari at the recent Filmfare awards ceremony. But the lady who can carry off the sari the best is Vidya Balan. Dressed in her favourite Sabyasachi (we would like to see her experiment with designers), the young lady seemed to be saying: “So what if I’ve lost oodles of weight? I like the sari and I’m gonna wear it, gowns be damned.”

 

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While we like the sari, what doesn’t seem to go too well are the oversized rosary-type beads that Ms Balan might have taken from a sadhu at the Pushkar mela. And why tie back your lovely hair? Maybe she was just having a bad hair day, who knows?

Image courtesy: Santabanta.com

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Cotton Cottage: almost as good as Fab India?

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I came across a little store Cotton Cottage tucked in among a row of shops at Kala Ghoda, Mumbai. At first glance, it seemed like any other store, but a second look made me go inside. And guess what? I wasn’t disappointed at all, even as much to tell my friend that I was glad I didn’t buy anything from the Fab India store down the road.

As the name suggests, the store has a range of cotton kurta, kurtis, churidars and dupattas. That sounds awfully similar to what Fab India stocks, and it really is. But what makes the difference is the quaint experience I had at CC. A visit to Fab India a couple of hours ago had felt like déjà vu, I’d seen this kurta and that print before. And the store’s floor plan and stacking of garments had left me confused as well.

Cotton Cottage, on the other hand, had clothes with the familiar Indian cotton feel, but with a fresh look. Their prints were mostly not-seen-before, there was staff at hand to help, and the kurtas et al were neatly piled up. What I liked the most were the colours—there were bright blues, greens and yellows!  I tried on a couple of kurtas, but finally opted for a brown kurti with a gold block print on it.

While I don’t see Cotton Cottage sweeping away Fab India yet, their stores (they’re around the country) are worth a visit or more.

So when are we heading to Cotton Cottage, girls?

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