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Dedicated to the economic advancement and self-reliance of women and girls around the world

Sowmya N.

“Throughout my career, a deeply personal style has helped me stand out from the crowd and make an impression without trying too hard.”


Who are you? 

I’m a working woman—heading product management for a software company—and a mom of two adorable daughters. I started off as a technical writer in India, dabbled a bit in corporate banking, and then moved on to software services and later the product world. I’ve been fortunate to work and travel in Japan, Macau, Canada, the US, and of course India. I have worked with a wide range of people from different ethnicities, age groups, strata of society, and cultural backgrounds. In my free time, I enjoy learning, playing, and teaching the Veena which is an instrument of yore, from the Vedic ages.

I believe it is important to deeply reflect on the choices we make in food, lifestyle, clothing, the way we interact with the people who come into our lives, and quite simply our thoughts. As a certified life coach, I am glad to be able to touch the lives of those around me with my thoughts and deeds, as many have touched mine. I am passionate about tapping into ancient, indigenous wisdom as well as seasonal and simple varieties of foods, and do inculcate this awareness at home in addition to supporting natural and handmade causes.

What do you look like?

I’m South Indian from the coastal city of Chennai—it is hot and humid here all year round. I have moderately dark skin and very dark hair and eyes. I am five foot five and reasonably well maintained, but physical fitness is very elusive—I can relate to most people out there. ☺I really think fitness is in the mind, firstly...and I get by with this mantra.


I’m 41, and I balance two daughters with my other interests thanks to the positivity circle that envelopes me. I do believe in “breath is life” and incorporate aspects of holistic living thanks to the many groups that I've been blessed to be a part of. This I believe is the solution to battling everything from heart disease to Alzheimer's in the current world of GMO foods. Knowing that you are feeding your body and mind with the right stuff and doing your bit in the world by passing it on to those around you for generations to come is a sure shot way to gain that inner glow in my opinion.

What do you consider to be your personal style?

My personal style is colorful and well-fitted, with a major focus on clothing that is environmentally friendly and locally made. As long as I can remember, I have only purchased handwoven and vegetable-dyed clothing. I love handwoven pieces because they’re beautiful and special and because I like to support the local weaving community. I do sometimes indulge in styles that are machine produced and chemically colored, but that is rare. Beyond fashion, I love some basic eye kohl and lip color as I feel it enhances the overall look in the quickest way possible.

If I’m dressing for a new audience—i.e., at a conference or a new job—I like to stick to a more conservative look, but once I warm up, I definitely experiment more. Throughout my career, a deeply personal style has helped me stand out from the crowd and make an impression without trying too hard. No matter where I am in the world, I receive lots of compliments on my outfits and how I put them together, be it traditional Indian wear or western. I think I can attribute this to the fact that I don’t clutter my look too much and also to my confidence—when I go to a party or a meeting that’s more “formal” or “fancy” than what I’m accustomed to, my confidence carries me through.

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What’s your special “thing,” your go-to look?

I love combining quirky with plain. When I dress in a traditional Indian style, my go-to outfit is a beautifully embroidered or handwoven stole with a fairly plain top or a statement neckpiece with a plain saree. For a more western style, I love well-fitted trousers with a colorful top as well as dresses that suit my body type. I pay attention to the texture of the fabric and of course the fit—I know what looks great on someone with a lean waist might not work for me. I love color and patterns, but I ensure that when I go for something ornate I cut back on another part of the ensemble—that way I get to cherish what I’m wearing while also attracting more praise than I can handle. ☺ A little bit of flattery is a good tonic plus the right look can be a great conversation starter. 

What do you avoid? What’s your fashion kryptonite?

So here I’d like to call out the fact that women look different on different days—it all depends on where you are in your cycle and of course what your hormone levels are. I believe all colors are beautiful and they all work on everyone. However, there are days you’ll have a natural glow and others when you’ll look pale no matter what—that’s just a function of your hormone levels, thoughts, physical or emotional stress, finances, or simply which day of your cycle you’re on. On pale days, I add some color in my clothes and some kohl to my eyes. On the natural glow days, I get a little bolder and try just about any look.  

What’s the violation you see other professional women make the most?

I think most people will often buy the same exact thing that they liked on someone else, usually their close friend, idol, or competitor. To get the overall look right is a combination of hairdo, nature of your hair, and body type. Blind copies are disasters. I don’t get hung up on trying the latest fashion fads right away. I take my time and observe the look on all kinds of people and then figure out how I can make it work for me. 

Also, style at the expense of comfort is never worth it. If you have to stand and move around in all-day meetings, it is helpful to stick to a pair of heels that are not demanding because all of your energy needs to be on the content and delivery of your work, and your personal style has to aid that, not impede it.

What do you admire when you see it?


Individuality and ethnic chic. When I see a woman’s personality merging with her outfit, that’s such a dynamic combination, and I often end up going over and telling her just that. It makes her day…it makes mine! Happiness is infectious!

What are your tips for women over time?

Without overtly spending too much time, it is important to pay attention to your audience or colleagues. While it is possible to storm your way through with a “take it or leave it” attitude, I prefer a milder approach. Women still represent only about one in ten in the boardroom, and you will face judgments and remarks through no fault of your own. I give it some thought and keep it professional but never boring, bright but not too jarring, fun but always appropriate. I’d also like to point out that as my hair begins to gray and my skin isn’t so taut, acceptance is important, but acceptance doesn’t mean low in spirit—it just means getting creative.

What do you think works best by genre?

Casual: Work environments differ around the globe. What is appropriate in one part of the world might be an absolute no-no in another. So I go with evergreen trends and try to stay comfortable and of course weather-appropriate. 

Business: Usually black, gray, white, maroon, or light pink, though I focus on cut more than colors and always ensure the overall look isn’t too loud or distracting. 

Cocktail: This is where everyone tries out the latest fad, but I like to avoid being part of the crowd. I keep it classy, tried, tested, and reusable. Because I won’t be able to wear a “cocktail” look all that often, I don’t want to splurge on something that is way too expensive for me. I’d rather invest in good shoes or jewelry that are more reusable.

Interviews: I do absolutely believe that the first impression is the most important impression. I try to avoid going too formal for interviews—I don’t want to be more “dressed up” than the person who is interviewing me. I find that it offends the interviewer if you are better dressed. So I stick to something that looks good, but not necessarily the best look. I tone it down two notches. That way I’m not screaming that I’m overly focused on my look, and I can genuinely put my best foot forward.