Thursday, October 6, 2011

Reader Question: Mixing beach and business

I received a great question from a reader in the comments recently and it really got me thinking. You've probably seen Lorena's blog, which includes her daily work outfits and glimpses from around her city (check out the big houses in her neighborhood...gorgeous!). But she has a dilemma.

I have a question I thought you might be able to help with. I have a huge convention coming up and after it ends my boss chose to invite a few of the participants—all men—to a fun weekend. The weekend will consist either flying to an island or taking a boat to the island and spending the night. The thing is, it is a work-business related trip that I am also invited to. BUT the thought of going and having to wear a bathing suit in front of these men is totally intimidating. I want to go but I want to keep it professional. Any thoughts?

I haven't been in the exact situation Lorena describes, but I have worn my swimsuit (a bikini, no less) in front of male coworkers before. The first time, a female superior was also present and wearing a bikini. The second time, our spouses were with us and we were on different sides of a super-crowded hotel pool (for what it's worth, it was the same male colleague as before). Super-buttoned-up folks will also be horrified to learn that the bikini revealed my tattoo, which is not visible when I'm fully clothed. ::gasp:: Kosher? Maybe not, but it happened.

Back to Lorena. Some questions to think about: What will you be doing on the island? Will there be any activities that require getting wet? Will your male colleagues be in their swimsuits? Is the outing structured and scheduled or will you be free to do whatever you'd like?

The easy answer would be: if you don't feel comfortable in a bathing suit, don't wear one. But if water activities are on the schedule and expected of you, you should be prepared to participate. Conveniently forgetting your beach wear could come off as being unprepared, which is not an impression you want to impart on your colleagues. If you know you may get wet but still don't want to wear a swimsuit, keep your cover-up on. That begs the question: what kind of cover-up is appropriate?

If you can avoid being in the water, a sundress and sandals can keep you covered up and comfy relaxing on the sand or even throwing a frisbee. If you need more range of movement, perhaps for a hike or sporty activity, try capris or bermuda shorts and an embellished tank or tee (perhaps something borrowed from your business wear in a casual fabric).

If water activities will be part of the mix, try a tankini with a top that looks almost like a regular tank or halter. Throw on some bermuda boardshorts for a look that's modest but water-friendly. Bonus—you can wear it to dine or shop without it looking like you obviously threw on shorts over a one-piece swimsuit. I'd recommend against wearing cotton into the water, because it's sort of awkward wearing clothes not meant for water into the water and afterward you'll be damp for hours. Wearing something that's meant for water, like boardshorts, shows that you're not only prepared for the situation but are game for whatever they come up with.

I think the key to make casual beach wear a little more appropriate in a potential business sense is accessories. Although I wouldn't normally wear jewelry with a bathing suit, I might put on some simple (and cheap) jewelry—something that you don't mind getting wet or putting away in your bag and leaving while you're in the water. If jewelry is not your thing, a gauzy scarf or hat will do the trick as well.

Ashley of Ashley Getting Dressed asked a similar question last year...check out the comments on her post for their take on swimsuits and coworkers.

What do you think? Do you have any advice for Lorena?


  1. Thank you!!!
    I also look forward to all your reader comments.
    I think I am going to go shopping for a one piece this weekend. I have one but i think I'll try to find something else... I'll keep u posted.

  2. What an interesting question! I've never been in a situation quite like that, but I agree with your advice to pick a suitable coverup and accessories.

  3. haha, I was going to mention that I had a similar question with great response, but you covered me! I think the most important thing when being in a swimsuit around a boss/coworkers (or anyone, really), is to be confident. If you are awkward about staying covered up, it will only make everyone else more uncomfortable.

    At my conferences when I'm at the pool with my boss I still with a retro-style one piece - it's cute and fun, yet I'm still covered up (and I don't look like a Glamour "before" picture, which is always nice :D)

  4. @ Lorena - Glad to be of help! Good luck...let us know how it goes.


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