wearing a bikini on a work trip with board members

A reader writes:

Each year in July, the association I work for holds an annual board retreat at a nice resort. Many board members bring their families and check into the resort a day or two early to make a mini-vacation of it. Last year, for my first meeting, the hotel was very near my house and I drove over for the meetings and other functions. This year the resort is about two hours away, so I’ll be staying on the property.

I’ll be checking in on Saturday with no official duties until Sunday morning. I would love to enjoy the beach and pool before the meeting proper begins, but there is a very high chance that the early-arriving board members will also be enjoying those amenities. There’s just the one pool on the property. I only own bikinis/two-piece swimsuits, and I have hesitated to buy a one-piece for this event that I’ll never wear again.

It’s a friendly, relatively laid-back group, but every time I think about meeting any of them on the pool deck while wearing a swimsuit, I freeze and cannot imagine the encounter to be anything other than horribly awkward. (Possibly worth noting: I’m the assistant to the chair of the board, and a woman who’s about 20 years younger than most members.) On the other hand, I will not be “on the clock” as it were, and I’m kinda bummed about having a weekend at a beach resort without being able to enjoy it.

I’ve mentioned this concern to my boss and she laughed and told me not to worry and enjoy the pool/beach…but I can’t let go of the feeling that it would be somehow inappropriate, or at the very least as awkward as all get-out.

Right now my plan is to invest in a nice cover-up and to spend my free afternoon sitting by the pool rather than swimming in it. Is that a reasonable compromise, or should I stay away from pool and beach all together to avoid any awkwardness?

I would love to tell you the same thing that your boss did, because ideally we’d live in a world where this would be a complete non-issue.

And it might in fact be a non-issue with this particular group. But the reality is that yes, it can indeed be awkward to encounter colleagues wearing something that’s basically underwear-like.

There are industries where image really matters (hello, corporate law) and where you basically just should not appear in front of colleagues in a swimsuit, and especially not a bikini. There are also particular groups of people where it would be a bad idea, because they are sexist, judgy, and/or harass-y. And there are also industries and groups of people where it really wouldn’t matter.

I don’t know what your organization’s culture is like, so all I can do is to tell you to take those things into account as you consider it. But I’d strongly steer you away from a bikini, as it’s still a work trip and that’s basically showing up in a bra and underwear.

Speaking of which, it’s probably helpful perspective to remember that even though you don’t have official duties on Saturday, you’re still there as part of a work trip. It’s not like going on vacation and not being able to enjoy the beach because it turns out that half your company is having a work retreat there at the same time. (I’ve just given myself nightmares.) This is a work trip, and it’s not totally unreasonable that that means curtailing your activities in some ways, just like you probably wouldn’t spend the day getting wasted in the hotel bar even though you don’t have official work until the next morning.

I don’t say that to mean “COVER YOURSELF, YOU HARLOT.” I mean that it’s useful to keep that framework in mind because it sounds like you’re conflicted between “I want to enjoy my weekend at a beach resort” and “ack, board member awkwardness.” Wanting to enjoy the beach resort in exactly the way you’d prefer to enjoy it probably gets trumped by work concerns, and looking at that way might help you navigate it.

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 312 comments… read them below }

  1. Cafe au Lait*

    Can you buy a tankini, or a swim dress that will be long enough to cover your torso, but it’s not a full-on one piece swim suit?

    1. Argh!*

      A swimdress is a great idea. Nobody would guess it’s for swimming until you dive in.

      1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

        Huh? Is there some other category of swim dress that you’re thinking of (that I’m not)? ‘Cause every “swim dress” I’ve seen just looks like a swimsuit with a skirt.

          1. LD*

            And Lands End and almost every other swim suit brand are having sales because it’s “late” in the season. She might find some really inexpensive stuff right now.

          1. Callietwo (no longer Calliope~)*

            Thanks for these links… I especially like the skorts on that hydrochic link, those would be perfect for me!

          2. ChickenSuperhero*

            Those are swimsuits for extremely restrictive religions like Orthodox Judaism. That’s going waaaaay too far. A 1-piece from target with a cover-up sundress is perfectly appropriate.

      2. uh*

        Well since I have never seen such a dress I would think LW was weird for swimming in a dress!

    2. GRA*

      Or an inexpensive one-piece at Target? They have some really nice looking ones for less than $30.

      1. Cafe au Lait*

        One pieces are ok, but they don’t work for all bodies. (Long torso, whoop whoop!) Plus, I hate buying cheap fashion (most fast fashion ends up in landfills), or one-use only clothing. A swim dress can turn into a regular dress with some leggings; a takini can be turned into a hot weather outdoor top for gardening.

        1. Lore*

          Though I have found that because I don’t actually wear bathing suits more than four or five times a year, a Target bathing suit lasts me a good three-four seasons–which is generally about as long as the elastic in a more expensive bathing suit will survive anyway (or is that just me? I have a weird issue with elastic wearing out in my apartment lately–on shoes, in particular. Like, all of a sudden several pairs of shoes at once, of different ages, will be unwearable due to the elastic in the straps suddenly stretching permanently). Plus, since they sell the tops and bottoms separately (which I know a lot of places do now, but wasn’t necessarily true even five years ago, except for Lands End), you can replace half at a time if you wear two-pieces.

          1. Gene*

            Do you store the shoes somewhere where there would be ozone generated? Like near a furnace or anything with a motor?

        2. snuck*

          Target has a wide variety of styles – if not a one piece, then the tank tops and boy leg shorts… or other options.

          The OP has already said they are going to buy a ‘nice cover up’ why not just buy an appropriate pair of swimmers?

        3. Goats*

          I have never seen a swim dress that could even marginally pass for a normal dress with leggings. (Even the Land’s End ones mentioned above.) Can you post a link to what you are thinking of? I’m very interested!

    3. Sally*

      Agree about the tankini. You can at least buy a tankini top to wear with your existing bottoms. Many are on clearance now — I just checked Old Navy and they have $12 tankini tops as well as $17 one pieces.

    4. sam*

      Even if the OP doesn’t want to buy new swimsuits, investing in a rashguard and/or some board shorts may be a good compromise. As a pasty white person who turns into a lobster if I even look out the window at the sun too long, these are incredibly useful items to me.

      as noted in an earlier thread, as a very long-torsoed person, I can’t wear one-piece swimsuits, so tankinis are my jam, but I’m also plus sized, so swimsuits aren’t really my favorite thing to walk around in generally. BUT, I scuba dive. So I have to wear a pretty form-fitting swimsuit when I do dive – none of those shorts-bottoms (although I do have those for other occassions) and none of those dress-tops – because otherwise I will spend half the day trying to cram them into my wetsuit. But having a rashguard or water-friendly shorts to throw on when I’m not in my wetsuit/the water is really handy.

    5. OP*

      After reading the comments, I’m thinking a tankini or a rashguard is probably going to be a really good option for me. Now I just need to get to a store before Saturday…

      1. OpheliaInWaders*

        They have lots of options on Amazon if that might work for you! #teamrashguard

        1. Rana*

          I love board shorts and rashguards. All the joy of swimming without the fear of things riding up or coming loose!

      2. Brett*

        You can also find spring wetsuits for a price similar to a rash guard, and often with better fitting.
        They do have a different look than rash guards (a bit more utilitarian/surfer looking generally), but will also last longer and would give you an excuse to take up bodyboarding/surfing :)

    6. Michelenyc*

      I was going to suggest a swim skirt that you can wear with your bikini tops. I have one and love it. Since it covers your bum it and it doesn’t look like a bra and panties.

    7. Elizabeth West*

      I was going to say this–and you can buy just the top for a tankini. And it doesn’t have to match, so you could just basically run to Target and get a top that will go with one of your bottoms.

  2. Jen*

    Consider a cover up. They’re light weight and relatively cheap, but you just throw it on when you get out

    1. Leatherwings*

      Yep – since your boss said it was cool to enjoy yourself, this might be a good compromise (I think buying a 1 piece would be too though). It’s hard to see people and think “INAPPROPRIATE” if they’re under the water and moving around, but if you’re lounging in a bikini it’s a little different, especially given the age difference. A cover up might avoid the awkwardness.

      1. Newby*

        That’s what I was thinking. If you are swimming, it doesn’t seem like an issue. you can make sure to cover up as soon as you are out of the water. You could also wear the cover up to the pool and scope it out to see if there is anyone else from work there. If not, you can relax and if they show up you can leave or cover up. You can also adjust based on what other people are wearing. Cover ups are great because you can add or remove to a level that you feel comfortable.

    2. Anonymous Educator*

      That was my first instinct as well. You don’t have to change to entirely different outfit, but then you’re not just fully exposed all the time when you’re not swimming.

    3. One of the Sarahs*

      +1, if you leave it by the pool, the chances of people seeing you in your bikini are minimal

  3. Snarkus Aurelius*

    When I’ve encountered this, I stick to wearing a long cover up the whole time I’m out of the water and when I’m in the water, I stay in the deep end.

    But yes, a tankini or a one piece should do it. Yes, even for this one event. Who knows? You may need it next year.

    1. Mona Lisa*

      A lot of places even sell the tops and bottoms separate so, if the LW has a relatively neutral bottom, she could invest in just the top portion of a tankini, which might be cheaper than buying a whole new suit.

    2. OP*

      You know, in my mild panic about this year it had never occurred to me that this will be an annual issue. That makes a tankini or a good one-piece even more reasonable!

      1. Lore*

        If you think you will be wearing the bathing suit under clothes at any point–even something like a rash guard/swim shirt–I recommend the tankini. The whole stripping off half your clothes to get at your one-piece to use the restroom has always made me crazy.

        1. OpheliaInWaders*

          Pro-tip from a former lifeguard…if you just have to pee, you can pull the crotch of a one-piece to the side. We used to call it “the shift.”

          1. Gaia*

            I spent nearly every day, every summer of my youth, in a one piece and never, ever thought of this.

            I feel like I failed myself for everytime I spent so long prying that damn wet swimsuit all the way off just to pee.

          2. AnotherAnon*

            Not me. every time I tried, I just got pee all over my hand and legs :( I eventually talked my mother into getting me a 2-piece, then discovered that the top doesn’t stay in place very well if you’ve not started puberty. :/ but at least I could use the bathroom with dignity.

            FWIW, I can’t reliably pee standing up (with a good.. uh.. device?) either; my body just isn’t well-designed for peeing in general. Sometimes the wonderful diversity of vaginas has its downsides ;)

          3. ChlorineFTW*

            Yes from a former competitive swimmer. Or just pee in the pool! (Sorry kids, but we all did it).

      2. Koko*

        I had such a time trying to find a shorts-bottom to go with a halter-top bikini for my company’s annual retreat. This is just my personal preference, because plenty of coworkers wear bikinis, but I’m fine being seen in my halter top (it reveals no more of my chest than when I’m wearing a cami in the office) and I don’t mind having my stomach exposed (in my personal life I tend to wear cropped tops almost exclusively so I’m very used to my stomach being out), but I was Not. OK. with being in a bikini bottom around coworkers. I mean…it’s your entire uncovered butt cheeks. I just…no. No.

        And apparently shorts-bottoms for two-pieces are just not in style at this moment. I combed over multiple Targets and they only had two shorts-bottoms out of dozens of different bottoms, and there were barely any sizes in stock. I actually ended up going online to order the size I needed of one of the only two they offered. I feel like I remember them being easier to find/having more selection in the 90s, but then again grunge and oversized clothing was also really in style back then…nowadays it’s like your only choices are bikini-with-ties and bikini-without-ties.

        1. DeadQuoteOlympics*

          I know I’m late to this thread, but try the company Title Nine for swimwear — they have a variety of swimwear designed for activities beyond swimming, rashguards, board shorts, etc. Lots of their designs are 2 piece that cover your stomach. Don’t know about their size ranges, though.

        2. many bells down*

          I have the SAME problem with swimwear. I just want shorts! Tankinis are solving the wrong problem for me. I ordered some from a store on Amazon called Private Island Hawaii. They’ve got boyshorts!

  4. Rusty Shackelford*

    Since this is an annual event, isn’t there a chance you’ll find yourself in the same situation again? So buy a one-piece or complete-coverage tankini (maybe even one with a swim-shorts bottom instead of a traditional bathing suit bottom) that only gets used once a year. You get to enjoy the amenities but you’re basically wearing shorts and a tank top.

    1. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

      Both myself and my best friend have invested in our first one-piece bathing suits for this very reason.

      One piece suits, or tankinis are really cute these days, and it was easy to find an alternative that doesn’t look my high school swim team suit.

      I had bought the suit with intention of only bring it out once a year, but it’s come in handy a few other times (like when I manages to get sun burnt on just my lower back.

      1. sunny-dee*

        Depending on your taste, Mod Cloth has vintage-style bathing suits which are definitely full coverage but look trending and cute.

          1. CheeryO*

            +1. They’re a little pricey but I really love mine. It’s even long enough for my long torso, shockingly.

            1. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

              After spending waaaay too much at their last sale I have been avoiding the ModCloth website. It seems like I may need to take a peek!

            2. Kelly L.*

              Oh! *raises hand like Hermione* Sale sale sale! There’s a discount code up right now that takes 40% off everything that was already on sale.

        1. Allison*

          I love the Esther Williams bathing suits at ModCloth! I actually think the one-piece version is more flattering on me than the two-piece, but I do have both. OP, I highly recommend investing in a one-piece, because you may find yourself in another situation down the road where one may be necessary, and a one-piece Esther Williams is totally worth the price.

    2. OP*

      Yep – I’ve been so busy worrying about this year that I lost sight of the bigger picture and the fact that this is bound to crop up again in the future. (Though I think that after this year I’ll have a better feeling for what will work and what won’t.) A tankini or a rash guard as folks here have suggested seems like a pretty reasonable option.

      1. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

        The first time is always the hardest!

        I go through similar worries a lot because I meet with a variety of people from all types of institutions. I usually end up the most dressed up in first meetings, but I always feel more comfortable than if I was underdressed.

  5. Lizabeth*

    Or wear a sunblocking rash guard or swimshirt that will cover everything? I’ve got several from Lands End that I use a lot.

    1. CR*

      Yes, I love my Lands End rashguard, I think it actually looks really cute with bikini bottoms.

    2. OP*

      I really like this suggestion – it’s definitely something I’d get more use out of than a one piece suit, and would be pretty appropriate for the venue. Thanks!

  6. YRH*

    You could also just buy some sort of sunscreen swim shirt to wear over your bikini and then it just looks like you burn.

    1. Bwmn*

      I was coming here to say that – there are all sorts of swim shirts that would be infinitely cheaper to buy than a new swimsuit and would achieve the increased coverage.

    2. Ruthie*

      Definitely this! I do this, except I just use a cute yoga or running top. It’s more modest, but you still look athletic and beachy.

      1. Raine*

        I only recently discovered rashguards — they really should be renamed “swim shirts” or something. They can be so darn cute, everyone comments when I wear one and even my mother now has her own.

        1. Rana*

          I’ve learned that there’s actually a technical difference between swim shirts and rashguards, but increasingly it doesn’t matter. (The former are looser and meant to be worn over swimwear for sun protection or modesty; the latter are snug-fitting and were originally meant to be worn under wetsuits to, well, prevent rashes.)

  7. cake batter*

    Amazon has some super cute (and cheap!) vintage-style two pieces that provide lots more coverage than a typical bikini and would probably make you more comfortable in front of work folks if that situation arises (search “high waisted bikini” or similar). They also have one pieces that are decently stylish. I’ve gotten both styles for under $20/each, and in most cases, you can get free return shipping in case sizing doesn’t work.

    1. Jen*

      Target and Old Navy both have one pieces and everything is pretty discounted this time of year. I’d opt for that. Yes, it sucks that you likely won’t wear it too often but at least you have it if a situation like this ever happens again. Keep in mind though that if you run into a board member, they’re likely going to be wearing swimsuits too. Often the embarrassment is mutual.

    2. KR*

      I got a one piece at Aerie this year that I LOVE. It has a cut-out, so it covers my stomach but I still look cute.

  8. Elizabeth the Ginger*

    It is really frustrating how this is gendered, though. I imagine if the OP were a man, this would be much less of an issue – especially if he wore a swim shirt with trunks.

    OP, if you think a one-piece would be okay and you’re just balking at the cost, try something like Target. In college I had to get a one-piece for a summer camp job, and found a simple, modest suit at Target for about $15. Was it fashionable or incredibly durable? Nope. Did it let me go swimming? Yup. I sometimes wore it with some running shorts for extra coverage.

    1. Leatherwings*

      It’s infuriating. I would probably say “eff your standards” and wear the bikini + a coverup, but I also have a tendency towards taking a stand vs. maintaining relationships and preventing awkwardness (which I’m not always proud of).
      This is a moment where weighing what field you’re in and your career trajectory really might matter.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It’s totally gendered, and a big part of that is how gendered swimwear is! Men’s tend not to be so form-fitting and revealing (unless you are talking about a Speedo, obviously).

      1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

        Honestly I even think a guy in a Speedo would be more able to get away with it than a woman in a two-piece bathing suit. Especially if he gets into the pool and swims laps (as opposed to just splashing around). He might be able to get associations like “athlete” and “European” rather than “harlot.”

        1. many bells down*

          That’s funny, isn’t it? A guy’s tiny swim briefs are “athletic” but there’s no way a woman’s bikini is seen as anything other than “decorative”. Even though with the top we’d technically have more fabric/coverage!

          1. Pwyll*

            Well, to be fair, athletes don’t wear bikinis in competition, I’m pretty sure (I imagine because of the chance the top will come off?)

            That said, I can hardly contain the mortification I’m feeling even considering being around coworkers in a speedo. I once attended my boss’s beach wedding at a resort with all my coworkers, and I went miles down the road to beach in order to ensure I didn’t bump into them. I don’t generally have body image issues, but I so don’t want to be shirtless around coworkers ever.

            1. AnotherAlison*

              Speaking of athletes. . .Maybe a 2-piece tri suit would solve the problem? Knee to shoulder coverage.

            2. TL -*

              I’ve seen some nice sports bra type bikinis that I think would actually be really practical for swimming. (I wear a one-piece for exercise swimming but have enviously looked at those).

              1. Pwyll*

                I’m not saying bikinis aren’t practical for aerobic swimming or anything like that. Just that the assumption that a speedo is “athletic” isn’t really comparable to a bikini not being assumed to be “athletic”.

                Of course, the real double standard is the US normalization of men being allowed to be shirtless in public, but a woman being criticized even when her breasts are fully covered.

                1. TL -*

                  Oh, bikinis are not practical for aerobic swimming for me – the top does not stay on :) but I know other body types feel differently.

            3. links*

              Yeah, when you’re doing springboard diving, believe me, the top will come off. I could feel my one piece stretching when I hit the water, and this was fairly easy, 1-meter stuff.

            4. Rana*

              athletes don’t wear bikinis in competition

              Unless they’re in competitive volleyball. ;)

        2. sam*

          I don’t know. My stepmom bought my dad a speedo. He stopped wearing it in my presence when I ran screaming from the pool into the house. I’m 42.

        3. hbc*

          I’ve heard way, way more comments about men in Speedos than women in bikinis, and I’ve seen a lot less of the former.

          As in a lot of situations, men have a pretty clear “normal” option that keeps them safe from criticism (with harsh words for stepping outside the box), while women can’t win with their multitude of options. Wear a two piece, you’re flaunting your body, but wear a one-piece, and you’re a prude.

          1. Turanga Leela*

            I think the suggestions above have several “safe” options for women. A bikini + rashguard, a longish tankini, or a simple one-piece are all probably fine. In industries where they wouldn’t be, a man wouldn’t want to be seen in his swim trunks either.

            I agree that there’s a ton of sexism in the world, but I think this situation is not all that hard to navigate.

            1. Ife*

              I am really fascinated by this discussion on where the line falls for “appropriate” women’s swimwear in this context. In my mind, both a one-piece or a bikini would leave me feeling waaay too exposed when talking to Important People! Likewise, I would feel awkward seeing my coworkers in any level of swimwear.

              Of course, my compass on these matters is skewed because I grew up believing that tank tops were scandalous, so…

        4. Mazzy*

          Wait – this is totally untrue, at least anywhere in the USA. What gave you this impression?

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I think this is in response to Elizabeth the Ginger’s comment that a man in a Speedo would be more likely to get associations like “athlete” and “European” rather than “harlot.” I think this is 100% true in the U.S. and have never seen the opposite happen here. (To be clear, I think finding Speedos weird and TMI is a common reaction, but people rarely slut-shame men in Speedos, which I think was her point.)

            1. CM*

              I don’t know, I’ve seen normal-bodied (i.e., don’t have six-packs) U.S. men in Speedos get roundly mocked. But it is true that they are not accused of being man-harlots.

          2. Adam*

            I’m confused too. Unless they’re a professional swimmer I’m confident in saying that when someone seems a random dude in a speedo “athletic” isn’t in the first top 10 words that come to mind.

            1. Honeybee*

              I think this intersects a lot with body type and build. It would depend on the man.

      2. Elizabeth*

        Ever heard why Speedo doesn’t include “bright yellow” in their general color scheme? Per a designer my brother & SIL went to school with, they know that they already have a reputation for “banana hammock” and they don’t want to make the joke even more obvious. She said that you can special order them, like for a swim team, but you can’t go into a store & buy one!

            1. FrequentLurker*

              Another Aussie here, and yes, as in parakeet :)
              Much like “banana-hammock”, budgie-smugglers are named because of how they look when being worn….
              As if a small compact bird were stuffed down the front :D

            2. Sarahnova*

              As FrequentLurker says, as in they make a man look like he is trying to smuggle a small bird through Customs :)

      3. Random Citizen*

        Yeah, see a guy wearing swim trunks and a swim shirt is totally a non-issue, because it’s the same coverage as shorts and a t-shirt in swimming material, and any female equivalent (rash guard and shorts, swim dress, cover-up, etc.) I think would be just as fine as trunks and a shirt is for the guys. I’d be super uncomfortable seeing my male coworkers in a Speedo (and probably more so than seeing my female coworkers in a bikini – because bikinis are more common maybe?).

        1. Sophia in the DMV*

          I don’t think most guys wear shirts when at the pool. Just the swim trunks

          1. Random Citizen*

            Oh, no, not from what I’ve seen. I was just replying to Elizabeth the Ginger’s comment that a man wouldn’t get as much side-eye in OP’s situation, “especially if he wore a swim shirt with trunks.”

    3. Lemon Zinger*

      SO frustrating. This shouldn’t even be a worry, buuuuuuut… that’s the world we live in. *Sigh*

      I’m not sure what I would do in this situation. Generally I want to separate my private life from my work life 100%, but this is a bit of a grey area.

      1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

        Yeah, I’m not saying that the OP should act like it’s not a worry because it’s gendered… sadly, the world still IS gendered, and this is probably not the time or place to Make A Statement by ignoring those gendered standards.

    4. AnotherAlison*

      I would be extremely uncomfortable crossing paths with a male coworker who was wearing a speedo.

      1. Jaguar*

        Yeah, as a North American, I see women wearing bikinis as significantly more socially acceptable than men wearing a speedo. I’m not offended or put off by either, but one draws a lot more attention than the other.

        1. sunny-dee*

          This. This so hard.

          I see the argument about bikinis (they are really revealing, so there is a certain sexualized element to them), but it doesn’t just scream I AM A SEXY MAMA. Unless maybe it’s a tiny string bikini.

          But there is no guy in a banana hammock who wouldn’t get serious side-eye from me, and I would avoid him in meetings forever.

    5. Joseph*

      I think it’s not really a gendered issue, it’s the fact that women have much more of a difference between swimsuits and normal apparel.

      For men in the US, the typical pair of swim trunks is no more revealing than gym shorts or even actual shorts. Whereas for women, swimsuits are far more revealing than anything you’d even consider wearing to the gym or office.

      If a man exclusively wore speedos (say he’s a former swimmer), then he’d have a similar issue to OP.

      1. Kelly L.*

        But it’s because of gender issues that the swimsuits are so different.

        Obviously, there are options for functional, not-super-revealing swimsuits for women, and I’m not trying to do a “no one can eat sandwiches” thing! But I wish there were more such options, along with a removal of the general social pressures to wear certain types of suits and to reshape my body a certain way in order to wear them.

      2. Mustache Cat*

        I feel like this comment always happens:

        “It’s not a gendered issue, it’s because of [gender/gendered object] being treated or viewed differently.”

        No offense to you! I’m sure that you meant to leave a helpful comment.

      3. Hotstreak*

        Yes, as a man I can easily wear my board shorts and swim shirt around the mall or to a picnic – they are hardly distinguishable from any other outdoor athletic wear I own. I think if the letter writer wanted to wear something similarly appropriate for around town wear, like a modest tankini style top + a skirted bottom, she would be fine at the pool and none of the board members would remark.

        If she’s walking around in what is essentially colorful underwear (aka a bikini), that would be no more okay than a man wearing a speedo around the pool. In both situations there might not actually be any remarks made, but it would be looked down upon (at least in the USA for men, this is different in other cultures).

        1. Honeybee*

          I think the point is that the normalized swimwear is ‘appropriate and hardly distinguishable’ for men (board shorts or trunks) and ‘revealing and not appropriate away from the pool’ for women (bikinis). It’s like Kelly says – women’s bodies are often treated like pretty things to be shown off, hence the reason why bikinis are so normalized for pool/beach swimwear.

        2. Nutella Fitzgerald*

          I can’t think of any women’s bathing suit bottoms that would be “appropriate for around town wear,” though – skirted bottoms aren’t typically long enough to cover even a 3″ inseam?

          1. Hotstreak*

            I’ve seen some that looked like a tennis skirt (not a lot, but they are out there!). Come to think of it I don’t know they were actually “swim suits”, but women were wearing them in the water.

      4. LBK*

        That in and of itself is a rather gendered issue, though – that the average male swimwear is designed to be more modest while female swimwear is designed to be revealing. I’d venture there’s some element of the male gaze at play there, as well as the general cultural objectification of female bodies at a disproportionate rate to male bodies. It’s also considered generally more acceptable/viewed as less revealing for a man to be shirtless than a woman (even if she has a bikini top on and is therefore actually wearing more clothes).

        Also, you could argue that male swim shorts are not equally as revealing as regular shorts but are rather as revealing as boxer shorts, which I think is actually more apt because you don’t usually wear underwear under swim shorts. And as a result of that, they tend to be very clingy while wet. I’ll just let you imagine the implications of that (although at that point, not much is really left to the imagination).

    6. BRR*

      I think their are issues about swimwear that are specific to all genders and it’s not necessarily easier being a man, just different. I’m a man and I would feel really uncomfortable taking my shirt off in front of coworkers (wearing swim trunks that are like shorts). There are swim shirts but they’re really uncommon and uncomfortable and don’t really do anything to hide your body if that’s your goal.

      1. BRR*

        At the end of the day I think swimsuits around coworkers is just kind of weird all around.

        1. sam*

          Yeah – I provided some recommendations up top, but I will say that, years ago my work group had an annual event at a country club for clients and the options were always “golf, tennis, or pool”.

          Apparently before my time, there was one year when one person brought a swimsuit and went swimming. No one ever chose pool again. I don’t even know why they offered it as an option. If you didn’t play golf or tennis (or want to attend one of the clinics), you just arrived later in the afternoon in time for drinks/dinner.

    7. Allison*

      Ehhh I think I’d feel a little awkward if I saw any of my colleagues in a swimsuit, and we’re in a fairly laid back field, so I’m not sure how gendered it really is.

    8. MarCom Professional*

      No, I think I’d feel that a man walking or lounging around in brief-style Speedos would get the same reaction: pick something that is a bit more modest.

      1. Honeybee*

        But most men don’t wear brief-style Speedos to the pool or beach. The ‘default’ swimwear for men is swimming trunks/board shorts, which are a lot less revealing.

        1. doreen*

          But I’m not so sure that a bikini is the “default” swimwear for women. I don’t actually spend enough time at beaches or pools to be sure, but my memory from when I did is that bikinis are only commonly worn by women of a certain age/body type. And it’s not at all difficult to find one-piece suits, swim dresses, or mix-and-match collections that allow you to choose anything from a bikini to a combination that covers as much as a tank top and shorts.

        2. mehowe*

          I teach a few classes at the Y pool, and there is a gentleman who apparently prefers to swim in Speedos but does not like to walk around the pool area in them. So he wears regular trunks over his Speedos, gets in the pool, and takes his trunks off under the water and puts them on the side of the pool. Every time we get a new lifeguard, she is *very* concerned the first time she sees this happen!

  9. Anne*

    I was going to suggest a tankini as well. Depending on what your bikini bottoms look like (I usually stick with plain black ones without strings on the side) you might be able to get by with just buying a tankini top and pairing it with bottoms you already have. I’ve done that for family pool parties where I didn’t want to wear a bikini, and also now that I’m pregnant and bikini tops don’t quite cut it.

    Also, I don’t know if this helps or not, but you might keep in mind that if you run into any board members around the pool they’ll likely be wearing a swimsuit too, so it may not be quite as awkward as you think.

    1. OP*

      …Yes, it has occurred to me that regardless of how I dress, I am likely to see more of our Board members than I wold perhaps choose to. I’ve been trying not to think about it.

      1. Stranger than fiction*

        Not only that, if you’re lounging on the other side of the pool area with sunglasses and maybe even a hat, they may not even recognize you! After all, you said that first day is about them hanging out with their family. Same thing in the pool, they might not recognize you with wet hair and you could just casually exit the pool when they aren’t looking and grab your cover up and go back to your loins chair.

      2. mander*

        Well, at least you aren’t going to a nude beach with them.

        I went on a trip to Mexico as an undergraduate and on the last day we went to the beach for fun. After we’d been there for a while it became clear that nudism was perfectly acceptable on this beach, so some of my classmates dared each other to strip in the water.

        The professor, however, was not at all shy. He stripped off on the beach and was hanging around naked the rest of the day. And that’s how I know that he has a tattoo of a butterfly on his butt.

  10. H.C.*

    OP, I think your noting “every time I think about meeting any of them on the pool deck while wearing a swimsuit, I freeze and cannot imagine the encounter to be anything other than horribly awkward.” answers your question. As AAM noted, a work trip (even to a resort) is different than a purely recreational vacation, and you should take the much-higher-than-normal likelihood of encountering your colleagues into consideration.

    Having noted that, I did like your idea of buying a cover-up or tunic to wear on top of your swimsuit, which still gives you an opportunity to enjoy the pool while reducing risk of potential awkwardness.

    1. OP*

      Yeah, you make a good point. the majority of the pressure I’m feeling is self-inflicted, which must be my gut telling me to play it safe.

      1. Ccccccc...*

        I realise this isn’t an exact parallel, but perhaps it will offer some reassurance or levity: I like to swim recreationally, and used my university’s pool regularly throughout my PhD program.
        It turns out that the Director of Graduate Studies was also an avid swimmer – every lunchtime, every day. He then became one of my dissertation committee members (because he’s great).

        I can honestly say that we saw each other more often at the pool (in our swimsuits – and I’m a woman btw) than on the dry land of our department. Oh, and he wore a speedo.

        That said, he’s a great guy with a fatherly manner and a daughter and it never, ever felt like he was ogling me. What was most uncomfortable was him cornering me at the end of a lap with “sooo, when am I going to see that chapter draft?…”

    2. irritable vowel*

      You’re much less likely to encounter your co-workers on the beach than at the pool, just because it’s a bigger space. It’s also entirely possible that in either place they’ll walk past you without recognizing you because you’ll be dressed for the beach/pool (including sunglasses, maybe a hat, hair up, whatever) rather than what they’re used to seeing you in. Think of the swimwear as a disguise!

      1. OP*

        Oh! I’ve dyed my hair a totally different color since our last Board meeting, so with sunglasses and hat, I could probably pass by totally unnoticed. Maybe I’ll spend all day Saturday pretending I’m a secret agent…

  11. Raine*

    Rash guards are my new favorite pool accessory. You can swim in them! And they can be SO adorable, I’ve worn them around town and received compliments just as cute tops. Land’s End and Athletica are the two places I go to (you can get them sleeveless, short sleeves, long sleeves, heck, even mock turtle necks.)

  12. The IT Manager*

    I don’t see the distinction between a bikini and a one piece suit. One piece suits are form fitting (showing off the figure) and plunge in either the front or the back.

    I think this question should focus on whether or not to wear a swimsuit rather than the question of a one or two piece.

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      There are LOTS of different one-piece styles. Some can be pretty revealing, but it’s not accurate at all to say they all plunge in either the front or the back.

      Having said that, I’d still go for the swim shorts/tankini option.

      1. Bwmn*

        This whole chain has brought a giggle to mind thinking about “business professional swimsuits”.

        That being said, while there are some very athletic, coverage forward two piece/tankini style suits – there are also some very revealing one piece suits. So the idea that one option is ok all the time and the other side is bad all the time, isn’t truly the issue. That being said, the classic bikini cut that does essentially mimic bra/underwear for whatever reason does read as differently as a once piece. I remember growing up there was a period of time just before middle school where it was a big discussion on who’s parents let them wear two piece suits and who felt it was “inappropriate”. Somewhere after being a toddler but still before truly developing there became this strange place of the two piece being somehow too adult. If you’re working in the US, I just think it’s a bit of a cultural norm for many.

        That being said, I went to a conference on a beach resort overseas with a number of international colleagues – and all of the older men were happily there in speedos.

        1. OP*

          No matter what I wear, I am going to spend some of my time this weekend giggling about “business professional swimsuits,” so thanks for that :)

          1. Bwmn*

            No problem! Tragically, I do believe there’s no way to truly avoid the awkwardness of colleagues and swimsuits. I went to one conference on the Dead Sea, so in addition to swimsuits there was the activity of people putting mud all over themselves. A relatively benign tourist activity normally, but among coworkers quickly became incredibly odd – swimsuit cut aside.

        2. Rusty Shackelford*

          I think a business casual swimsuit would be completely appropriate here. ;-D

    2. fposte*

      It’s because it’s not a “what’s decent to wear?” question but a “will I be too uncomfortable?” question, and the OP has indicated that a one-piece doesn’t throw her into uncomfortable territory. (Plus one-pieces are less likely to fall off.)

    3. Chairs*

      There are actually a lot of one piece suits that don’t have a plunge on either side. They’re not the ones that make magazine ads/fashion runs, but they’ve been a staple of things like the Land’s End summer catalog for years.

      1. Kelly L.*

        Yep. There are lots of styles that are made for athletic swimming, and they’re super functional and not revealing, and then there are styles that are just…not revealing. I used to have a great one-piece that covered me from neck to bum except for a mesh panel in the collar area. I miss that suit.

        1. VintageLydia*

          That style is super in right now so if you want a replacement, now is the time to look!

      2. Marillenbaum*

        Seriously, God bless the Land’s End summer catalog. Their clothing is so comfortable, and so practical.

    4. Argh!*

      A one-piece can be modest. A bikini will never be modest.

      And you don’t have to prance around in it without a coverup. Doing that would surely degrade your image in the eyes of colleagues.

      1. Kelly L.*

        And nobody’s suggesting not having a coverup–OP herself says she’s bringing one.

      2. Marillenbaum*

        I’m adding my voice to the chorus of “Nope!” Modesty is a social construct, and in a religious sense, it has more to do with attitude than coverage.

      3. Leatherwings*

        Well this is unnecessary. Insisting that people be modest (rather than suggesting that OP wear something that will be perceived as comfortable and appropriate for the setting) gives me the yucks. Also using the words “modest” and “degrade” and “prance” all in one comment referring to women screams sexist.

      4. SJ McMahon*

        But there are many two-piece styles that are certainly not immodest or overly sexy.

        1. SJ McMahon*

          I hit “enter” too early…

          Modest/Immodest seems less helpful – partially because it’s a much more slippery dichotomy – than appropriate for work-related function/inappropriate for work-related function.

      5. LBK*

        Well frankly I’m shocked you’re even suggesting going outside with your elbows and ankles exposed! For shame, you jezebel!

      6. Anxa*

        Perhaps it’s rarely coded specifically as modest, but a bikini is not inherently immodest.

        Most bikinis are pretty neutral in terms of modesty, in my experience.

      1. Chinook*

        Can I add a perspective to the idea of modesty being about perspective. I am the reader who did Japanese onsens with coworkers and students (though only the women – even I couldn’t get over the idea of mixed pools). Luckily, I had another Canadian coworker take me out during the first week to give me tips and help me get over the awkwardness of being naked around colleagues. And it was really weird the first time. But, once I noticed that nobody else thought it was a big deal (or pointed and giggled at my glow-in-the-dark whiteness), my idea of modesty shifted.

        I have brought this attitude back with me and have no problem with being naked or semi-dressed around same gender colleagues, family members or strangers (when appropriate, of course). It is not that I am more immodest now (I know when to wear something with sleeves or with less cleavage showing, but now it is more about meeting cultural norms/not wanting to accidentally cause an issue for others.

  13. Vroom Vroom*

    I work in an environment where I’m a good 30 years junior to any other woman, and women are in the severe minority. Had a work trip to Cancun late 2015, and I purchased a very cute one piece bathingsuit to wear – hadn’t owned one since I was about 12 otherwise.

    It’s turned out to be my favorite bathingsuit and I love wearing it so much that I’m thinking I’m just done with bikinis in general. I just feel more comfortable in it than my two piece suits! I’m thin and relatively in shape, but gah it’s just nice to not have to worry about every little flaw while you’re walking around on a pool deck.

    Also, mental image of Allison yelling COVER YOURSELF YOU HARLOT made me chuckle in the office…

    1. Boy Shorts*

      Agree so much. I mostly wear boy short bathing suits with rash guards now because I burn just thinking about the sun. I look sporty AND I don’t have to suck in the pizza I ate last night either. Why oh why did I feel like bikinis were the only way for so long?

      1. Vroom Vroom*

        YES! To be honest, I’m quite thin, and I always feel like people judge the flaws of quite thin people really harshly (I can’t say even harsher because I don’t know what it’s like). I’ve literally had a frenemy point out at the beach with other people, “OMG Even Vroom Vroom has cellulite on her thighs! Now I better about myself.” Well… thanks for making yourself feel better at my expense you a$$hole.

    2. Solidus Pilcrow*

      Also, mental image of Allison yelling COVER YOURSELF YOU HARLOT made me chuckle in the office…

      This makes me tempted to change my user name to “COVERED HARLOT” just for the LOLs (and the irony). Or possibly “UNCOVERED HARLOT” depending on my mood. :)

    3. irritable vowel*

      I have given up bikinis in favor of tankinis myself, and couldn’t be happier. Not only do I not have to worry about sucking it in so much, I’m now covering up a sizeable swath of normally unexposed skin that no longer needs sunscreen applied to it!

      1. Anxa*

        How does a tankini stand up in the waves, if you don’t mind me asking?

        My issue with tankinis is that they give more coverage on land, but in sea they seem to be less….anchored. (Also, they are always a few inches too short and I feel oddly more exposed by the peak of skin showing than in a full coverage bikini).

        I used to wear rash guards quite a bit in the surf, but I never liked that they were always a bit too short and I felt like it would kind of mess up my suit underneath.

        1. Connie-Lynne*

          Hm. I wear tankinis, but mine don’t come up short, so we might have different experiences.

          The tankinis that I wear don’t get floaty in the water, they just stay on my body. A really rough wave might knock them around a little but no more than any other bathing suit, I just do a quick adjustment before I stand up. It’s nice, actually, I don’t have to mess about with my tits, I can just give a quick tug on the hem like I would with a shirt.

  14. Ruthie*

    I completely understand where you’re coming from. I’ve been in similar situations, thought not with colleagues, where I don’t feel comfortable in a bikini, but wanted to swim. What I’ve found works really well is wearing a cute, bright running or yoga top. Since they tend to be more fitted and resist water to some degree, it doesn’t stick out like a baggy, cottony t-shirt would in the water. It ends up sort of looking like a wet suit. It makes me feel much less exposed without it being really unfashionable or obvious that I’m trying to cover myself up.

      1. Argh!*

        What’s rude is believing that everyone is a carbon copy of yourself. If OP writer showed up in a bikini there would be a diversity of opinion because different people are different. If OP writer wants to be universally liked and respected, then OP writer should dress conservatively. If OP writer wears mini skirts and low-cut blouses to work without problems, then a bikini would probably be okay (although if family members are there, they are an unknown quantity). If OP writer dresses professionally during the day and wants to preserve that image, a bikini is not the way to go.

            1. anonny*

              And assuming that all the board members are men! There’s nothing to that effect in the letter and in fact the OP’s direct supervisor is a woman…

        1. mehowe*

          It may not the best idea to wear a teeny bikini to a work function, and it seems like the OP realizes this. But it would not make her less likeable or less respectable. Yuck.

        2. many bells down*

          And yet, you seem to believe that all “wives” will get pissed off if their husbands see a co-worker in a bikini. You’ve literally called all wives carbon copies.

      1. Argh!*

        People on boards of directors of charities and businesses are often older (like 60s plus) and possibly more conservative than the average elder their age. So yes, there could be aging versions of “Mad Men” there. There could also be fundamentalist Christians and yes, jealous wives.

        I’m curious – how old are you?

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        Or might be men who don’t react with lusty goggle eyes in the presence of young women!

      2. Argh!*

        Young women, probably not. Young women in a bikini, I think it’s a definite possibility.

        OP writer doesn’t seem to know the organization very well, let alone the spouses or the nature of the relationships between coworkers & their spouses. A jealous spouse could well resent a 20-something showing off in a bikini. OP writer may not *think* it’s showing off but to a 50-something woman whose husband has a wandering eye, it certainly could look that way.

        1. Isabel C.*

          Then that woman needs to talk about it to her husband and/or get therapy: it’s sure not the OP’s problem. (And if it’s a workplace where that would *become* the OP’s problem, I’d be looking for another job posthaste.)

      3. Vroom Vroom*

        One would hope, but I have been told by the older women that I should be more cautious about how I dress when our clients’ wives are around, and how I talk to the clients. I’ve found it to be not-always-true – many wives are lovely and friendly and at retreats or meetings in exotic places we become friends because there aren’t any young women I work with! – but some of them treat me very icily.
        I’m happily married, but our policy is we can’t bring our +1’s but our clients can. If I could bring my husband it would probably be quite different, but as it is whenever I walk up to a group of people, or start discussing business with a client and his wife (we have many clients who are women but the husbands obviously don’t regard me with jealousy) I tread lightly and try to read the wife’s reactions; if she regards me coldly then I know where I stand, and if she is friendly and kind then I know where I stand too.

        1. Vroom Vroom*

          Left this comment before reading how angry everyone is at Argh! for the generalization – I’m not trying to generalize, but I am saying in my experience this has happened a few times.

          As a wife who’s attended meetings in exotic places where my HUSBAND is someone’s client and I’m the +1, I couldn’t care less if a young woman comes up wearing resort-wear to have a business discussion with my husband.

    1. Leatherwings*

      Well I hope the board isn’t entirely male, and I seriously doubt the board is entirely made of lesbians so…

      1. Blue_eyes*

        Coming here to say this. We know from the letter that the OP’s boss (and head of the board) is a woman. It’s a pretty big assumption to assume that all the board members are men who are married to women.

    2. Connie-Lynne*

      Curious what the board members wives (should they even have them) would have to be angry about.

    3. Rusty Shackelford*

      The board members might not care, but their wives will be pissed as hell!

      This is a very good point. As a Wife, I’m always pissed when some woman shows up to prance about in her bikini, and I find myself shrieking “COVER YOURSELF, YOU HARLOT!!!” on a regular basis.

    4. fposte*

      …because otherwise a hotel pool would never have young women in two-piece swimsuits?

    5. Sarahnova*

      On top of the grossness of the “don’t flaunt yourself” angle and the “wives hating sexy temptresses” one, what makes you think the board members are male?

      The letter actually says that the board chair is a woman.

  15. Miss Elaine E-Us*

    I can imagine the board members would appreciate it if the OP covered up a bit, especially if they are at all prominent in their community or industry. Imagine the potential uproar if there is a photograph, however innocent, of board member with OP in a bikini published on social media, etc. Sadly, people can and do make mountains of even tiny molehills like these.

    One possibility is for OP to get a one-piece swimsuit such as those used in competitive swimming.

  16. many bells down*

    Seconding (Thirding?) the comments about rashguards. There’s all kinds of neat colorful ones, and you’re totally covered.

    I have a long waist and so I’m always more comfortable in a two-piece suit. I do own a single one-piece for those times I feel like I need a “modest” suit. My peeve with swimsuits is generally that, no matter how much coverage you get above the waist, the bottoms are almost always tiny and revealing. I search for suits that have boyshort-style bottoms, or I buy board shorts to wear over the bikini. Somehow I feel far more “modest” in a bikini top and shorts than in just a bikini.

      1. EmmaLou*

        Heh… board shorts…. for the assistant chair to the board…. Excellent word play.

    1. Anxa*

      There is no greater betrayal than the boyshort cut bathing suit bottom that rides up, wedges, and ends up being “cheekier” than a bikini bottom.

      I find bikinis to lack the amount of coverage I’d like, but they are my go-to bottom because they tend to stay in place on my body. I neither sit around by the water all day or am swimming laps for a short amount of time. It’s remarkably difficult to find a bathing suit that’s light enough to spend all day in withing the digging or the ‘halter top headache’ while also actually being substantial enough for the water. I grew up around a lot of surf shops and before clothing quality plummeted, so I didn’t realize how hard it could be without ordering online (which I tend not to do).

      I had these amazing pair of swim shorts from the 90s from beach summer camp. We all got the same ones, regardless of gender. They were super light. Probably not ideal for men or teen boys as they were so lightweight, but I loved them. They were short enough for full range of motion but long enough to actually provide a lot of coverage. They dried off quickly and never felt heavy. They’ve held up for at least 10 summers of pretty heavy use. Now I can’t find them. I’ve searched all over my home, all over the internet. I had board shorts, but these were so much more comfortable. I might have to go back to board shorts, and my thighs are crying at the though of those seams.

  17. Bend & Snap*

    I go on a trip to Las Vegas every year with 1400 of my coworkers. a 2-piece is not my jam regularly, but my girlfriendy coworkers do wear them, and there have been times they’ve felt exposed when running into people we work with. I wear a pretty modest one-piece but usually have some cleavage control issues, so a cover up is my go to.

    If you don’t want to invest in a whole suit, you can get a rash guard for the top and just wear your regular bottoms; better to be safe than get there and feel awkward or worse, have anybody treat you differently because they saw you in a bikini.

  18. JAM3121*

    Nothing helpful, just an anecdote to share. I lived and worked in the Middle East for 3 years. Our boss was the only other American. We had a retreat at a place with a pool and the boss said it would be great, people could have some fun in the evenings (we were there for 2 nights). I pointed out to him that half the attendees would not be able to use the pool because there is no way the women would wear bathing suits in front of the men. We actually had a pretty large portion (relatively speaking) of our staff who were either Christian or very very secular Muslims, but it still wouldn’t happen because while these women might wear bathing suits in public when one vacation with their family, they would just never do it in front of work colleagues, especially since many of the men on the team were observant Muslims. He just kind of shrugged and said well, that’s too bad.

    The next year for the retreat I first advocated to not have a retreat because I hate them with a passion. They are almost always poorly run and therefore completely unproductive. He was actually on my side for this and we tried to whittle it down to at most a one night thing in a town about 45 minutes away and we weren’t even sure if they had a pool. For political reasons we ultimately ended up with a retreat that was 3 nights for most staff but 5 nights for the senior management team because we had to be available to go meet with another organization’s retreat that was happening at the same time nearby. This time I did convince him to use a resort that had two pools and we spoke with the staff to designate one pool as the men’s and the other as the women’s.

  19. Ponygirl*

    If you are interested, check out Rey Swimwear. The owner has created very cute modest one piece swimsuits, and she has skirts to go with them. I believe they would be very appropriate for this kind of situation. They are a bit pricey, since they are handmade, but I think they are worth it. I love mine.

  20. AvonLady Barksdale*

    OP, please swim if you want to swim! Do it for me. :) In all seriousness, I completely appreciate your concerns– I have a work retreat coming up and the idea of wearing any bathing suit in front of my colleagues fills me with dread– but I do hope you will take some of the suggestions listed here and enjoy yourself. For my part, it’s my bottom half that’s my issue, so I’m going with compression capris when pool time comes (I could invest in swim leggings or board shorts, but I’m cheap and kind of fat).

    1. many bells down*

      Oh yeah, I got some capris like that for kayaking. I don’t want to wear pants, because I get pretty wet, but I don’t want to just wear my bathing suit or shorts because I burn real fast. Quick-dry athletic capris to the rescue! (Bonus: most of them have a tiny inside pocket for your keys!)

        1. OfficePrincess*

          It sounds like they are talking about the general athletic capris that are often marked as go dry or quick dry or something similar. My favorites that I wear to run in are from Old Navy actually.

        2. many bells down*

          Yeah, what OfficePrincess said. They’re just quick-dry lycra athletic capris I got from Fred Meyer. They’re probably “supposed” to be for yoga or running, but they’re way cheaper than the “swim tights” you can buy that are similar material. These aren’t even Nike or anything; I think they’re generic store brand.

    2. OP*

      I will swim for you, I promise! Whether it’s in a tankini, a rash guard, a one piece, or a teeny string bikini I cannot say (well, okay, I can say it won’t be a string bikini), but I have enough great suggestions and moral bolstering that I am starting to really look forward to it!

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        I’m glad. I tend to be an old fuddy-duddy about a lot of things, but I am also a big proponent of self-confidence and “you do you”– when appropriate. A beach resort is indeed an appropriate place for some swimming. Have fun!

  21. Sunflower*

    Personally I would invest in a large hat and sunglasses so no one recognizes me and stick with the bikini.

    I think you are probably fine if you wear a bikni and wear some sort of a cover-up around whenever you’re not lounging. I would invest in a cheap one of those multi-way things that can be worn as a full coverup or just a sarong – Target, Amazon or Walmart has to have them for like less than $10. You can wear a sarong up right under your chest and you can still tan through it.

  22. W*

    Oooh, that’s a tough situation.
    A solution I’ve found in similar situations is having a one-piece vintage-cut swimsuit.
    More coverage without looking like you are trying to cover up. Turns out it’s one of my favorites.
    Something like this?

        1. Liane*

          I don’t have that style but I have gotten many Catalina suits. I like them and they last a couple seasons at least. (I generally swim many times in the summer)

    1. Sophia in the DMV*

      Esther Williams has wonderful bathing suits – especially one pieces – though they’re a little pricey but the quality is worth it for me

  23. The Optimizer*

    I don’t get why it would be such a problem to buy another suit or even just a tankini top to go with an existing bottom. I just bought a new tankini set myself – I think I spent a whopping $23 on it at WalMart. I needed it for a tubing trip and didn’t want to ruin a much more expensive suit on the rocks. I don’t love it as much as the suit I spent far more $$ on but it worked for a weekend and will be used again in similar situations.

    1. OP*

      It’s not a problem really, but until I read all the comments from folks here I wasn’t even convinced that a one-piece or tankini would be appropriate, and I hadn’t wanted to buy something I wouldn’t ed up wearing at all. With the affirmation of the commenters and Alison’s excellent advice to temper my expectations, I realize this is a much more reasonable option than I’d previously thought.

  24. Stephanie*

    As others have pointed out, it’s an unfair situation. I’d buy a one-piece or a tankini. Given that summer is halfway over (well, not in Phoenix), there should be sales going on.

    1. OP*

      I live in Florida, sadly, so swimwear is never on sale. It is totally possible to walk into a Target in November and see both sweaters and swimsuits at full price.

  25. EJ*

    Nothing’s more awkward than seeing your co-workers naked/half naked!

    But my vote is to wear the bikini with a cover-up dress! Or at least keep the cover-up with you… wear it when walking around or if you start see people you know (until you figure out what other people are doing — it may change your mind), then take it off when going in the pool/sunning.

    Also, bring a cheaper one-piece with you! If this is a yearly event, it can be your go-to suit. But you don’t want to get there and end up feeling uncomfortable. Your only choice may be buy one at the resort (resort area) and those usually have super inflated prices!!

    1. Dynamic Beige*

      Nothing’s more awkward than seeing your co-workers naked/half naked!

      A very long time ago, I did a job in Florida in January. Escaping winter weather is always a bit of a treat, but I didn’t have time to go to the pool until the last night. This hotel didn’t have rules on when the pool/hot tub closed, so at midnight (it was a long day) I ghosted on the show party to unwind in the hot tub. It honestly never occurred to me that any of my co-workers would catch me in my bathing suit — I was thin in those days (*sigh*) and could get away with a bikini. Also, there was a lot of free booze at the party and everyone was having a good time.

      It was a beautiful night and the water was perfect. I had been in there a while and was thinking about getting up and leaving when these two (slightly) older men showed up. The one asked if it was OK if they got into the hot tub with me. I said sure! It was a BIG hot tub, in the shape of an X so it’s not like we all had be near each other. Also, I told them that I was going to be leaving soon anyway. We got to talking a bit, I think they were salesmen from somewhere in the Midwest, can’t really remember, it wasn’t that much of a memorable conversation.

      I’m not sure how much later it was when I noticed a group of people huddled off down the path, having a discussion about something. They walked towards us and it turned out there were 4 men and one woman. The whole group of them were wearing better than business casual, but not formal attire. I knew that they had to be part of the client group that I had just finished the show with, based on their accents and ethnicity. The woman was facing me, the two guys had the backs of their heads to her, so she asked if it was OK if they joined us. Once again, I was all sure! And that’s when she said that they didn’t have swimsuits, if that was OK. The two sales guys exchanged a look at this… but I was in a rare mood at that point so just gave a big wave of my arm and said “C’mon in!”

      All of them started taking off their clothes, until they were in their underwear. Except for one of the younger guys, who sped off. So there I was, in a hot tub with 2 midwesterners and a group of Colombians in their underwear — tightie whities and all. Although the woman left on her bra, after it was wet, there kind of wasn’t any point as it was nude (not black or another colour), but I figured if she didn’t notice or care I wasn’t going to point it out. I must also say that she was gorgeous, in a way that I have never been or could be. That’s how I found out where they were from, because of course what are you going to do in a hot tub after midnight with a group of strangers who are in their underwear but talk about where you’re from and why you’re there.

      The younger guy showed up again, in his swim trunks, with the contents of his mini bar, which he started lining up along the concrete edge. I knew having a drink was not going to be good for me as I am a cheap date, I was overheated, on an empty stomach and I had to be up early to catch my flight, so I declined, but everyone else took one. Then one of the sales guys left and I decided not too long after that that I had probably been in there way too long and I should go. As I was leaving, he was coming back with more drinks. I have no idea how that night ended for them.

      I swear that it never felt truly awkward, a bit weird maybe because it was completely unexpected. Once they were under the water, you couldn’t tell that they weren’t in bathing suits, except for that woman when she stood up. Granted, none of these people were my coworkers, but except for that guy who had to get his trunks, they all acted like this was the most normal way to behave on a business trip. For the record, no, I would not strip down to my underwear and get into a hot tub with even my best girlfriends, then or now.

  26. Traveller*

    In addition to all of the comments regarding what kind of swimwear you could invest in — there is also the option to enjoy the pool/beach without actually going swimming. Ie take a good book poolside & sit in the shade reading with a fruity drink holding an umbrella. Going this way, you can wear something much more modest (tshirt and shorts) and not worry about the whole 1piece/2 piece / tankini/rash guard.

    This is the compromise that I have made when faced with a similar situation. It’s not really a “beach vacation” in the usual sense, but rather a work trip near the beach, which happens to have some down-time.

    Although I love swimming, this would also allow me to not worry about other factors on my appearance (makeup, hair etc) & walking through the halls going to/from my room in swimwear.

    1. OP*

      Yes, this is definitely an option, and certainly the least fraught way to thread the needle between not having any fun at all and also keeping in mind that it’s a work function, no matter how informal.

  27. Ask a Manager* Post author

    Is anyone else encountering a strange thing where the site isn’t loading properly today — where it’s not taking you to the correct place on the page after you comment and it refreshes?

    1. Mustache Cat*

      No, but I’m not getting that little blue bar that indicates new comments. It’s seriously disrupting my ability to use this site to goof off at work.

          1. Chinook*

            There is no such thing as a bad cookie (Nom, nom!) Maybe the Cookie Monster got loose in your site? Seen any blue monsters lately?

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I disabled Click to Flash on my browser, and now it’s working again. It must be something the site is doing though since it’s always been fine for me previously. Checking into it…

    2. sam*

      Yes – it’s only loading, like 10 comments and then freezing. Refreshing helps but then I lose the new comments indicator (of course!).

    3. Jaguar*

      I was actually going to bring this up in a weekend thread, but I never come here outside of working hours. But since you’ve already broached tech issues:

      I don’t know how involved you are in the infrastructure of this site, but would it be possible to issue Letter Writer/Original Poster codes to people who write in and then provide another field along with name / email / website for them, so they show up in orange similar to how you show up in blue? Usually, the OP posts are some of the most interesting, and it would be nice to highlight them.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        No practical way to do it, unfortunately (because each one would have to be unique to just that post), but I agree it would be great.

        1. Jaguar*

          I’ve specifically avoided WordPress in my career, so I know almost nothing of the ecosystem, but creating a unique ID for each post doesn’t seem like a difficult technical challenge.

          1. sam*

            But the original question-asker isn’t the one “posting” the question. Alison is. And there’s no registration required on the site, so there’s no way to actually tag the OP’s ID.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Yep. I’d need to supply each letter writer with some sort of unique code, and it would have to be unique to just that post (so that they weren’t showing up as OPs on other posts). It would be a massive undertaking.

              1. sam*

                also (I’m sure I’m not the only one who does this) I *may* use a different email to post comments under than I do for most/any other emailing. If I were to write you a question, it would come from another account. Not even for anonymity – it’s a valid address, but I do it so that my “real” everyday email doesn’t get scraped by spambots or (god forbid) end up on a hacker list.

  28. B*

    I have this issue with coworkers on a retreat but also if I am around friends older parents or anything along those lines. A tankini top that matches my already existing bottoms is very helpful and makes me feel more comfortable in the situation. Also, I bought a really fabulous coverup off of Amazon that is great as a coverup but also as a dress if a few people decide to get lunch.

  29. CR*

    This is a totally valid question but I guarantee you, not a single one of your male colleagues is fretting about the same issue. (I really hate society sometimes.)

    1. Jaguar*

      It is completely untrue that men don’t worry about appearing professional. If you go to the beach / a resort / whatever, you will see men in swim trunks and shirts, even ones in really good shape. They’re making a decision.

      1. TL -*

        But worrying about “Do I pack/wear an extra shirt?” is really different from, “Do I get a 1-piece or tankini or bikini with cover-up? Can I wear any of them without a cover up? Do I need to bring a separate outfit, essentially, for all time spent by the pool, but not in the pool?”
        That’s not even getting into: Does my swimsuit cover my cleavage/side boob, how high cut is it on the legs, does the cover up actually look modest? parts of actually wearing the outfits.

        1. Jaguar*

          I mean, if we’re getting into side-boob, we’re into the territory that, yes, there really are some specific differences in the genders.

          The rest of it, I don’t see as different. “Am I going to go shirtless? What if I want to go swimming?” is entirely the same as “Do I get a 1-piece or tankini or bikini with cover-up? Can I wear any of them without a cover up? Do I need to bring a separate outfit, essentially, for all time spent by the pool, but not in the pool?” You’re just adding more detail to “do I wear a bikini or not?” I can go just as far with “tank top vs muscle shirt vs lounge shirt vs t-shirt / speedo vs high-cut trunks vs down-to-the-knees trunks”

          1. TL -*

            There’s a huge amount of different between a bikini and a 1-piece in the amount of sexualized gaze you can assume will be directed at you. You’re not thinking, oh which shirt do I like best? You’re thinking, “Which of these several options is *most* appropriate for the occasion, with each option being distinctly different in how others will view/judge me?” That is only analogous to shirt vs no shirt for men.

            Tank vs muscle shirt vs whatever is more like – string bikini versus “regular” versus one that has straps, not ties. I know guys who put a shirt on because they don’t like their bodies but I have never heard a guy wonder if his swim trunks/shirt were modest enough for the occasion – and I have three brothers and lots of friends.

          2. TL -*

            (and also, why on earth does anyone give a crap if they can see my side boob? I don’t know, but they do, so sometimes I have to. But I see plenty of men’s upper bodies without ever hearing people judge them for promiscuity.)

      2. Leatherwings*

        I think it’s entirely true that dudes fret about what they’re wearing, but I do think there’s a difference in worrying “will I look good in this suit?” or “is this showing too much of my package” vs. worrying that people will see you as too sexual and therefore not professional.

        1. Jaguar*

          When men wear tight shirts, speedos, etc., they’re intending to exhibit their sexuality. There’s no barrier between “will I look good in this?” and “does it exhibit my sexuality?” There’s massive overlap there.

          I’m in pretty good shape, but if I were at a beach with colleagues that I wanted to impress, I’d be wearing a shirt. I agree that women are sexualized more than men, that there is a double-standard that affects how men can tan from the waist-up and women can’t, that men’s swimwear can be looser fitting without taking anything away from them, that there’s more pressure for women to appear attractive in swimwear, etc. My problem is when people try to deny that any of those things exist for men at all.

          1. Leatherwings*

            We disagree on a matter of degrees, not on a matter of kind. We’ll have to agree to disagree on the degree, I think.

          2. Marcela*

            “When men wear tight shirts, speedos, etc., they’re intending to exhibit their sexuality. ”

            Hahaha. No. My husband wears short speedos because he swims like a fish, for hours and kilometers if he can do it, and short and tight swimwear is more comfortable to him. In normal, social situations, he would just wear the shortest swim shorts he could find (for we both think most popular fashion is absolutely ridiculous, pretending to be twice as big as the wearer and covering beyond his knees), but all the other times, when he is wearing his speedos, it is not to show himself to anybody. It truly amazes me the amount of people thinking other people do this and that thinking 100% about them. Some of us do things just because we like them and do not care about what somebody else think.

          3. Mookie*

            The existence of bodies, including genitalia, doesn’t reveal anyone’s “sexuality.” Wanting to look good is human behavior, not an invitation to be objectified.

    2. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

      I actually had a similar conversation with my male colleagues about board shorts and whether or not they needed to wear some sort of tank top or even bother using the pool at all.

      When it comes to being around board members I think everyone gets a little paranoid.

  30. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

    Huh. I disagree with Alison’s take. The OP’s boss gave a pretty resounding “Don’t worry about it, a bikini will be fine.” Why would we disagree with the boss’ understanding of the culture?

    It sounds like the OP will be uncomfortable in a bikini anyway, so, yeah, obviously don’t do something that makes you uncomfortable. But her proposed compromise — a coverup and not going in the pool, just sitting near it — sounds like she’ll be doing more than enough (according to her boss) to make everyone involved comfortable.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Well, for one thing, because the OP said “every time I think about meeting any of them on the pool deck while wearing a swimsuit, I freeze and cannot imagine the encounter to be anything other than horribly awkward.” And I think bikinis are, in general, not work-appropriate, even in this context.

      1. OP*

        I just mentioned this above, but I should have clarified: I didn’t specify that I was thinking of a bikini when I spoke to my boss. I said I was worried about running into Board members while wearing my swimsuit – my boss may well have had something more conservative in mind when she told me not to worry.

      2. Argh!*

        Just because the boss says it’s okay doesn’t mean it’s really okay. People can be very insensitive to the feelings of others. If a person feels uncomfortable showing skin to coworkers, that is a feeling worth respecting. If a person is too cheap to invest in a coverup then not swimming is an excellent option. It’s a workplace gathering not the summer olympics. It’s possible that not everyone will be swimming.

      3. Isabel C.*

        Agreed with the first part, for sure. I don’t have much patience for “modest,” and I wear very small bikinis in most situations–but when I go visit my folks for summer vacation, I pack an extremely frumpy one-piece, because home is where my parents are, and while my parents don’t have any vast taboos either, they’re my parents, and it’s awkward.

        If you have a similar None Of Us Want to Acknowledge That The Others Have Genitals kind of relationship with any of your co-workers, and many people do (including me at at least a few jobs), investing in some more concealing clothing is probably for the best.

    2. OP*

      Well, to be fair, I didn’t specify “bikini” to my boss – I think I said something like “I’m excited about the retreat, but every time I think about running into a Board member in my swimsuit, all I can think of is how awkward it would be!” And she replied that I shouldn’t worry and should enjoy myself. It’s possible that if I had specified a two piece/bikini she would have responded differently, by maybe not.

  31. AMC*

    Since no one’s mentioned Athleta, I’m just swooping in to say, as a super-tall lady I love Athleta one-pieces. They have several that come in tall, and they’re all flattering, comfortable and are athleisure-cute. Plus super SPF protection.

    1. OP*

      I have been ogling some Athleta, especially after reading these comments and coming to the general conclusion that more conservative suit + cover up + modified expectations = better time for everyone…but the retreat starts THIS Saturday, so I’m afraid there’s not time. There is always next year, though!

  32. Former Retail Manager*

    I’m sorry, but I’m just not as progressive as most commenters on this topic. I think a bikini is inappropriate around co-workers, period, regardless of the age or gender of your co-workers. On that same note, I also think that a male in a Speedo would be highly inappropriate and gag-worthy. I personally find it to be a respect thing. Your relationship warrants a certain level of respect for each other, which includes how you dress in the presence of these people. There’s a time and place for everything. Save the bikini for being home by the pool with your friends or significant other or on your own personal vacation.

    Also, it jumped out to me that the OP said they would be bummed to have time at the beach and not be able to enjoy it. I don’t believe that wearing a bikini vs. a one piece, or any of the other great suggestions above, would greatly impact my ability to enjoy the pool and sunshine. Come on…..

    1. Kelly L.*

      It’s the potential awkwardness and worry that would inhibit her ability to enjoy the pool, not the style of suit, if you read carefully.

    2. Emilia Bedelia*

      I think the OP meant that sitting outside the pool in a cover up, if she didn’t buy a one piece, would be less enjoyable than swimming.

    3. Leatherwings*

      Eh, I don’t really think this is about respect at all. It’s about comfort for all involved. Making it about respect gives the whole situation a weird power dynamic that, given the fact that the OP is a younger woman, feels weird and unnecessary to me.

      I also don’t think it’s necessary to gag at other people’s bodies? Idk, I think it’s best if OP wears whatever swimsuit she wants in the pool (where it’s likely nobody will even notice) but a cover up outside the pool that’s even more covered than a one piece. That doesn’t read as inappropriate or disrespectful to me at all.

    4. Isben Takes Tea*

      Well, I see your view, up to a point. But the pool itself is not the center of a workplace event. It’s true that she wouldn’t be there if it weren’t for work, but it’s still the case that it’s an “off-the-clock” social setting. Therefore, I think it’s unreasonable to look at this purely from the coworker’s stance. This isn’t a “how do I dress appropriately for work” question, this is a “how do I prevent awkwardness when there is a high probability my coworkers will see me in a particular social setting” question.

    5. OP*

      Kelly L. below nailed it – my wording in the original letter may not have been clear, but I’m far more concerned about interactions with the Board than my outfit. While I’d *like* to swim and hang out at the beach, my concern was more that given my position within the organization that it might not be appropriate for me to be there in ANY outfit, much less something as revealing as a swimsuit can be.

      1. MissDisplaced*

        The first time is hard… you have to play it by ear a bit. I’ve been to a few of these things, and people generally do go swimming and such the day before/evening for a bit of relaxation. Unless you’re part of the setup crew or something, or the board still needs to go over things (like a run-through).
        I guess that’s why I liked the idea of a bathing suit under a sundress type coverup. You can still look polished no matter what.
        Good luck, and don’t stress over it too much. They are human too, after all.

    6. Mookie*

      <Speedo would be highly inappropriate and gag-worthy.

      Please be polite about people’s bodies.

      I personally find it to be a respect thing. Your relationship warrants a certain level of respect for each other, which includes how you dress in the presence of these people.

      The OP isn’t planning on wearing something at anyone nor is her body capable of disrespecting someone.

  33. GreenTeaPot*

    A modest suit, rash guard or a some sort of coverup is an investment in your reputation for having good taste, OP.

  34. Fellow Kayaker*

    This season, I’ve seen a lot of high-neck tankini tops. They have kind of a halter effect, except they have shoulder straps and don’t pull on your neck. Hallelujah. Anyway, I’ve tried a few on and they’re really cute and flattering without showing off the farm.

    BTW, I’ve been in this position before (swimming event with coworkers) and I opted for a tankini instead of bikini. I enjoy the water way too much to sit on the sidelines. Not gonna lie, it was a tad awkward at first, but we all got over it. Though I’m LOLing at the idea of “business professional swimwear.” :)

    1. Dynamic Beige*

      I was at a BBQ/pool party recently and only two of the adults went swimming, the others were all “Oh… I just couldn’t” What? Huh? Pretty much all of you are married and the rest of you that ain’t, ain’t no one interested in. There was no way I was going to miss a chance to go swimming after how hot it’s been this summer and it was awesome. Think what you will of me, I don’t care.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        Are you saying they wouldn’t because of their married/not married status? I don’t understand how that’s relevant. If I choose not to swim in front of people, it’s because I don’t like the way I look in a swimsuit. It has nothing at all to do with whether anyone might be married or not married or attracted or not attracted… as if being married or not had anything to do with being attracted to a random swimmer anyway…

        1. Dynamic Beige*

          it’s because I don’t like the way I look in a swimsuit.

          Exactly. I don’t like the way I look in a swimsuit either, but I’m not going to let that stop me from doing something I want to do. I just found it so bizarre that all these people were so squeamish about it and pretty much all of them were in better shape than me.

  35. Cath in Canada*

    I’ve been thinking about this too – I’m going to a conference in September that’s by a beautiful lake near Montreal, and after looking at the photos I do so desperately want to swim in that lake. I’m going to look into some of these suggestions to try and avoid awkwardness if I bump into any co-workers!

  36. Anon13*

    I’m not sure what size you are, but if you’re an 8-22, Swimsuits for All has an awesome line of activewear/swimwear. It literally looks exactly like activewear (and can be used as activewear, obviously). I apologize if someone already suggested this – I tried to read through all of the comments, but may have missed some.

  37. Becca*

    It’s also possible to wear a dark t-shirt over your bikini (assuming the bottoms are reasonably modest). And you can get swim shorts pretty cheaply, either for men or women, at many department stores.

    Have fun on your trip! And may it be productive, too :)

  38. MissDisplaced*

    OP, If you do decide to wear the bikini, then certainly op for the most conservative bikini you have, and then wear under a coverup (jog shorts/tank or dress type thing). Depending on the culture, it might be fine.
    But yeah, as others suggested this may become more of a work thing every year, in which case you might want to invest in a tankini or one-piece suit with more coverage.

    Also, if you do have active wear… well, I just got back from the beach and I often wore my jog shorts in the water as I like a little more coverage on the bottom. Depending on what you have, they almost look the same as bathing suits. That’s one thing nice nowadays, there are so many more options.

  39. Mrs. Smith*

    I’m a middle school teacher in Florida. Every year I have to help chaperone about 80 young adolescents on a day trip to a beach, and this is a constant source of consternation for me, other female colleagues, and the men too. As chaperones, even though there are lifeguards, we have to supervise the kids in the water. My poor male colleague had to explain to the vice principal that he had many large (yet tasteful) tattoos, which of course the VP did not know because my friend wears a shirt and tie to work each day. This year, in expectation of yet another awkward trip where I try to shove my voluptuous self into something beachy yet modest, I bought some Land’s End swim capris with a little skirt for your bum and a matching tanking top. The top has adjustable cleavage though, and in a fit of pique I have adjusted it to maximum dazzle because guess what? If you don’t want to see Mrs. Smith’s awesome cleavage, STOP MAKING HER TAKE TEENAGE BOYS TO THE BEACH. We live on a frickin’ island – these kids can see the ocean any damn day. And thus, my cleavage is a silent protest! So, OP, invest in something you like that you are happy in, but if they wanted you to appear in work-wear all the time, they’d hold the meeting at an airport Hilton. Pack sunblock!

  40. community pool member*

    We have a community pool in my neighborhood that I am a member of and it also seems that MANY people that I encounter in my professional life are also members — board members, customers, vendors, peers at other organizations. I don’t want to change pools (I’m sure any pool could have the same problems, in fact, there is another pool and one of my board members lives across the street) and I’m not going to be concerned about what I wear during my free time in case I run in to anyone. I wear what I like and when I see people, it is what it is. I am at a pool after all. And it’s just as awkward for them to be in their bathing suits or swim trunks. No one wants to see a colleague’s nipples any more than I want them to see me in my underwear :)

    Although men can seem to be far more comfortable with their swimwear. That could be because most men wear trunks that are a little more forgiving than even the average one-piece. But they still get clingy when wet and I have certainly seen men who typically wear Speedos pack those same Speedos on business retreat trips.

    A fair compromise, and this is what I do, is just wear a cover up any time you feel over exposed and want a little more modesty. Find something that you can just pull over your head or wrap around you and keep it at arm’s length.

    (That being said, don’t wear a thong. That goes for men and women.)

    1. Isabel C.*

      It is a truth universally acknowledged that the men who wear thongs to the beach are never the men who *should* wear thongs.

  41. Freezing Librarian*

    Ohh, I feel you OP – in my previous job, for some reason a lot of the higher-ups thought pool parties were Great Casual Bonding Experiences.

    For me, swim shorts are pretty much the best thing ever for uncomfortable pool parties – short enough to be cute but absolutely zero risk of anything riding up. As someone said up above, thank all deities for Lands End.


  42. Some Sort of Mangement consultant*

    I’ve been thinking about this a lot and I think where I’m from (Northern Europe) it would probably be a lot ‘weirder’ to show up in a swim dress or any other very covered alternative. I usually stick out in my one-piece. (I’m also fatter than the average in my country so that affects things I suppose.)

    Not that I’d relish the idea of swimming with my colleagues.

  43. Nutella Fitzgerald*

    Wish this had been posted a week ago! I just got back from a multi-day work event at a resort. During the downtime on the first day, I hung out with coworkers on the beach and in the pool in a fairly modest two-piece, a halter tankini top (which, as another poster pointed out, shows no more cleavage than I would be revealing in my normal work attire) and a shirred swim skirt (link in below comment). So I actually showed neither belly button nor butt cheek, but MULTIPLE coworkers commented that my bathing suit was sexy. Not the vibe I wanted to give off, so I skipped the beach and pool for the rest of the time I was there :(

  44. Brett*

    Reading through this thread, I find it funny how far rashguards have come as a fashion item since I first used them in the 80s! They used to be such a purely utilitarian item, something you wore just to avoid getting rashed up when you bottomed out boogie boarding in warm water (and didn’t want to bother with a spring suit).

  45. Employment Lawyer*

    I won a large sexual harassment suit for someone whose gross manager had a picture of her… in a bikini… from the work trip.


    Seriously, though: Try not to wear a bikini. And I advise men to keep their shirts on as well. Nobody should be looking at each other in a semi-dressed state at a work event.

    In my opinion any reasonable bathing suit (or shirtless for men) is OK if you’re actively swimming laps, since that’s “sporting wear, worn while sporting.” It’s the same exception which lets people wear bike shorts, sports running bras, and so so. But sunbathing is basically a no-no for either sex since it inherently involves a lot of skin.

    If you don’t want to buy a new bathing suit, a good solution is to wear a lycra sunshirt. If your bottom isn’t conservative, add shorts (or board shorts.) Lycra plus shorts presents a sporty-surfer-athlete vibe, which is conveniently acceptable socially and also in a work setting. Men should keep a buttondown t shirt or polo at hand and should wear it whenever they’re not swimming; they should also choose loose ylon trunks or should add shorts if they wear a tight suit.

  46. ElizzyBeth*

    I would think that investing in a modest swimsuit at a store like Target, Walmart or even Kohl’s would be a super small expense in exchange for the potential benefits. Shoot, as others mentioned, there are all kinds of super comfortable, modest options out there that are still very fashionable. The OP mentioned this was an annual event, yet thinks she won’t ever wear the suit again? That was the first thing that stuck out to me, and it seems contradictory.

  47. Althea*

    I was kind of amused reading this whole thread because it’s so… American. In Japan, it’s quite common for coworkers to go to a hot springs resort together. You would separate by gender, unclothe, go to a bathing room to wash, then go as a (same-gender) group to the hot springs to soak. Usually the male and female sides are separated by a partition so you can hear but not see. But you still see all of your same-gender colleagues completely nude. It’s often considered a place where you really connect and bond.

    All this is to say, that it so completely depends on culture. Of course, OP makes up the culture, and so do the board members. So driving it more or less conservative can be done by the OP as well. OP has seen the board members relaxing with family before. What do they do? Do the female board members swim in bikinis? I don’t see why OP should act differently from them, or feel uncomfortable about it. Or, the males board members – have they seemed bothered in the past running into OP in just swim trunks? And considering these reactions, does OP feel comfortable being more, less, or the same level of showy?

    In general, I’m disgusted by double standards and try to behave to assert myself against them. However, I’m also extremely busty, so I have always had to consider that what is ok on a trim woman would not be ok on me. But if I feel comfortable wearing something in public, that means I’m comfortable with any person – boss, board, parent – seeing me in it.

  48. Noah*

    In my experience in corporate law, there would be nothing inappropriate about wearing a bikini somewhere where bikinis are appropriate.

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