Resort Chic — for a Business Meeting in the Bahamas

what to wear to a business meeting in the BahamasReader L has a question about what to wear for a business meeting in the Bahamas…

Unlike many of your readers, I am not a lawyer but am an MBA grad working in Investor Relations. After a couple of years of trudging through the economy, the management team has decided to have our small strategic planning meeting in the Bahamas next month (yay!); however, I am at a loss when it comes to attire. The information provided says “resort chic”. I’m assuming that means clothing which does not consist of a printed hibiscus sprawling across ones chest. Can you give me some suggestions where I can go to find classy resort wear? Thanks a bunch. I’ll toast a fruity drink to you!

Well, I’ll do anything to have a fruity drink toasted to me. :) Honestly, though: why do companies keep doing these kinds of awkward retreats, without specific advice for women? The men who attend this meeting will show up in khaki pants and a button-front shirt and be A-OK; if they’re more formal some may have a linen blazer with them, whereas others may wear shorts with untucked button-front shirts (with the sleeves rolled up, of course). Either way you slice it, the margin of error will be fairly small for the men. Whereas for women — when one says “resort chic” my imagination runs from the casual hippie clothing like a maxi dress to the more high-fashion model look of someone 6′ tall wearing short-shorts, 4″ heels, and perhaps an expensive blouse, loaded up with jewelry and a sour expression. Or, of course, a great bikini… but none of those choices really seem ideal for your situation, because you don’t want to confuse vacation with a business meeting  (Pictured: Bahamas Gazebo, originally uploaded to Flickr by bryce_edwards.)

As a woman attending such a meeting, here’s my $.02:

a) Check with any other women attending the meeting what they’re wearing, no matter whether they’re junior or superior to you. Ignore anyone whose outfit involves a flower in her hair or a midriff-baring top, and sift through what’s left.

b) Figure out where the actual meeting will be held (you can call the meeting spot in the Bahamas directly to get this info if you want to). Inside in an air-conditioned conference room? Or outside on a sweeping veranda, with possible issues from heat, wind, and bugs? (If it’s held outside and you have hair that is long enough to pull back, I would advise doing that at the beginning of every day you’re in the Bahamas on business.)

c) Build your wardrobe around a few basics. For example: lightweight trousers in a cotton or even a linen can easily be paired with a t-shirt (either brightly colored or not) for a no-fuss wardrobe; you can add a cotton or linen blazer to the ensemble to make it more formal, or a colorful wrap to make it more casual. Being that you are in the Bahamas, I might bring sandals instead of pumps (but make sure you get a pedicure before you go). Other basics that might serve you well (with little space) would include a sheath dress, which you can wear to dinner by itself if you go somewhere nice with the team, or with a blazer for a meeting if things are more formal than you anticipated. Depending on how you feel about shorts personally, you may even want to pack a pair or two if they look good with a blazer. Personally I would avoid skirts and dresses for the meeting — just thinking of my own collection of sheath dresses for the office and jersey dresses for play, it seems far too easy to swing either too casual or too dressy for the meeting.

Even with those caveats, I must say I’m jealous you get to go to the Bahamas on the company dime.  Try to take at least a day or two extra for yourself (and your honey, if you can) to enjoy the tropical retreat — and pull out those maxi dresses/short-shorts for those personal vacation days.

Readers, what are your thoughts on business attire for a meeting in the Bahamas? What does “resort chic” mean to you?

Comments

  1. I think if you want to wear a dress or a skirt, this is where you wear the structured styles in linen that show up this time of year. For instance, Talbots currently has this dress: http://www.talbots.com/online/browse/product_details.jsp?id=prdi26517&rootCategory=cat70008&catId=cat80018&sortKey=Default&section=Regular&conceptIdUnderSale=cat70008

    Which I think could strike the balance pretty nicely. I like the green best, as the blue seems to skew a little more casual. Likewise, a linen pencil or a-line skirt would probably work too. Yes, linen is going to crumple, but it’s supposed to, and that works with the “resort chic” vibe.

    …This link is probably going to get me stuck in moderation.

  2. 1. Linen blend trousers plus office worthy tees like the ones from Lafayette
    2. Try to skip black
    3. A line skirts plus fitted tops, wrap tops
    4. Flats, or more casual footwear but I’d avoid sandals. YMMV.
    5. Turquoise or other appropriate colored jewelry

  3. Excellent suggestions! Keep in mind linen garments are cool but wrinkle prone. Unless the wrinkles are clearly part of the design, the wearer can look schlumpy. That said, I strongly agree that natural fibers are usually more comfortable in heat and humidity.

    I would bring layers in case of overly air conditioned rooms. I’d bring a hat that ties on, in case of windy outdoor meetings. And couldn’t she bring the same outfit you presuppose for the men–khakis and a button down?

    • i think khakis and a button down on a woman in the bahamas would look very strange (and be hot!). the linen dress AJ posted with a sheer cardigan or lightweight blazer would be much better, imho

    • I think a khaki skirt and button down is a perfect female version of the male uniform. Bring along a cardigan since the A/C may be cranked up. As an aside, I never understood the point of scheduling meetings in beautiful destinations. Being stuck in a conference room with no opportunity to enjoy the location except for awkward dinners and receptions seems painful to me.

      • Anonymous :

        Sorry, but that look is prep school chic, not resort chic.

      • Bonnie, what is even more painful, is when you spot the finance director doing laps in the swimming pool because he managed to finish his department meeting early, whereas you are stuck until the last minute because your meeting is taking longer… I was so resentful

  4. I’d wear nicer/not too revealing maxi dresses with cardigans; capris with cute tops (button down untucked, nice t-shirt w/ cardi, etc), and maybe a lightweight sheath/shift dress. I’d wear flats and pretty sandals. you are in the bahamas after all. (for what its worth, i work in a business casual firm that leans towards the more formal and this is what i would wear if my firm was taking us to the bahamas. i wish.)

  5. Always dress CONSERVETIVELY. That means not to think that just because you are at a posh resort that you can be casual. When I first joined my firm, the manageing partner told me that he was forming an insurance subsidiery and that it would be necessary to actually go to Bermuda to hold the first meeting of the company.

    I understand that Bermuda is NOT the same as the Bahamas but it is close. He told me that I could come if I performed the role of the Corporete Secretary. So of COURSE I said Yes, and then I wanted to bring Alan, who I was still dating. But the manageing partner said not to bring any guests so I had to leave Alan home. But anyway, the manageing partner said that we would be the ONLY ones there other than LOCAL counsel, and that we could go early Saturday for a MONDAY meeting. So of course I thought weekend = causal, and boy was I wrong. The manageing partner got all dressed up, 3 piece suits as well as a fedora for his BALD head. He has a little red hair, but it really is BALD. We then ate at the HOTEL resturant, and the manageing partner ordered 2 ROB ROYZ, and he had me try it. UGH. But he insisted that I sip it, and that was before he started drinking it. It helped his bad breathe. Also, he asked that I wear my swimsuit to the after-dinnner soirey, and I did not understand why when he was wearing a cabana suit. The manageing partner looks like George Kostanza’s father, but without hair, so you know why I have some difficulties with him.

  6. Yankee-Peach :

    I am going to bookmark this post in the hopes that someday my job and a Carribean island will collide. :)

  7. You’re living my dream! I’d bring nice capris, cute sandals (mostly flats), a cotton cardigan, some cute tees, a khaki (or madras!) skirt, a lightweight sheath dress, and nice bermudas. Then I think I could mix and match.

  8. I think you could do a bright-colored sheath dress for this, paired with flats or dressy sandals. I would also stay away from the light-weight jersey dresses, because the wind might make it a task to try to hold down your skirt. The sheath dresses would be great for accommodating the breeze and the heat, but keeping things “office appropriate”. And, you can probably get away with more color than normal, so why not enjoy a bright blue/green sheath while you can? :)

  9. My first thought was shirt dress. Have fun. I’m jealous!

  10. When I gave a lecture at a conference in Tahiti (way around the world, but still tropical), I wore a printed (brown with creme and a little blue) Talbots skirt that ended just above the knee, a silk T that picked up the blue in the print, and a cotton khaki jacket. The bigwig who I met there hired me a couple years later, so I couldn’t’ve been that wrong. The best thing I saw any of the women wear was a fitted (absolutely not tight) linen-ish dress, sleeveless. She had a jacket, but didn’t need it.

  11. Another non-lawyer professional, here. I just attended a business retreat at a vacation resort (non-tropical though :( ) and anguished over what to pack. I packed a bit more than usual and planned “modular” outfits, so that I could be prepared to easily dress up or down. (There was one time when I caught a glance at coworkers gathering and quickly changed pants and shoes before meeting up).

    I would go with cropped trousers, peep-toe wedges, a lightweight blouse, and a lightweight jacket. I personally think that skirts and dresses are completely appropriate so long as the usual rules of professional modesty are observed. A knee-length a-line or pencil skirt with boatneck 3/4 sleeve top, for example. For daytime, I’d stick with mainly neutrals, with pastel or tropical (think coral and turquoise) accents. Hopefully you can catch some pool time, but wear a one-piece and a cover-up. If you will have off-time, bring a casual outfit, but something that you can wear in front of your CEO. Khaki shorts and patterned peasant blouse or a knee-length, cap-sleeve knit (not clingy!!!) dress, for example. Avoid halters, spaghetti straps/strapless, midriff, skin-tight, sheer, or short items. If you bring flip-flops, wear them only at the pool. Carry a shawl in your handbag, so that you can cover-up if a friendly lunch with a coworker turns into an impromptu meeting with your boss or if you go from outside to cool AC. And when in doubt, dress up.

  12. Most of the comments are spot-on, but I would avoid capris. No matter where you are, this is a business meeting. I too went somewhere last year where the dress code was “resort chic”, and ALL the men wore khakis or gray slacks, open-neck button-down shirts or polo-type shirts, and blue blazers. Not kidding. The women for the most part wore business-casual office attire (except for one woman who looked like she was wearing a slip. She was the talk of the meeting, and not in a good way.) Slacks/pencil skirts and either “tees” with blazers or sweater sets, or sheath dresses with cardigans or blazers would be fine and could be made more or less casual with the choice of top. Stay away from loud prints, resort-wear dresses, and anything else you wouldn’t normally wear in a business environment. You may in the Bahamas, but you are still at work.

    • Anonymous :

      I think there is a difference between capris (which hit mid-calf, and, frankly, are flattering on no one) and cropped pants (which hit at the ankle). I think cropped pants are “dressier” and could be conservative enough for this type of setting (obviously fabric plays a role).

    • i wear capris to my semi-conservative law firm during the summer and no one bats an eyelash. If they are appropriate here, they are certainly appropriate in the Bahamas. While you may be correct that they are not going to be accepted in every business environment, I doubt the Bahamian retreat is one of them.

  13. I play golf. Here is an idea whether you play golf or not. They make a lot of nice slightly more conservative out door wear that I think is professional enough. Of course they make the short skirts for the LPGA hotties, but I would steer away from those. There are a lot of great styles, not all Brooks Brothers.

    Also, I don’t know if you mentioned whether there will be swimming activities or not. I am a firm believed that bathing suits and work should not mix. If you have a great body, people will talk about you. If you have a middle age body, people will talk about you. And people (an by people I mostly mean men, but some women too) get stupid in bathing suits (especially if drinks are involved). I decline to put a bathing suit on in front of my male co-workers. I have gone a few kids related road trips with female co-workers but I do not don a bathing suit in front of my male partners.

  14. I work in Hawaii, where men wear aloha shirts and pressed khakis for work. (The military — the largest employer on Oahu — actually publishes that as the dress code for civilians.) Women quickly learn that khakis and button front shirts or tee shirts are just not attractive on most women. Most professional women here wear casual knee length skirts and conservative sleeveless or short sleeved tops or wrap/sheath dresses, preferably washable. (I have some cotton knit ones that are great.) Dresses and skirts are usually more flattering than khakis and always cooler. Walking shorts are inappropriate for meetings, at least here. I’ve worn dressy walking shorts with a pretty top for drinks, outings, or meals. Dry cleanable clothes and tropical climates generally are not compatible. Closed toe dress shoes are similarly incompatible, as you never know when your feet will swell. Do you really want to be hobbling around or have your feet spilling out of your shoes? J Crew cotton cardis are great to have in your satchel in case you end up somewhere air conditioned. Linen and travel generally aren’t a great combo, in my experience. Hotel irons are famously inclined to ruin clothes, and pressing services are crazy expensive. Having said all this, I agree — there is just no perfect answer for women in these situations. Wear something happy, comfortable, and flattering would be my best advice. Enjoy yourself.

    • Exactly. Women look pretty bad if they try to wear a version of khakis and Tommy Bahamas. I’d say a skirt, even a full skirt, a tee, and either light cotton cardigan or light jacket.

  15. Anonymous :

    Khaki pants or straight cut khaki skirts and polos/blouses make women look like cruise employees. Sorry. Dresses are safer.

  16. Had business in Cancun this winter. BRING SOMETHING FORMAL just in case… I got called to accept an award on behalf of my company at a surprise event with CEOs on stage and didn’t have a ‘full suit’ since it wasn’t part of my plan. I had a lovely silk pencil skirt with silk blouse, and didn’t even wear the blazer I had (cotton khaki) because it was just too hot to lug it around all day. It went fine and there was a range, but Ted Turner etc. were in full suits.
    I wore close-toed flats the whole time. Sorry, men don’t show toes, why would I. Also there were Muslims etc. at my meetings. But many women wore sandals.
    I saw and wore the following: skirts almost every day, silk mainly, Aline and pencil. Blouses. Sleeveless shirts with cardigans. Capris. One teammate wore the ‘men’ uniform and looked fine. She is lesbian and not that that matters, just has a more masculine style, so it works better for her than me. I hate button ups. My clothes were all stinky by the middle of the trip. Bring extra or make sure they have dry cleaning. Always bring layers- I was FREEZIng while giving presentations, despite bringing my layer. Hats, sunscreen, glasses. Don’t count on avoiding the sun or finding what you need there.
    I brought light-colored and flowered items- was fun to get to wear them. Also wore a few colorful brooches and scarves.

    Have fun!!

  17. Just to clarify the reason I mentioned Muslims at the meetings was to explain why coverage was important as ever for doing business despite tropical setting.

    • Anonymous :

      I’m not Muslim, but I know many women who wear the hijab with open toed shoes. I don’t think wearing sandals is out of the question just because you want to be respectful of the Muslim attendees…

  18. Oh yeah I also had a ‘loud’ wrap dress, and one warm sweater, which both came in handy the night we hosted an outdoor reception and it got cold.

  19. One more thing!! I got an ‘old lady’ black conservative swim suit at Nordstrom that worked well. Had the chance to snorkel one day and had 7 pools at hotel, just wasn’t fair not to swim a few times, and felt far more comfy in that than showier suits. Tried to not be seen, but was what it was a few times. Live life you know? When my Ukrainian male teammate tried to take a picture of us at the snorkel spot I pulled the plug on that though. He was just excited and meant no harm but sheesh.

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