What to Wear to the Office Pool Party…

2018 Update: We still stand by this advice on what to wear to the office pool party — but you may also want to check out our recent discussion of swimsuits for professional women, as well as all of our advice for summer work events like this, including summer associate events.

What should you wear to the office pool party? Can you wear a bikini to an office function? Are women really “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” when it comes to the summer work events like this? Reader B wonders…

My office is planning a couple “beach days” or “boat days” this summer. This will be primarily coworkers, but families may be invited to 1-2. I am the youngest person in my office by about 10 years and also one of very few females in my male-dominated company. We are a casual to business casual office normally.

What does one wear to something like this? I don’t want to wear something my coworkers will be chatting about Monday, but my typical beach/swimwear (bikini + straw hat + little coverup dress) seems like it would perhaps be too risque for an office party?

After I sent her the post and discussion from the last time we talked about what kind of swimsuit to wear for an office function, B wrote back:

I don’t own any one pieces (I’m 24 and just at the start of my career) or even tankinis, so I’d need to buy something if a bikini is too risque. I think part of my issue is I’d probably be one of maybe 2 women there. Most of the advice seems to be for larger offices, but I work in a small, mostly male office where I am positive if there is water, 90% of my male coworkers will be jumping in without abandon and will probably think I’m a bit of a party pooper if I don’t.

office pool partyThe poll question also makes me a bit sad – as was mentioned in the comments, it seems like I can’t win. If I go with my typical beachwear (a well fitting bikini I look OK in and is not inappropriate for a non-coworker event, covered up when I’m outside the water), everyone will think I’m inappropriate and my male coworkers might stare. Okay, fine. But if I wear a conservative swimsuit and a coverup, half the people will think it’s completely inappropriate I wore a swimsuit at all. And the other half would think I’m lame for not joining in the activities? It really does seem like a question that’s a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t.

Well, when you put it like that…

First, to reader B, if your male co-workers are mid-30s, I’d actually be surprised if “90%” of them are comfortable enough in their own skin to rip off their shirt and dive on in (unless, perhaps, they’re taking their own children in).  But let’s assume I’m wrong.  Since it’s your first time going to the office pool party:

– Focus on wearing an outfit appropriate for other activities.  A barbecue?  Volleyball game? Boating?  These each have their own considerations, but I would say that an outfit appropriate for this is the primary thing you should be focused on. In other words:  your cover-up is not your outfit; it’s just something to wear immediately before or after you get out of the water.

– Think “sporty,” not pin-up, push-up, or sexy.  Think “appropriate for my boss’s 10-year-old son to see me in.”  I always think of Land’s End has having really conservative, well-priced swimsuits that can also be a bit cute; I also really like the vibe of the Athleta catalog. If you have to wear stilettos with your bikini, you’re in the wrong ballpark.

– Do your best to avoid the chance of any “wardrobe malfunctions.”  For example, the J.Crew bikini pictured above has no straps and ties in the back… so even though it’s really cute, I would avoid it for the office party.  If you haven’t worn the swimsuit before, make sure nothing’s showing through.  I would probably choose a top with a bit of padding on it to avoid “headlights.”  If you have bikini line issues, make sure that they’re under control.

– Whatever you wear, only wear your swimsuit in the pool itself.  Don’t lounge on chairs and try to get a tan or anything like that.  As one of the commenters noted in the older post:

We had a pool party event at one of the named partner’s homes when I was a 2-L summer associate at a California big firm. Some of the summers (male and female) went swimming, including one female 1-L who spent many lunches working out instead of going to lunch. She was in fantastic shape and looked great. She swam and also lounged a bit by the pool to dry off. She didn’t do anything that would have been inappropriate at an in-law’s pool. … The other swimming summer (also a 1-L) wore a sporty-type black bikini while in the water, and immediately changed into clothes once she got out of the pool. … She ended up declining her offer. People still mention her bright blue bikini two years later when her name comes up. The black bikini summer also declined her offer, but no one mentions her bikini.

That said, can you wear your regular bikini?  I still would strongly advise against it, if only because this is your first time at the office pool party.  If you’re really dead set on wearing your bikini, I beg of you: please bring a more conservative option with you to the event.  It’s ok if it’s an inexpensive, ugly one-piece — it’s even OK if the tags are still on it when you arrive at the event.  That at least gives you the option to figure out the vibe of the event and decide what to wear.  If you feel confident wearing your regular bikini in the water, rock it out.  If you don’t, though, you’ll be glad you’ve got a more conservative option to choose from.

Readers, weigh in: what have you worn to office pool parties?  What would you advise a 24-year-old just starting at a law firm to wear?

Wondering what to wear to the office pool party? Readers have noted that there may be that "damned if you do, damned if you don't" feeling about appropriate swimming attire for summer work events -- so how the heck do you wear a swimsuit, enjoy yourself and the party, and still look professional and not show too much skin? SIGH.


  1. Why, oh why, are offices having pool parties to begin with? What a great way to make tons of employees feel awkward and uncomfortable.

    • SoCalAtty :

      Well, I’m in So Cal, so it happens. I have a “tankini” – a tank top that covers everything for the top, and on the bottom I wear the bikini bottom with board shorts over them that don’t ever come off. Basically it ends up looking like shorts and a tank top for me. Check out A t h l e t a for some good options.

      • Couldn't Wait to Quit :

        It may sound a bit “old lady”, but a lot of swim dress type suits are actually quite cute when they’re on, and do a great job of flattering the figure, while not showing off every detail. I bought one out of necessity for an overseas trip where I needed to be modest at hotel pools, and I actually love it.

        • FormerPhotog :

          Actually Shabby Apple has a great line of swimwear this year, one and two pieces. Some are mid-century inspired, some are silver-age Hollywood. All are pretty modestly cut, all are completely adorable and functional.

          My office doesn’t do official pool functions, but we do end up doing off hours things as a group, including gym/exercise and pool time when at sales and training meetings, as well as trade shows. I also got stuck go-karting in an a-line skirt one night, so now there’s a pair of black treggings in my desk. *sigh*.

        • FearTheIntern :

          I’m a 20 y/o intern at a law firm. We’re a very small, tight-knit firm and the head attorney will often invite everyone over for barbeques and swimming in the summers. Being 20, I usually wear tiny bikinis, but a while back in invested in a dress-type bathing suit. It’s a two piece, but the bottom doesn’t show. The top is black with white polka dots, tank-top thick shoulder straps and comes to just below my behind, ending in a short ruffle. The top of the suit is just padded enough to ensure no nipple exposure and is tube-top style, so there’s no cleavage.

          I love it because it’s adorable and fashionable but also completely covers my breasts and bottom. I mean, I could wear this thing to a church retreat and be fine.

          The other bathing suit solution I love for these things is to wear an old fashioned basic one-piece (mine is red with a Calvin Klein logo on the front) with high leg holes, like the ones where the leg hole extends up to the hip bone or above, and then wear a pair of short swim shorts over it to cover my behind and upper upper thigh. It’s a sporty and modest look.

      • That sounds totally right to me. As long as you’re only wearing a suit in the water, and you concentrate on something sporty like board shorts as soon as you get out of the water, you can swing an office party. That seems particularly likely for a small office full of men like the OP describes, where they’re much more likely to be truly wanting to have fun in the water rather than posture on the edge of a pool.

        To be more explicit OP, looking good in your bikini is totally off topic here, what you want is to feel inconspicuous as you participate in sporty activities.

      • Anonymous :

        That sounds like the best option. It can still be considered sporty.

        But I agree that no office should have a pool party. That is just awkward. I worked in an office where the GM decided to throw one (I couldn’t attend, luckily.) I always thought he was a bit creepy and was later found to be having an affair with a subordinate (and that had a Law and Order type ending that I can’t BELIEVE didn’t end up in the press, but I won’t go into details.)

    • I totally agree. I would hate to go to an event like this.

      And can I just geek out for a moment that Ask A Manager is commenting on this site?

    • Anonymous :

      I’ve been to corporate functions and retreats at golf clubs and beach clubs — I don’t think anyone expects you to play Marco Polo, but if there is a pool at least some people will swim. So its not a ‘pool party’ per se, it is a party or corporate event with a swimming pool in the vicinity.

      That said, NFW would I wear a bikini, even if in supermodel shape. There are all kinds of fashionable tankinis and one-pieces now — Anthropologie has a great selection. One piece need not mean dowdy!

    • karenpadi :

      I’m in the Silicon Valley and people have requested a water park/pool event. Luckily, our office manager refuses to even consider it. Apparently, there’s an old-school rule against swimming parties at work.

      Our Minnesota headquarters, OTOH, has a picnic every summer at a water park. Maybe it’s a geographic thing? I’m just glad I’m not in Minnesota…

      • We get pretty damn excited every summer that it’s warm enough to consider swimming outside. :)

    • If there is anyone older than about 45, I doubt they will come in a swimsuit. This goes for men and women.

      It’s perfectly appropriate to wear a tank, skirt, and sandals to this type of event. No one will make you get in the water. A jersey dress would also be fine.

      • This is precisely what I was thinking! If our firm had a pool party with families invited, I would expect the kids to be in the pool, but not the lawyers. Play it safe and dress summer casual and mingle around the barbeque. Eliminate the awkwardness altogether!

        • Exactly. We have a beach barbeque every year and adults wear shorts, skirts and tees. We play a few games and eat and look at the water or dip in feet. But swimming with colleagues? No way.

  2. Anon Hopeful Clerk :

    Early TJ! There are a few openings for clerks to US Magistrate Judges in my area. 2 year terms. They are asking for 2 writing samples. 1 I want to use was an appellate brief I filed recently, but I’m not sure about the other. Should I choose a pleading, such as a demurrer or opposition? Or maybe a research memorandum on a current issue of law? I’m just not sure on this one. Of course, all materials will be packaged neatly and fine-tooth-combed for any typos.

    I think I would really enjoy working for a judge. I love legal research and analysis of issues, but I am also good at logistics and scheduling so I think it might be a good fit for me. Any present/past clerks want to chime in?

    Also, what do job prospects look like after a 2 year clerkship like this? I would like to move into government after, either for a city or maybe a state department. Just curious. Thanks in advance!

    • Former MidLevel :

      I think the type of sample you submit matters a lot less than: (1) the quality of the writing; and (2) how much of it is your own. Your writing sample should be something that has not been heavily edited/significantly rewritten by anyone else and it should be clearly-written and well organized. I would pick whichever option best suits those criteria. And good luck!

    • I’d like to tag along to this. I just graduated and think I may be competitive for some DC clerkships. I have a job lined up that I’m not super excited about and I think clerking may be a good way to get into a bigger/better firm. I’d plan on clerking after one full year of practice, likely in a one-year clerkship. FWIW I’m from UCLA/UT/Vandy with probably 1/4 grades, good experience and extra-circulars, and can get good letters of rec. Is this a feasible way to get into biglaw? How is it viewed to come from a small firm, to a clerkship, then to biglaw?

    • new york associate :

      A research memorandum is preferable to a pleading.

      • Anon Hopeful Clerk :

        Interesting, thank you! To my suprise and pleasure, my appellate brief was filed by the firm with no changes, so that is now my gold star writing sample. I think I will comb through my research memoranda projects and see what is interesting there. I had never heard that a research memorandum is preferable to a pleading…and that is why we love the hive! Keep them coming, please…I would love to hear more.

      • Agreed; pleadings are usually boilerplate and don’t show much of one’s ability to analyze or write.

        • This is exactly right. A pleading doesn’t really give an idea of your writing skills or your research skills, which are what any judge is really interested in. Use samples that show you know how to structure/analyze a legal argument, do thorough legal research, and write clearly and coherently about that research. Appellate briefs are great, as are research memoranda if they are thorough. “Real” pieces are nice, but don’t be afraid to pull out things you did in school (I’m assuming you’re not far out of school, based on your posts) if they are better indicators of your abilities.

    • If you do a memo, be sure to redact any confidential client information. I have used memos, and always change the actual names to generic ones, like Corporation A, John Doe, etc.

      • Anon Hopeful Clerk :

        Beginning redact project! Do you think simply blacking out parties’ names is acceptable, or should I change the names to generics?

        Also, a question re: citation format. Everything I have done has the citations according to the CA Style Manual – should I switch them to bluebook or ? since this is a federal magistrate judge? Not the CA Appellate brief, that would be weird, but the memorandum.

        • D. Ct. Clerk :

          I don’t think you have to change the cites if it’s clear from the memo that you were in California. But if you want to change them, most federal judges use the Bluebook.

          • I agree. If your citations are already clear/consistent, the judge will likely infer that you can be taught his/her preferred format.

        • new york associate :

          Not sure if you’re reading this still, but if you are, I would change the names to generics. It’s hard to read a blacked-out writing sample and it just distracts the reader from what they should be focusing on — namely, your stellar analysis. No need to switch citation format.

          • Anon Hopeful Clerk :

            Still reading! Makes sense, to change the names to generics so it is easier to read.

          • I agree. I would change them to generics and then note that on your cover sheet “Names have been changed to protect confidentiality.” Also, I had judges who really appreciated that my cover sheet indicated that the writing sample was used with permission– it was a draft I had written for another judge my 1L summer. If it was filed under someone else’s name/authority, it helps to double-check that they are okay with you using it. Both of these things also show a judge that you understand how to handle confidentiality.

    • EmpLawyer :

      Generally, I’d pick two pieces of writing that show your ability to analyze and/or summarize the law, since that’s what you’d be doing. If you have a motion to compel discovery ( or something else that shows your grasp of the rules of evidence and/or procedure) that would be good given the frequent role of MJs in overseeing discovery.

      I’d probably skip a “demurrer” though, since they haven’t existed in federal court for more than 70 years. :-) A well-written 12(b)(6) motion might be another story.

  3. B seems upset that she has to buy a new swimsuit for the event if she wants to swim. I say– you buy clothes specifically for your job, right? So, buy swimwear specifically for a job-related event. It’s unfortunate that she feels this cramps her style, but I really don’t think this concession is caving to a sexist double-standard. The men should wear swim trunks in good condition and that don’t reveal too much. And when they’re not swimming, I would expect them to put on a tee-shirt or polo.

    • Anonymous :

      what, no micro banana-hammocks for men??!?!?!?

      • lawsuited :

        Bahahahahahahahaha! To many personal grooming issues….

      • Merabella :

        Can you imagine how AWFUL this would be if your boss was wearing this get up? I’m having terrible images floating through my head at the moment.

  4. Midwesterner :

    It seems like the LW just wants “permission” (i.e. the c*rp**ette stamp of approval) to wear a bikini. If she’s already dead set on doing it, she should just do it.

    • Agreed. If you want wear a bikini, wear it and be The Girl Who Wore a Bikini. Just be prepared to be that girl and whatever it entails.

    • Huh. I didn’t get that vibe. I felt like she just didn’t want to go, period, and then also didn’t like the idea of buying a suit she’d never wear again.

      Personally, I’d probably just “forget” my swimsuit, especially since she’s the youngest woman there.

  5. Anonymous :

    The safest bet would be, in my opinion, something simple like these, which would allow you not only to swim but participate in any water sports like water volleyball:




    TYR and Speedo both make sporty, conservative bikinis, too.

  6. Yes, you need to buy a new swimsuit. Go to Target and get one for $30. If you really can’t stand to wear something unflattering (which I understand), I second the “sporty” approach. Athleta, REI, even generic sporting goods stores have suits that are meant to be worn while you’re thrashing around in the water (i.e., meant to STAY ON and be comfortable). If you really can’t buy a new suit, do you have a tight sports top you can wear over the bikini, even in the water? This works best if you’re very light skinned and can claim the “I burn so easily!” excuse. That said, once you cover up your mid-section, I say you follow the leader when it comes to getting wet. If your co-workers are barreling down the beach into the water head-first, then go! Have fun! I doubt anyone will think less of you for doing what all your co-workers are doing (and if some sniffy older lady does, well, I’m sure your 30s male co-workers think she’s lame). But geez, spend $30 on a non-bikini.

    • Midwesterner :

      Athleta has some nice-looking 2-pieces as well.

      • Lands End Canvas almost always has swim suit pieces on sale – many are bikini separates, but I have gotten a cute one piece from them too – halter style tie, blue and modestly cut.

    • TBK is right. You wouldn’t wear shorts to an interview because you didn’t have a suit… You’d go buy one. Same thing here. Lands End is great for this sort of thing and the styles have improved.. Cute tankinis, swim minis, coverups! Etc. Modest but not matronly. Plus they’re on sale this week.

      • This. Also agree with Lands End and Athleta recommendations. The Lands End tankinis in particular are a) often on sale and b) a nice thick fabric that helps keep anything from awkwardly showing through. If you have any modest bikini bottoms (think full-coverage here, not string!) you can wear those with your new $30-40 tankini top.

        Lands End in particular has items for nearly all shapes and sizes, so it’s helpful for those of us for whom finding a swimsuit that fits properly is a epic challenge. If someone had told me a few years ago “quick, you must find a swimsuit that fits xyz parameters in 2 weeks!” and btws, it needs to be affordable, I would have panicked. But I had to do this recently, and Land’s End was surprisingly accommodating.

        And with Athleta, you can’t beat their return policy.

  7. Midwesterner :

    d’oh, like you said ;)

  8. OP here – no, I’m not set on wearing a bikini — or even upset about buying new swimwear. As S noted above, I buy new clothes for my job, and that’s fine. On reread of my question, however, I can see how it would be read that I am very much hoping to wear a bikini — I’m not!

    Mentioning the bikini was honestly more in reference to the poll question from the previous time that this was discussed – I’m fine with the fact that my typical swimwear (a bikini) is out. The poll question seems to suggest that 1/2 of the people think a conservative (tankini or one piece) suit + swimming are fine, and 1/2 of the people think wearing a swimsuit at a work function, at all period the end, is inappropriate. And that sort of leaves me with — well, what now?

    • This is a double-lose situation, but it’s not symmetric. If you don’t swim and your co-workers think you’re lame, that will last about a week. If you are perceived as revealing too much, the talk will go on for years. Maybe you should just say found a big hole in your swimsuit that morning, or forgot it, or whatever…

    • Meh, I used to be in BigLaw in DC and we did a sailing trip with the summer every year. I wore a tankini with shorts. Most of the other women did something similar. The older ones (35+ — partners never really showed up to this event) tended to keep their capris and tank tops on while the younger ones tended to dress like me. One year it was hot and the water was nice so I pulled off the shorts and dove off the swim platform. No one thought anything of it. We also did a department retreat at a beach hotel in Florida. Everyone spent time milling around the massive pool in swimsuits and most of us went swimming. I felt a little self-conscious when the 50s male head of my department stopped by my chaise to chat, but hey, we were by a pool. I think if you’re wearing a conservative swimsuit and you wear at least shorts/a skirt out of the water, no one will think any less of you.

    • associate :

      Know your office. I work for a small firm that does a boat trip with water activities and familes, and we all wear swimsuits. I did buy a new suit–a bandeu type two piece and it’s fine. It’s never comfortable being around your co-workers in swim wear (I really don’t enjoy seeing my boss with his shirt off) but you survive. Just buy a conservative suit and enjoy the day. I would absolutely not show up in a little string bikini in any office, however. And if someone wants to take a picture, I make a big deal about getting my cover up on before the photo happens :)

      That said, I have a friend who attends an office “pool party” every year where people wear maxi dresses and linen pants, and there isn’t a bathing suit to be seen.

      • spacegeek :

        My husband’s medical group has an office pool party every 4th of July at one partner’s home. It is a huge BBQ thing with families, kids, nannies and the like. Most people never go in the pool! The dads usually end up in the pool with their young kids, and there are sometimes some pre-teens in the pool too. But mostly it is maxi dresses and capris and shorts with tanks/flowy tops. No big deal. I have worn swim dresses in my heavier days when it was soo hot I couldn’t stay out of the pool, and now have tankinis that I’m comfortable in too. With a pareo around the waist, it is like a tank and skirt, so no big deal.

      • My thought was along these lines, too. You know best what is going to be okay at your office. I’d definitely choose a conservative suit, but I don’t think you should have to stay out of the water just to avoid being talked about. I’d suggest a one-piece (maybe it’s just me, but in my experience tankinis look really youthful, and if you’re already the youngest attorney, you may want to avoid) under a cute, flexible (depending on whether this is a pool-and-martini type event or a pool-and-volleyball type event), appropriate outfit. You should get to join in on the fun if you want to.

    • Midwesterner :

      I see. I apologize if my comment came across rudely.

    • I surmise that none of the respondents who said wearing a swimsuit is always inappropriate work at your office. No one would have invited you to a pool party if they thought it was inappropriate to see you in a swimsuit. Don’t overthink it. Get something you’re comfortable in and have fun swimming.

    • the poll question wasn’t about your situation. It was about an even where a swimsuit is “theretically” appropriate. So half thought dont even bother with the swimsuit, half thought it was ok as long as it was conservative. a pool party you need a bathingsuit. the poll question was about, like say a bbq at someones beach house. is there going to be swimming or just sundresses?

      • I don’t think you necessarily *need* a swimsuit at a pool party. You can totally just hang around with a sundress.

        • Yup. Non swimmer here… If I wore a swimsuit while not knowing how to swim that’d be odd.

  9. I think this is also more know your office, or at least maybe the part of the country you are in. Last year my firm (granted, not law) had a weekend in Palm Springs. My office was mostly made up a mix of men and women in their 20s and 30s and partners in their 40s and 50s (almost all male). With the exception of one (larger, although not that large) woman, all of the women wore bikinis and the guys all wore trunks and we all laid around outside the pool in only our bathing suits. Of course we were at a hotel with lots of other guests, so perhaps it would have been different if we were the only people in someone’s backyard.

    I’m getting the impression that this is weird, but the was honestly the best firm event we ever had and I was actually a little sad knowing the since I left I missed out this year!

  10. Here is what I foresee happening if Reader B decides to go ahead and just wear a bikini to the event. She’ll feel so uncomfortable, she’ll never take off her cover-up and she’ll just end up hanging with whomever else doesn’t swim. Which is cool, if that’s what you want to do.

    But if you want to swim, or be able to swim, I suggest a tankini or something similar, because when you get there — all these brave nerves you feel now may evaporate. And just so you know, I wore one-pieces at 24 and so do lots of people. People won’t see you in one and think you’re Amish.

    • Oh — and I agree with Ask A Manager — why even have a party like this?

  11. I purchased a swimsuit from this site (http://mygirltrunks.com) and, while I have never had to wear it to a corporate function, I am much more comfortable in this than anything else.

    • I love those! I hate swimsuits, but I’m older, 52, and hate my legs (spider veins). Plus, I just don’t feel comfortable showing that much skin. A couple of years ago, I looked everywhere for some longer swim shorts like this, and gave up, so happy you posted the link!

      • I felt the same way!! One note of caution, despite the size chart, I would size up on the shorts. I found that they ran quite small – I don’t like things tight at all and I ended up ordering two sizes larger than what the size chart recommended! But the customer service was really good and easy to work with. I did not have the same issues with the top (but I am also not busty at all!)

    • Blackbird :

      Thanks for the link. I want (and will probably be purchasing) the shorts from this website for kayaking and hiking!!

      Something like this has been on my wish list for an eternity but haven’t been able to find anything. Similar shorts for women that I’ve found are always waaayy to short. I’ve even looked into men’s board shorts, but I am *cleary* shaped like a woman and the straight fit of men’s shorts do NOT work for me.

    • I wore one-piece swimsuits at 24 too. That’s mostly due to an early bikini experience that led me to believe they cannot be worn in water :-). But beware of something else – a sporty one-piece is fine, but bike shorts, 20s style dresses, floppy skirts, all that does scream Amish, not to mention body self-hatred. You don’t want the office to be gossiping about how covered-up you were and whether it seemed justified by what they did see of your thigh..

  12. This is timely for me because the company I work for (less than 10 people) is probably going to have a boating outing on the lake this summer. I am one of two women and was contemplating my outfit choice as soon as I heard about the event. I plan to wear a pair of lightweight ikat shorts, a white tank top, and a tankini underneath. Not going to worry too much as it’s a laid back company but I’m definitely not wearing my normal boat wear which is a bikini and sheer coverup.

  13. I totally wore a two-piece at a work event 10 years ago. Ugh. It was totally awkward because the event was at a country club with various activities and there were probably 50 people there, yet only 3 or 4 of us got in the pool — me and three guys roughly my age who I considered good friends outside of the office. It’s not like others were standing around watching, but it was still weird. It didn’t help that the top of my suit (which was, in my defense, a rather-conservative-for-a-two-piece Lilly Pulitzer) had a detachable strap that I forgot to bring. But I was about a month away from leaving that job, which I knew and so did the rest of the people there, so I was way less concerned with others’ opinions of me at that point … Also, I most definitely wore an actual outfit the whole time I was not actually in the water …

    Anyway, I second the advice to get a cute one-piece from Anthropologie. You won’t have to even think about worrying about feeling at all awkward, yet you’ll still look totally cute.

  14. I think it’s shitty we even have to have this conversation, although it’s a harsh reality that we have to make these considerations.

    As far as the question about fun in the water goes: do what you want to do. If you like swimming, then swim. If you don’t, then don’t. People who are going to judge are going to judge you regardless of what you do, so you’re faced with the same damned if you, damned if you don’t dichotomy you were dreading to begin with.

  15. I was hoping this issue would come up! A coworker has been mentioning inviting some coworkers over for a pool party because it’s summer and he has a pool. I’m also the youngest person in my office, which is mainly male. I don’t think I could rock a bikini even in front of my family, so a tasteful one-piece or tankini sounds like the best advice

  16. One of the guys :

    I’ve been in the exact situation for the last four years. I’m the only female associate, and at 31 the youngest associate at my mostly older male firm. In my opinion, if the guys are planning a boating outing, it’s most likely because they enjoy water sports. The guys in my office ski, wake board, swim, tube, etc., and I love to join in. I will admit that it is a little awkward, but it’s awkward for the guys too, trust me! Unless they are smarmy and disrespectful, they won’t be eyeing you in your bikini, ESPECIALLY if their wives are within sight distance! The first year I went out and bought a one-piece bathing suit, and I couldn’t be happier. It is very stylish, a strapless suit with a string that goes around your neck.

    My advice: wear what makes you comfortable, but stay covered up. This is socialization and bonding time, it is not time for you to be working on your tan. For example, I never lounge in just my swimsuit, and I don’t usually sit on the boat without my cover up and/or a towel. For the most part I stay in my cover up right up until it’s time to put on the life vest and hop in the water. Most of the female support staff in my office wear shorts and t-shirts, but they never get in the water and usually stay dockside. Plus, they are a good 15 years older than me. Our receptionist is in her mid-20s and she does basically the same thing I do. My friends too have chastized me and said that wearing a swim suit in front of co-workers is inappropriate. At first it bothered me but then I remembered that they don’t work where I work, and they don’t understand.

    I say go for it and have fun!!

    That’s my two cents.

    • Ugh for your friends criticizing you. People really overthink things. No one would invite you to do water sports if they didn’t want you to wear a swimsuit. Saying it’s inappropriate to wear a swimsuit to a pool party is like saying it’s inappropriate to wear a suit at a law firm.

  17. I firmly believe that life is too short not to take any opportunity to swim outside in the summer, awkwardness with co-workers be damned. But I agree that sporty and athletic (one piece or two piece) is the way to go. You’re unlikely to be judged for that, and there’s nothing wrong with people getting the idea that you’re sporty and athletic in your off-hours/casual wardrobe.

  18. Houston Anon :

    This is definitely a know your office issue — my firm has summer events where many of the younger associates wear short shorts and generally are much more casual than the advice on this blog, and we’ve had swimming events where women wore bikinis and cute cover up dresses. It’s just not a big deal. (though I will say, I am on the larger side, and when I first started at this firm and there was a swimming event someone helpfully patted my arm and said, “you can wear a shirt in the water if you’re uncomfortable in a swimsuit” which insulted me a tiny bit…)

  19. (former) newassociate :

    O.M.G. that blue string bikini/black sporty bikini story was my story! And FYI, my firm STILL says “oh, the blue string bikini girl” whenever that summer’s name comes up, now three years after I commented in the original post. Meanwhile, most of us can’t even remember the name of the black sporty bikini girl. Wow, I’ve been reading Corporette a long time.

  20. I think this would be perfect– fashionable & chic, but still covered enough to not make you “that girl”

    • http://www.jcrew.com/womens_category/swim/onepiecetanks/PRDOVR~81271/81271.jsp

  21. Why are we assuming she works at a law firm? She doesn’t actually say so…

    Anyway, I think it’s fine to wear a swimsuit when one is swimming. It’s a pool party. People swim at pool parties. Maybe don’t strip down to your bikini and do a cannonball, but if others are swimming, no reason not to join. If others aren’t swimming, then hang out in your cover-up sundress and have a drink.

    As for what kind of swimsuit, I’d just say one that’s not deliberately sexy. A sporty two-piece should be fine. I agree with the advice to wear a cover up when outside the water. A sundress or tunic and a hat should be fine.

  22. ugh. This definitely hits home. I’m currently the only woman in my office of 40 or so and have two water-related events coming up this month. At 24, I’m also the youngest person in the office, though I have a lot of co-workers in their early 30’s.

    My second week on the job last year, I wore a bright pink bikini at an office retreat, but only a few people were around to see since it was during free time. I don’t think it negatively affected anyone’s opinion of me since I’m generally pretty demure, and there were wives/daughters around, but I’m looking for a one-piece this year.

    I have a second event with co-workers my age from other offices, and I have no qualms about wearing a bikini around them because of our ages and because I don’t work directly with any of them.

  23. I recommend buying a rash guard to wear over your bikini. Full coverage while you’re in the pool or out of it, minimal cost/consumption of stuff you might never wear again, and excellent sun protection (much better than sunscreen). You can add a sarong or board shorts or whatever for out-of-the-water lounging if you are worried about showing the skin. I started using rash guards for sun protection, but they are IMO the perfect solution to this problem, too.

    • What’s a rash guard??

      • it’s basically a swim shirt made of out fast drying material that protects your belly from friction rash when boogy boarding or surfing. Here’s a Speedo one http://www.speedousa.com/product/index.jsp?productId=3877683&kwCatId=&kw=women+rash+guard&origkw=women+rash+guard&sr=1&cid=1125717

  24. De-lurking to put in my two cents.

    I think that if you can find a modest one-piece bathing suit, you should be in good shape. It doesn’t need to be ugly either — I prefer 50’s silhouettes cause they cover everything and they’re pretty too.

    As for my cover-up suggestion, I think you would have a lot of leeway from a cotton shirt-dress (not too short) to a caftan or maxi style. Basically, I’m a bit of a sweater, so my main concern would be light and breathable fabric so that I wouldn’t overheat.

    Also revealing the fact that I’ve seen some awful films: check out stills from Monte Carlo with Leighton Meester. She does the coverup (one on the left http://www.fansshare.com/celebrity/montecarlo/450_monte-carlo-stills-movie-1856534039.jpg) with bathing suit (on the left: http://i46.tinypic.com/10gzio3.jpg) situation really well! (cute one-piece and a shirtwaist dress in complementary colours).

    I know I’m going to be stuck in a similar situation soon, so I’m taking that scene as inspiration. The only thing I’m not sure about is footwear: not sure if I want my beautiful leather sandals to get splashed with chlorine, so in this case, some decorative flip flops might just have to do!

  25. karenpadi :

    Thinking this through a little more, if it’s a beach day on the ocean or one of the Great Lakes, I’d probably bring my shorty wetsuit. I get cold easily and it’s good sun protection.

  26. SoCal Gator :

    When I was an associate at a Big Law firm (eons ago) I never wore any kind of swimsuit to an office pool party even though I looked great in a bikini. That was not how I wanted to present myself to my work colleagues and bosses. I always wore shorts and a tee and did not swim. I was at the party as part of a work event and not to act as I would if at a pool party with my friends. There is a big difference.

    I recall one pool party that was part of the summer program in the heyday of such programs. It was at the managing partner’s McMansion. A male summer associate got so caught up in poolside antics that he threw the managing partner’s nine year old daughter into the pool. She was fine but very upset, as was her father. That’s all everyone ever talked about after that when the summer associate’s name came up. He did not get an offer……

  27. Keep comments coming! I have a “beach party” coming up this wknd (don’t think that there is a regular pool, just the beach a block away) and totally plan on wearing shorts, a cute top and sandals/flops. Most of my day will likely be spent watching my toddler in the kiddie pool and talking to people. This is a new job so I have no intention of busting out a suit until I know if it is actually expected.
    I did work at a small firm that had a lake party with tubing/swimming. I wore a one piece and re-dressed in dry clothes as soon as I did my obligatory spin on the boat.

  28. This one is tricky. I simply cannot imagine a pool party with colleagues at a professional job where you actually went IN the pool. Stood by it, sipping G&T’s, yes….but…..urg… I once ran into a colleague I worked with at a large medical centre at a water park. He was with his kid , I was with my adult sister (yeah, we are still 13 at heart). But just being faced with someone who you see in a certain way every day (someone who I had a good rapport with)…in his swimsuit…..me in mine….facing each other, trying not to notice that we are both nearly naked……weird. To do that voluntarily!? No thanks.

  29. Wear rash guard and board shorts over your suit. Take off one piece to get in the water, but not both. Patagonia and Title 9 both have suits designed to be active in. If the guys are splashing around and you want to too, jump in–doing stuff together is a different kind of networking/tea building. I don’t think being known as that person who would. not. give. up in the water polo game is a bad thing at all.

    • Team, not tea! Though I guess you could sip a glass together.

      On the attitude–don’t get in the water if you don’t want to. People will pick up on it and brand you as finicky or high-maintenance or squeamish or something negative instead of saying what a good sport you are for doing something you don’t like.

  30. You know, this is yet another example of how being top heavy really stinks. I’m pretty average weight / height, but super busty (think bust 9 inches larger than my waist). There is no bathing suit I can EVER wear, whether 1 piece or 2 piece, that isn’t going to look obscene for work-event purposes. I consistently wear a 2 piece for personal swimming (I love to swim!) and think I look pretty darn good, but absolutely not work appropriate. And one pieces, given the general lack of heavy-duty bust support, don’t really solve the problem.

    Work pool parties are just cruel – I love, love, love the water, but swimsuits in front of coworkers are a disaster for me.

    • Notalawyer :

      Have you looked at Bravissimo.com? They have cute bathing suits–2 piece, 1 piece, tankinis, and coverups for just this body type.

      I do like the suggestion of rash guards and shorts. They’ve worked for me in the past.

    • 9″ is not a huge difference, when you think of classic ideal measurements 36-26-36. Not that I’ve been those recently, just sayin’

    • Not to mention that if you do find bathing suits that fit, they are super expensive. Like you, I go for two pieces for bra-sizing support (I find Freya works adequately, if not perfectly). I haven’t found a one piece yet that works. Why on earth do they think soft cups with those stupid foam inserts support large busts? All they do is soak up water and make it look like we’re lactating after we leave the pool. Sigh.

      • Blondie, Esq. :

        Have you tried J.Crew? They make D-cup one pieces. I have two of them that I love.

    • Have you tried Land’s End recently? You can buy tankinis (and even one-pieces I think) that accommodate exact cup sizes & different suit sizes. So that you can accomodate a DDD cup with a size 6 suit. Of course, they may not even go high enough, but I found them to be a lot more flexible than most. They also have these adjustable-scoop swimsuits that you can adjust to straight-across cut for when you need to be very modest.

      I really have found them to work, but you do deal with annoying inserts. However, I haven’t found them to look weird after getting wet like some inserts can. And they keep the headlights away.

  31. and so anon :

    I remember an event like hosted by a large law firm. Good God.

    One summer associate made a point of telling the other women summer associates that she’d chosen her sexy suit with care. Another was brave enough to show a big surgical scar. A rude male senior associate asked her about it. I wore white pants and a Hawaiian shirt, which everyone thought was weird.

    I’d wear a cute cotton shift dress, casual shoes and not swim.

  32. love my bikini :

    Is there ANYONE who thinks it’s okay to wear a two-piece to a pool party? I’m attending a party with a pool this summer with my kids. I love swimming. They love splashing. We will be in the pool together having fun. I haven’t worn a one-piece since 1992 (truly). I didn’t even think twice about what I would wear to the party until this post. And honestly, I think I’m going to go with the bikini no matter what. Because I’m a two-piece girl, and wearing a one-piece or tankini, no matter how cute, just isn’t who I am.

    • You sound like you know what you’re doing. If you’re splashing with your kids, you aren’t going to be wearing some sexy number that’s about to fall off anyway. I’m with you on getting in the water.

    • Posting this in secret due to cowardice- I was born in 1990. I would not want to see you in a bikini.

      • Oh, honey.

      • love my bikini :

        In years past I would have been offended, but instead you make me reflect and smile! I am in far better shape at 39 than I was at 20, and much more comfortable in my skin. Which is why this string has me a little perplexed. Perhaps I’m too old for this blog?

        • Is part of all of this an age issue? I know I’m more comfortable wearing a well fitting bikini in my late 30’s than I was in a ill fitting one piece in my early 20’s. Now I’m more confident generally, and frankly, I don’t really care what my pool-side coworkers are wearing, so long as they aren’t self-conscious about it. We all have bulges and wobbly bits. But for women in their 20’s, maybe this all feeds into general concern over issues of authority, competency, being seen as a complete individual instead of (merely) a sex-symbol. Was that the fundamental difference between the black bikini girl and the blue bikini girl mentioned earlier – self confidence?

          • I think this is part of it. In my mid-30s, I’m further away from being viewed as a sex symbol than I was when I was 20. Also, people at work know how smart I am. I think that’d be tougher than when I was 20.

        • Amen! I look so much better and am more comfortable/confident now than I was in my 20s. I guess I was a late late LATE bloomer who didn’t grow into my adult looks until my 30s. I have always worked out a lot, because I enjoy it, and as I get older, the payoffs are more and more apparent. :)

          That being said, I still think an office pool party is a horrible idea. :/

      • Is cowardice the new code word for being rude?

      • You poor thing.. Hopefully you’ll grow out of that competitive thing before it bites you.

      • Anonymous :

        Hey 1990–your time will come. Getting old happens a LOT faster than you think it will.

        That said, I’m about to be 43 and I’m the same weight I was at 17 (okay, 3 pounds heavier) and in pretty much the same shape (ie, pretty decent shape). Sometimes I feel self-conscious in a bikini, but then I look around and plenty of 20-year-olds are in much worse shape than I am.

        So there. I don’t think it’s about age at all. (And go check out that BBC video of the 75-year-old bodybuilder. That woman looks GOOD.)

  33. When my old office had a function at water park, I wore a tankini top and board shorts. There’s enough variation in summertime business casual that showing bare arms, shoulders, and a bit of cleavage doesn’t feel too far afield. But there’s no legit business circumstance that would expose my upper thighs; that seemed much too intimate to me.

  34. I’m going to be horrible and say that if I am at a work function I don’t want to see you in a two piece or to be honest a plunging neck one piece or a cutout one piece. I don’t care how young or fit or hot you are I just don’t want to see it. Now whether or not you care what I think and what you plan on doing about it is all on you.

  35. love my bikini :

    Exactly Penrod! Well said. And with that, I’m wearing my cute Patagonia two-piece to the pool party, one kid on each hip and all.

  36. Lesson Learned :

    I wish I had read this article before our retreat a few weeks ago! I brought a bikini because I realized too late (the night before) that I should have put some thought into what to wear to the pool. As it turned out, there were several guys, roughly my age, in the hot tub with me. They were all wearing shorts, of course. It was awkward. Especially since I had to sit with my feet dangling in the tub for the majority of the time because I found it was too hot. Also, I sucked in my belly at the same time because I was also very self conscious.

    If that wasn’t enough, every time one of the non tubbing associates walked past the indoor pool area, they’d knock on the window and wave at us. UGH.

    I’m already looking for a tankini that I’ll wear for next time.

  37. YOU have to check out the Tommy Bahama halter dress and matching one piece. It is made of swimsuit material and can go from BBQ right into the water and is really an appropriate length without being too long or short. I am a size 10 and IT WAS great to be able to decide if I wanted to wear the swimsuit in was on and under the dress or I could just go in the pool with both on. It is also fast drying. HERE IS THE LINK:

    Most have matching swimsuits Bikini and one pieces!!! A must have for Office Events

  38. To save money, go to a Goodwill store and buy a swimming suit. It will save you some $$.

  39. If you have to wear a swim suit, try a swim dress. The top is like a swim suit – mine is a halter and you wear a bikini bottom but it is long enough to cover your rear.

  40. I’ll admit, the one time my work group organized a beach party for our summer outing, I came up with a last-minute reason to skip it. It just felt like one big opportunity for awkwardness of all kinds. Also, I loathe “mandatory fun” events.

    Now if I am going to go to such an event, I would probably opt for a tasteful/sporty bikini over a one-piece because I feel like my stomach is NOT my problem area and I might as well uncover the good parts. If I would want to hide something, it would be my rear end (which is not bad, just more booty than I would choose) but neither a one-piece nor a bikini is going to cover that. So my choices would seem to be forgo the swimsuit all together and just wear shorts/tank top or a coverup or go for the two-piece where at least my confidence about my flat stomach would balance out my discomfiture with my butt (and I can’t take credit or blame for either of those traits as they are genetic!) :)

  41. Seems silly that there would be pressure to swim. If I had to go to an event like this, I’d focus on a really cute (but not sexy or attention getting) poolside outfit and just forget swimming.

    It can be tons of fun to hangout at the poolside and BBQ, chat, drink, etc. maybe even dance! I’d bring a beach ball or some water guns or something to show I can have fun, but forget the bathing suit and swimming… And, I’d be unapologetic about not showing off my belly button. “Sorry guys, you thought I’d be the token bikini girl of this two-women workplace? Ha! Let’s have another beer!”