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Summer Outing—Bikini, Takini or Chador?

Vivia Chen

July 6, 2012

The following was originally posted on July 6, 2011.


It's July, and the summer outing is looming. If you're working in New York, it will probably be at some partner's shingled palace in the Hamptons or his bucolic farmhouse in Connecticut, or maybe that stately country club on Long Island with the mind-blowing initiation fee. The invite reminds you to bring a batch of outfits for sports and the cocktail party on the terrace--and, oh, don't forget the bathing suit.

Bathing suit? Yikes. More terrifying than working for the most ogreish partner at the firm is having to don a swimsuit at a firm event.

But don't cook up some lame excuse ("Darn, I forgot my suit!") to dodge the situation. Remember, you don't want to be the sweaty nerd in T-shirt and slacks when everyone else is cooling themselves in the pool. And what if there's a water volleyball competition between the corporate and real estate departments? Can you really afford not to be a "team player"?

So what to wear when swimwear is the uniform of the day? FINS, the job site, says it's generally a good idea to avoid clothing that will be the talk of the office the next day. In other words, something forgetful might be the best course. Here's what FINS suggests:

For a company retreat where pool and beach time will be a must, experts suggest women stick to tankinis, one-pieces, or suits that cover the top of the thigh, and to bring a hat to cover up pool hair. Men should leave their Speedos at home, and stick to looser-fitting trunk-style suits. "Both men and women should choose bathing suits that don't overemphasize any body parts," says [etiquette expert Barbara] Pachter.

Of course, you shouldn't "overemphasize" body parts, though I've seen male associates wearing skimpy suits and no one seemed terribly scandalized. For women, however, the issue is more complicated.

 One woman partner at an Am Law 100 firm in New York thinks it's a no-win situation for most women: "I don’t think anything good comes from parading in a bathing suit in front of one’s colleagues, and certainly would question the wisdom of wearing a bikini in a business social context--no matter how young or fit one may be." But if you must wear a swimsuit, she says, she'd opt for "a modest racing suit and a cover-up right to the water’s edge."

But the view from the other side of the country is a bit different. An entertainment lawyer in L.A. thinks it's silly to be so self-conscious: "If I was 29 and had a rocking bod, I wouldn't hesitate [about wearing a revealing suit]!" She doubts that looking "too good" is ever a career killer. "I think it depends on how you look in a bathing suit," she says. "If you look good, go for it; if not, cover up."

Readers, must women look de-sexed to maintain credibility? Is a bikini at a work outing strictly taboo?

Photos: Esther Williams (on right); J. Crew ad, 2012.


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Honestly? If I had a rocking bod at any age I'd wear a bikini.

Although I was a partner at a West Coast based BigLaw, I'd agree with FINS. Don't be memorable. It doesn't relate to credibility so much as unwanted attention either from lecherous men (no, I'm not victim-blaming but do you really want to fight slut-walk issues at the firm outing?) or from jealous senior women.

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The Careerist takes an inside look at how lawyers shape their careers and manage their lives. The blog aims to dissect developments in the profession, provide useful information and advice, and give lawyers a platform to voice their views. The goal is to provide a fresh, provocative take on the state of lawyering.

About Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen, The Careerist's chief blogger, has been covering the business and culture of law firms for a decade. A former corporate lawyer, Chen is fascinated by those who thrive (as well as those who don't) in the legal profession. Her take: Success in the law (and life) doesn't always travel a linear path. If you have topics you'd like to discuss or information to share, contact her: VChen@alm.com

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