The Work Appropriate Swim Suit. Discuss.

4 min read

The work appropriate bathing suit: an oxymoron, yes or no?

Much like the company pool party, travelling for work to sunny destinations is a sartorial minefield, particularly when there’s water involved.

Work trips to Sub-Saharan Africa and South East Asia necessarily mean beaches and swimming pools. And, if you’re lucky enough to jag accommodation at a hotel like Marina Bay Sands, you won’t be able to resist a dip in the infinity-pool-of-all-infinity pools. Even if it’s just a quick swim before meetings kick off. 

But, on the flip side, do you want to be sprung looking fabulous in a bikini by a work colleague or counter-party hours before you step foot into negotiations? Which brings me to modern work travel conundrum #158, ‘The bikini: to wear or not to wear (around co-workers)?’

Danielle Dobin at Forbes says, “There is nothing to be gained by exposing your navel to the speculative gaze of your male co-workers – and trust me, they will surely if subtly be checking you out… bikinis are inevitably sexualising. They mimic lingerie and they leave very little to the imagination.  Don’t go there.”

One female partner at an Am Law 100 firm in New York says, “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.”

I’d have to agree with these ladies on this one. During my work travels, once I establish that the bumping-into-a-colleague risk factor is acceptably low, I stick strictly to a one-piece, kaftan and leather sandals.

There’s no need to go all ‘Great Burkini Cover Up’ a la Nigella Lawson, but it’s probably best to leave the string bikini at home. I’m sure you look amazing in it, but you don’t want those in the meeting room thinking about anything other than your very clever and convincing arguments.

Monokinis and flattering plunging necklines are also off limits, in my book, due to the heightened wardrobe malfunction risk.

It’s a tricky balance to strike, so I got straight down to business and found eight one-piece swimsuits which pass for semi-professional and won’t leave you or your boss red faced if you bump into each other on deck.

The work appropriate bathing suit to wear or not to wear a bikini pool
Marina Bay Sands infinity pool

8 work appropriate bathing suits, coming right up…

Attention to detail is your forte. Eres

work appropriate bathing suit: to wear or not to wear a bikiniYour very own wearable Greek flag by Solid and Striped


work appropriate bathing suit: to wear or not to wear a bikini


You won’t get Board with this Mara Hoffman cozzie.

work appropriate bathing suit: to wear or not to wear a bikini
A perfectly work appropriate bathing suit, right here.

‘I run my own company and knit my own swimsuits. Don’t mess with me.” Kiini


work appropriate bathing suit: to wear or not to wear a bikiniThis one-piece by Marysia is elegant, understated and to the point. Just like you.

work appropriate bathing suit: to wear or not to wear a bikini

Sleek lines and corporate bow ties by Hunza G.

What to wear to an office pool party?

Peggy Olson + corporate pool party = Zimmerman.

work appropriate bathing suit: to wear or not to wear a bikini

Pink is powerful. Own it. Hunza G

work appropriate bathing suit: to wear or not to wear a bikini
Is this a work appropriate bathing suit?

Seal the deal with this Lisa Marie Fernandez One Piece Swimsuit.

work appropriate bathing suit pool party
Can I wear a bikini to an office event? It’s a risky proposition.

Finally, throw on a kaftan by fellow lady boss, Camilla

work appropriate bathing suit

…And a pair of simple sandals by businesswoman extraordinaire, Geneva Vanderzeil

work appropriate bathing suit

The key is strategic timing

Timing is everything. Be strategic about when you head to the pool or beach. I usually go when I know my colleagues are at dinner, on a conference call or sleeping. So, unless they’re in training for a triathlon you’re less likely to bump into them in the early hours. Go just before pool opening time or for sunrise and you’ll be in the drink before everyone else arrives.

Elissa x

Is the ‘work appropriate bathing suit’ an oxymoron? Would you wear a swimsuit around your work colleagues?

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The work appropriate bathing suit: would you wear a bikini to the office?

Cover image: @ring_chu

  1. Kristin says

    My last job had a lot of conferences in tropical locations, so this was a usual question. And, in my opinion, one of the many reasons a good tankini is a glorious thing. I’ve also gone with cute board shorts and a tank top over tankini top for paddle board outings.

    1. Iris Lillian says

      Ah! Lucky you! Yes I can see how a pair of board shorts and a tankini top would work well for paddle boarding and canoeing etc. Brilliant. What took you to these locations? It sounds like a dream job 🙂

      1. Kristin says

        I used to do analysis for a disaster relief planning team in Hawaii, and a lot of the international disaster relief and humanitarian aid conferences we went to were in amazing spots!

        1. Iris Lillian says

          Kristin, that is one of the most interesting jobs I’ve ever heard of!

          1. Kristin says

            It was an awesome job! I loved working with partner nation planners and humanitarian organizations. We thought about staying out there so I could keep doing that job, but after ten years on Hawaii, my husband and I were both getting island fever and we decided to go where I could keep working on my career but he could start growing his as well – so we’re in Virginia!

          2. Iris Lillian says

            Ahah! Well I’m glad you figured out a way for both of you to pursue your careers. It’s not an easy task. Successful dual career relationships are all about compromise and communication. We wrote about it here,

  2. Ivan Bekavac says

    It’s amazing! Thank you for sharing like this. It can help other ladies who don’t know what to wear when work party is coming. I have lots of friends that really need this. thank you for sharing!

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