Work Picnic: Tread With Caution

We have all been there: The Company Picnic. For many people, it’s a quandary: what should I wear? I want to look more casual, but not too casual: will people think I want to goof off? Will I look stupid? Or if I am too dressed up, will I look too corporate or uptight?

As usual, I have a story from my sorted fashion past to share. In one of my jobs, I had a favorite little summer suit I liked to wear. It was cropped pants and a buttoned jacket, in cotton (which is fine), except this had a red/white check print that resembled a tablecloth. I remember one day one of my coworkers coming up to me and saying…going to a picnic?? He was making a joke, but I took it to heart. It wasn’t work appropriate. I don’t think I would have worn it to a work picnic, either.

I used to go with my husband to his summer picnic, back when spouses were invited. I remember taking special pains with my outfit: a sleeveless lime green polo and a brown/green floral print skort. As we made small talk, I remember Michael’s boss saying: wow, you look really tan. It was probably not the best outfit to wear, even though I was a spouse, not an employee (basically the same rules apply to you if you are invited to the work party).

So back to your life…what are some ideas for office-appropriate attire? First of all, according to Integrity HR’s blog, remember this is still a work event. Dress conservatively, following many of the same rules you follow with the work dress code. Steer clear of short shorts; cut-offs; anything with holes in it; tie-dye; revealing clothing such as backless dresses or tops, plunging tops (this is a cleavage-free zone as is a day in the office); flip-flops or stilettos; sheer dresses; overly feminine sundresses; statement T-shirts; lots of denim (unless this approved before the party); and tennis shoes unless they are similar to Sperry or other dressed-up brands. Ladies, don’t wear pantyhose. If you are not comfortable showing your legs, wear a Maxi dress or pants. Now if your office is playing softball or volleyball, the rules change, of course. Wear a conservative version of what you might wear to a friend’s weekend party.

Men, you can’t go wrong with a crisp, button-down shirt. Maybe try a more casual pant such as colored twill or linen, in a muted grey, white or peach. The Gap and Nordstrom have great options for casual men’s wear. Stay clear of colorless T-shirts or shirts from events such as the last marathon you completed.

The outfits I like are crisp, colorful, tailored and speak of summer: Shirt dresses with a bright belt and wedge sandals; capri pants; cotton jackets or shirts; colored jeans pulled together with a blouse or cardigan a printed, full skirt; a clean, summery pencil skirt with flats; or a small striped maxi or tank dress with a white sweater over it. I like seersucker in small doses. Avoid polyester, especially if you are out in the sun. Don’t forget your sunscreen!

Accessorize with a Panama hat, trendy sunglasses, bright bangles or belts or fun summer shoes–and a bright smile. This is supposed to be fun! Enjoy your day away from the office, but remember, this is still a work event, so dress like it.

Happy shopping!

Beth Divine, Your Indianapolis Personal Stylist