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July 21, 2006

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What to Wear to the Company Picnic

Was just hitting my groove at work, had tied up the final details on a major presentation, had checked off several important "To Do" items, had even been able to snap up a couple of this fall's must-have fashion staples while I was on hold with the printer and was just settling in to answer email when it flashed up on my screen. An invitation (read: command performance) to the dreaded must-attend-no-excuses-accepted Annual Company Barbecue Picnic. Had been able to avoid said workplace wing ding last year because I was, conveniently, in Hawaii attending my brother's wedding. No such luck this year; the powers-that-be decided the surprise factor of no advance notice (and therefore no time for the hastily planned business trip/vacation/hemorrhoid surgery) would prove effective for better attendance. Heard the collective groans from around the office as apparently everyone else read the same evite. Oh, this is just too painful, must go to break room and unwind a bit.

Now don't get me wrong. I love a good barbecue/picnic/party as much as the next girl—probably more so. I can hold my own in any social situation (barring, perhaps Royal Ascot, and if dear Wills were perhaps a decade older I dare say I would do quite well there too). Can be counted on to present a chic and stylish appearance. Am socially conversant and up-to-date on current affairs (yeah, baby!), revered for my witty repartee and cheerful banter and have been known, on occasion, to be the life of the party (all this without alcoholic stimulus mind you). But something happens to me when my work life and my social life are expected to converge. I get all self-conscious and nervous, and while some girls can pull this off by appearing demure and self-effacing, I tend to come across as a dim-witted clod who just fell off the turnip truck. Shop Girl assures me that it is all in my imagination, but I have mental flashes of showing up in a cotton tank top, shorts and flip-flops à la Private Benjamin only to find everyone else in sundresses, saucy sandals and designer shades, so I tend to approach these work-related festivities with a degree of caution.

While I do understand that the purpose of the company picnic is for everyone to interact on a more relaxed basis, develop team building skills, yada, yada, yada, I can't help but wonder if a nicely printed three-color brochure would be more effective? Flashback to week spent on crutches after badly-timed crossing of croquet pitch during another company picnic (and subsequent loss of ankle-tie wedges). Or the look on manager/suck-up/total terrorist's face when offspring-of-corporate-higher-up announced, "Your bum jiggles like Jello when you run!" (Have to admit that was a high point of the day.) Maybe someone (not me) should clue her in about Spanx, no? Dread going to the ladies' room to touch up lipgloss, only to find giant chunk of parsley pasted to front tooth and glob of barbecue sauce perched precisely over left nip—for the past three hours.

So girls, since I have done enough worrying for everyone, and after many consultations with Shop Girl and Girly, I present my tried-and-true tips for surviving your company picnic (or any other summer social event), as well as recommendations for staying stylish and chic from sun-up till sundown—no matter the circumstance:

First and foremost: Go. There is no way out of this one. Just go. The company picnic ranks right up there with the company Christmas party. Your employers are shelling out serious cash for char-broiled burgers, salmonella/potato salad and clammy corn-on-the-cob, not to mention Krusty the Klown and his Amazing Balloon Animals, and they expect you to show up with a positive attitude, appropriate attire and a cheerful smile.

Next issue: What to Wear. The age old dilemma. Casual is the order of the day, but just how casual you may ask? Girls, this is not the time to flaunt your tanned-and-toned bod in a skinny tank and Daisy Dukes. I know, I know, it is tempting to showcase those abs-of-steel, especially when Amber from Accounting (who never signs off on your expenses, even though you are scrupulously honest and never fudge the numbers) is waddling around in sausage-casing capri's and a horrible bulging halter. Decorum, dear girls. Bear in mind that this is, after all, a business event and lasting impressions will be formed here.

  • For the basic corporate mix-and-mingle type picnic a chic sundress (nothing too bare, plunging or backless), rope-sole wedges and a flirty sunhat are just the ticket. A sassy skirt and flattering top paired with low sandals is a great alternative. This would also be the perfect opportunity to wear that fabu shorts set. Word of caution: picnic=lawn=unstable walking surface: ergo, no spike heels. Keep the footwear grass-friendly (wedges, flat sandals, skimmers, ballerina flats, etc).
  • For the family-friendly picnic, go with cotton or linen capri's, a cool and comfy top and chic grecian flats. Bermuda shorts are also a good choice, especially if you might be participating in activities and games or sitting on a blanket—no need to worry about flashing anyone. Pair shorts with a fitted short-sleeve or sleeveless blouse and wedge slides or chic flats for a stylishly preppy look.
  • For the corporate picnic/swim party, it's best to go with a classic one-piece swimsuit. Make sure it fits well and stays in place, especially if you will be participating in water sports. (No one wants to see quite that much of you and besides, the corporate bigwigs tend to frown on public exposure.) Be sure to have a great tunic or swim coverup on hand too; a flouncy skirt also slips quickly over your swimsuit. For those girls who want a little more coverage during the swim/water sports portion of the day these board shorts are stylish without being frumpy and cover your assets well.
  • For the company picnic/soccer/volleyball game. Most companies hand out team tee shirts when competitive games are part of the festivities. However, it is best to be prepared. A short-sleeved or sleeveless light colored tee (no pit stains) is the best choice (no low scoop necks; you don't want the girls bouncing and flopping about—speaking of such, make sure you have adequate support), paired with stretch khaki capri's or Bermuda shorts. A perky pair of skimmers adds a more stylish touch than trainers.

Tote Bag. Fill your tote with the essentials that you will need to carry you through the day. Sunscreen (at least SPF 30) lipbalm (also with sunscreen), a floppy hat, a waterproof swimsuit bag for damp swimwear, wet-wipes for quick clean-ups, and a light sweater for when the sun goes down. I also love to take Essencia Cranberry Hydrating Body Mist for a quick spritz on my face and neck when I am feeling overheated.

Food Check. Most picnics are laden with easily edible yummies, aka finger foods. Barbecue spare ribs dripping in sauce, veggies and Ranch dip, fruit chunks and yogurt dip, and the ubiquitous hamburger-which-is-constantly-shedding-lettuce/mustard/pickles/ketchup. Eat at a table if at all possible. It is difficult enough to maneuver dripping bits of food into your mouth when you are seated squarely at a table, let alone perched on a tree stump or squatted on a blanket. When finished eating, nip on into the ladies' for a smile check/parsley removal.

Bring along a change of clothes. Just in case all the tables are taken and you end up looking like a Jackson Pollock canvas. Or in case you didn't quite get the dress code thing right. No one wants to be in jeans and a tee when everyone else is in Lilly Pulitzer.

Participate. Yes girls, if that means they are having three-legged races and an Upper-Management Watermelon Seed Spitting Competition, put on your game face (and your cute little sneaks) and join in. I know it's tempting to sneak off with a cool soda and a great book, but it isn't advisable. Don't sit on the sidelines—it reflects poorly on your "team" skills. (And isn't that what this is all about in the first place?)

Don't be overly competitive. If you have great volleyball skills, use them! Just don't spike the VP's wife in the face. Keep it friendly and fun, be a gracious winner (or loser) and above all, be a good sport.

Well girly girls, this should help you through any sticky social situation that might arise this summer. Smile pretty and try not to break too many hearts!


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