Many of us are quite confident in our personal style, and probably for good reason, but even the most beautifully adorned dressers among us can spend an awfully long time selecting an outfit for a first date. Clean, freshly-ironed and coordinated clothing are the obvious boxes to tick, but beyond that there are few hard and fast rules. Is it much ado about nothing, or do first impressions go further than we think?
Why does it matter?
Your clothes are important to the opposite sex. They at least help to tell your story – what you wear is a part of your personality and speaks to your sense of where you fit in the world. Are you adventurous, fashionable, glamourous, a vintage fan, casual, quirky, fun and cutesy? Or even exceedingly safe? Are you showcasing your sexuality, or your cultural affiliations? How you physically present on a first date will form an impression just as strongly as your interactions will. It is your personal brand, so represent it as accurately as you know how.
Are men being judged equally?
Most women who are attuned to their own sense of fashion prefer a man to have an understanding of what flatters him, and how to dress appropriately for an occasion. Hopefully this also speaks of his personality, but men’s fashion tends to be more subtle, and a personal style is gauged over several outfits rather than a single getup. Men may be inclined to underdress for a first date in order to appear more confident and less phased about the situation. This decision is always a tricky one – if the restaurant or bar is classier than expected, those faded jeans and t-shirt could leave you feeling very inadequate. Avoid running shoes and singlets in all situations (unless it’s a jogging date), and if you’re really stuck – ask a friend, a sister or a stylish colleague.
Ask what your clothing can do for you
A terrific outfit can be a real confidence booster. If you can’t quite decide on the right pieces and you still have some time, treat yourself to something new. Just make sure you try it on in the store and get a second opinion. It should be comfortable, stylish, and weather-appropriate, and reflect your mood. Be very wary of clothes that are too short, too long or generally ill-fitting, just because you liked it on the rack. (This includes shoes – ladies, it IS possible to choose something that looks great without crippling yourself.) Constantly pulling at clothing or avoiding being seen from certain angles is a mood-killer, and your preoccupation will show. Your clothing must flatter your body type if you wish to remain confident. Try a colour you don’t usually wear so you can feel extra adventurous, and with any luck it may just spark the more vibrant, energetic side of you.
Don’t try to be something that you’re not
The strongest message is to be yourself, because putting on a front is exhausting in the long-term. If you’re intimidated by your date’s financial status, don’t throw money at designer clothing if it’s not something you’d normally do. Labels and trends may be important if you’re dating a designer or a socialite, but someone who will judge you for wearing respectable high-street clothing may not be the match for you. Women may also feel obligated to dress a bit sexier than they otherwise would, and to go a little heavier on the makeup. This is fine if you’re comfortable doing so, but if the extra lipstick and the bare thighs make you self-conscious, you’re best to tone it down and maintain some confidence. You presumably have some basis for attraction, so make your date about the quality of your conversations. If you both click, you’ll be just as gorgeous and desirable with your glossed lips and covered legs.
To really highlight your outfit, present yourself with clean, groomed hair. Choose shoes appropriate to your activity. Don’t go heavy on the perfume or cologne – or the sports deodorant. If it’s cold, take a coat. And the most important accessory? A warm smile.