What to Wear on Your Date

Physical appearance is often the first clue we have into someone's personality. Even online dating websites use profile pictures that are often viewed before you ever make contact with the person. What you wear speaks a lot about the type of person you are and can be one of the main determinants in people's initial impression of you. First impressions are quickly formed, difficult to change, and can set the tone for the whole date.

Fashion is constantly evolving, which made this article especially challenging. How specific should we be in our recommendations? How do we provide accurate information when so much of what we wear is personal preference? At first, we figured we would focus on the most generally accepted principles that could be applied to both sexes for any type of date. However, as we researched the mainstream media, we quickly grew tired of hearing women telling us what men think, and men telling us how women think. We finally scrapped the whole project and went straight to the source: asking the opinions of men and women from real life men and women. This is what we found:

Exude Confidence

The most important factor in your decision of what to wear should be how you feel in the outfit. You want your outfit to make you feel confident in your appearance. When you know you look your best, your personality will shine through. Uncomfortable clothing or anything that makes you feel self-conscious has no place on your date, no matter how fashionable it may be.

Know Your Audience

Men and women have one thing in common: they dress to impress women. This is a no-brainer for men, but women may be reluctant to the concept at first. Think about it women, who do you criticize most when it comes to clothing, hair, weight, makeup, or physical appearance in general? Other women.

Carefully consider who you want to impress when dating. Of course your clothing should make you feel confident, which will reflect in your personality, but know your audience. Men generally do not notice every component of an outfit, but they view the outfit as a whole. More specifically, they tend to respond through their senses and notice figure most of all. Men, women notice everything.

Dress for the Occasion

The formality of your attire should reflect the events planned for the date. Most first dates consist of something casual, often meeting for coffee or grabbing a glass of wine. The last thing you want to do is intimidate your date or cause them to feel uncomfortable because you did not dress appropriately for the occasion. Similarly, you want to be comfortable. Ladies, if you spend the time to style your hair and wear a cute dress when your date involves something athletic, you're bound to have a miserable time. Gentlemen, don't wear anything "too comfortable."

A good rule of thumb is to choose something slightly dressier than you would wear to the same event if it was not a date. If you go to the movies, a pair of nice jeans and a slightly-dressier-than-normal top is perfect. The idea is to look nice while hitting about the same formality level as the outfit your date will be wearing.

Highlight Your Features

Your body type and skin tone should play a significant role in your dating wardrobe. You want to highlight your good features while downplaying anything that makes you self-conscious. This can be accomplished through the style, fit and color of the clothing you wear.

Men: Your clothing should be fitted, but not too tight. Men may not have as many curves as women, but their body types can still play a major role in how clothing looks.

Women: Whether you like it or not, your figure will be analyzed by any man you date. Show off your shape, but don't overdo it. Being a little revealing is ok as long as you don't dress too provocatively; you want to make a good first impression. Leave something to his imagination and opt for a slow reveal. One easy trick is to play up the favorite features of your figure: wearing light colors can highlight the areas you like, while dark colors can help conceal areas where you are self-conscious.

Lastly, don't hesitate to ask for help. We often don't know what looks best on us, and the guidance of a friend or family member can go a long way. Chances are they have already noticed articles of clothing that look best on you. If you are shopping, ask the opinion of a salesperson. As long as they don't work on commission they should give you an unbiased opinion, and they have plenty of experience doing so.

Accessorize Appropriately

Men accessorize just as much as women, they just don't like to admit it. Here is advice for both sexes when it comes to accessories:

Men: You may not give much thought to your watch, belt, shoes and other accessories, but women do. Be mindful of these items when dating, as women often look at these when forming their opinion of you.

Women: A rule of thumb: as soon as you complete you outfit, choose one accessory and put it back. Men do not respond positively to too much accessorizing. This is largely due to the fact that men simply don't pay attention to your accessories as much as other women do. They will, however, notice if you have "overdone" it (the word we heard most from men was "distracting"). Similarly, avoid anything too gaudy, or over-the-top, even if it is fashionable. This applies to handbags, jewelry, nails, etc; men respond to simplicity.

What Not to Wear

The people have spoken! Below is a list of the most common wardrobe items that women do not like on men, and that men do not like on women. Avoid the following (in no particular order):

Men (according to women)

  • Sweats; if the date is athletic in nature, you can buy some nice athletic gear fairly inexpensively
  • Socks with sandals
  • Poorly-fitted clothing
  • Un-tucked formal shirts
  • Anything too feminine
  • Tight pants
  • Baggy pants
  • Pants below their waist
  • Body-tight shirts
  • Anything too casual

Women (according to men)

  • Anything too revealing (They stressed that this is "perfectly acceptable" for women they are not dating. Men...)
  • Anything that completely hides your figure
  • Too much make-up
  • Glitter anything
  • Overly dressy clothing
  • Shoes that look uncomfortable
  • Huge sunglasses
  • UGGs
  • Hats (The one exception was simple winter caps, which most guys found to be cute on women.)
  • Obnoxiously large handbags or purses

It's also best to avoid new trends, or anything you have not worn before, when dating. If you buy a new outfit, give it a test run to see how you feel in it. The same applies to hairstyles. If you choose to try a new hairstyle, practice it the night before to avoid any last-minute problems.

Final Thoughts

Deciding what to wear on a date does not have to be stressful. Men generally like to see women wearing something simple, shapely and feminine, while women prefer men's clothing to be well-fitted and appropriately dressy for the occasion. Keep a clean, well-groomed look with an outfit that makes you feel confident and you won't go wrong.