Dress Up or Dress Down? Why Looking Your Best is a Must on Your First Date

People’s opinions on first dates vary. Some say it should be casual, with no pressure to meet at expensive romantic restaurants. Others say otherwise, asserting that traditional practices — men picking up the women, opening doors for her, and paying for everything — remain superior.

Well, dating has evolved many times since the 21st century began. From women making the first move to professional matchmaking services turning online, forming relationships have really gone a long way. The standards keep changing, but one thing remains tricky among the singles: Should we dress up or dress down on a first date?

No matter the occasion, your clothes mirror your personality. Dressing up for comfort usually means you’re more laid-back and relaxed, while power dressing all the time often indicates your authority. But if it’s the first date we’re talking about, looking too laid-back or too authoritative may send the wrong message. On one hand, showing up in very casual clothes may make it seem like you didn’t put in any effort. On the other, being in a blazer and high heels may make you come off as snobbish and dominant.

Dressing Appropriately is Key

Between dressing down and dressing up, the latter is often more ideal, especially for professional adults. If your first date comes from the same professional background as you, then looking the part is important. After all, your careers are probably the first thing you’ll talk about.

You don’t need to show up in your usual working attire, though. Dressing appropriately — meaning destination-appropriate, clean, and flattering — is key. If you’re meeting at a fine dining restaurant, you probably should wear something elegant. Not revealing, not flashy.

Provocative or revealing clothing fuels misunderstandings. Sadly, many people still think that showing skin means you’re asking for trouble. A study has also found that men see it as an intent to seduce. So if you don’t know your date well yet, focus on sending the right message, which is simply to look attractive, not seductive.

To look more attractive, consider wearing high heels. A 2015 study has found that men find women in high heels more attractive. And the old stereotype that men like women in red is often true. But don’t be forced to wear these if you aren’t comfortable. Remember that you’re dressing to impress, not to look desperate.

Men Who Dress Up Leave a Lasting Impression

polo shirt and shoes

When it comes to fashion, men seem to get a free pass for not paying more effort on their wardrobe. They don’t face society’s pressure to look good all the time. Hence, when they show up on a date — or anywhere for that matter — all dressed up, they elicit surprise.

Men should dress up for a first date if they want to look serious in considering a romantic relationship. Like women, their outfits should also be appropriate for the destination. If you’ll meet at a fine dining restaurant, suiting up will make you look well-groomed, as if you take care of yourself well, and take pride in your appearance. Your confidence radiates in a suit, but of course, it has to fit you perfectly.

For the first date in a less formal destination, dressing up smartly will make you look neither underdressed nor overdressed. The perfect balance between casual and smart can earn you instant style points. Your outfit is more flexible, fitting for both a casual movie date and a wine bar.

Dressing down is fine if your date is someone you’ve already met before. It may work on a first date too, particularly if you’re going somewhere fun. Your comfortable clothes will make your date perceive you as easy-going, which may also put her at ease. As a result, you’ll have more fun on your date and probably discover that you enjoy each other’s company a lot.

Dressing Up Doesn’t Mean Sacrificing Comfort

Some people frown upon dressing up because of its reputation of being uncomfortable. But style doesn’t have to sacrifice comfort. Dressing up on your first date doesn’t mean you’re not being true to yourself. It simply means you value the occasion, and were willing to exert effort for it.

To ensure your comfort and confidence, wear something in a color you often get complimented on. The clothes should be in the right fit and length so that you won’t fidget through the date. Consider highlighting your best asset as well; without showing too much skin, of course.

Try to look timeless instead of trendy. Going for trendy outfits usually makes you self-conscious, because you’re aware that people recognize your style. So own the day and opt for a timeless ensemble, and your date will appreciate your uniqueness and chic taste.

Despite the “rules” of dressing up, though, remember that perception isn’t reality. Your first date’s perception of you isn’t as important as how you’ll actually treat them. So while it’s necessary to dress up, don’t forget your manners, and to be yourself.

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