You stare down into a dark void⸺it’s almost cavernous. You could hear your own echo if you shouted loud enough.

You step into the darkness, your heart begins to race. Your lip quivers as chills begin to run down your spine like a flowing river.

You gingerly reach out into the darkness to try and feel your way around. Every sense is heightened, every sound, every smell, every feeling. The fear of the unknown clutches at your beating heart.

You’re not sure where you are or where you’re going but the feeling of unease twists and ties your stomach into knots.

The beat of your heart hastens to a virtual tap dance, your breath becomes shallower and shallower with every passing second as you desperately try to find your way around.

“Got it!” You scream in exhilaration. Finally, you find the light switch to your wardrobe.

But the feeling of accomplishment is suddenly washed away by an incoming tide of anxiety. You quickly realize you still need to pick an outfit for your first date “Ahhhhhhhhh!”

A first date can be pretty scary on its own but deciding what to wear on a first date is a total nightmare.

Don’t worry though, we’ll figure this out together. Allow me to be your shining light in that dark void we call the dating game.

What Not to Wear on a First Date

First dates are nerve wracking, especially if you’ve never met the person face-to-face before, which is the case for most people in the age of Tinder and online dating. It’s enough to make you run away and hide underneath the covers.

Why? It’s the fear of the unknown.

If you allow it, your mind will play tricks on you and you’ll begin to ask yourself meaningless questions like should you shake hands when you first meet them? What if you run out of things to say? What if your date’s a complete psycho?! (That last one’s actually pretty legit)

The same thing can be said about choosing what to wear on your first date. There’s just so many questions about what to wear but it’s honestly not worth the energy.

Having said that, I think it would be a little bit rich for me to just tell you to stop thinking about these things. It’s a lot easier said than done. So, I figured instead it would be better if I help you answer a few of those questions by telling you what not to wear.

Don’t wear anything you’ve worn that week

Bustle says if you’re trying to make an impression, don’t wear that same pair of jeans you’ve been wearing to work all week. Odds are that you’ve stretched them out and they might have even started to collect an odor. 

Instead of focussing on what labels you’re wearing or whether something’s in vogue, focus instead on the state of your clothing. Go for something that’s fresh and well-fitting.

It’s little details like these that can really help you make a good impression on a first date.

Don’t try too hard

Look, I know the whole point of this blog is to tell you how to look good on a first date but you shouldn’t actually invest that much time into it.

Founder and CEO of eFlirt Expert, Laurie Davis told The Fashion Spot that it’s the dates after that are more important.

Think about it, you might look amazing on your first date but if you don’t get a second date, your efforts were kind of wasted.

On the other hand, you could put just a little bit of effort into your outfit on the first date and then if there’s a second date, really show how interested you are by stepping it up a notch.

If your date sees that you’ve put more effort into your outfit the next time they see you, it gives them a pretty good indication of how you feel about them. 

Don’t be too ambitious

This is a little bit of a carryover point from what I just talked about but less is always best on a first date.

Lauren Conrad told Lucky Magazine about her go-to date night outfit:

“I try to go pretty neutral, especially if it’s a first date. I’ll wear a black skirt or leather leggings and a white silk blouse. I skew a little nicer just to be safe, but I think black and white is always sexy, and I’ll do a fun lipstick to dress it up.”

The point is, keep it simple and don’t try to overthink things.

Don’t show too much skin

I’ve said it time and again, choose just one asset to show off. That goes for pretty much any occasion but especially for first dates.

Sexologist Nikki Goldstein told Yahoo:

“When it comes to being sexy and flashing some flesh, it's important to show one body part: legs, cleavage, shoulder, or back. Anything more and you run the risk of being viewed as trashy or too sexy. What message do you want to portray to your date, seductive sexy or bringing in all the men?”

Don’t make yourself uncomfortable

I don’t care what the occasion is, if you don’t dress comfortably you’re going to have a terrible time. And the last thing you want to be on a first date is uncomfortable.

You want to look welcoming and approachable, not like you’re stuck in a straight jacket. You shouldn’t feel like you have to suck everything in or constantly re-adjust yourself.

What to Wear on a First Date According to Science

The problem with deciding what to wear on a first date is that everything is subjective. 

What you think looks good, your date might find abhorrent.

What you need is some objective science to guide you. Yes, a finely tuned formula that’s been through years of rigorous testing and so heavily scrutinized by peer reviewed studies that you can accurately choose the best first date outfit each and every time.

Well, it doesn’t exist. Sorry.

However, we do have a few studies that can help give us a few clues about how to attract men.

Red is seductive

red satin dress

It’s a sartorial myth that’s been perpetuated throughout the ages. But it turns out that it’s actually true, men really do find red more attractive than other colors.

A 2008 study by the University of Rochester found that when men rated the physical attractiveness of women based on photos contrasted with the color red vs other colors, men found the women in red more attractive and sexually desirable.

So, if you’re really into a guy, red is an easy way to help capture his attention.

Black is (almost) as good

black maxi dress

A 2010 study by Roberts, Owen & Havlicek found that both men and women rated the opposite sex as being more attractive when they wore either red or black versus other colors.

The difference between red and black is that black is considered to be a more conservative color because of the associations with red that I just mentioned.

Your clothes say a lot about you

A 1991 study by Behling & Williams found that the types of clothing you wear can have an impact on your date’s perception of you.

A more dressy or artsy style of clothing for example can give the impression that you’re highly intelligent.

off the shoulder ruffle dress

However, according to a 1986 study by Paek, there can be a drawback to being dressy because it may communicate an uneasiness in social situations or a dependency on others. Yikes!

In the same study, more conservative styles of clothing were shown to communicate self-control, reliability and understanding while more daring styles were considered to be more attractive and suggest that the wearer is unique and interesting.

Your shoes might say even more

In 2012, a study conducted by Gillath, Bahns, Ge, & Crandall demonstrated that many people, whether right or wrong, often come to the same conclusions about a person’s personality based on their shoes.

Shiny shoes conveyed anxiety, pointy shoes suggested less agreeableness and high heels signaled less emotional stability.

Even though these impressions were subjective, they turned out to be pretty accurate more often than not. Flats it is, I guess?

Be presentable

Eureka! Remember that point I made earlier about not wearing anything you’ve worn that week?

Turns out there’s actually evidence to back it up.

A 1997 study by Mehrabian & Blum showed that people respond more positively to those who are well-groomed and have neat and clean presentation.

It actually sounds kind of obvious when you read it. Look like you actually give a damn and people enjoy your presence, huh, weird. 

What to Wear on a First Date According to Guys

Science is great and all but there’s nothing better than some good ol’ fashioned advice straight from the source. It is the opposite sex that most of us are trying to attract after all.

So, what do men consider to be a good first date outfit?

Dress for your body type

Star of Million Dollar Listing New York Ryan Serhant told Glamour that men generally don’t pay that much attention to what women wear (what else is new?). But that he appreciates when a woman dresses in colors and cuts that complement her body.

He also added that a first date is not the time to experiment with your outfit and that you should dress in a way that makes you feel sexy and confident.

Don’t be too hot

Thought Catalog rounded up a few tips from Reddit of all places about what men find appealing for first date attire.

One answer I found particularly interesting was this:

“I won’t notice her clothes at the first date unless she really made an effort to look hot. I am mostly focused on her lips, eyes and facial expressions. If she, however, dressed to be the hot femme fatale, then I’ll probably see her as a sexual and not a romantic partner.”

It goes back to what those scientific studies said earlier, dress to make the kind of impression you want to make.

Be subtle and classy

To build off that point about not being too hot, Ryan Serhant said he gravitates towards women who wear more muted colors and less adventurous styles.

A more conservative outfit that doesn’t reveal too much will always leave him wanting more. 

Dress for the occasion 

One thing that I’ve seen mentioned more than once is men’s uncomfortableness with women who don't dress for the venue or the type of date.

I totally get it, if you’re not dressed for the occasion, you’ll be uncomfortable, he’ll be uncomfortable for you. Everyone around you will be awkwardly staring⸺okay, maybe not. Either way, it’s uncomfortable.

First Date Outfit Ideas

Okay, so you’ve been told what not to wear, you’ve heard the science and you’ve even had advice from the opposite sex. But what should you actually wear on a first date?

Don’t worry, I got you. 

What to Wear on a First Date to Dinner

Dinner dates can exist at either end of the spectrum⸺formal or casual. So take the venue into account when deciding what to wear on a first date to dinner.

If it’s a formal occasion, InStyle Magazine suggests a pair of chic black pants with a casual white T-shirt and low heels. But zhuzh it up with a statement necklace or your favorite pair of earrings.

A LBD and boots is a great alternative as well.

The Every Girl recommends a shift dress or skinny jeans and a silk cami underneath a blazer and heels for a dressy dinner date. A pair of boyfriend jeans with a cute blouse or tee is perfect for a more casual dinner. 

white blazer

I’ve said it already but this goes double for a dinner date⸺don’t wear anything you don’t feel comfortable in. You should be able to eat and breathe in it!

What to Wear on a First Date to the Movies

One thing that tends to slip my mind a lot is despite the weather outside, movie theaters always seem to be a little chilly inside. So, if you’re going to wear a dress or skirt, just make sure to bring a jacket with you in case.

A pair of jeans with a T-shirt and sweater is a failsafe option for the movies though. Bring a large bag like a tote so you can stash away your sweater once the movie’s over.

If you really want to get comfortable, I’d suggest a pair of wide leg palazzo pants instead of jeans.

What to Wear on a First Date for Drinks After Work

If you’re stressing about what to wear on a first date to a bar after work, don’t worry. Odds are that they’re coming from work too. A blazer worn over a shirt and some jeans is fine.

You could plan ahead of time though and dress your look down by wearing a skirt with a feminine top, which you can hide under a blazer during work, and then just leave the blazer at work before your date. Ditching the structured work bag for a clutch is a good idea too.

black blazer

What to Wear on a First Date for Coffee

Coffee dates are all about keeping it casual, so dress comfortably. A pair of jeans with some Converse or flats and a t-shirt make for a perfect casual first date outfit.

If it’s a little warm for jeans, an easy dress with an appropriate jacket, say denim or even a cardigan, is a great ensemble, too. You can wear flats or wedges⸺whatever makes you feel comfortable. 

What to Wear on a First Date in Winter

Winter is not the time to be taking risks with your fashion, which admittedly leaves you a bit short for winter first date outfit ideas.

Depending on how cold it is, Style Caster says you have two options: either incorporate a jacket into your outfit, maybe jeans and a bomber jacket, or wear a big coat and wow your date with your outfit underneath. Kind of like the big reveal, ta da!

windbreaker coat

What to Wear on a First Date in Summer

A summer dress is the perfect first date outfit for the sunny season. Pair your favorite dress with some boots or sandals and voila!

summer dress

We know from the studies I mentioned earlier that the type of dress you decide to wear can convey a lot of things to your date. So choose one that matches your personality and maybe even incorporate a fun print as a conversation starter.

Alternatively, you could try a mini skirt with a floaty, long sleeve top for a cute first date outfit.

First dates are always going to be a little scary and that’s okay. But now that you know how to dress for them, you can feel just a bit more confident when the next one comes around.

A good outfit is one of the best things to help calm your first date jitters because if you feel comfortable and confident in what you’re wearing, it will show on your date.

Now get out there and start meeting people!

Key Takeaways

  • When you’re deciding what to wear on a first date, focus first on wearing something fresh and presentable to make a good impression. And don’t worry about trying too hard for the first date, it’s the dates that follow where you should really make an effort.
  • Don’t show too much skin on the first date. Choose one asset to show off like your legs or cleavage. 
  • Always dress comfortably, don’t make yourself more anxious with an uncomfortable outfit.
  • Red can send strong signals of sexual desirability, so be selective when deciding when to wear it. Black is a more conservative, but also attractive, alternative.
  • A dressy or artsy outfit can give the impression that you’re highly intelligent but also socially uncomfortable.
  • A lot can be inferred from the shoes you wear, whether rightly or wrongly, so think twice about what you put on your feet.
  • Guys find clothing that complements women’s bodies to be attractive on a first date. 
  • If you want to find a real relationship, don’t dress too sexy on a first date. Always leave them wanting more.
  • Always dress for the occasion and check out the venue ahead of time if you have to.
  • When deciding what to wear on a first date to a restaurant, keep your outfit understated and add some statement jewelry.
  • Dress warm for the movies, even if it’s warm outside. Just bring a large tote to carry your jacket or sweater in.
  • Plan your after work outfit ahead of time by simply adding or removing a layer from your outfit.
  • Dress comfortably for a coffee date. Jeans and a t-shirt or a dress and a jacket are perfectly good casual first date outfit ideas.
  • In winter, wear a jacket with your outfit or a large coat over the top that you can take off later.
  • Wear your favorite dress for a summer first date outfit or one that matches your personality.

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