The anticipation of a first date tends to conjure up a bad case of the “what ifs?” What if it’s awkward? What if it’s a waste of time? What if this nervous energy is obvious? And then, of course, things get even more severe when it comes time to pick an outfit. Is this too short? Too modest? Too showy? Too fashion-forward? The list goes on.
Well, as a single person who has been on countless first dates, I’ve gotten a lot better at challenging that internal dialogue because the truth of the matter is that there will be awkward dates and dates that you never want to see again. Yes, your date will likely notice if you are beet red and restless, and some of them might judge your outfit. While this realization has also helped me see dating as a chance to have fun and connect with others—or at least walk away with a funny story and a lesson learned—one of my biggest takeaways has been of the sartorial variety.
Indeed, after much trial and error, I discovered that what I’m wearing has a lot to do with the success of a first date, but it’s not the actual outfit that matters. To be clear, I don’t measure success in leveling up to a second date (though that is a perk if we hit it off). Rather, it’s about how I feel in my own skin, which means learning to dress for myself and only myself. After dozens and dozens of first dates, I’ve finally nailed the outfit formulas that meet at the intersection of personal style, mood, lifestyle, and occasion.
So whether you’re planning for a first date, 100th date, or even just a date with yourself, read on to see seven different first-date outfit ideas based on mood, occasion, and lifestyle, and play around with the ones that speak to your most. These seven formulas have never let me down, so hopefully they make you feel like your best self too.
Date Outfit Idea #1: After-Work Special
Why It Works: If you have a date planned during the workweek and you know you won’t have time to change in between, opt for a classic shirtdress and then spice things up with a bright, edgy shoe. It’s super comfortable and easy to style. Feels too stuffy? Undo a button. Feels too casual? Throw on a blazer. Sometimes I even wear this one on a weekend date if I want something easy yet put-together.
Date Outfit Idea #2: Classic Chameleon
Why It Works: If you live in your jeans but want to dress them up a little, opt for a wrap top or something in a more formal material like silk or velvet. Then add a shoe with a low heel to strike the balance between comfort and elegance. I call this one the chameleon because it’s elegant yet laid-back, and you won’t have to worry about being under- or overdressed. It’s my go-to look when I’m feeling unsure in any way. Plus, there are countless iterations since all you need to do to make it new again is swap out the blouse.
Date Outfit Idea #3: Oh, This Old Thing?
Why It Works: Just sassy enough to turn heads, this outfit formula hits the sweet spot between cavalier and thoughtful. It’s perfect for anyone who fancies themselves a skirt person but also appreciates casual and comfortable clothing. I always go for a fun printed skirt (sometimes mini, sometimes midi depending on how modest I’m feeling) with a simple T-shirt half-tucked in and then slip on some Mary Janes or ballet flats. Basically, just try to channel Alexa Chung.
Date Outfit Idea #4: Groove Town
Why It Works: This is my personal favorite date outfit formula because it combines optimal, easy comfort with flirty, fun pieces. The hero here is the going-out top. Whether you opt for something flowy or form-fitting, off the shoulder or strapless, sequined or ruffly, make sure you pick a going-out top that pumps you up and makes you want to have some fun. For me, that means my green silk bandana scarf with an attached rhinestone halter neck, but for you it might mean an understated cami. It’s basically like wearing a pump-up song, so ask yourself: Are you in a “Bodak Yellow” kind of mood or are you feeling a little more Lana Del Rey? Then channel that into your top selection.
Date Outfit Idea #5: Sporty Romance
Why It Works: Super easy to throw on, a lightweight midi dress is the perfect thing to wear when you’re out of ideas and craving comfort without compromising style. In fact, this outfit formula seems to garner the most compliments even though it takes the least amount of effort. Sometimes I opt for sneakers if I know I’ll be walking a lot and want to be quick on my feet (also helps to funk things up a little if I feel like the dress is too “sweet”), but other days and moods calls for strappy sandals. Plus, it easily transitions from day to night.
Date Outfit Idea #6: Endless Summer
Why It Works: If it’s too warm for pants but you like the laid-back feel of denim, opt for a jean skirt or shorts depending on which ones speak more to your style. A silk cami will introduce a sleeker, sophisticated aesthetic and a pair of mules with a low heel will also dress things up. Breathable, light, and chic, it’s a great summer outfit for pretty much any activity.
Date Outfit #7: Too Much Isn’t Enough
Why It Works: You can either copy the above formula and opt for fun printed blouse and matching miniskirt with sneakers, or you can just follow in her footsteps by dressing in your favorite color and getting bold. I’m definitely not an understated dresser, and I used to think I had to tone myself down as to not “come on too strong.” Then I realized that if my date thinks my style is too over the top or distracting or weird, (especially if they know I feel great in it), they are most definitely not for me. Moral of the story: Wear whatever you want to wear.