For most of us, getting dressed for a date—especially if it’s a first date, or even a second or a third date—is pretty second nature. A clean shirt, a non-wrinkled dress, a nice pair of shoes all seem like obvious decisions, but do they really matter?
Meaning, will it really affect how your date views you if you’re dressed—or not dressed—a certain way? Are we over-thinking the whole thing? To get to the bottom of the dating-meets-fashion debate, we enlisted Chiara Atik, a dating expert, a blogger for HowAboutWe.com, and author of “Modern Dating: A Field Guide,” and asked her this question: Does what you wear on a first date really matter?
Chiara’s answer? A resounding yes. Read through her insights below to find out more about why your clothes are important to the opposite sex—some of her reasons might surprise you.
StyleCaster: Here’s the question everyone wants to know: Does what you wear on a date really matter?
Chiara Atik: It does matter for sure. One of the things we did for the book is interview men and women across the country, and we asked men: what are the things you first notice about women? One thing they brought up often is clothing; depending on the guy of course, he’s not going to notice labels or trends or anything like that [but] dressing yourself is a little bit like personal branding. It does say a lot about who you are.
If he hasn’t talked to you yet, and is just looking at your photos on a dating profile, or from across the room, he uses clothing to determine if he might like you and if you might get along.
Does it go both ways? Or are just men eyeballing women’s fashion choices?
The “metrosexual” has died down a bit, but women do want men who have personal style. It doesn’t have to be a certain type of personal style, per se, but [women] do want someone who knows how to dress, who has some kind of aesthetic for himself that [shows off] what his personality is.
So for people who don’t follow fashion closely, will their date’s clothing have an effect?
Another thing that we’ve learned in studying this and talking about this is that one of the ways to instantly make yourself more attractive and more presentable to other people is your clothing. It’s not so much what label or what trend, but that they fit well, and what state your clothes are in. People look more confident and more put together in clothes that fit them. That seems self-explanatory and obvious, but there are some people who just don’t put any thought into what they wear on first dates.
Why do you think the fit and appearance of clothing is so impactful?
These are the changeable parts of your appearance—you can’t easily change your body shape, but your clothing choice is something you can definitely alter. Personal style is branding: what you wear does determine the type of person that you’re going to attract.
If you naturally have sort of a hipster-y Williamsburg style, and you wear Lily Pulitzer on a date, it’s not going to attract the kind of person you want. And this is a little obvious, but the other thing clothing really affects is how you present yourself and how you feel. It’s not about the actual piece of clothing, but about how confident you feel and how you carry yourself in something that you feel special in and proud of.
What are some of the most common mistakes you’ve seen people make when choosing their dating attire?
Something that often comes up is high heels for women. Women either totally love heels and may never be seen without them, or they hate them and never wear them. But sometimes they’ll try to alter that to fit a guy’s height. Sometimes they wear flats on the first date because they’re worried about being taller than their date; but it’s really just about how awesome you feel. It’s not like he’s going to grow if you keep dating him, so just wear your heels! If you do wear heels, though, make sure it’s not a super active date. Make sure you know what you’re doing ahead of time.
Any other words of wisdom when choosing an outfit?
It’s hard to dictate specific maxims, but try to stay away from anything overly offensive or political. [Guys,] don’t wear a T-shirt with a cheesy slogan on it, though there are certain girls who love that. It’s important to show up looking pressed and clean as though you’ve put thought into the outfit. Try to dress to match the occasion: more formal for an evening date, but if it’s a daytime date, keep it casual. Guys seem to universally love anything a woman would wear as long as she puts thought into it and wears it with purpose.
And what are some things ladies like?
CA: If you’re trying to date a more fashion-conscious woman—most women in metropolitan areas tend to be a little bit more fashion-conscious—shoes are big. Don’t go with New Balance sneakers and jeans. Guys will sometimes go to great lengths to wear a shirt, nice pressed pants, do their hair, and then completely forget that shoes are a part of the outfit. Also, I’ve never really been much of a fan of the short-sleeved button down.
What are some ways guys can quickly and easily pick up some style tips?
Start to look at other guys’ outfits; it doesn’t come that naturally to guys, but if you’re out and you see something you like, take a moment to notice what he’s wearing and how he put himself together. Have your sister take you shopping. It’s okay to wear sneakers, but make sure they’re not just normal athletic sneakers. Also, style doesn’t have to be effeminate, and it doesn’t have to be uncomfortable, especially nowadays.