// AnnieAnniePancake //
For me, that tends to be a semi-short dress and a cardigan, with a scarf thrown on if the weather is chilly. My basic formula usually creates an outfit that falls between dressy and casual, which is convenient if you're not sure what the restaurant will be like. I also typically do "me but prettier" makeup, meaning pink lipstick, mascara, and lightly defined brows, but not a whole lot else.
When I'm dressing for a date, especially with a new person, I aim to look cute instead of interesting. Of course, it's possible to achieve both attributes, but I prioritize being desirable over being intriguing. Instead of concerning myself with my personal aesthetic taste, I try to guess what will impress my companion. The end result looks good, in my own estimation--but not exciting.
I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, it's definitely an outcome of feminine socialization. I love being a woman and I fully identify as femme, but there's a lot of oppressive nonsense that gets heaped on little girls and reinforced continually as they grow up. I could provide a billion links/studies to support that, but Carol Gilligan is one of feminism's academic trailblazers. (I recently learned about her in my sociology class. Plz buy 4 me In a Different Voice?)
On the other hand, I don't think there's anything wrong with wanting to be perceived as attractive. The reality of a first date, especially when it's online dating, is similar to an audition. You put your best foot forward, with the hope that there will be a role offered and that you'll want to accept it. I guess what bothers me is the definition of "best foot forward" that I clearly subscribe to: I must look pretty in a specific mainstream way.
It's natural to be nervous before a first date, because you're entering an unknown situation. However, I would prefer not to be anxious, if that distinction makes sense. I don't mind wondering, "What will this person be like? Will we get along?" But I wish that I didn't worry, "Do I look curvy enough? Is this girly brooch over-the-top? Is my acne too obvious?" I want to view myself as a holistic woman, not a woman who merely consists of a visual impression.