Tuesday, August 5, 2014

First Date Outfit Wrinkles

What to wear on a first date? The topic is well-addressed. Trust me, I've Googled it! (The millennial's refrain...) I have even written about dating style myself. The conventional wisdom is consistent and sensible: wear familiar clothes that you feel comfortable in.

Spring Longing Florals and Presents


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.

8 comments :

  1. This is ridiculous, but the first time my BF and I ever went on a proper "date" I ended up wearing bike shorts with pantyhose. Super-classy. I'd originally had a skirt on over that but there was a wardrobe malfunction so I just ended up taking it off in the train station, haha. We already knew each other a bit though so I think it seemed more funny to him than weird - if it was a first-time meeting who knows what kind of crazy impression that would have left though?

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    1. Bahaha, that's a pretty adorable story :D Hopefully he would be gentlemanly about it even if he had JUST met you.

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  2. It is quite tricky, but I think you should go with whatever makes you the most comfortable for a first date, even if that's not the same as your everyday style. Let's face it, if he/she's the kind of person you really want to be with, they'll take sudden fashion changes in their stride. If they suddenly balk when they see you with no makeup/with bright makeup/in full '40s costume/in baggy jeans and jandals for the first time, then they need to take a hike. Ain't nobody got time for that sh*t. :-D (Note: I don't mean 'show normal surprise' at a sudden change, I mean actively dislike/discourage it.)

    I think it's one of the advantages of suggesting a pysical (*waggles eyebrows* no, not that kind) first date like hiking or planting trees or trying a hip-hop class or something if you're up for it - that way they'll start by seeing you at your sweatiest/least tidy/least made up (and vice versa) so it only gets fancier from there, LOL!

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    1. Yeah, you're right. I should start suggesting tree-planting as a first date 'cause that sounds really cute, and hey, it's good for the environment!

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  3. I was just discussing first dates with some people and realized that everyone has a different idea of what a good first date would be. Thank goodness I don't have to think about this in anything other than the abstract, dating was fun but also fraught with anxiety and awkwardness too!

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    1. Yes, anxiety and awkwardness aplenty! I think it's more fun once you get to know someone better.

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  4. It's so sad that because of misogyny/sexism/any other horrible female stigmatization, we almost feel *badly* about wanting to feel attractive and feminine. As though we're letting down the feminist cause by wearing a big skirt or lipstick. I struggle with this sometimes, but it shouldn't be a thing. Part of feminism, to me at least, is the freedom to let your individuality shine, whether that individuality results in wearing slouchy pants or a tutu.

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