I love first dates. While many women despise these first encounters, some I know take traceable pleasure in the nervous energy that spirals from their stomaches down to their French pedicures. The cynics of the world view these events as wasted evenings where the possibility of finding love is only slightly higher than their available credit limit after a Diane Von Furstenberg sample sale. And while Dr. Phil might say every single female should delight in the first date for the possibility it holds, there is a far more important reason to look forward to them … the joy of dressing for one!
Let’s be honest. Women set aside more prep time for first dates than for job interviews. These outings are not routine happy hours with our coworkers. Our date is the person we met at a <emfriend’s office happy hour, with whom we nonchalantly arranged a Saturday evening date over a week of carefully crafted, witty e-mail banters.
Your unsuspecting male counterpart has no idea how much effort went into this masterpiece, the piece de résistance. You will soak, exfoliate and shave. You may even follow the bottle directions and actually shampoo twice. Then you condition, blow-out, curl or straighten, re-moisturize the freshly exfoliated parts, treat the freshly waxed parts, deodorize, perfume and we have yet to get dressed! The steps are endless and involve no less than 2 hours from start to holding spray. And do our dates appreciate our contentious selection between the jeans and blazer on the floor and the dress borrowed from our best friend? Each man I interviewed gave a resounding, “Yes!”
I interviewed many successful and single 20- to 30-something men about their preferences and observations about women on first dates. Their responses varied as widely as their careers and choice in women. However, there was one surprising common thread: they loved talking about it. “First date attire is one of the most important minor decisions a girl can make in a potential relationship,” says Fred, a single director for a bio-energy firm and avid snowboarder. Despite the seemingly enormous amount of pressure he just placed on the woman reading this article, his responses make sense after some consideration.
Ever been in a situation where you’re on a date and you find yourself acting differently than you normally would? Tough to admit, but we’ve all had some experience with this. Could this be because we “prepped” too much with the RL cashmere cable knit sweater over a collared shirt on a warm evening for a date with the hot tennis instructor? Or maybe we keep fidgeting because the flats are too “cute” and not boosting enough to give us the height and vantage point to which we have become accustomed? Fred continues, “To me, its more important to look like the ‘true you’ rather than ‘absolutely fabulous’ on a first date.” While the “true you” may have seemed negotiable when you opened your closet three nights earlier to find that perfect outfit, remember that clothes are only as perfect as the women wearing them feels.
Men Like to See Who it is they’re Dating…
When polled as to what they wear on a first date, the majority of women replied with questions, not answers: Where is he taking you? What is the guy like? What are you looking for in the date? Interesting since, the responses from men dealt less with the venue-based propriety of the outfit than its consistency with the wearer’s personality. Todd, a tall blonde Philadelphia tech guru with a very sexy cat, states that “demonstrating how you like to dress shows the man something about your personality. It’s possible to show up in (old) jeans and still have a lot of sex appeal.”
So is comfort all of a sudden sexy? One very stylish DC interior designer-by-day, law student-by-night, Christian, lamented the woes of a particularly distressing evening. For what was supposed to be dinner and romantic walk with conversation, “my date wore shoes that were very sexy but very uncomfortable. I knew because she complained constantly. So, instead of a pleasant conversation, I had to hear about how much her shoes hurt. The date ended quickly.” Alternatively, dressing too conservatively could be a sign of indifference or lack of enthusiasm. “A woman shouldn’t be too covered up. That makes her seem guarded, untrusting.” comments Rylan, a cardiac surgery nurse from New York.
There were some comments that played in the other direction of the notion of the “perfect outfit.” One striking comment from Chip, a young DC attorney with a penchant for Saturday-morning hikes, was that “The outfit should not be too memorable. If I notice the outfit, then I am not noticing her.” While seemingly counterintuitive to most fashion savvy women, there is an element of truth that follows. When a woman is asked out, she has already been noticed. Something special has already caught the eye of this modern gentleman caller and the date is only to further investigate this intrigue. Whether you are a modern-in-thought yet vintage-in-dress activist, a sexy bookworm or a perpetually pearl-clad Junior Leaguer, this aesthetic challenge is practically overcome.
Still, there is a point to all of this fashion furor. “What a guy wants to see is that his date can dress to present herself well to his boss, colleagues and possibly friends and family” concludes Todd. Remember, HE wants a memorable night as much as you do! So regardless of the major event of the evening, whether it’s dinner, cocktails/beer, the latest Will Ferrell flick or playing pool at the National Arts Club, a well prepared woman notes her wardrobe accoutrements as simply as that … a means to present yourself. I still love that first moment when you open the door and wait for that slight widening of his eyes to prove that the visual manifestation of the past several hours of primping have not been for naught. Finally you ask, what does a successful date look like? An evening where you can say, half-way through the night, not what you were wearing, but that the two of you are … the perfect ensemble.