Essential Guide to Dressing for a First Date

Couple dressed comfortably for a first date on the beach

Sometimes a first impression can say a lot about you, and you want to say the right things. Of course, what you should wear depends a great deal on what you are doing on your date. For example, you wouldn't wear a suit or gown to play miniature golf but you might if going out for an evening on the town.

What You Shouldn't Wear on a First Date

No matter where you're going, there are a few things, as a general rule, you should never wear on a first date:

  • Stained clothing or clothing with a lot of holes in it
  • A shirt with a saying on it that many would find offensive
  • Clothing that has been recently worn but not recently laundered
  • An outfit that doesn't fit you well or is overly revealing
  • Clothing that has animal hair all over it, even if your date is a dog lover
  • Overpowering cologne or perfume
  • Very heavy makeup

Guide for What to Wear on a First Date

Other than that, here is a general guide for what to wear on a first date:

Casual Date

For a casual date, which can include a walk in the park, a trip to the bowling alley, a hike, a quick coffee or something similar, it's best to keep it simple. Wear a pair of jeans or other everyday pants and a t-shirt or another casual top appropriate for the season. If you plan on being outside, wear comfortable shoes and bring a jacket in case it gets cold or it rains. Hats are fine, but they can make it hard for your date to see your face.

Semi-Formal Date

For a semi-formal date, such as dinner and a movie, a trip to the theater or an evening concert, women should wear either a blouse and slacks or a cocktail dress, such as the ever popular little black dress. Men should wear slacks and a button down or polo shirt. There is no need for a suit and tie here. Do not wear a hat at a semi-formal dinner because it's considered impolite.

Formal Date

For a formal date, such as dinner at a fancy restaurant or a trip to an exclusive club, women can still wear a cocktail dress but may opt for one with a little extra bling. Men should wear a suit with a tie. In many cases, a tie and jacket will be required for entry.

Additional Tips

  • Wear fabrics that are touchable, as they encourage cuddling and hugs. These include silk, velvet, cotton and fleece.
  • Stay away from bright colors and patterns. Your date my find them distracting and have a hard time focusing on what you're saying.
  • Don't wear something that you don't feel like yourself in. For example, if you're vegan, don't buy a leather jacket to impress your Harley riding date. He or she will be able to notice the fact that you don't feel comfortable wearing it.
  • Dress appropriate for the weather. Don't wear the adorable pink tank top for your hiking date if it's supposed to be 30 degrees outside. You won't look cute when you're covered in goose bumps and there is no guarantee that your date will have a jacket to lend you.
  • Dress in layers if you've planned several activities for your date. It could be freezing outside when you have your picnic, but it could be warm inside the movie theater.


If you are the person setting up the date, it's polite to give your date an idea of what to wear, even if you want the destination to be a surprise. While you don't need to give the person a complete guide to what to wear on a first date, one thing you can do is tell your date what you'll be wearing so he or she can dress accordingly. .

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Essential Guide to Dressing for a First Date