What to Wear on a First Date: I Tried 7 Outfit Formulas

black femme in sunny studio


The anticipation of a first date tends to conjure up a bad case of the "what ifs?" What if it's awkward? What if it's a waste of time? What if my nervous energy is obvious? And then, of course, things get even more severe when it comes time to pick an outfit. Is this too short? Too modest? Too showy? Too fashion-forward? The list goes on. As a single person, I've gotten better at challenging that internal dialogue thanks to a lot of practice (read: countless first dates). While I now look at dating as a chance to let loose and connect with others—or at least walk away with a funny story and a lesson learned—one of my biggest takeaways has been of the sartorial variety.

Indeed, after much trial and error, I discovered that what I'm wearing has a lot to do with the success of a first date, but it's not the actual outfit that matters. To be clear, I don't measure success in leveling up to a second date (though that is a perk if we hit it off). Rather, it's about how I feel in my own skin, which means learning to dress for myself and only myself. After dozens and dozens of first dates, I've finally nailed the outfit formulas that make me feel like my best self

First-Date Outfit Ideas

Byrdie / Emily Roberts

So whether you're planning for a first date, 100th date, or even just a date with yourself, read on to see seven different date outfit ideas based on mood, occasion, and lifestyle, and play around with the ones that speak to you most.

Date Outfit Idea #1: After-Work Special

what to wear on a first date to dinner

The Formula: Shirtdress + Fun Shoes

Why It Works: If you have a date planned during the workweek and you know you won't have time to change in between, opt for a classic shirtdress and spice things up with a bright, edgy shoe. It's super comfortable and easy to style. Feels too stuffy? Undo a button. Feels too casual? Throw on a blazer. Sometimes I even wear this one on a weekend date if I want something easy yet put-together. 

Blue and white striped shirt dress
Zara Poplin Shirt Dress $50
Red Jimmy Choo sandals
Jimmy Choo Maelie 70 Suede Sandals $595

Date Outfit Idea #2: Classic Chameleon

First Date Outfits
Honey and Silk

The Formula: A Dressy Blouse + Relaxed Jeans + Midi Heels 

Why It Works: If you live in your jeans but want to dress them up a little, opt for a wrap top or something in a more formal material like silk or velvet. Then add a shoe with a low heel to strike the balance between comfort and elegance. I call this one the chameleon because it's elegant yet laid-back, and you won't have to worry about being under- or overdressed. It's my go-to look when I'm feeling unsure in any way. Plus, there are countless iterations since all you need to do to make it new again is swap out the blouse. 

The Curvy Perfect Vintage High-Rise Straight-Leg Jeans
Madewell The Curvy Perfect Vintage Jean $98
Daniella Ankle Strap Sandal
Sam Edelman Daniella Ankle Strap Sandal $120

Date Outfit Idea #3: Oh, This Old Thing?

First Date Outfits Summer

The Formula: A Printed Skirt + T-Shirt + Flats

Why It Works: Just sassy enough to turn heads, this outfit formula hits the sweet spot between cavalier and thoughtful. It's perfect for anyone who fancies themselves a skirt person but also appreciates casual and comfortable clothing. I always go for a fun printed skirt (sometimes mini, sometimes midi depending on how modest I'm feeling) with a simple T-shirt half-tucked in, and then slip on some Mary Janes or ballet flats. Basically, just try to channel Alexa Chung

White t-shirt on a hanger
Madewell Northside Vintage Tee $16
Leopard midi skirt
Réalisation The Naomi $180

Date Outfit Idea #4: Groove Town

First Date Outfit Ideas
Sylvie Mus

The Formula: Going-Out Top + High-Waisted Denim + Low Heels

Why It Works: This is my personal favorite date outfit formula because it combines optimal, easy comfort with flirty, fun pieces. The hero here is the going-out top. Whether you opt for something flowy or form-fitting, off the shoulder or strapless, sequined, or ruffly, make sure you pick a going-out top that pumps you up and makes you want to have some fun. For me, that means my green silk bandana scarf with an attached rhinestone halter neck, but for you, it might mean an understated cami. It's basically like wearing a pump-up song, so ask yourself: Are you in a "Bodak Yellow" kind of mood or are you feeling a little more Lana Del Rey? Then channel that into your top selection. 

Black satin-trimmed flocked corded lace bodysuit
Cami NYC Anne Satin-Trimmed Flocked Corded Lace Thong Bodysuit $300
slingback mid heels
Asos Samson Slingback Mid Heels in Black $40 $23

Date Outfit Idea #5: Sporty Romance

What to wear on a first date for drinks

The Formula: Flowy Midi Dress + Sneakers

Why It Works: Super easy to throw on, a lightweight midi dress is the perfect thing to wear when you're out of ideas and craving comfort without compromising style. In fact, this outfit formula seems to garner the most compliments even though it takes the least amount of effort. Sometimes I opt for sneakers if I know I'll be walking a lot and want to be quick on my feet (and also helps to funk things up a little if I feel like the dress is too "sweet"), but other days and moods call for strappy sandals. Plus, it easily transitions from day to night. 

Réalisation The Amelia $210
gucci sneakers
Gucci Ace Watersnake-Trimmed Embroidered Leather Sneakers $650

Date Outfit Idea #6: Endless Summer

what to wear on a casual first date

The Formula: Silk Cami + Jean Shorts or Skirt + Slides

Why It Works: If it's too warm for pants but you like the laid-back feel of denim, opt for a jean skirt or shorts depending on which ones speak more to your style. A silk cami will introduce a sleeker, sophisticated aesthetic and a pair of mules with a low heel will also dress things up. Breathable, light, and chic, it's a great summer outfit for pretty much any activity. 

Black silk cami
L'Agence Jane Silk Tank $195
Cut-off denim shorts
Zara Hi Rise Denim Shorts $30

Date Outfit #7: Too Much Isn't Enough

Cute Date Outfits

The Formula: A Bold Blouse + Skirt + Sneakers

Why It Works: Opt for a fun, printed blouse and matching mini skirt with sneakers. I'm definitely not an understated dresser, and I used to think I had to tone myself down so as to not "come on too strong." Then I realized that if my date thinks my style is too over the top or distracting or weird—especially if they know I feel great in it—they are most definitely not for me. Moral of the story: Wear whatever you want to wear

Brown plaid mini skirt
Theory Plaid Wrap Wool-Blend Mini Skirt $265 $106
White sneakers
Superga Classic Sneakers $65

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