You know what it’s like to get ready for a date. The nerves, the excitement, the clothes strewn all over the floor as you look for something—anything—to wear. Deciding on a date outfit can be nervewracking, and it’s the last thing you need to worry about before meeting your next potential Mr. Right. That’s why we’ve studied the research and expert opinion to create your ultimate guide for what to wear on a first date.

How to Choose a Date Outfit

When deciding what to wear, style psychologist Shakaila Forbes-Bell recommends thinking about someone confident you know, either in real life or online, and figuring out what styles they wear that you like. These styles can be great choices for a first date because they can make us feel more self-assured. This is because of something called “enclothed cognition”. 

Essentially, it’s a “fake it ‘til you make it” strategy. Enclothed cognition proposes that the clothes we wear can influence how we feel about ourselves. Fashion psychologist Dr. Dawnn Karen says there are three main reasons we do this. When we’re not dressed for utility, we use clothing to tell others how we feel or to make ourselves feel better somehow.

Forbes-Bell also suggests trying on clothing you associate with a really good memory. It works the same way that scrolling through your favorite celeb’s Instagram does. Your lucky belt or a special jacket will remind you of good times, stirring up positive feelings and helping you feel like your best, most confident self.

What Color is Best For a Date?

When we meet someone new, our brains go into overdrive, picking up on more information than we’re even aware of. We unconsciously judge potential partners on a primal level. This is why the color you wear can have a noticeable impact on the way your date sees you.

If your first instinct is to reach for a sleek black dress, you might be onto something. Black is associated with luxury, elegance, and sophistication. Your date might also perceive you as more powerful and more intelligent in black. The high-end associations make this a great choice to wear to a nice dinner date or to somewhere more formal.

But what if you need something to wear on a casual date? Forbes-Bell says to go with a long-wavelength color, such as yellow, orange, or red. These vibrant options make us feel more energetic and active. That makes them a great option to match the exciting energy of a casual brunch or a happy hour. 

Of course, if you want to make a big impression, you can’t go wrong with the color of love. Research shows that men view women in red as more attractive and sexually desirable. The association between the color red and desire is baked into our biology. The study’s authors concluded that the effect of the color red on a female partner was pretty similar in human men and male non-human primates. 

Women have noticed these effects, and they’re testing out the theory in real life. In early 2022,  something called the “red nail theory” started gaining traction online. Basically, the theory is that men are most attracted to red nails, so wearing them is a way to easily catch their attention. The wildest part is that women are saying it works! So if a red dress isn’t your style, try a pop of red on your nails.

What to Wear on a Date

The perfect outfit to wear on your date depends a little bit on your venue. For a casual date, Forbes-Bell says to go for something approachable, like a pair of great-fitting jeans. Casual styles are associated with sociability, extraversion, and friendliness, she says. Especially if you wear them regularly, the familiar feeling of your jeans will help you to feel more at ease, making them a great choice. 

Or you could try the opposite strategy and lean into your nerves a bit. Opting for something bold can showcase your unique personality and serve as a conversation starter. Choosing the right unique accessories will add visual interest to your outfit, helping you come across as more fun and adventurous.

A bold fashion choice can help you get out of your head, too. Wearing something outside your comfort zone can also help you embrace escapism for a little while, Forbes-Bell explains. This has the counterintuitive effect of reducing anxiety, helping you to relax and enjoy the moment on your date. 

She also recommends a form-fitting dress for a more striking look. Research shows that well-fitting clothes can make other people see you as more confident and successful. And that’s not the only good reason to opt for something a little more fitted. According to Forbes-Bell, this can have a similar effect to deep touch pressure techniques, which have been shown to reduce anxiety

How to Choose Shoes For a Date

When it comes to shoe options, high heels are a good choice for a few reasons. Our brains associate height with power and authority, so seeing yourself with a couple of extra inches can give you an extra boost of confidence. The way high heels change your body language can also accentuate your body’s natural curves and make your walk appear more sensual. 

Not surprisingly, high heels were found to attract male attention far more often than other types of shoes. However, they’re also more uncomfortable and can cause widespread damage to your body over time. Dr. Sajid Suarve explains that high heels pull your muscles and joints out of their proper alignment. This commonly causes back, neck, and shoulder pain in frequent wearers.

Nobody wants to be in pain because of their date outfit, so choosing a well-fitting supportive heel is critical. Next time you’re shopping, take a moment to measure your feet. Your shoe size can change over time, so it’s worth checking that your shoes really do fit. After that, focus on finding a shoe that balances height with support.

In general, heels that are chunkier and positioned directly under the heel of your foot are most supportive. Stiletto styles, while a great fashion statement, are a poor choice for this reason. For a more comfortable option, try a pair of pumps with a block heel. Toe and ankle straps can help hold your feet in place more firmly, while a slight platform base can add a bit of height without changing the angle of your foot. 

Getting ready for a date can be stressful, especially when it comes to choosing what to wear. But your outfit is more than just clothes – it can impact how confident you feel and how your date sees you. Your fashion can show off your unique personality and make your date more memorable. So, whether you prefer a classy black look, vibrant colors, or a form-fitting dress, make a choice that says something about the real you.