Dressing for that first date: Is it about being something you’re not?

I RECENTLY took one of those Facebook quizzes which promise that by answering just a few simple questions they can unearth the real you.

Of course, there is always the fear that the ‘real you’ will be ‘shared’ with all your FB friends too! Nevertheless, I delved in and waited with baited breath to see: Am I really a connoisseur of fashion?

While images of Donna Karan and Kate Moss flashed across the screen I began to fear that my 35 years of dressing slightly against the grain was going to finally be my undoing in the ‘cool’ world of FB.

But voila! The ping came back displaying a ‘You could give a Master Class in fashion’ message — a virtual reality thumbs-up for my dress sense. At last, validation! Even if it was only on screen, in social reality heaven.

But it couldn’t have come at a better time. While on Facebook I was now able to proudly declare my ‘inner fashionista’, on the dating front, I was considering abandoning my individual sense of style for the ‘Dawson Street’ uniform of skinny jeans, heels and a low cut top.

Being in your mid-thirties and wandering around the virtual desert of Irish dating can feel like a bit of a hike. There are so many ways to do it ‘right’ now and all these new rules to follow. One of the first questions a girlfriend will ask you when you have a first date is “What are you going to wear?”

In the past I had never really put much thought into it. I would wear a quirky dress or whatever catwalk look I was drooling over at the time. But recently this question seemed to cause more and more consternation with everyone frowning at my answers — it made me wonder if my individual sense of style was sending out the wrong message.

We all know the power-dresser woman can be seen as intimidating to many men but I wonder if the woman with an equally powerful sense of her own style and of herself can be just as off-putting to a man.

“Men want women to look like women. They want to see all that is gorgeous about a woman. You don’t have to have the boobs hanging out but as men see it, a figure hugging dress shows off the best features of a woman,” explains fashion stylist Cathy O’Connor.

“Men don’t get fashion. The androgynous look is a turn off for most men and the baggy and layered look they certainly don’t like,” says Cathy. “But in saying that, I would never advocate changing what you wear for a man. Be true to one self. Go for clothes which show off the real aspects of you.”

For as long as I can remember I have used fashion as a way of expressing myself. I wear certain outfits to suit the way I feel on the day. Sometimes at work I might go for the 1950s secretary look — a pencil skirt and fitted cardi; other times I’d go for the skinny jeans, high-tops and slouchy top. I have always dressed for me and never for the man in my life. The thought of having to dress for someone else, to try and portray the idea of the perfect woman just to get past a first date makes me feel like a fraud. Wearing a dress or a top which doesn’t emulate the true person that I am feels like very hard work in order to find that someone special who in truth, is supposed to love you for who are.

“I think most of the guys I have dated appreciate my style,” says Xpose’s Courtney Smith, “My boyfriend claims he likes everything I wear. Although he doesn’t like the sunglasses I wear — he thinks they look like futuristic bug eyes… but I still wear them regardless of whether he likes them or not!”

Throughout the dating process I came to realise toning down my fashion sense to meet expectations of others left me miserable.

When it comes down to it making the right first impression, it’s all about confidence. If you’re pretending to be someone you’re not, whether it is through a contrived conversation or while wearing an outfit that’s not ‘really you’, then you are off to a bad start.

As Smith says, having an individual sense of style is empowering and if a guy can’t handle that type of girl, then he’s the wrong type for you.


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