Maybe it’s been a few months and they’ve heard so much about you, or it’s only been a couple of dates and they barely know you exist. Regardless of how much time has passed, meeting your significant other’s parents for the first time can be exciting and terrifying. So many things are out of your control, but what you wear is completely within your power. Consider a few guidelines that could streamline the process.
Classic and Conservative
Stay true to your style while opting for an ensemble that errs on the conservative side, recommended Jennifer Mumford, buyer and owner of Hub Clothing in Scottsdale, Arizona, who recently met her significant other’s parents for the first time. “Stay away from an outfit that is too revealing, as it can come across as polarizing,” she said. Also, try to keep your look timeless. This means staying away from trends like ripped jeans or denim with distressed features.
If this meeting is over the holidays or at a holiday gathering, a little festivity is a nice touch. For men, Mumford suggested a button down shirt in classic plaid or check paired with a dark wash, straight leg jean. For women, opt for an outfit like a cashmere sweater, dark rinse skinny or straight leg jeans and a ballet flat or riding boot. “It’s nice to wear a bit of color like fuchsia, cobalt or red. Color is inviting and always appropriate.”
If an afternoon barbecue is the venue, guys will be good with either jeans or khakis with a polo or crew neck tee. Mumford suggested finishing the look with staple footwear, like a pair of Converse or a loafer. Gals can opt for a maxi dress or sundress paired with a denim jacket or scarf, and completed with sandals or ballet flats. Petite ladies can also try a silk top, skinny jeans and a wedge heel. “Whatever outfit you choose, keep the look feminine, pretty and cohesive,” Mumford said.
Stick with clothing in your size that has worked for you in the past and steer clear from ill-fitting or unflattering colors that clash with your skin tone. Feeling good in your clothes will boost your confidence and rub off on others around you. “The last thing you need is for your partner’s parents to think that you are borrowing your older sibling's clothes or do not know how to dress,” Leroux said.
Dress for Comfort
Especially in a casual setting, take advantage of the laid-back vibe with feel-good gear. Wear that pair of comfy jeans and a simple top that you love, suggested Anthony Leroux, fashion director and stylist for A. Leroux Styling in Tempe, Arizona. Pair with comfortable nude or black heels that complement the ensemble. “Being comfortable in a casual setting has everything to do with how relaxed the clothes you wear make you feel so that you are on your A game.”
Keep color combinations and graphic prints simple and un-busy, Leroux suggested. Wear no more than three colors at a time and keep the neon at home. This could mean wearing a plain T-shirt under a blazer that offers a slight contrast, or keeping patterns to a minimum as to not cause a dizzying effect. “The last thing you want to do is look like a walking fabric store,” Leroux said.
The go-to staple in every woman’s closet, the little black dress is practically foolproof in most evening situations and comes to the rescue when you’re stumped and standing in your closet. Make sure yours hits just above the knee, Leroux advised. Toss on those rarely-used pair of designer heels and complement with jewelry, like a matching diamond necklace, bracelet and ring trio. “I would alternate the bracelet and wear it on the left wrist and the ring on the right hand, or vice versa. That combo says, ‘I’m here to stay.’”
Gentlemen, if the initial meeting is to take place over dinner at a nice restaurant, this is one of those occasions to pull out that fitted suit that spends much of the year hanging untouched in a garment bag in the back of the closet. Leroux suggested a gray or black suit over a white dress shirt with a neutral colored tie, and matching dress shoes to keep it cohesive.
A light mist of your favorite fragrance is enough to be a subtle reflection of your personality that highlights, not dominates. Remember, others around you will notice that scent more intensely than you would, so take it easy when spritzing. “The last thing you need is for the smell to be overpowering and become the only thing that people begin to talk about,” Leroux said.
When you’re dressed, take a look in the mirror. Does anything immediately jump out? Is that skirt a little too tight or that blouse a bit too sheer? Or, are those jeans too faded and would your mother think that dress shirt is too wrinkled to be dressy? If anything seems to be too much of something, change out of it, advised personal shopper and fashion consultant Nancy Shina, owner of SPREE! The Art of Shopping in Scottsdale, Arizona. “It’s what I call, ‘The Rule of Too’s.’”
Coordinate your outfits so you don’t look like you are heading to the opera while your love looks beach-bound. Versatile ensembles are best if you aren’t quite sure, Shina suggested. Women can play up their feminine side with dress pants or a skirt paired with a soft or billowy top, while men can’t go wrong with dress pants, an open collar button down shirt and nonathletic shoes. “Blue can be your secret weapon. Did you know it’s men’s most flattering color?” Shina said.