You’ve had a few dates, things are going well, and it’s time for the next big test – meeting the parents. We’ll give you a few tips on what to wear to impress while staying comfortable and confident.
The first date is said to be the hardest part of the dating cycle – you don’t really know each other, you’re not sure what jokes will work, which stories to mention and which ones to hide away forever, and of course what exactly to wear. Once you’re passed that you might think it’s pretty much smooth sailing. You get through a few arguments, grow closer, share those embarrassing stories you thought you’d keep secret, and then comes the fateful day. The one where you meet the parents.
Now, if your girlfriend’s pretty relaxed and unfussy, then there’s a good chance her parents will be the same way. But anyone with inlaws like that doesn’t really need an article like this. We’re not here for people with easy meetups planned, we’re here for the ones who have a bit more of a challenge.
Maybe the parents you’re dealing with are strict, maybe they’re overly protective, maybe they’re the type who liked to be called ma’am and sir. Whatever the case we’ve got a few ideas on how to dress like yourself, while still pleasing the parentals. Fair warning – a suit and tie might be necessary.
What to Wear When Meeting the Parents
What’s important to remember when you’re meeting anyone’s parents is that everyone has their little quirks and oddities. Some people think it’s totally normal to dress up for Sunday dinner, some people are strict vegans and would be disgusted by your pure leather jacket, and some would think you were pretty boring if you didn’t wear a colourful jumper at Christmas time.
Before you dress up or down, it’s a good idea to double check any dos and don’ts that these parents might have. First impressions can stick, and they’re made quickly. Best to avoid offending someone with a badly chosen T-shirt, and err on the side of caution instead. Don’t worry though, if your partner is rooting for you then they’ll be sure to give you any important details before hand. Let’s start by going through some of the most obvious places you could meet though, and give you some basic, fail-safe outfits to try.
Meeting the Parents at…A Cafe
If your first meeting is somewhere as casual as a cafe then you don’t have a lot to worry about. A cafe is about as laid back as you can, and instantly means you can avoid anything too dressy or fitted. It’s the kind of meeting where you can wear jeans and not feel like you’re totally underdressed. Still, despite the more relaxed environment, you still want to make a good impression, and if you’re going for anything too simple, make sure that it’s perfectly cut and fitted.
Jeans and a plain, perfectly clean, white T-shirt is an easy enough combination, and as long as you get the fit perfect, it’s a look that’s classic and subtly elegant. It also leaves you enough of a blank slate to accessories a little, which we’d recommend doing. Any outfit that’s too simple just gives the impression that you haven’t made any effort, and that rarely looks good.
Try adding in subtle boosts of colour with something like a brown leather watch, and match this with a tan or coloured bomber jacket to keep things casual yet put together. If this still feels too simple, swap out the white T-shirt for a white Oxford shirt instead. The jeans and jacket will still keep it grounded and not too formal.
This is a simple, neat and well put together outfit, with enough accessories to keep it from looking boring, and a good dose of warm colours to add a casual twist. Still, it’s not for everyone and if you’re prefer something less plain, but equally casual you might want to incorporate some more colours into your look.
A denim jacket is one of those versatile pieces that can actually be thrown on with a lot of looks. If you smarten it up with a high neck, finely woven jumper and pair it with some darker jeans, you can avoid a more obvious double denim look and keep a good balance between smart and casual. Accessories with some good quality glasses and you’re all set.
For footwear keep your shoes comfortable and light, opting for something like clean white trainers, some suede chukka boots, or some brown leather boots.
Meeting the Parents at…Their Home
One of the more common place to meet the parents, and sometimes the most nerve-wracking. They’re comfortable in their own home, they know where everything is, where the dog sits and what precious antique should never be touched. You on the other hand – you’re clueless. There’s no way to avoid the slight awkwardness that comes from first stepping foot in someone else’s home, but wearing something that you’re comfortable in and that’s appropriate for the occasion can help.
Bring back the denim jacket and balance it out with a simple grey jumper, creating a light match of colours that’s complementary, casual and yet put together. Layer a simple navy T-shirt underneath, then pair the top half with a simple pair of black chinos. The knitted jumper and denim jacket gives off a casual vibe that’s good for the more laid back home setting, but the chinos and the overall colouring maintains a smart-casual balance.
You can also go for a smarter top half and a more relaxed bottom half, which is ideal if you’re really not a fan of chinos and prefer the comfort of a good pair of jeans. Don’t go for something too slim fit, like a dress shirt, as it’ll just look too formal, and instead keep things relatively relaxed with a fail-safe Oxford shirt.
If you pair a white one with a light blue pair of jeans you’ll create a look that’s both casual in colour and yet refined enough to be parent-appropriate. Finish off with light coloured overcoat, in something like beige or cream, and keep your hair in check with a bit of product.
For shoes you want something that’s simple, not going to detract too much from the outfit, and versatile enough to match with different colours. Dark brown boots, smart trainers or some suede brogues can work well and create a clean base to work with.
We can all admit that’s a little scary meeting our partner’s parents for the first time. They might not like us, we might not like them. You could say an inappropriate joke and make things awkward, they could say an inappropriate joke and make things awkward. Things could go seriously wrong, but they could also go pretty well.