The Daily Telegraph - Saturday - The Telegraph Magazine
Lisa Armstrong Is this the perfect date night outfit?
When it comes to date nights, the inadvertent faux pas can blow up in your face. How were you to know that their certifiably insane ex wore the exact same shade of blue? Or that the person sitting opposite you, looking a bit sweaty and swivel-eyed, finds Rouge Noir nails triggering?
Perfume? A Proustian minefield, as anyone who’s read Prince Harry’s book will know. One sniff of Van Cleef & Arpels’ First conjured up the corporeal presence of his mother so powerfully he almost couldn’t cope.
Shoes? Come on, who hasn’t been fatally put off by a potential love interest’s footwear? Superficial, yes. But that’s the human race for you. We can’t help it. We’re hardwired to make snap decisions when it really matters. No one promised they’d be the right decisions.
So we – by which I mean the committee of the stylist, photographer and make-up artist who were in the studio with me – came up with this look, which will (hopefully) circumnavigate such barriers to romantic bliss.
Classic heels that you can walk in easily – you don’t really want to come off as the kind of person who has to be limo’ed to the table. Monochrome outfit, but with the light colour up top so as not to be too harsh. A blouse that’s not overthe-top frilly, but different enough from a basic that you won’t be mistaken for the staff. Focus on this because you’re probably going to be seen from tabletop up. Perfectly cut trousers but not from any obvious designer, because overdesigned black trousers are the mark of a troubled mind.
OK, maybe I’m being harsh there – but have you seen how judgey everyone is Out There?
Since we didn’t want to come across as totally vanilla, we included a Dior bag, which might weed out some Marxists, although not if they’re French. If you love a fancy bag and you’ve worked your socks off to buy one, why pretend otherwise? Unless you’ve told everyone you’re a vegan… As for jewellery, it’s pretty much what you fancy – you need to show some of your personality.
Don’t be tempted to overdo the make-up if that’s not your usual style. Wrong message and no one wants to get halfway through the evening and discover it’s all gone to smear. That said, here we layered on – and blotted – lashings of red lipstick, a notorious repellent for men who might otherwise lunge at your lips on the first date (if you want them to lunge, you can always surreptitiously wipe it off after drink two). If you’re eating, I’d counsel against a bright lipstick as it can wear off in uneven patches, which rather mitigates the worldly image you’re going for.
That’s it. Making sure your clothes are all ethically produced and avoiding endangered species is a good rule of thumb at all times. Good underwear, clean hair, nothing that doesn’t feel comfortable (all of which still applies to your 900th date with the same person, by the way). Ultimately it’s about making an effort – enticement rather than grand deception.