As the saying goes, you only have one chance to make a first impression. Whether you're on the hunt for your first real job or re-entering the job market, meeting your future in-laws, step kids, or getting ready for a first date, we’ll get you there in style.
First Dates Oh, those dreaded first dates. Is your outfit too revealing? Too conservative? What message are you sending? In most situations, your best bet is pretty but not overtly sexy — this is a "getting to know you" meeting and you don't want your clothing to distract (or detract) from your personality. If your style is trendy, you can sizzle things up a bit with a great piece: unusual, fabulous jewelry or an interesting printed jacket. Pants or a skirt? It's up to you. Your comfort level will help determine your confidence level as well.
Do find out where you're going on your date. High heels won't work if you're taking a stroll in the country!
First Job Interviews Got the first-job jitters? Just remember that your interviewer has probably met dozens, if not hundreds, of candidates over the years, so walk in the door with great posture and present a well-groomed you from head-to-toe: hair, skin, manicured nails, polished shoes and handbag. It’s best to be tastefully dressed and accessorized, classic and stylish but not overly trendy. Pass that "first glance" test with a dark-colored neutral suit — navy, black, brown or gray — in a solid color, pinstripe pattern or flat tweed. If you do wear a skirt, make it knee-length, although nowadays, tailored pants are acceptable. As for your top and accessories, think sensible: a blouse or a plain sweater, simple jewelry, nude-colored pantyhose, a good leather bag or briefcase and a pair of mid-heel pumps.
Do bring an extra pair of pantyhose with you, especially if you're not used to wearing them — avoid snag and run disasters! And put the manicure and haircut (or hair color) on your priority list.
Meet the Parents You're going before judge and jury, no matter how often he may reassure you that "they'll love you." The trick here is to not make any obvious mistakes; you don't want to be known as "that woman with the biker jacket" or "the one showed too much cleavage" forevermore. Your look can be moderately trendy, but polished — then let your personality shine through! Dress for the occasion, with a skirt, sweater and boots for a casual meeting or a more elegant look — such as a pretty dress in matte jersey — if you're dining out. Our best advice: Don't be afraid to ask your boyfriend for his opinion and make sure you get an answer!
Always, always, always bring a small present (along the lines of a housewarming gift) if it's a dinner at the parents', house and follow up with a "thanks, it was lovely to meet you" handwritten note. Good manners never go out of style.
Meet the Stepchildren
Your future stepchildren will most likely be the harshest judges you will every encounter, so dress in a way that is classic yet comfortable. A stylish, long sleeved wraparound dress is a good bet, especially when worn with pumps. A velvet jacket worn with a tweed skirt or pants and turtleneck sweater will indicate that you're the grown up of the group, without looking stiff or conservative. And do take care of the details — a great bag, well-organized inside, polished shoes or boots, manicured nails. Those kids notice everything!
You shouldn't be nervous to let your personality shine, but do nix the stiletto heels this time around and keep your footwear relatively tailored.
Reentering the Workforce So what have you been doing for the past 15 years? If you are re-entering the workforce after some time away, your most important "first impression" should be that you are confident, competent and in control. That means you can wear a suit that conveys power. What you wear depends upon the industry, but in general, the more staid the firm or company, the more neutral and tailored you should be. But if you're interviewing for a job in sales or the media, you could go for a bit of color or a pleated or flared skirt instead of the plain slim version.
Walk in looking the part. Invest in a leather envelope or briefcase, the best you can afford.
Judy Gordon is a New York-based style consultant and the “Today” show’s style editor. She has been covering the fashion and beauty beat for the past decade. To learn more about Gordon, you can visit her Web site, , which highlights style trends in America and across the world.
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