Wednesday 25 April 2018

Dressing for success in love and sex

'Valentine's night: if you think
he will pop the question, make a
special effort'
Dress (size 8-18), €218, FeeG.
Bangle, €15, Oxfam.
Ring, €35, Oasis.
Shoes (not in shot), €210,
LK Bennett
'Valentine's night: if you think he will pop the question, make a special effort' Dress (size 8-18), €218, FeeG. Bangle, €15, Oxfam. Ring, €35, Oasis. Shoes (not in shot), €210, LK Bennett
'Six months down the line and feeling comfortable' Dress (size 10-20), €175, Michael H Gold. Shoes (not in shot), €125; bangle, €44.95; bag (not in shot), €125, all Karen Millen. Earrings, stylist's own
'The first meet-up over a cup of tea' Jacket (size 8-18), €178, Phase Eight, Brown Thomas. Sleeveless blouse, €140; boot-cut jeans, €110, both Karen Millen. Shoes (not in shot), €180, LK Bennett. Bangle, €44.95, Karen Millen
'First date: pulling out all the stops' Dress (size 8-18), €195, Ella Boo. Clutch bag, €125, Karen Millen. Shoes (not in shot), €120, Carvela, Brown Thomas. Ring, €35, Oasis
'Date Six: make or break' Dress (size 8-16), €210; bangle, €44.95; clutch bag, €125; shoes (not in shot), €180, all Karen Millen
'One year anniversary' Dress (size 8-18), €126, Phase Eight, Brown Thomas. Necklace, stylist's own

Photography by Daniel Holfeld fashion edited by Constance Harris

Dressing for a date is something of a minefield, especially in the early days. It is one thing if you know the guy before he asks you out: then, at least, there is an understanding there of social background, character and class.

But what if you met, as more and more people do these days, through the internet? Or what if it's a blind date, or a fix-up? What do you wear to the 'first cup of coffee to make sure the person isn't a psycho' date? You know first impressions are vital, but you are meeting in a casual place. Do you glam up, or play it down?

You want to make a great impression so you probably will get your hair done, but do you go vampy on the nails, or not? Wear make-up, or not? Dress casual, you think, but you don't look your best in jeans. Would a girlie dress be too dressy?

That first cup of coffee can reduce a competent, top-level managing director to an anxiety-ridden, insecure teenager. I contacted Lauren Frances, LA-based love coach and author of Dating, Mating and Manhandling, and an expert on internet dating, for her exclusive advice.

Some of you may remember me writing about Lauren last year. I met Lauren in New York when she was doing her biannual 'cyber-flirt' makeover. By the way, some of her most successful clients are in the 60-plus age group, so age is not an excuse to stay dateless.

"The most common mistake women make is not being dressed appropriately for the date they're actually on," Lauren told me. "You have to create the right date to get the right mate so, whether it is a first date where the prospect is marriage, or you're just up for a bit of fun, your romantic intention should be your guidepost.

"Whatever the first touch is, even a cup of coffee, you only have one chance to make a first impression. Women should not try to underdress. If you are meeting somewhere casual, then make sure you wear something pretty on top," she advises.

I told Lauren I had noticed that if you wear leopard print, or red, guys make a beeline to it. Lauren says they are 'good time' indicators: fine in small touches, but not as head-to-toe themes.

"Red says 'let's go'. It's a great accent colour. But you have to find the right shade to complement your hair and skin tone. Animal print is a great look on young women, but again it is an accent thing -- it's easy to go from chic to garish.

"If you have a fabulous dress or coat, then make sure everything else is very toned down. Or enjoy this look in fun accent touches -- say in your shoes, or a cute handbag. But not as the whole outfit.

"If you want to just have fun or if you aren't looking for something long term, then dress as scandalously as you want. But know that will probably take you to the boudoir, and not to Tiffany's," she says.

Knowing what you are looking for when dating, be it fun, relationship, or marriage, is something most women don't address honestly with themselves.

"You don't dress completely for the environment you are in; you dress for the relationship you want, while considering the place you will be in."

Lauren is a genius at teaching women how to enjoy flirting, get to grips with dating, find their romantic match, and be happy. She teaches clients one-to-one -- including many stars and high-powered women -- but also does very affordable, excellent online courses. Her website, has free podcasts to get you dating smarter and in a more focused way.

"Women should wear clothes that suit their bodies. I have a Forties kind of hourglass shape so I wear clothing that accentuates the positives of my body type. I maintain that silhouette. But my shoes and accessories often do change. They can refresh your look.

"It's about the body shape, not the trends. The biggest mistake women make is to dress in a too-trendy way and ignore what suits them the best. That is why God made accessories," Lauren explains.

Lauren advises to play on your assets. If you have great legs, show them, but keep your cleavage covered up, or vice versa. Flaunt both and you will be sending the wrong signal.

"You want to show a little decolletage, but not too much. You want to look romantic, not vampy. The rule of thumb is you can show your decolletage, or your gorgeous gams. Not both," Lauren says.

So a pretty, feminine blouse such as ours from Karen Millen, with a smart jacket, worn with either a skirt, or clean, smart-looking jeans, nicely done hair and make-up, is a good 'coffee date' look. It says feminine and smart, without being overpowering.

Men are visual creatures. They read better than we do the indicators we give off. They are attracted to the confidence of a woman who feels good about herself, and are not necessarily as beauty-obsessed as women tend to think they are. They appreciate grooming.

Sabrina Duggan of Aidan Fitzgerald's, who did Kristi's hair for our shoot, says male clients talk openly about what they like and don't like in a woman's appearance. "They definitely notice freshly washed hair and nicely manicured hands," Sabrina told me.

"Statistically, most men prefer long hair over short, but that doesn't mean to say they don't like short hair if it really suits your face," Lauren says. "But if your hair is long, it's good to be groomed. A good blow-dry that lasts a few days, or a Brazilian blow-out which takes the frizz out for months on end, and makes it more manageable for you without taking up tons of your time, is a good idea."

Lack of time is not a reasonable excuse for not being groomed, in Lauren's book. If you haven't the time to get your hair done, then have you the time for a relationship? Think about it.

"A lot of career women get stuck in looking too corporate," observes Lauren, "and don't know how to transition their look for dates, to make sure that they look 'man-friendly' and romantic. In fact, most just go from meetings straight on to a date. Big mistake," Lauren says. "To solve this problem, prepare a date wardrobe in advance. Then, on the day of a date, bring a change of clothing to the office and a curling iron, or whatever you need, and change your clothing at the end of the day before you meet him."

In Lauren's opinion, date wardrobe essentials are a pair of high heels, or beautiful boots, a dress that makes the most of your figure, a pretty blouse showing a bit of decolletage, and good jeans or trousers, if you have the kind of figure that looks sensational in them.

She is an advocate of good lingerie, especially items such as Spanx Cognito, not only to create a good silhouette but also to improve women's posture and give them confidence in their shape.

Armed with Lauren's dictates, I searched Dublin city looking for our date wardrobe. It wasn't as straightforward as I thought. Fashion is currently favouring grungy, asexual looks in murky beiges and greys -- not good man-attracting garb. There are the Sixties styles that feature high, round necklines with miniskirt lengths; fine for those gals with "great gams" but not for those who are happier with their bosom.

Karen Millen was best for Lauren-type blouses. The plus-size label from Michael H, Personal Choice, had some pretty tops and smart jeans too, and it's a line that's really worth checking out. Tesco has a great plus-size range full of colour, fun and verve, and Evans has some great smart-looking tops. For figure-flattering dresses, Irish labels such as Ella Boo and FeeG came into their own, nicely flattering the female form, with a little sex appeal but not too much.

Another good label for this kind of dress is Phase Eight, available in Brown Thomas nationwide. And to my surprise, Michael H's Gold, which caters for sizes eight to 18, had great body-con dresses in gorgeous skin- and eye-flattering colours such as navy, coral or violet.

Madame Vionnet, one of the greatest designers, said women should wear blue or green to bring out the eyes, and coral for the lips, but not all at the same time.

Shoes should be flattering to your legs, so choose high if you can wear them, and remember, there is always a shoe, or boot, out there that can make bad ankles look good. Trinny and Susannah's books are good for those kinds of guidelines.

If you are going to wear black, a judicious addition of some diamante or pearls for a late dinner date is essential to lift the look from funereal to feminine.

Finally, I asked Lauren, if you think a guy is going to pop the question, say this Valentine's night, how should you dress?

"If the guy is going to that much effort, why won't you?" was her reply.

So, for our Valentine's night date, I opted for FeeG's coral silk dress to make Kristi look so nicely packaged she barely even needed that bow!


Photography by Daniel Holfeld, see

Styled by Constance Harris

Make-up by Seana Long for Make Up For Ever, 38 Clarendon St, D2, tel: (01) 679-9043

Hair by Sabrina Duggan, Aidan Fitzgerald, Main St, Blackrock, Co Dublin, tel: (01) 288-6479.

Model: Kristi Kuudisiim for Andrea Roche Model Agency, tel: (01) 458-8753, or see

Shot on location at the Radisson Blu St Helen’s Hotel, Stillorgan Rd, Blackrock, D4, tel: (01) 218-6000, or see

Show your Valentine some old fashioned Italian romance and say “ti amo” at Radisson Blu St Helen’s, Dublin, have a sumptuous dinner for two surrounded by candlelight in Talavera, and leave with a beautiful rose. Then stop by the Piano Lounge for a drink on the cosy couches and enjoy the live music. Wake on Valentine’s morning to a champagne breakfast delivered to the comfort of your room, and there’s no need to emerge from your love nest until the afternoon, with a late 2pm checkout. You can have all this for just €125 per person sharing

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