3 Date-Night Outfit Ideas Inspired by What’s on the Menu

Ruby Redstone

What if every night were a theme party and the theme doubled as an answer to the age-old query, what’s for dinner? Okay, not every night, that sounds exhausting. But special-ish occasions! Date night occasions. In case you couldn’t tell, I’m on a radical mission to harmoniously marry my sartorial and culinary tastes. Put simply: I want to match my date-night outfits to what I’m having for dinner.

I know this sounds absurd, or at the very least unnecessary, but hear me out. I’m not planning on wearing a lobster costume to a clambake anytime soon (first of all, it’s not seasonal, and second of all, I don’t own a lobster costume). It’s a little less literal than that: Like an experienced chef, I’m keen to stew seemingly disparate ingredients in my closet into an outfit as delicious as what I’m about to eat. If I can align my appearance with my tastebuds, I’ve got a dress code that I can rely on when my sartorial imagination is failing me, and I invite you to join me in this initiative, too! We can turn any restaurant into a veritable costume ball and leave bland-black-dress date night looks behind.

Goodbye piles of discarded outfit options on the floor! Goodbye paltry handfuls of almonds my husband is forced to eat while he waits for me to get ready! I’ll now be sauntering out the door on time for our reservation, looking like an aperitivo.

A Spicy Ensemble for High-Temp Hot Wings

On any given date night, there’s a high likelihood that my husband and I can be found splitting a plate of Chonqing chicken wings at Mission Chinese Food or dipping little bundles of sticky rice into Thai basil stir fry at Uncle Boon’s Sister. Both these dishes are almost completely made up of chilis (Sichuan and Thai bird, respectively), and the two of us are unabashed spice fanatics. As of late, I’m less interested in finding a cure for my chronic heartburn and more interested in finding outfits that mimic the heat of these dishes I so adore. Here’s how that figures: any type of animal print is decidedly spicy, and a heaping of sparkles on top functions as an extra crack of fresh pepper. A splash of shocking blue tulle peeking out from underneath the whole affair ensures that I won’t feel upstaged by the heat of my meal.

Sartorial Froth for Your Holiday Feasts

#2: The bevvy of holiday dinners on the horizon brings with it the mouthwatering promise of braised short ribs and mashed potatoes chased down with a glass of eggnog. And there’s really no ladylike way to say this, but sometimes a lady wants to indulge in these pleasures without feeling confined by a stiff pair of high-waisted jeans. And you know whose clothes allow them to eat and relax with complete freedom? Babies. While a onesie might not be appropriate for a celebratory dinner with your loved ones, a festive night out is a great time to take a cue from a really fancy baby, like, say, the 17th century Infanta Margarita Teresa. A frilly double-collar situation will have you feeling suitably dressed up, while a babydoll silhouette allows you to comfortably enjoy an ungodly amount of Parker House rolls. Plus, it just makes sense to indulge in a rich, buttery feast while dressed as the visual equivalent of… well… a rich, buttery princess. If you need help throwing a tantrum, you’ll find me tucking into a plate of malfatti at Cafe Altro Paradiso, bow affixed to my head and ready to stir up some royal trouble. We can stop for cannolis on the way home.

Glorified Pajamas to Go Hand-in-Hand With Glorious Tofu

#3: On nights when the thought of braving the cold is too much to bear, I’m inclined to do date night at home. I’ll crack open a bottle of chilled red or this nectar-of-the-gods sparkling water (“fancy water,” as it is known in my house) and whip up a little something special. Or I’ll scrap that idea and just order in–it’s been a long week. This is hands-down my favorite way to unwind and reconnect with my husband. An outfit to match takeout needs to be easy and carefree but still dressed-up enough to justify the fact that you’re spending money on dinner instead of just heating up the quart of soup lingering in your fridge. My beloved lime-green sweatpants, which I hope read as fun and unexpected in the outside world, feel too schlubby worn with slippers for a date night at home. Instead of reinventing the wheel-known-as-comfy-pants, I’ve been leaning into the idea of thematically dressing for a night in. That means slumber-party-worthy matching pajamas dolled up with hair accessories and cute socks. I’m as warm and cozy as my favorite comfort food (Mapo tofu), but I also feel formal enough to justify using the fancy chopsticks.

So there you have it: with a little imagination and the right menu, the world is your oyster. Or rather, the world is your seafood tower, and your attire is inspired by the cold gleam of an oyster shell. Whatever. Can I interest anyone in coffee or dessert?

Photos by Ruby Redstone.

Ruby Redstone

Ruby Redstone

Ruby Redstone is a writer, stylist, and art historian (no, seriously) from New York City.

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