Shopping Guide: What To Wear When You Meet Your SO’s Parents

We have all experienced the unique anguish of planning an outfit for introduction to our significant other’s parents. One thing I’ve learned over the years of meeting parents is that you don’t want to call attention to your clothes: stay away from statement items, bold colors and eye-catching materials. You want to showcase your lovely personality (and good posture) on that crucial first meeting, not have them asking “Why is our child with this… carnie… in leather chaps?”

However, it’s also important to be natural and not wear the sartorial equivalent of a sign that says “I swear to whatever god you believe in that I have never done anything I regret in my life. Ever. Each night I sew your son into a roomy flannel onesie and then we discuss our eventual move to hand holding, which–I promise–is still a ways off.”

The outfit planning can be particularly nerve-racking if you don’t have a good gauge of how old fashioned they are. At a certain point, you do have to say ‘fuck it,’ because if they’re going to be all, “Well, I never!” because you’re wearing jeans, then you’re never going to please them and they’re jerks.

But… chances are they’re the kind of people who will be pleased and impressed if your outfit is like a softer version of a job interview ensemble. Pencil skirts, cardigans, tweed jackets and knee-length floral dresses are your best bets. Consider adding a strand of pearls. Here’s our gallery for what to wear and a few looks to avoid.

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    • missy

      while I don’t dislike any of the suggestions here, I feel like they are a tad too “church”.

      • Ashley Cardiff

        I know what you mean. But “a tad church” is kind of a good direction for outfit-to-meet-the-parents-in. Somewhere between “a tad church” and “pretty job interview” is the safest bet.

    • Miranda

      These are all very… upper class. My boyfriend and I both come from blue collar backgrounds and if I showed up to his parents’ house in some of these outfits (i.e. a button down blouse tucked into a pencil skirt), I’d definitely get a few weird looks. In my opinion these looks are really only suited to one socioeconomic class.

      • lizards first rule

        yeah… $60 pencil skirts from the GAP are totally exclusive and aspirational.

      • Miranda

        How about the $368 Lily Pulitzer dress?

      • AppleJuice

        @lizards first rule They are for some people.
        And yeah, if the folks are blue-collar (or below, like mine) you should stick to nice jeans and a pretty top; otherwise you risk alienating them.

      • lizards first rule

        this is so fucking obnoxious. what do you want it to be? $17 tank dresses from Forever 21 and H&M shit that falls apart after you wear it twice? This is the least elitist shopping guide ever and you if you’re alienated by $60 GAP skirts and $40 Banana Republic button downs, you need to shut the hell up. I can’t afford a $300 dress either but I’m also not a whiny jerkoff. This is a FASHION AND BEAUTY site. If you can’t handle being reminded of different pricepoints, you need to go away.

      • Eileen


        If you don’t mind my asking, though, are you really surprised? Haven’t you noticed that the majority of the articles on this site are geared towards heterosexual young women from fairly white-collar backgrounds? Yes, I generalize, but overall, the intended audience of The Gloss are women in their twenties and thirties who attend or attended college, date men, drink, love The Great Gatsby, and enjoy fashion. I completely understand that this post might not be appropriate for some audiences, but it’s completely appropriate for the generally intended audience.

      • Jennifer Wright

        Ashley’s family has such a lovely vineyard. Wine country.

      • porkchop

        Ok, these looks are pretty…establishment. But you should wear them anyway, because if your SO’s parents are hippies or country or whatever, then they can take credit for getting you to loosen up when you go wearing jeans or exposing your bra strap.

        Except for that Lily dress. You should only wear that if you are meeting your boyfriend’s parents during your graduation from boarding school.

      • Ashley Cardiff

        @Porkchop, you have won the comments. A++

    • Alex

      I think it really depends on how you’re meeting them. These outfits are perfect for dinner at a nice restaurant ,but not for a baseball game.

    • marissa

      That’s hilarious. I bought the anthropologie dress for my large bridal shower, but then I decided it was “too sweet.” I totally agree that it’s an ideal meet the parents dress! Although my fiance said it looked like an apron.

    • EKS

      Small edit: it’s Lilly Pulitzer (not Lily)

      I think a good way to get a sense of how to dress when meeting your partner’s parents is the 1) consider your lifestyle as a couple (i.e., be true to yourself), and 2) ask him or her how their family dresses, lives, etc. or even ask to see some family photos. Realistically, I think most people already have the answers to those questions once the relationship has progressed to the point of meeting the parents.

    • KCK

      A certain someone’s brother’s GF wore a red bandage dress to a family event… it was a holiday dinner… out at a lovely restaurant in a neighborhood where everyone is more annually advanced.

      She’s an ex now. Thank you baby bro for saving us from years of inappropriate T&A.

    • RB

      In a month I’ll be travelling with my boyfriend to meet his parents. I’ll first meet them when they pick us up from the airport…at 1 a.m. At that point, my boyfriend and I will have been on a plane for over seven hours.

      I want to look respectable and classy, but I also want to be comfortable. I think I would look like I was trying too hard if I wore anything too dressy on an airplane. Any suggestions for what to wear on the plane?