Holiday season is in full force, and if you’re in a relationship, you may have a daunting social occasion on your calendar: meeting your partner’s parents. If your significant other invites you home for the holidays, what to wear can seem like the most intimidating part of an otherwise relaxing vacation—especially when it comes to making a first impression. Do you need to wear a dress? Can you stick with jeans? How about heels? Lipstick? It seems trivial, but anyone who has gone through the process can empathize.
To (hopefully) help ease your anxiety, we gathered insight from a group of opinionated parents for advice on outfit dos and don’ts. We have to admit some of these tips are pretty blunt, but it never hurts to hear as many sides as possible before coming to a final sartorial decision. Just remember to stay true to yourself and you’ll be set!
Scroll down to see style rules the parents mentioned, and shop some key pieces to get ready for the big occasion.
“I would like the girl to be appropriately dressed, no cleavage, no visible tattoos, and something classic but with a playful, personal touch. I want to get the impression that this means business, that she is serious in impressing us. No scuffed shoes or tattered heels. Attention to detail is a key indicator. Oh, and nicely done nails, no chipped polish or chewed edges.” — Chris
“I'd like to see her wear a simple dress with nice accessories. Ideally, it would be something flattering and conservative, without being dressed like a nun. I’d like to see her look youthful and even edgy, as long as it’s appropriate. She shouldn’t wear things like ripped jeans that show a lack of care or respect. However, she shouldn’t be dressed in an ostentatious way either. No visible body piercings.” — Shirin
“When meeting my son’s significant other for the first time, a semi-fancy dress to the knee is nice. Don’t wear low-cut tops, T-shirts, jeans, leggings, or excessive jewelry. Pantyhose is a must, unless she has better legs than mine!” — Sara
“When meeting my son’s significant other for the first time, I would like to see her wear something sophisticated and ladylike; however, it should still be low-key and practical. For the outfit, maybe just a simple T-shirt dress with a moto jacket paired with cute flats. Add a statement necklace with a cute clutch. What I would not want to see my son’s significant other wearing for a first meeting would be something too revealing, low-cut, or too tight.” — Diane
“I would like to see her wearing a higher-cut sweater with more coverage, some nice slacks, and low heels.” — Lorraine
“A sweater and jeans with flats or boots would be perfectly fine. As long as she’s covered, I am fine with whatever she wears, but she should wear something fitting to her particular body shape. She should not look like a hussy, but be confident in what she is wearing.” — Charlisa
“She must be age-appropriate. Don’t wear low-cut dresses or blouses, or shorts that are too inviting. Perfume and makeup should be at a minimum. Showing up in your jogging outfit or an old pair of jeans with flip-flops is a don’t—yuck.” — Abby
“She should dress modestly, tastefully, and look classy. Not too much skin. No tawdry tattoos. They aren’t edgy anyway.” — Kevin
“I would not expect her to wear a dress, but if she did, I would definitely be impressed. It would be nice if she looked like she put in effort to look well put together.” — Maria
“The only thing I don’t like is an outfit that highlights bra straps showing or tattoos. My biggest concerns are young ladies putting piercings through various parts of their bodies when they already have the best-looking faces and bodies they will have in their lifetime. They just don’t know it! Just remember you will only get one chance to put your best foot forward when meeting your guy’s parents. Err on the conservative side!” — Ted
“She should wear a tasteful but fashionable outfit. A skirt or dress or cute pants or jeans with a sweater would be nice. She shouldn’t wear cutout shirts or tops that expose her stomach.” — Sarah
“If it is a casual family dinner, a nice pair of jeans, knit or woven shirt, and a casual blazer would be fine. Flats would be better than heels. Revealing clothing is not for family occasions—no cleavage, please. Any outfit that is a distraction due to fit or condition (torn, soiled, faded) would not be a good choice.” — Debbie
“I would like to see her in a cute little dress or something dressier. I would expect her to have any visible tattoos covered up so I don’t have to see them while I’m eating.” — Julie
“I would recommend jeans or leggings, a nice top, sweater, and flats. She can wear a skirt if it’s warm.” — Karen
“She should dress modestly but stylishly as well. I’m a hairstylist, so I appreciate if she shows off her unique style, as long as it isn’t too risqué. A sweater would be nice, but she should definitely have her body covered.” — Clauzelle
“I would hope my son’s girlfriend would dress casually but comfortably, like she was going out on a date and spent some time getting ready. My definition of this would be, at a minimum, clothing that is clean and maintained: nice jeans with no holes; a comfortable, attractive top; no T-shirts; no holes or midriff showing; hair maintained and clean; makeup not overdone; no overpowering perfume; and no tennis shoes.” — Lori
“I think if she came with nice slacks and a sweater, that would be good. As a mother, I want my son’s girlfriend to be comfortable in my home, so if she has her own style and came that way, I would be okay.” — Karen
“I think my expectations are more oriented around the environment than specific fashion. I would expect that she would want to make a good impression but also dress in a way that fits into the family dynamic. I would expect a ‘when in Rome, do as the Romans do’ kind of approach to clothes based on the occasion, location, and our standards of dress, at least until she got to know us better.” — Carrie
“If my son brought a girl home for the first time, I’d be totally okay with her being in jeans, but she should look clean, not slutty with low-cut clothes. She shouldn’t necessarily look conservative either, but definitely put together.” — Joyce
This post has been updated by Nicole Kliest.