Up to date clothes

We know where to go for an outfit long on appeal when you're short on time before that first date.


The good news: He finally called!

The bad news: He wants to go out tonight!

Of course, you'd clear your schedule for this guy even if it was your dear ol' granny's 100th birthday - there's always next year, right? - but there's a problem: He's given you no time to find something to wear.

Last-minute date shopping. It's every stylish woman's worst nightmare. For a job interview, you'd simply buy a new suit. For a wedding, a pretty dress. But when shopping for a first date, you have to find just the right outfit to give off just the right impression - whatever you want that impression to be.

There are a few rules, after all, for a great first-date outfit:

It has to be appealing enough to make him physically attracted, but not so sexy that he forgets to make eye contact at dinner.

It has to tell him a little something about your personality. A high-maintenance girl, for example, would be sure to prominently display a designer logo somewhere, and she'd always sparkle with bling.

And the first-date outfit also has to be inexpensive enough that - should Mr. Right turn out to be Mr. Fright - you won't have to bemoan the financial blow while posting all of his repulsive qualities on your next-day blog.

So where do you go to put together such a crucial outfit? And with only a half-day to find it?

We've mapped out a few places in the city that are usually on-the-money hits for finding the elements of a great last-minute date ensemble, from head to toe. The only thing we can't guarantee is that your date itself will work out as well.

So grab your credit cards and follow us. But first, let's make a brief detour to your closet.

Start from the bottom up: For a first date, jeans are appropriate for just about every age group and any type of date. Make sure the jeans are stylish - a vintage wash or distressed look works well. A slender cut will accentuate your feminine curves. In this case, we'd suggest starting with a pair of jeans you already own and love. When it comes to finding a store where you can easily find a new pair of great-fitting jeans, sorry, we've got nothin'.

But maybe your best assets are more like Shakira's than J. Lo's - your legs. If so, you probably want to wear a skirt instead of jeans. That we can help with.

Your best bet for flirty, trendy, not-too-expensive skirts? Belvedere Square's Cloud 9, where of-the-moment skirts from top-notch brands can be snatched up for about what he'll be paying for dinner. Our recommendation from a recent visit: a knee-length skirt in brown and plum from Free People, with an artsy diamond pattern and adorable satin sash at $78.

Top it off: You want to be ready for anything - like a quick change of scene, we mean. So you'll want to cover your cami or tank top with a blazer or a sweater, something that you can keep on in a frigid movie theater or take off if you end up at a hot and crowded bar. This essential layering piece should be alluring, cinched at the waistline, and with some kind of memorable detail: embellishment, embroidery or sparkles. Also look for vivid color or a super lush fabric.

For snappy style in crunch time, no one does it better than the mother of all cheap-and-easy chains, Forever 21. Head to its store in the Gallery at the Inner Harbor.

We suggest Forever 21's "lustrous crinkle velvet jacket" in burgundy. It's just $29.80 and it's crimson, to camouflage all that blushing we hope you'll be doing.

Best feet forward: If it were summer, we'd advocate a sexy sandal and newly polished toes. Ask any man: Pretty feet are an instant turn-on. But since it's fall, you'll want footwear that's closed-toe; preferably, a boot.

You want a heel that will give you an appealing look and posture. But save the stilettos for another time. This boot's heel should be fairly low, just in case his idea of a perfect first date is strolling around Fells Point, talking and window-shopping - for hours.

Zip on over to Bare Feet Shoes, on Howard Street between Saratoga and Lexington streets. The eclectic store has the funkiest fall boots for the cheapest prices. Maybe the best to complement your date outfit: a pair of tobacco-colored cowboy-styled boots (called Sally-01) with intricate stitching for just $39.99.

Bling it on: Accessories are crucial, a simple way to give him a little peek into your unique personality. A smart little hat signals "quirky." A belt with an oversized cowboy buckle lets him see the honky-tonk in you. A Louis Vuitton bag says, "Take me to Applebee's and prepare to die."

With this first-date outfit, we suggest wearing a great neckpiece, such as the dog-eared necklace ($56.50) at South Moon Under in the Inner Harbor East area.

This dainty piece has three hanging charms - an open heart, a pink jade gem and the word "love" spelled out. Talk about your subliminal messages!

Now, you're ready to go. Dressed to the nines and feeling like a million bucks - and without having to spend much to do so.



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