How to look the part

Most people say that looks are not as important as personality, but do they mean it? In any candid conversations I have had with men and women about the question, the responses have very much leaned towards yes, though when asked point blank, no one will admit it. I recently attended a couture fashion show featuring Deepak Perwani’s spring/summer 2011 collection and asked the attendees about personal style, fashion in DC, and that pesky question about looks and dating. Anonymous responders are called one man and one woman. Here are the responses –


For women – Nordstrom, BCBG, Express, Ann Taylor, Forever 21

For men – Zara, Express, Brooks Brothers, Lacoste (vintage)

One woman responded that “she didn’t care for labels.” Another woman said “fashion is not buying $2000 shoes. It is the intention in your clothes, looking put together.”

My Take: I’m not one for caring about labels either, but it’s important that men and women buy clothes that fit well and sometimes items at certain designer labels fit better. I love dresses at BEBE  and will go to Express for work clothes. Forever 21 has some cute stuff but their sizes and fitting can be suspect. A good pair of jeans is hard to come by. As far as I know money can’t buy you style, though it might buy you a stylist. 


For women – Victoria Beckham (most common answer), Aishwariya Rai, Audrey Hepburn, Coco Chanel

For men – Chuck Bass (from Gossip Girl), Zinadin Zidanne, Barack Obama

One woman responded that she respected icons such as Rihanna, Gwen Stefani and Lady Gaga for “daring to be different and being individualistic.”

My Take: Sex and the City is my style bible and though I can’t wear or afford many of the clothes, I’ve always admired them. And the shoes, oh the shoes. I still remember the episode where Carrie is upset that she has to take her shoes off at a party. It’s an outfit. Classic.


When asked if DC was a fashionable city, the most common response was “no way.” One woman responded that most people “look like a box.” Kiran commented specifically on the South Asian community, saying that South Asian women had “no clue about Western fashion.” One man defended the city saying that you do see well dressed people and that groups of well-dressed people hang out together, referring to his own clique. Another woman pointed out that certain neighborhoods such as Dupont Circle and Georgetown are more fashion conscious than others. There is hope on the way. One woman said that an increasingly media-driven and globally connected world was “reducing the gap” between what is hot in Europe and what is hot in DC. Another woman was fine with things as they are, describing DC folk as having “their own eccentric style” and commenting that she enjoyed seeing all the different people on the metro everyday. “Some people have crazy clothes on.”

My Take: I tend to agree that DC is not a fashion-conscious city, especially compared to NYC and LA. But I think that’s a good thing. Walking around NYC can be intimidating, constantly surrounded by uber-attractive women. I like going grocery shopping in my raggedy pajamas, and yes, I don’t care if that makes me a square. 


I started this conversation in a pretty harmless way, asking men and women what should be worn on a classic first date – dinner at a nice restaurant. The responses ran the gamut between jeans to nice dresses for women and suits to slacks with sport blazers for men. Kiran suggested “keeping it casual” but Pablo Manriquez said he wouldn’t like a girl to be “underdressed.” Another woman claimed she would “freak out if the guy was overdressed.”

I took the opportunity to ask the most controversial question of all. Are looks important? When asked this way, the responses were mostly  – somewhat. So, I presented a particular problem. Would you go out on a second date with someone you thought had a great personality but you did not find physically attractive? Here, the pauses were longer. Yes, maybe, no. Manriquez responded with a clear-cut “n0,” claiming that he saw no point in wasting that person’s time. When asked if looks were important he said “looks are as important as personality.” When I asked women if they thought looks were as important to guys as to women, most responded that looks were more important to men. One woman said that women cared more about “the guy treating them right.”

My Take: This maybe the most anti-feminist thought of my entire life but I do think looks are important, to men. It’s in the biology. Men want to spread their seed with someone who will produce good looking progeny and women want a care-taker and provider. That doesn’t mean that the guy can just show up, no, he must show that he can take care of himself i.e. not look sloppy, but he doesn’t have to have stepped out of a GQ magazine (though some women want muscular men, again biology). The real truth is what we are looking for physically is just as elusive as what we are looking for emotionally. What is hot to one person maybe another person’s turd, and in that lies the challenge.

So look the best you can for your date, not just because you’ll be judged and evaluated but also because it’s fun. At the end of the day what you wear does say something about who you are. But if the other person (man or woman) doesn’t dig it, that doesn’t mean a) the person is superficial or b) you are unattractive. It just means it’s time for a new person and a new outfit.


About Arpita Mukherjee

The Co-Founding Artistic Director of Hypokrit Theatre Company, Arpita is a writer, director, producer and choreographer with over a decade of experience in professional theatre. After working for Washington Shakespeare Company and Shakespeare Theatre Company in D.C., Arpita Mukherjee founded her own theatre company. She directed and produced the Off-Off Broadway hit Romeo and Juliet, scheduled for an Off-Broadway premiere in 2015 fall. Regional credits include I AM SAAM, Smokin’ Cigarettes at Night, Aaja Nachle, Love Times Seven, My First Time. Her work was featured in the South Asian Literature and Theatre Arts Festival at the Smithsonian. She studied Non-Fiction Writing at Columbia University.


  1. z

    “What is hot to one person maybe another person’s turd, and in that lies the challenge.”

    hahaha! love this!

  2. Pingback: The Dating Game: First Date Answers Revealed « The Talking Bread

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