First Thanksgiving With Your New Partner’s Family? Here’s What To Wear

Make a good impression.

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Pernille Teisbaek in a sweater
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It happened — your significant other asked if you want to spend Thanksgiving with their family for the first time ever. It’s an exciting step in any relationship, and while you’re no doubt looking forward to celebrating the holidays in this intimate setting, it’s only natural to — how to put it lightly — obsess a bit over your Thanksgiving outfit. Determining an ensemble that will effortlessly balance looking polished without feeling too try-hard is easier said than done, which is why rather than spending (aka wasting) time trying on countless outfits prior to the day, simply take a few tips from an expert who knows all about this sort of thing. Enter Elaine Swann.

Elaine Swann is a lifestyle and etiquette expert who founded The Swann School of Protocol. She not only works hand-in-hand with individuals on things like corporate etiquette training but she also has a wealth of knowledge when it comes to making a good first impression. This makes her a particularly helpful advisor in a potentially nerve-wracking scenario like spending Thanksgiving with your partner’s family for the first time. The bottom line is that it’s all about ensuring you’re comfortable and prepared so that you won’t find yourself in a last-minute panic. Ahead, find out what her top tips are for a stylishly successful holiday so you can focus on the important stuff, like getting to know your potential in-laws and enjoying a cozy meal in a new environment.

Consider The Dress Code First

If you’re fretting over any major dont’s when it comes to picking out your Thanksgiving look, Swann offers a helpful tip that doesn’t feel like antiquated advice. “The biggest thing to avoid is to overdress or underdress,” she says. If the family tends to have a relaxed day of football and an early meal, it requires something different than a formal multi-fork affair. Swann’s advice is to avoid a situation where your outfit "[eats] away at your mind the entire time you’re there,” so nailing the vibe ahead of time is key.

Go On A Reconnaissance Mission

Swann explains that if you’re having trouble nailing the dress code, the easiest way to figure out your potential Thanksgiving outfit is by indulging in some good old-fashioned internet stalking. “Go on a reconnaissance mission! Go through your [significant other’s] social media and take a look at pictures of them with their family,” she says. “Follow the rabbit hole and you will get a good sense of what this family is like. If you really put forth an effort to do that sort of digging, you should be able to land very closely to fitting in with them from a style perspective.”

Stay True To Yourself

It’s all too easy to get swept up in the stress of trying to fit in when spending a holiday with a new family, but Swann says not to get too caught up in that. “It’s important to stay true to who you are as an individual in terms of your personal style,” she says. “A healthy balance would be to figure out what works best for you in terms of your personality but certainly still choose attire that will mesh well with what their family typically wears on these types of gatherings.” This is especially important because what you wear on Thanksgiving will set the tone for the future. “If you show up dressed one way, they kind of expect you to do the same in the future, so if you’re not really into fashion and you get especially dressed up in that manner, they’re going to expect the same thing down the road over and over again,” she says. “So just stay true to yourself.”

Dress In Layers

Layering is a perennial styling tip but holds especially true for the holidays. “I think it’s a really good idea to dress in layers and the reason I recommend that is because you can always take off and put on,” Swann says. “So let’s say the family heads outside for a bit, you can put on that extra layer. Or maybe they tend to keep the house a little warm, you can pull off one extra layer and still have the appropriate attire on. Layers are always a great standard as far as dressing is concerned."

Be Comfortable, Not Schleppy

The main event for Thanksgiving is a large feast, so wearing something that allows you to be comfortable while eating a big meal is — obviously — very important. “Choose attire you’ll really be able to relax in. If you do wear jeans, make sure they're not the type you have to jump into to get them on,” Swann says. “Dress comfortably but not schleppy. Attire that’s comfortable yet at the same time stylish is your best bet.”

Find Out What Your Significant Other Is Wearing

Lastly, Swann says when in doubt, just tap your significant other for ideas. “Find out what they’re wearing! You don’t have to be matchy-matchy, but choose something that's really going to compliment you as a couple so this way folks see you in that way,” she says. “It might sound hokey, but again [you’re trying] to let the family see you as a couple. Also, when they take that family photo they'll know exactly who is connected to who.”

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