When it comes to picking an outfit for date night, often jeans and a nice top will do the trick - with a pair of heels and a nice bag to elevate the overall look. But Valentine’s Day demands an outfit that has a little more about it. Sexier. More romantic. A certain je ne sais quoi, so to speak.
With February 14 less than a fortnight away, I went out on the hunt for a dress or co-ord, that would give me (and my fiance) all the heart-eye emojis this V-day as we head out for dinner in celebration of our eighth anniversary - which happens to fall the day before.
I scoured all the high street favourites for the ultimate outfit, visiting Marks and Spencer, River Island, H&M and New Look while keeping an eye out for sultry shapes and a romantic colour palette of pinks and reds.
On my search, I found some seriously stunning and figure-flattering pieces perfect for the occasion, but there’s one retailer giving ‘meet the mother-in-law’ vibes. After trying on nine outfits across the four stores, here are my top three picks:
1. New Look - AX Paris Dark Purple One Shoulder Midi Dress - £45
Plum isn’t a colour I would typically gravitate towards, but it was pretty slim pickings in my local New Look branch when it came to new-in dresses suitable for Valentine’s Day. There’s a lot of loungewear, jumpers and waistcoats around - all very valid, of course - but for something a little more glam, I had to head to the AX Paris concession .
Coming in at £45, the AX Paris dress features a rich colour palette in a one-shoulder design with a ruched front and beautiful draping. The soft stretch fabric seemed to ‘suck’ me in, and left me with a flattering hourglass figure . The underskirt detail ensures you won’t flash anyone, while the split hem elongates the legs, and the ruching on the back makes your behind look insane.
Now, I’ll be honest - I wouldn’t usually wear cowboy boots with this outfit (though this article is proof they go with almost anything), in fact, six months ago, I wouldn’t have given the dress itself a second look. However, just before Christmas I bought a velvet River Island dress in a similar cut and absolutely loved it, and this burgundy shade is such a gorgeous alternative that’s perfect for year-round styling, too.
Whether you’re going on a Valentine’s date, Christmas party or an autumn wedding - this is a look that will see you through any special occasion and make you feel cool, confident and suitably sultry while doing so.
Another happy New Look shopper who bought the dress said: “This dress was beautiful on and very flattering for my figure clinging to all the right places. I wore it for a wedding and it looked very classy. The compliments kept flowing I was so happy, I’d highly recommend.”
Because it’s so dreamy, it’s got extremely limited availability on the New Look website, however, you can also find it at Very . But if you’ve no luck, this Club L London number is really similar and £55.
2. River Island - Blush Pink Longline Waistcoat £45 and Pleated Wide Leg Trousers £40
Dresses aren’t for everyone, and I strongly believe that tailoring pieces are just as sexy as a dress. And if there’s one place on the high street doing a fantastic job of women’s suit styles right now, it’s River Island. At Christmas they had so many festive styles, and it doesn’t look like they’re slowing down any time soon, with some beautiful new in pieces for spring, like this blush set.
This muted dusky pink is perfect for Valentine’s Day, with the waistcoat boasting self-coloured buttons and a v-neck that give it a more luxurious feel, while the longer length is really flattering. The matching wide leg trousers add volume to the look and create a cool silhouette - but it’s the hidden elasticated waistband I love the most. A portion at the back of the waistband adds stretch to the trousers, which makes them super comfortable to wear, and means you won’t need to undo your top button at the dinner table to make room for dessert.
What’s more is that, once you’ve made the initial investment of £85 in total, you’ve got yourself a date night co-ord, an office ready-outfit, plus a set of separates you can style up or down depending on the occasion. The trousers look great with trainers (I have the same ones in red at home), while waistcoats and satin skirts are such a vibe right now. This outfit really is the perfect alternative to a dress if you want to stand out from the crowd.
3. River Island - White Satin Stripe Belted Slip Midi Dress - £60
There’s just something about a satin slip dress that makes my heart flutter and truth be told I’ve been eying this dress up for weeks. The maxi dress features long sleeves and a scoop neck that’s cut ‘just so’ to make imaginations run wild. The fabric has a beautiful feel under your hands, and its stripe print is bang on trend for 2024. We’ve been seeing this pattern everywhere and it’s just such a classic.
The only thing I don’t like about this dress is the tie belt detail, which is why I’ve tied it at the back to hide it. I think the dress is far more chic and expensive looking without it.
4. River Island - Petite Red Knit Rib Jumper Maxi Dress - £45
What I love about River Island is that they have so many options, and you’ll notice that if it wasn’t for the AX Paris dress, the top three would have been a clean sweep for the retailer, who continually impress with their range of fashion picks.
This red dress is the perfect shade for Valentine’s, with a v-neckline and sassy split hem. The ribbed knitted fabric feels really lush quality, but again it has that pesky thin tie waist which I can’t seem to get on board with. I also found it to be a little bit clingy, feeling the need to suck in my tummy - but it’s an otherwise lovely option for February that can be cracked back out at Christmas, too.
5. New Look - Navy Button Front Waistcoat £20 and Navy Shine Satin Bias Cut Midi Skirt £25.99
If you don’t have a satin skirt in your wardrobe - get one. In no time you’ll realise you’ve ditched your jeans, with the floaty number fast becoming one of your wardrobe’s hardest working pieces. The New Look skirts are our Mirror Choice pick , meaning that - after trying several across multiple retailers - they’re the best money can buy. Trust me, I have four.
Navy is such an elegant shade and looks super luxurious, so if you’re trying to achieve the champagne look on a lemonade budget, it’s the ultimate colour to go for. Plus blue is huge for 2024, so it’s a colour you’ll be likely to wear time and time again.
I paired the skirt with a navy waistcoat from the Obsessed for Less collection , which is a selection of affordable pieces designed for everyday styling. I love the texture contrast and while this may not be a particularly Valentine’s-y look, it's an outfit I’d definitely wear throughout the year for dates, work, drinks and more.
6. H&M - Satin Wrap Dress - £17
I was banking on Primark to deliver some budget-friendly fashion, but actually I couldn’t find anything to fit the bill - however, H&M stepped up to the mark with some picks under £20, including this satin wrap dress that’s now £17 down from £27.99 (and currently still in stock online in most sizes).
I don’t usually go for shorter dresses myself, but some people prefer them over a midi or maxi and I feel like this is such a nice cut, with soft draping and a wrapover front. It actually reminds me of a ballerina dress, so it’s a sweet whimsical pick if you’re wanting something that exudes an air of innocence. If pink isn’t your shade but you like the shape of this dress, the black polka dot and white striped versions of this dress are also on sale.
7. H&M - Gathered bodycon dress - £15.99
Another really inexpensive option from H&M is this gathered bodycon dress, which would lend itself to a range of occasions. The definition of an LBD, this short, fitted, sleeveless dress has a cool-girl edge to it, with gathered seams down the front and sides which disguise any unwanted lumps and bumps.
The only reason this dress is a little lower down the list for me is the length, but they do also have a stunning calf length number on the website that would have given the top spot a run for its money.
I feel like you could really dress this down with a bomber jacket or trainers, or go OTT glam with heels and accessories. And for under £16 it’s a steal.
8. Marks & Spencer - Pure Cotton Tweed Collarless Short Jacket - £75
Marks and Spencer had a distinct lack of Valentine’s appropriate outfits in my local store, and instead of giving lust worthy looks, was giving dinner with the in-laws. The closest thing to something that ticked my boxes was this collarless jacket , which is a perfectly prim, proper and polished piece that’s less ‘first date’ and more marriage material. I do actually adore the jacket - just not for date night.
In addition, I wasn’t able to find the skirt online, but it’s a khaki satin number that I’m wearing back to front because it has a somewhat hideous drawstring style tie waist which makes it look really cheap. It looks a lot like one I tried on in Primark a few months ago - so unfortunately, this outfit gets a no from me. The jacket separately is stunning, classy, old money and very Chanel-esque, but it’s just not giving what I needed it to give on this occasion.
9. Marks & Spencer - Mesh Jersey Printed Midi Dress - £35
Lastly, there’s this Mesh Jersey Printed Midi Dress from Marks and Spencer. It's cut in a regular fit, with a flattering A-line shape and a midi-length hem, with a bold all-over animal print and is undoubtedly going to be popular with shoppers as the weather warms up. But again, marks deducted for the teeny tiny tie waist. The dress doesn’t need it at all - it’s way better without it.
Ideal for spring, its mesh detailing is fabulous, but the colour palette doesn't give Valentine's vibes.
Which of these outfits would you be picking for your Valentine's Day date night? Let us know in the comments.
Insights, advice, suggestions, feedback and comments from experts
As an expert and enthusiast, I have personal experiences or the ability to shop for clothes. However, I can provide information and insights related to the concepts mentioned in this article. Let's break down the key concepts and discuss each one:
Valentine's Day Outfit: The article discusses the author's search for an outfit for Valentine's Day, emphasizing the desire for a sexy and romantic look. It mentions different retailers and their offerings.
Dress and Co-ord Options: The author explores various dress and co-ord options from different retailers. They describe the design, color, fit, and overall appeal of each outfit.
Retailers: The article mentions several high street retailers, including Marks and Spencer, River Island, H&M, and New Look. It highlights the specific outfits found at each store and provides feedback on their availability and suitability for Valentine's Day.
Outfit Descriptions: The author provides detailed descriptions of each outfit, highlighting their features, such as color, design, fabric, and fit. They share their personal opinions and preferences regarding each outfit.
Reviews and Recommendations: The article includes feedback from other shoppers who have bought and worn the outfits. Their reviews provide insights into the fit, style, and overall satisfaction with the garments.
Alternative Styling and Versatility: The author mentions the versatility of certain outfits, suggesting that they can be worn for various occasions beyond Valentine's Day. They discuss pairing options and how certain pieces can be styled up or down.
Comparison and Rankings: The author ranks their top three picks among the outfits they tried on, providing reasons for their choices. They also mention that River Island had a strong selection overall.
Budget-Friendly Options: The article mentions affordable options, including dresses under £20, and highlights the value for money offered by certain garments.
Personal Opinions: Throughout the article, the author shares their personal preferences, likes, and dislikes regarding the outfits they tried on. They provide subjective assessments based on their own style and taste.
Based on the information in the article, individuals looking for Valentine's Day outfit ideas can consider the mentioned retailers and explore dress and co-ord options that align with their personal style and preferences. It's always a good idea to try on different outfits and choose the one that makes you feel confident and comfortable.