Dressing for sexual success

Exciting news about why we dress nice!

Published October 10, 2006 11:59PM (EDT)

Ever wonder why some days you feel like dressing all spiffy? It's because of your ovaries, silly!

That's according to a new study that has apparently determined that college women take special care with their appearance when they are ovulating. According to reports, women wear "more fashionable or flashier clothing and jewelry" -- boys like shiny things! -- at the most fertile point in their cycle, in an unconscious effort to trap a man and make him mate with them so they can have his babies.

The study, published in the journal Hormones and Behavior (which incidentally may be my favorite title of a medical journal ever), was led by UCLA's Martie Haselton, who told reporters that ovulating gals "tend to put on skirts instead of pants, show more skin and generally dress more fashionably." This would disprove the long-held assumption that human females are quieter about the peaks and valleys of their fecundity than most other mammals. Women, for example, do not emit ululating mating calls or release scents or change the color of fur or skin to show they are fertile -- though all of those are interesting plans that might work for some people. No one's judging here.

What this study is saying is that even when we don't think we're laying a trap for sweet seduction and reproduction, we are! The women who showed up at the lab where the study was being done did so on their most fertile and least fertile days, without being told what the pattern was. Sixty percent of the time, observers found that these women dressed to look more attractive on their most fertile days. "This is well beyond chance," said Haselton. "They were pretty consistent."

"Well beyond chance" may be overstating it. Especially since observers picked the ovulating women only 60 percent of the time. And because, by my calculations, the "least fertile" time of a cycle is just before a woman's period, a series of days during which some but not all women may feel a little crappy, a little bloated, a little unmotivated to break out the fancy duds.

But hey, who am I to argue with science? I am perfectly willing to believe that women bring on the bling to celebrate the release of their little eggs! I am less willing to believe that the New York Post headline for this story was "Style 'Make Ova'"! But now that we know that every time we throw on a brooch and some earrings, we might be advertising a womb for rent, it seems important to recall the advice of Coco Chanel, who urged women to pause every day before leaving the house, look in the mirror and remove one accessory.


By Rebecca Traister

Rebecca Traister writes for Salon. She is the author of "Big Girls Don't Cry: The Election that Changed Everything for American Women" (Free Press). Follow @rtraister on Twitter.

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