The RED DRESS EFFECT: It’s love, lust and sex.

Through time, there’s been a common meaning for the RED DRESS: It’s love, lust and sex.

RED DRESS has always been associated with romance, sexuality, and sex. Though this pairing is reflecting in the popular culture like The Red Valentine ads or song by Chris de Burgh Lady in Red –  it’s might have evolutionary origins. Men rate women wearing RED DRESS as being more interested in sex, hinting that humans may be conditioned to associate the colour with fertility. In many species a reddening of the skin occurs during female ovulation – a signal of sexual readiness. We also know from researches that red is associated with testosterone levels and dominance in males – cues females look to in determining a viable mate. The same group of researchers studying red and danger also found that participants viewed members of the opposite sex as more attractive and sexually desirable if wearing RED DRESS or any red. It doesn’t have to be a red dress or a sexy outfit, it can be a RED T-shirt or red lipstick or red shoes.

The potent and enduring the “RED DRESS EFFECT” that behavioral psychologists have studied and demonstrated that women who done red are not only regarded by men as more physically and sexually attractive, but also tend to have more money spent on them. In fact, on the dating sites women wearing red in their profile photos have a greater statistical chance of being asked out.

Advertisers like to talk about stuff that’s “disruptive.” And when it comes to marketing—actually, when it comes to pop culture in general—few things are quite as disruptive and standing out as a woman in a RED DRESS. When celebrity photographer Milton Greene shot Marilyn Monroe in 1957, he made sure she wore a RED DRESS. Chris de Burgh was a little-known singer until 1986, when he crooned about his Lady in Red. And while few remember much about Queen Elizabeth’s 2012 jubilee, who can forget Kate Middleton showing up in that red Alexander McQueen dress? And Rihanna’s famous RED DRESS effect at the red carpet event?


When you see an elegant, sophisticated woman – without a partner, in a hotel, about to order a cocktail and wearing a red dress, a question that’s bound to occur: “Is she a career woman or a high-end escort?” Maybe she’s both, maybe neither—and maybe that’s the point. We know that the RED DRESS EFFECT works.
As researcher Pazda explains, “Perceived receptivity is doing all the work in affecting perceptions of attractiveness. When you just look at RED and ATTRACTIVENESS, there is a strong relationship. Stated another way, red leads to attractiveness precisely because it first leads to perceived sexual receptivity. It is SEXUAL receptivity that is ‘driving the bus’ for the RED-ATTRACTION  relation.”

So, now that we know that men view RED as attractive because they see it as an INVITATION for SEX  should women be a little more cautious about wearing the colour? The researchers say YES. “From a pragmatic standpoint, our results suggest that women may need to be judicious in their use of red clothing,” they write. “Wearing red may be a subtle, yet powerful way to communicate sexual interest to a targeted male, but in public settings replete with eager male receivers, a red signal may result in unwanted sexual advances.”  It’s clear that women should beware. Even seemingly insignificant wardrobe choices can send out a lot of unintended signals. Wearing red may be a double-edged sword. Women may be getting sexual attention they don’t want.

Apart of researchers, the advertisers or marketers also observe that the length of the red dress keeps the imagery from sinking into red-light territory. If they’d put model for advertising in a tight dress showing more skin, it would be an ad with a sexual contest.
The bottom line? We know that the RED DRESS EFFECT works.

Photography by IVGA Vladivostok, RUSSIA @IVGAphotographer

Model in the RED DRESS: Victoria Gordeets  @VictoriaGordeets




Through time, there’s been a common meaning for the red dress: It’s love, lust and sex. Jenny Darroch, author of Why Marketing to Women Doesn’t Work”


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