Friday, October 13, 2006

Research Connects Fertility, Fashion

A study says that women tend to dress up more when they are ovulating, contrary to assumption.

By Thomas H. Maugh II
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

Women who are ovulating tend to pay more attention to their appearance, perhaps in a subliminal effort to attract a mate, according to researchers at UCLA and the University of Wisconsin in Eau Claire.

"They tend to put on skirts instead of pants, show more skin and generally dress more fashionably," said study coauthor Martie Haselton, an associate professor of communication studies and psychology at UCLA.

The study, published online Tuesday in the journal Hormones and Behavior, contradicts the conventional wisdom that human females are among the very few primates who show no outward signs of fertility.

"The thing that is so remarkable about this effect is that it is so easily observed," said Haselton's coauthor, Wisconsin psychologist April Bleske-Rechek.

The researchers studied 30 female college students over the course of a month — without telling them the true nature of the study. Each was photographed when she was fertile, as determined by a urine test, and when she was not.

The 30 sets of photos, with the faces blacked out, were then shown to 42 male and female judges. The judges deemed the fertile photo most attractive 60% of the time, well above chance.

In one extreme example, the student wore loose-fitting jeans and clunky boots in her lowfertility photo and a skirt and cardigan during ovulation.

Another student, more typically, wore the same black yoga pants and a tank top in both photos. But while the tank top was plain white in the nonfertile photo, the one she wore during ovulation was colored, with a slightly lower-cut neckline trimmed in lace. She also wore a fancier necklace during her fertile period.

"It was my impression that the women were just dressing a little bit more fashionably, but not sexier," Haselton said.

In earlier studies, Haselton and her colleagues had shown that young women were more likely to flirt with males other than their mates while they were ovulating and to stray from their routines in ways suggesting that they were mate-shopping.


  1. I picked up a little contradiction in this study. fashionable, but not sexy? so the women who were willing to participate aren't necessarily aware of themselves as sexual commodities? how does one constantly pee-test and still keep participants in the dark? deceptive measures, likely... or they just extrapolate from the original, assuming a normal cycle..

    i would not be inclined to disagree with the findings. the interesting thing about these tests, in addition to articulating the obvious is that, vs. 20+ years ago, it is now considered 'safe' and 'valid' to study women as an independent gender, subject to the same primal tendencies to which men have been traditionally considered enslaved.

    the worst era of gender studies characterized women and men as identical. in the name of science, any data that wasn't consistent with a study's predetermined conclusions would be thrown out. so either men were the only ones in the studies, or the data gathered from the women was being tossed out.

    it's all about the pendulum, toots! --Hegel

    post something on vox! thanks for your comment.

  2. Gender studies have indeed changed a lot. That's part of why I posted this. I couldn't imagine people agreeing to be analyized like that. Can't dispute the findings, but it's an odd one, to be sure.

    I'm running behind. Vox seems cool, but there's only so many hours in a day.