You may assume that if a woman wears red, she’s more interested in sex. At least, that’s what a 2012 study found (that men think this, not that it’s necessarily true). But now, new research, published in the journal PLOS One, out this month backs the idea up—or at least the idea that if a woman shows up for your date in a red dress, she finds you attractive. If she avoids the color, she may be stringing you along. 

Seventy-nine women (between the ages of 18-43) participated in the study. Each woman got an email about where and when the study would take place, including a photograph of the research assistant who would be there—some of them got an “attractive” researcher and others saw a photo of a decidedly “unattractive” one. (Prior to this, 20 different women had rated photographs of these alleged assistants solely based on their looks to determine their attractiveness. The two men who were chosen for the study were relatively close in terms of attractiveness but one was just above the midline and the other just below it.)

When the ladies arrived at the study location, they were told the assistant was unavailable so someone else would be conducting it. If they agreed to continue, they had their photo taken (one close-up and one of their entire body so that clothing could be viewed) and were then asked questions about their relationship status and personal perceived attractiveness, among other things. The researchers then analyzed the photos and concluded that the women who thought they were meeting with the more attractive researcher were more likely to wear red than those who thought they were meeting with a less handsome dude.

But it’s not just about what she wears clothing-wise. Red lipstick, a red necklace, purse, or any other accessory can also indicate her interest, say the study authors. Also, pink counts too! (The researchers included pink, red, and scarlett, but not “atypical” shades of red like orange, maroon, or purple.)

“This research reveals a subtle but potentially powerful sexual strategy that women use to attract highly desirable mates while potentially avoiding unattractive ones,” the study authors conclude. So, pay more attention to the color of her dress, makeup, and accessories next time you see her—her choice may be more strategic than you think, at least according to this study. 

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