Was Chris De Burgh's sexy "Lady in Red," perhaps, ovulating? A new UCLA and University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire study finds evidence that women put more effort into their clothing and grooming during their most fertile periods.
"Near ovulation, women dress to impress, and the closer women come to ovulation, the more attention they appear to pay to their appearance," said Martie Haselton, the study's lead author and a UCLA associate professor of communication studies and psychology. "They tend to put on skirts instead of pants, show more skin and generally dress more fashionably."
Conventional wisdom has long held that humans hide all signs of ovulation, even from themselves and their mates. Indeed, numerous scientific studies have been devoted to identifying what the evolutionary advantage might be to disguising fertility.
Yet the study, which publishes Oct. 10 in the online version of the scholarly journal Hormones and Behavior, found that even total strangers could detect a difference in women's grooming habits when they approached ovulation.
"The thing that's so remarkable about this effect is that it's so easily observed," said April Bleske-Rechek, the study's co-author and an assistant professor of psychology at University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. "In our study, the approach of ovulation had a stronger impact on the way women dressed than the onset of menstruation, which is notorious for its supposedly deleterious impact."
Haselton, Bleske-Rechek and three UCLA students tracked 30 college coeds in committed relationships through an entire ovulatory cycle. Using urine tests that are nearly as accurate for determining ovulation as ultrasounds, they ascertained each woman's most fertile period -- about 10 to 15 days after menstruation -- and their least fertile period -- roughly the two weeks following ovulation.
The researchers photographed the women twice: once in their fertile (follicular) phase and anot
Contact: Meg Sullivan
University of California - Los Angeles