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Dressing sexy is not a sexual invitation by itself, but it does give us clues to the intensions and attitudes present. In most cases, overt cleavage, short skirts and heavy make-up tells us that women are available and shopping. Women who dress sexily all the time appear as non-cues though, because it is just what they do. Their baseline says that nothing new is happening, although it does tell us something about their general baseline, doesn’t it. These women appear “dressy” and always put together, but if we notice extra dressiness, or as we shall see extra frills or “ornamentation” we know she’s probably feeling receptive. Conversely if we see a lack of dressiness, we know that maybe she’s particularly down and unreceptive. The research supports this. Women, at around the time of ovulation, will display more sexually, they will break out their high heels, tend to dance more, talk more suggestively, and even walk differently near ovulation.

In one such study by Martie Haselton and her colleagues of the University of California in 2006 it was found that women chose more revealing outfits, and outfits containing more ornamentation when they were close to their peak fertility. In other words, as women near ovulation, the most fertile phase, they tended to dress “to impress.” This particular study had a panel of judges rate a pair of couples throughout the women’s fertility cycle. This allowed the researchers to create a baseline by which subjects could be compared to themselves. If they noted any differences in dress, they could then correlate it back to their fertility. They found noticeable differences in terms of overt self-grooming and ornamentation especially in terms of choice of dress as women approached their most fertile. They chose tops laced with trim and wore skirts rather than pants. The overall trend was to show more skin. The study also found that men rated women as more attractive when they were in their ovulation cycle.

Other studies show that women are more apt to find dominant men with square jaws and facial hair more attractive during ovulation and even find male body odor less pungent and more tolerable. During their high fertility days, women tend to flirt more often and solicit male attention, or in other words, tend to be more in tune with overall ‘maleness.’ Women are also found to go out more to parties or clubs, and other target rich environments, where they might meet men. No doubt there are many factors that play into how a woman dresses, but when it comes to being seductive, she turns it on when she’s ready to procreate despite what thoughts come into consciousness. While dress alone isn’t a full on invitation to pursue, it does tell us a little bit about what frame of mind a woman is in.

Advertising fertility with overt dress makes sense because women, unlike most animals, fail to advertise their ovulation. This is what scientists call “hidden ovulation” or “concealed ovulation” of which dozens of competing theories try to explain, but of which all fail to do conclusively. One of them says that women hide ovulation to keep men around so they will continue to provide her with resources while she offers sex in exchange. Hidden ovulation is a fascinating topic for discussion, because it is very complex and will likely never be solved. In other animals ovulation or “heat” is prominently advertised. Two such examples include swelling and redness of the genitalia in baboons and the release of pheromones in many animals including cats. However, in humans, even women themselves fail to consciously realize when they are fertile. To be accurate this last point has been disputed by various studies, even by this very section, but the point remains that aside from really trying to tune in, it would go unnoticed by many. The point is that women are rare in the animal kingdom by not prominently signaling fertility as do many other animals. However, this study and this chapter at large, shows us that they have other ways to convey this to men, even if in a more discrete manner.

While women might not be aware of the reason for dressing provocatively, most women are aware of the signals they give off to men, and therefore shouldn’t be surprise to receive additional attention when they show more skin. From a prowling male perspective therefore, it would pay back in dividends to make note of which women dress provocatively and deviate from their baseline and which women wear more frills and glitz. Tight jeans, elaborate decoration and short skirts, not only signal sexuality, but also interest in sex.