August 5th, 2010
02:23 PM ET

Women buy sexier clothes when most fertile

If you're a woman who loves to shop, your purchases may be unconsciously influenced by your hormones.

A new study, to be published in the Journal of Consumer Research, finds that women at peak fertility are more likely to buy sexy, revealing clothes than women of a similar age range who are at less fertile points in their cycles.

Near ovulation, women are more likely to conceive. Previous studies have shown that women prefer more masculine men during this fertile time period each month. It makes sense that they would also want to show off their bodies more then, says lead author Kristina Durante of the University of Minnesota.

"Our mating choices need to be optimized at that time, so we need to make sure that we’re looking good," Durante said. "Since poor mating choices have very high consequences when you’re ovulating, it makes sense that you need to really be on your game."

The study instructed women to shop for clothes using a website created specifically for the research. They could choose 10 items of clothing, without brand names, out of 128 - half of which were sexy and alluring, and the other half of which were more conservative. For instance, there was a mini-skirt and a longer skirt to choose from.

The researchers believed that women might be choosing the sexy clothes because they wanted to impress men, or because they wanted to beat out their competition, or both. So, in one phase of the study, they showed some women photographs of attractive men, and others photographs of attractive women, before doing the shopping test.

It turns out that seeing attractive men made women shop for sexier clothes regardless of their fertility, perhaps unsurprisingly. But the ovulation hormones seemed to kick in to explain the clothing choices when they viewed images of attractive women.

What's more, the study found that women were most likely to choose the revealing attire when presented with other attractive women who were said to be local. Women did not behave the same way when told that the attractive women lived 1,000 miles away. Somewhat related, here's a study on mate-copying.

The women were 18 to 27 years of age. Half of them were single and half said that they were in committed relationships, and their relationship status did not seem to affect their shopping behavior in the study, Durante said.

Being aware of this effect may help women who are trying to regulate their shopping behavior, Durante said.

For anyone trying to sell clothes: Using more local, "everyday"-looking women might make women more likely to buy than famous models who obviously don't live in the area, she said.

soundoff (120 Responses)
  1. Red Yankee

    So women buy sexier clothing when fertile, I think we all could have figured that out, lol. It just make sense.

    A similar study found that women were more likely to cheat on their spouses when fertile.

    Yup as much as we like to think about ourselves as civilised creatures, old mother nature still controls us in oh so many ways.

    August 5, 2010 at 14:52 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Mike

      This kind of makes sense. My favorite part is how the women who were shown a picture of an attractive woman that was said to be a local dressed sexier, but had no reaction to a woman that was 1000 miles away. Maybe that is why women just act irrational and crazy every now and then. So much for being civilized

      August 5, 2010 at 15:06 | Report abuse |
    • Rob

      Mike, an evolutionary hypothesis would be that women subconsciously aren't as concerned with the physical attractiveness of women not nearby as such women don't represent a threat/competition to the pool of potential mates.

      August 5, 2010 at 15:57 | Report abuse |
    • Oda155

      ...she's a 1000 miles away then she's no threat...

      August 5, 2010 at 17:57 | Report abuse |
  2. Katie

    Well I'm on birth control and thus don't ovulate, so I must dress like a hag.

    August 5, 2010 at 15:17 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Robo

      Knowledge is power.

      August 5, 2010 at 15:25 | Report abuse |
    • abcdef54321

      I've read that birth control pills suppresses the pheromones that you exude during ovulation. This reduces your attractiveness to men who come close enough to sense them. Bummer. Also, when you have had a child, you exude pheromones that reduce your mate's testosterone and increases his estrogen, presumably so he will be a more capable caregiver for the child. (Men take note.)

      August 5, 2010 at 15:50 | Report abuse |
    • Rob

      Pictures please

      August 5, 2010 at 15:58 | Report abuse |
    • Sarcasmo

      I didn't want to say anything, but I noticed you've been a lot more frumpy lately.

      August 5, 2010 at 16:00 | Report abuse |
    • Oda155

      Do you?

      August 5, 2010 at 17:58 | Report abuse |
  3. Mooseknuckle

    I guess these women feel the need to trap a guy when its time to pump out another unit for the census

    August 5, 2010 at 15:20 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Don

      A study shows women want to look hotter for you during certain times of the month due to biological factors and you somehow manage to turn it into a misogynistic mini-rant. WTF.

      August 5, 2010 at 15:46 | Report abuse |
    • julesunder

      perfect example...Victoria Secert, you know d@mn well your b00bs aren't that big...Its a fake out, so disappointing.

      August 5, 2010 at 16:03 | Report abuse |
    • Oda155


      August 5, 2010 at 17:58 | Report abuse |
    • xjuliex2008

      wow.. that was a lil harsh... i suppose women wanting to dress up for their dude is a lil offensive, but when it comes down to it, you never hear the guy complain unless its posted on CNN...

      August 5, 2010 at 19:12 | Report abuse |
  4. Robo

    Women are most attracted to men, when they want to concieve a baby, and least attracted to men after they've passed away.

    And I'm the most likely to eat food when I'm extremely hungry, and least likely to eat food while unconscious.

    Similary I rarely drive my car when I have no need to go anywhere, but when I have a need to travel a large distance, I am more likely to start it up.

    But you know – I am so glad they do these studies, because frankly, some people wouldn't get it, without the study.

    August 5, 2010 at 15:23 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Rob

      I'd imagine no woman would "feel" anything once she passes on (dies).

      August 5, 2010 at 15:59 | Report abuse |
    • speedro

      Dude brush up on your comma placements.

      August 5, 2010 at 16:52 | Report abuse |
    • KH

      *Dude, brush up...


      August 5, 2010 at 17:29 | Report abuse |
    • Kay

      LOL! Too funny!

      August 5, 2010 at 17:53 | Report abuse |
    • Gene

      Fertile women, throw themselves, at men who are, promiscous with, commas.

      August 5, 2010 at 17:59 | Report abuse |
  5. ccred

    Women who are on birth control pills don't ovulate nor are they fertile each month. This theory currently doesn't apply to millions of women.

    August 5, 2010 at 15:25 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Robo

      Don't forget some women are too young, and some, too old to ovulate. And the study also doesn't apply to men. And, it doesn't apply to non-humans. Or inanimate objects. Dolls only look like humans, but are in fact, made of plastic and don't have children at all.

      I guess we've cleared that up.

      August 5, 2010 at 15:28 | Report abuse |
    • julesunder

      or strippers

      August 5, 2010 at 16:04 | Report abuse |
    • Jason

      And, just so we're crystal clear on this one, it also doesn't apply to extraterrestrials who've taken on human form like, say, Sarah Palin.

      August 5, 2010 at 16:09 | Report abuse |
    • Ann

      Actually they did a study where strippers where found to get much more tips when they were ovulating.

      August 5, 2010 at 16:29 | Report abuse |
    • Adam

      Does no one here understand how birth control works? You still ovulate while on birth control! Birth control weakens the lining in the womb and prevents the zygote (i.e. fertilized egg) from attaching itself. It just passes through until it gets flushed out. This is true for both the pill and the shot. Sheesh.

      August 5, 2010 at 17:18 | Report abuse |
    • Um..no

      Adam, the birth control pill suppresses ovulation in almost all cases. Very rarely, ovulation will occur, but even then, fertilization is unlikely because the hormones in the pills make the cervical mucous very unfavorable for sperm. On the very slight chance that an egg does get past AND is fertilized, the endometrium is made inhospitable for implantation. While unusual, that is more likely to occur if the woman isn't taking the medication as directed (ie. missing days or weeks of it). Maybe you should learn your facts from science instead of ProLife Weekly.

      August 5, 2010 at 20:18 | Report abuse |
  6. anamay

    Yes I believe this. Look at Michelle Duggar, she must be dressing sexy all the time! ❤

    August 5, 2010 at 15:28 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Laura

      No, Michelle Duggar has had so many kids that her pheromones must be all over for her hubby. Read the other half of the article. 🙂

      August 5, 2010 at 21:21 | Report abuse |
  7. k

    all we are is hormones, everything that influences us in life is in our hormones

    August 5, 2010 at 15:34 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Rob

      And hormones are subject to internal and external stimuli – they are subject to the immutable laws of mother nature among other things, so to suggest that hormones control everything we do is quite a primitively-minded evaluation.

      August 5, 2010 at 16:01 | Report abuse |
    • Sarcasmo

      All we are is hormones in the wind, dude.

      August 5, 2010 at 16:01 | Report abuse |
  8. Clint.

    You don't need a sexy dresss, just get naked, problem solved and saves money too.

    August 5, 2010 at 15:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. mmhmm

    To the couple of postings regarding ovulation, we need to clear up a couple of things. While hormonal birth control is meant to prevent ovulation altogether, it is not perfect and it is still possible for ovulation to occur while on birth control. This is relatively rare, but it does happen. Not trying to be a pain in anyone's a$$, just wanting to make sure that the facts are straight.

    August 5, 2010 at 15:39 | Report abuse | Reply
    • abcdef54321

      A good friend of mine has a 15 year old son to prove what you are saying. Also, my little sister is proof that a woman can conceive while she is lactating.

      August 5, 2010 at 16:03 | Report abuse |
  10. Fuyuko

    Its way too cold where I live to wear anything but layers. Hard to be sexy when the fog is rolling in and you are freezing.

    I'm skeptical of this one. I don't know man or woman who dresses 'sexy' anymore. Its just not practical.

    August 5, 2010 at 15:42 | Report abuse | Reply
    • abcdef54321

      I live in El Paso, the sunny home of the most beautiful women alive. The young ladies here show a lot of skin and a lot of shape. I travel a lot, and I've always noticed that the women in colder states look very plain to me, they wear dark colors and bulky clothes. I've wondered how those states keep their population growing. Immigration I guess.

      August 5, 2010 at 16:00 | Report abuse |
    • Rob

      Funny I was in El Paso not long ago, and all I saw were ugly faces.

      August 5, 2010 at 16:02 | Report abuse |
    • abcdef54321

      Rob, you must be gay – which is not a criticism at all. Some of my best friends are gay. El Paso men are noted for their homeliness and dumpy appearance. All El Paso women agree on that. Next time you are in El Paso, just pretend that the women are all male cross-dressers, and you'll see what I mean.

      August 5, 2010 at 16:22 | Report abuse |
  11. Mark

    well – my observation of women in other countries, is women have a real sense that they are attractive to men. I'm reluctant to classify every move someone makes as a 'power' move, but it is a type of power over men. And they use it.

    but I don't necessarily remember ever noticing this growing up, here in the States – always seemed like women thought attractiveness was only for models, but if they, personally revealed even the slightest amount of skin, it was just going to devalue the effectiveness of trying to be attractive later. that men would just get used to it.

    all women needed to band together to be as prudish as possible, in the vain hope that maybe, just maybe, the man could find something to be attracted to in the bedroom, for the big reveal. Otherwise, forget about it.

    Lord, god almighty, I now find my own culture a little whacked.

    So it turns out, at least on an instinctual level, women do realize they – they personally not some other woman – not some model – they themselves are attractive to men.

    Finally. and btw, DUH.

    August 5, 2010 at 15:42 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Nicole

      I'll definitely agree about that in other countries but I do think women in the states who are in their 30's are much more confident in what they want, who they want, and how they want it... and do realize their appeal to men. I was for sure less confident in my 20's but man once I hit my 30's there was no stopping me. It's like a switch was flicked. And when I'm talking about being confident I don't mean I started wearing sexier clothing all of a sudden, it was / is the way I carry myself that I find draws men.

      August 5, 2010 at 20:13 | Report abuse |
    • Peter

      Nicole – you sound hot. Are you ovulating?

      August 5, 2010 at 22:00 | Report abuse |
    • Nicole

      Nope 🙂

      August 5, 2010 at 23:33 | Report abuse |
  12. Kevin


    August 5, 2010 at 15:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Rob

    Actually ADHD and ODD (as well as conduct disorder) do have genetic components, albiet to varying degrees. While environmental factors do play a considerable role in the aforementioned disorders, there is no denying that they do have a strong genetic origin. As a psychiatrist, I'd assume you'd at least know that much.

    August 5, 2010 at 15:54 | Report abuse | Reply
    • My Hollow Mahalo

      I used to have ADHD, then I started ovulating and it went away. And I'm a man.

      P.S. Could you please check the actual title of the article you are commenting on before commenting, cuz you almost sound intelligent.]

      August 7, 2010 at 20:09 | Report abuse |
  14. abcdef54321

    Any time a scientific study is described, about a third of those who post say, "Well, hell, that is as obvious as the nose on your face. I hope my tax money didn't pay for that waste of time." These are all people who were shooting spitwads in the back of science class. The plain truth is that this was not obvious to anyone. In fact, the study of pheromones and how they affect courting and mating behavior have been a series of stunning surprises that completely invalidates our cultural concepts of romance and love. Instead of the mind being a conduit for spiritual senses that perceive "love" and "romance" and "The One" and "True Love" it turns out that those concepts are nonsense. This helps to explain why most marriages are failures that end in divorce or a surly endurance contest that lasts for decades.

    August 5, 2010 at 15:57 | Report abuse | Reply
    • pdxlady

      That's also the reason that I roll my eyes whenever one of my friends with children profess that I will "never know true love" until I bear a child. The only reason people feel that attached to their children is because they are wired that way by nature. If they weren't, there would be a whole lot more abandoned children out there. It has nothing to do with "love".

      August 5, 2010 at 17:55 | Report abuse |
  15. KassOswego

    Females chose the most revealing attire when shown photos of (local) attractive women. Competition for the man. Sounds like Melrose Place. Of course men are competitive for the ladies too well, but men just fist-fight it out, the more direct approach (this also sounds like Melrose Place 🙂 Take away all of the societal rules and social etiquettes associated with modern day living, and the inner caveman instinct and mammalian drive to reproduce is lurking just below the surface.

    August 5, 2010 at 16:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. bill

    So what new? They are also easier to bed at that time.

    August 5, 2010 at 16:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. polly

    women today dress like skaaaaanks? big shock.

    August 5, 2010 at 16:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. OKx3

    Child psychiatrist? At what age do "kids"start to ovulate and what age range is your practice?

    August 5, 2010 at 16:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. emma

    well, I hate to tell you that this is very old news and that I don't understand the research hoopla or findings on this issue. This is stuff you learn during Natural Family Planning classes. If most couples would take these classes they would be more in tuned with their bodies, especially women. the fact that women feel sexier during ovulation can be used either to abstain from sex or a signal that it is time to conceive a child. This along with other body signals can be used to plan a family. I've done it, it works, it does not fail and it takes two to tango this plan. and it is not sacrificing like many people say it is. I don't have 500 children. I only have two and they are 4yrs apart, and I am not having anymore and I am not having a my tubes tied or any of those crazy procedures. To all the researchers out there all I want to say is, duh!!!??????

    August 5, 2010 at 16:25 | Report abuse | Reply
    • abcdef54321

      The old Catholic rhythm method. There are millions of people alive today whose parents used that method and were surprised by a pregnancy.

      August 5, 2010 at 16:51 | Report abuse |
  20. PeeWee

    I'm ovulating right now...

    August 5, 2010 at 16:28 | Report abuse | Reply
    • kush

      whats your number and home town?

      August 5, 2010 at 21:32 | Report abuse |
  21. Captain Obvious

    Next up: Study shows that men are likely to c*m when their pen*s is stroked

    August 5, 2010 at 16:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Luke

    "Our mating choices need to be optimized at that time, so we need to make sure that we’re looking good," Durante said. "Since poor mating choices have very high consequences when you’re ovulating, it makes sense that you need to really be on your game."

    How about women in conservative countries? They cover their bodies from head to toes for 99% of time, even at home; and they have a lot of children. And how about women who live in rural countrysides, in India and China? They've probably never heard about bikinis or revealing dresses, but they have from 5 to 10 children per couple. How reliable is this study?

    August 5, 2010 at 16:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Inorite

    Welcome to 7 years ago CNN.

    I first learned about this fact when reading "The Red Queen" back in college. Why is it suddenly news when everyone in the Evolutionary Psychology field has known about this for years?

    August 5, 2010 at 16:43 | Report abuse | Reply
    • abcdef54321

      How many evolutionary psychologists are there? 500?

      August 5, 2010 at 16:52 | Report abuse |
  24. On the Corner

    When I need something, I wear as little as possible to attract, hopefully, the men with the most cash on hand. Well, that and I wear cheap clothes because they are always getting stained or ripped off me.

    August 5, 2010 at 16:48 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Luke

      ...no ovulation needed?!!!

      August 5, 2010 at 16:51 | Report abuse |
    • Alan

      Stained? Thank you, Ms. Lewinski . . .

      August 5, 2010 at 17:14 | Report abuse |
  25. speedro

    Did you post a comment to the wrong article?

    August 5, 2010 at 16:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. On the Corner

    Oh, by the way....that's a cute top the lady in the pic is wearing. I wanna borrow it. Let me borrow the top.

    August 5, 2010 at 16:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. eegur beevur

    aah – thank you so much for this study. this is exactly what i wanted to know. cancer/hiv-aids/world hunger can wait as far as i am concerned, but an insight into ovulating women's sartorial preferences is just what the world is clamoring for.

    August 5, 2010 at 17:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. GT66

    So far this year 32,000 men died of prostate cancer but *this* is the article that gets news time. Bias? Nah.....

    August 5, 2010 at 17:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Alan

    "Since poor mating choices have very high consequences when you’re ovulating, it makes sense that you need to really be on your game." What in the hell does this mean, make sure you don't mate with Schrek??

    August 5, 2010 at 17:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. SynthBeatz

    The findings in this study are nothing new. Of course we are going to dress to impress when we're ovulating. We also have a higher sex drive during this time, and would obviously subsequently seek out more "attractive" men at this time as well. This has been the time-tested story of my life as a woman for years now; however, money was unfortunately wasted on this study despite revealing neither novel nor useful information. Perhaps conducting a similar study between women on birth control and women who aren't in regards to sexual/romantic relationships would provide more significant insight into this subject.

    August 5, 2010 at 17:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Spencer

    Women buy sexier clothes when they are horny... Shocking!

    August 5, 2010 at 17:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. jeb

    I think this is ill founded. Women shop for sexier clothes not because they're ovulating, because they've just spent a week to a week and a half with PMS; 5 to 7 days with a cycle; and finally have a brief moment of time where they can forget about the pain their bodies are causing them – not coincidental that the sexier clothes are purchased in this brief period of time – to attribute this to ovulation?? Another flimsy, ill founded correlative study...bah

    August 5, 2010 at 17:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Erick

    Adam, you don't know how birth control pill work! So please don't make a false statement. Birth control pills trick the body into thinking that she is pregnant there the woman does not ovulate!

    August 5, 2010 at 17:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Dhulfiqar

    What's up with these articles lately...

    August 5, 2010 at 17:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. John O.

    I read a similar study years ago, but I can't say this is necessarily true. Having been to many clubs where there are a lot of girls who dress sexy and who get hit on all the time do it for free drinks and usually just go home to their vibrator.

    August 5, 2010 at 17:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. Catherine

    This isn't exactly news.
    Uh, Jeb - what universe do you live in? "brief moment in time" to "forget about the pain"? You poor thing.

    And by the way, maybe the old high-dose birth control pills suppressed ovulation, but the low-dose pills inhibit attachment of the fertilized egg to the uterine wall.

    August 5, 2010 at 17:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. Bobby

    So all women are sluts? And?

    August 5, 2010 at 17:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. nomoregbldgk


    August 5, 2010 at 17:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. kazz

    cause you know it's really the clothes that make a woman sexy ...

    August 5, 2010 at 17:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. i2i

    Good to know.


    August 5, 2010 at 18:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. logan

    men and women are both equally gross slobs.

    August 5, 2010 at 18:08 | Report abuse | Reply
    • nomoregbldgk

      so that makes you an....check in at The UFO Human Link a Page in thelife and get acclimated–quick!

      August 5, 2010 at 18:37 | Report abuse |
  42. Gene

    No, no; as Clevinger said in catch 22, they're confusing cause and effect. Provocative clothing causes women to ovulate.

    August 5, 2010 at 18:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. wow

    Ummm, duh?

    August 5, 2010 at 18:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. LouAz

    You still have not answered ! What do women want ????????????????

    August 5, 2010 at 18:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. JayC

    Must be true because my grandma always bought bloomers.

    August 5, 2010 at 18:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. Manipulatives

    The study implies tat promiscuous women are only promiscuous a few days a month?

    August 5, 2010 at 21:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. Laura

    I know when I'm ovulating all I can think about is how to get my man in the sack! It even disrupts my workday! 😛 And I don't need to look at a calender to know what's going down.

    August 5, 2010 at 21:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. Mike

    Women are definitely hornier during ovulation.

    August 5, 2010 at 21:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. Peter

    Ovulating women are hot.

    August 5, 2010 at 21:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. Peter

    Does this mean that women are horny only one week of every month? And what would world population levels look like if they were horny 24×7, like us?

    August 5, 2010 at 21:58 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Lucy

      Women have sex for other reasons, such as to relieve a headache...prob why a lot of women are horniest on their period. I'm sad for you that you don't know that.

      August 5, 2010 at 23:30 | Report abuse |
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