The anatomy of sexy

Jun 13, 2013 at 10:00 a.m. ET

Ever wished you could make a man desire you simply by slipping on the right pair of shoes? Turns out Cinderella might have been onto something. New research reveals the serious science behind dressing sexily and the major impact what we wear has on our perceived attractiveness. Think you're above dressing to impress the opposite sex? Think again.

Heels, lace, leather and the color red

A new study from the University of Minnesota reveals that women unconsciously buy sexier clothes during the few days we're most fertile — which means we're dressing the part without even knowing it.

So how do we consciously use fashion as a tool to entice and seduce? Watch out boys, 'cause here's a scientific guide to the anatomy of sexy dressing.


High heels

We don't need a scientist to tell us that slipping on a pair of stilettos instantly makes any woman feel sexier and ready to take on the world (even if we have to walk a little more slowly to do so!). But those fellas in white lab coats have figured out exactly why they do the trick.

Researchers at the UK's University of Portsmouth did a comprehensive study that showed that heels “exaggerate sex specific aspects of female gait." In layman's terms, heels create that wiggle in the walk, that slightly protruding posterior, that deliberate shortened stride. All of which result in a woman moving her body in a hyper feminized manner — turning you into a man magnet. Not only that, but sexual attractiveness can often be broken down into simple math, since a longer leg to body ratio is more appealing to the opposite sex. Heels achieve these proportions without subjecting yourself to a stretcher.



Ladies and lads both love lace. Why? Because lace delicately treads the line between naughty and nice. Unlike fishnet or completely transparent fabric, lace never errs on the sleazy side of sexy. It is the material most closely associated with classic bridal purity. Can I hear you say Kate Middleton? And yet in black or red, it is the go-to fabric for vixens and ladies of the night. Purrr.

Pure and lewd and showing just a hint of what lies beneath, lace navigates the complex balance between good girl/bad girl which is at the very heart of what men find intoxicating.



When Angelina Jolie first hit the Hollywood scene clad in skintight leather pants and a pout that just wouldn't quit, the whole world wanted a piece of her (women and men alike!).

Why? Because leather blurs the line between gender roles in the same way Angie did. On one hand, it's subtle and soft, and on the other, it's edgy and tough. Be it a pair of leather leggings, a more delicate peplum leather top, Coachella-ready leather shorts or an attitude-filled leather cuff — leather (or faux leather) is unapologetically sexy.


Lady in red

From fire engine red lips to scarlet lingerie to a simple ruby red dress, it's no accident that red is the color most closely associated with passion. In 2008, psychologist Andrew Elliot at the University of Rochester proved that men perceive women in red to be more attractive and sexually desirable than those wearing other colors (yes, even those pretty pastels!).

They later found out that men sit closer to women in red and ask them more intimate questions. Hmmm…

So what makes a lady in red so irresistible? During human ovulation (when women are most fertile), hormonal shifts cause our skin tone to lighten and blood flow to increase under the skin, all of which make us ladies blush more often. So subconsciously, the male species interprets red as a sign of being fertile and more open to sexual advances. And we all know men don't like to work too hard, so this “willingness” increases attractiveness instantly. Be careful wearing red!

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Photo credits: Adriana M. Barraza/,,, PNP/