Ladies In Red: Unfaithful? Irresponsible? Too Sexy?

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At first blush, red is a go-to shade of empowerment for many women. We reach for a blazer in the confident color when preparing for a crucial meeting; we save a show-stopping crimson dress for a very special date. A new study shows, however, that red may represent more than self-assurance or allure – in fact, quite the opposite.



Researchers at the University of Rochester in upstate New York polled dozens of women on their impressions of fellow females wearing red, and the results were anything but flattering. “When women are out in red and they are getting the cold shoulder from other women … they are giving off the perception of a romantic competitor,” reported study head Adam Pazda to ABC News.

When compared with counterparts in white or green, women clad in the controversial color were perceived to be more interested in sex by study participants. The ladies in red were also deemed less sexually faithful and less financially responsible, receiving more “derogatory” comments in those categories. The bottom line? Red triggers a “mate-guarding” instinct. The Rochester researchers caution against wearing the color if you’re looking to make friends.



Color us surprised, indeed. Could this study change the way we approach our favorite power color? Maybe. But, before banishing red to the back of the closet, we reached out to two Dallas-area experts for additional perspective.

Nancy Klompus boasts 25 years of luxury retail experience at Neiman Marcus, Barneys New York, and Saks Fifth Avenue. Today, she is in high demand as a personal shopper, wardrobe stylist, and public speaker through NK Buy Request.

When queried about the Rochester study, she agreed, in part, with its findings. “I think the study has merit,” Klompus said. “It represents ‘color profiling,’ and as such, lends itself to stereotyping. For better or worse, people make snap judgements.”

As for her own clients, Klompus recommends red be used wisely. “Red doesn’t fool around. It means business, as in let’s get this done and I am the one who will make it happen. If you choose to wear red, make sure you are able to follow through. I believe that expectations are higher if you are wearing red.”

On the other side of the equation, Klompus cautions, “Avoid red when you want to be seen as warm and fuzzy.”

Our second expert, DFW Style Daily trend reporter Rhonda Sargent Chambers, heads RSC Show Productions. She is an authority in color theory, and deftly manuevers key shades on the runway and beyond. In Chambers’ view, red leads a double life.

“Red evokes energy, power, strength, and heat,” Chambers states. She adds that the tone can also mean love and passion, and is often represented in holiday themes. On the flipside, however, she explains, “Red can be misunderstood, as it is a threatening color, indeed, from one women to another. On a negative note, it radiates anger, danger, warning, and caution.”

As for when to wear the color in question, Chambers doesn’t mince words. “Red is not to be worn during interviews for a job, or at a power meeting,” she states. “It translates as an attempt to intimidate and rule.”



With the Dallas experts in agreement on theory, we followed-up for a few alternative wardrobe picks to show confidence and control without so much controversy. A couple of classic combinations and a switch to red in cosmetic form top their lists.

“A strong color alternative to red is wearing black and white or navy and white, in crisp contrast to each other,” Klompus recommends. “Or, wear all black or navy and add a pop of color with shoes or handbag.”

Chambers echoed the latter advice, noting, “An accessory is less of a color statement, as in a handbag, shoe, scarf, necklace, or earrings – or better yet, a red lip color.”

In conclusion, we now see the Rochester research as a valuable reality check on red. Like adding just a dash of cayenne to a dish for heat – but not tongue-searing, tear-streaming fire – it would seem that less of this spicy shade might sometimes wisely be more.



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