First Date Outfits Make More Of An Impression Than You Might Think, According To Science

We've all seen those Discovery Channel shows documenting the mating rituals of (insert exotic animal here) and marveled at the lengths they go to attract a suitable mate — ostrich wins for best moves, etc.

We humans tend to separate ourselves from our animal friends, but we have our own mating rituals and many are influenced by our evolutionary development. A new study out of Ghent University theorizes that women’s penchant for luxury goods has less to do with personal taste and more to do with a primal inclination to attracting a potential mate by intimidating their competition, reports Psychology Today.

The study titled The Rival Wears Prada sought to further understand the reasons behind women’s well known love for luxury items. Are they like their male counterparts who parade expensive cars and designer jewelry to attract female attention, or was it something entirely different?

Researchers divided female participants into two groups. One group was exposed to images of beautiful women in luxury wear and asked to read a high competition dating scenario involving the attractive women. The other group was shown images of calming landscapes. Both groups were then shown two luxury items, a smartphone and a designer dress, and asked which they preferred for purchase. Those exposed to the high stress dating scenario aimed straight for the designer duds, while the landscape group had no significant leaning. Researchers believe this furthers the theory that women in the mind frame of mate competition seek out not just luxury items, but items that will enhance their beauty, especially when other women are involved.

… it appears that women aren't using luxuries to communicate their worth to a potential mate. Rather, the investigators advance the argument that they are signaling their mate value to other women. In other words, they are engaging in what's known as intrasexual mate competition, in which members of the same sex compete for limited resources, including highly coveted mates.
The authors also note that this mode of nonverbal communication is consistent with women's tendency to employ indirect aggression when competing with each other. The reasoning goes that as primary caretakers, women don't want to invite injury or death since that would risk their children's survival.

To sum it up, luxury items are women’s polite way of saying…

… so back off.

But women’s clothing choices communicate more than just our status as a mate. Other studies have shown that they also telegraph to the world our personality traits and whether or not we are open to romantic advances. In a separate piece from Psychology Today, results from multiple studies give us the skinny on what we should wear on a date depending on the impression we want to make. Here's your handy outfit dating guide, if you're into that sort of thing.

Red – Sexy & Seductive

Juan Naharro Gimenez/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Research has found that men, no matter where they live on Earth, see women in red as more sexual.

Black – Looking for Love

Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Both men and women see a person in black as more attractive. That explains the colorless New York City uniform, I guess.

Artsy Style – Highly Intelligent

Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

I guess if you look like you enjoy art, then people think you actually can understand the difference between impressionism and expressionism.

Too Dressy – Low Self Esteem

Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

“Uneasiness in social situations or a tendency to depend on others.” Not sure I'm on board with this one, but if it means I can wear Converse on every date, then I'm down.

Conservative – Reliable

Theo Wargo/NBC/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

You look like you got your stuff together, Miss Stone.

Unique – Interesting

Charley Gallay/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Maybe it's the mystery?

Showing Skin – Ovulating

Larry Busacca/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Women who are ovulating tend to bare more skin, apparently, and there's no better message on a first date than, "I'm ready to start a family."

Images: Giphy.com; Getty Images