Ovulatory shifts in human female ornamentation: near ovulation, women dress to impress

Horm Behav. 2007 Jan;51(1):40-5. doi: 10.1016/j.yhbeh.2006.07.007. Epub 2006 Oct 12.


Humans differ from many other primates in the apparent absence of obvious advertisements of fertility within the ovulatory cycle. However, recent studies demonstrate increases in women's sexual motivation near ovulation, raising the question of whether human ovulation could be marked by observable changes in overt behavior. Using a sample of 30 partnered women photographed at high and low fertility cycle phases, we show that readily-observable behaviors - self-grooming and ornamentation through attractive choice of dress - increase during the fertile phase of the ovulatory cycle. At above-chance levels, 42 judges selected photographs of women in their fertile (59.5%) rather than luteal phase (40.5%) as "trying to look more attractive." Moreover, the closer women were to ovulation when photographed in the fertile window, the more frequently their fertile photograph was chosen. Although an emerging literature indicates a variety of changes in women across the cycle, the ornamentation effect is striking in both its magnitude and its status as an overt behavioral difference that can be easily observed by others. It may help explain the previously documented finding that men's mate retention efforts increase as their partners approach ovulation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Clothing*
  • Courtship*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Luteinizing Hormone / urine
  • Male
  • Ovulation / psychology*
  • Sexual Behavior
  • Sexual Partners / psychology


  • Luteinizing Hormone