The Cool Girl’s Guide to Wearing Red

Girl in red dress from back

No other color evokes as much emotion as red. It instructs you to stop, infuriates bulls, and it’s the definitive color of amour. This fiery hue is a huge part of our lives, but it’s not always a staple in our wardrobe.

Honestly, the color can be overwhelming. How many times have you seen some girl rocking a red dress and looking gorgeous, but when you wear red you feel more like a stop sign than a sexy siren? Okay, maybe that’s just me, but there are ways to make red a totally manageable color for both day-to-day looks and for super sexy romantic evenings.

So, pull out all your crimson, cherry, scarlet, ruby, apple, and cabernet pieces and get ready to learn how the cool girls wear red.

The Psychological Allure of Red

Why worry about red in the first place? Well, red holds a lot of psychological and unconscious connections that you can use in your favor. The controversial “red dress effect” states that women who wear red are usually seen as more attractive. A 2012 study backed that up when most of the men found the ladies in red to be more appealing. The studied failed to mention if the Chris de Burgh song “Lady in Red” had any influence. I assume it must have since it was one of the most popular slow dance jams in High School.

On the Nick Viall season of The Bachelor, 12 out of 30 women wore red when they exited the limo to meet the man. Crazy Corinne was one of them and Nick had no problem being attracted to her. Although it’s a safe bet that the ladies didn’t all read the latest psychological studies for their wardrobe inspiration, these women inherently sensed that red is the color for standing out from the crowd. (Unless of course you’re in a crowd of woman all fighting for one man’s attention…but you probably won’t have that problem any time soon!)

The Bachelor on Red Carpet

This color theory doesn’t just pertain to attractiveness. A 2011 study found that waitresses wearing red got bigger tips than their neutral dressed counterparts. Hey, if popping on a scarlet top gets you more money at the end of night, there’s no shame in that!

The effect goes for men, too. Men wearing red are seen as more dominant or powerful and even more likely to get a job. British soccer teams with red uniforms performed 10% better than those wearing any other color and boxers wearing red won more often than their less colorful cohorts.

Even red objects affect us! People gamble more aggressively with red chips because the color projects a sense of winning. So, take that tip to Vegas and feel free to send me some of the winnings as thanks.

Red is the New Black (Ugh, I Know, But It’s So True!)

Okay, everything has been called the new black at this point, but red is actually outselling black dresses by 43% in some stores and New York Fashion Week saw Flame red tear up the runways at the Spring and Summer 2017 shows. This orange-red really makes a statement and puts you right at the forefront of fashion. This flirty, can-can inspired red top is the perfect piece to showcase this new hue.

Celebs wearing red on the red carpet has increased greatly and the prominence of the little black dress has given way to the sexy scarlet sheath. Jessica Chastain, Eva Longoria, and Michelle Williams have all been seen rocking red and looking 100% gorgeous. Sure, it doesn’t take much to make those ladies look good, but the red pretty much brings their hotness to maximum power.

Selena Gomez wearing red dress

Women in power got the red dress memo, too. New British Prime Minister Theresa May was seen wearing a tasteful ruched red dress. Kate Middleton wore a lovely A-line cherry number on her Royal Canadian tour. The perfect thing about the color is it gives a feeling of strength and confidence, while still embracing femininity.

Wear the Right Red

Since the color holds so much meaning and can convey a lot about you in a bunch of different ways, it’s good to make sure you wear the right kind of red for every occasion. Plus, it doesn’t matter if Rihanna looks amazing in a certain hue, you need the shade that’s best for you. Here’s a range of reds to get you thinking about what fits you best.

Everyday Red

You don’t always want to stop traffic with your gorgeousness everyday. I mean, nobody would get anywhere if you got dolled up to the nines in your hottest red dress on the reg. Sometimes you just want to add a little spice to your wardrobe for hanging out or at a casual workplace and red is a great way to do that.

Girl wearing red sweater and holding coffee

For these simpler looks you want to pick a slightly less bright hue. Full body fire engine red can be a little much and could possibly blind your friends. Try a deep merlot colored dress or your favorite dusty plum piece. This burgundy dress is super comfy and great to wear any time.

If you have a bright red piece you love, you don’t have to save it just for romantic occasions. A fire engine red scarf is a great way to add life to an outfit. Or pair a simple cherry shirt with a pair of dark jeans and a sweater.  A pop of red here and there gives you a unique look that brings a bit of fun to your everyday wear.

Work Red

There are a few different ways to wear red in the workplace. If you want to project your best #girlboss image, try a brighter hue. Now, this type of red tends to be associated with romance and sexiness, so you want to make sure that the cut and tailoring are a little more modest. It’s not that we don’t want you to look sexy, but productivity is going to go way down if you come in looking like Dita Von Teese.

Girl wearing red dress with bow

If you’re not feeling a #girlboss look, a deeper red or floral pattern still gives you a killer outfit. Wine or plum are great options because they’re flattering to almost any skin tone and hair color and give you a professional vibe no matter the piece. This red dress with bow would be fantastic for looking good at work. Though everyone might be asking where you bought such a boss outfit, so be prepared to be admired.

Fun Red

If you want to get a little dressed up but mostly hang out with friends or have a picnic in a park, red is still your friend. Try a merry red skater dress for seeing the sites on a summer day, like this comfortable piece. There’s something so fun and free about it and if you’re meeting up with friends, there’s no way they’ll miss you!

Girl with hat wearing red dress

The boho look is still totally in and comes in shades of merlot to coral. Though these dresses are so breezy and simple to wear, you always look chic and refined in that “I’m not really trying” kind of way. It’s kind of fun to be the “effortless girl,” even if your breezy, boho hair took a full hour to curl.

Or, if you’re more of a retro lady, you have a nearly never ending array of red dresses to choose from. Whether you’d like a Marilyn Monroe-esque halter, or a modest circle skirt, almost every vintage look comes with a red option and they’re all pretty much amazing. This playful A-line tank dress features a brick red background with a super fun 60’s print. In my opinion, any article of clothing that’s covered in drawings of wigs is a must have piece.

Romantic Red

Here’s where you really can’t go wrong with red. Red is made for romance! Even if you popped on a red bikini, your guy would probably find that more than acceptable. For a fancier night, try a dramatic floor length dress that hugs your curves or go for a more subtle sassiness. This dress with the fun ruffled top looks a little innocent, but the bared shoulders and short length give it a seductive flair.

The Right Hue for You

Now that we know a little bit about the psychology and the occasions for the different shades of red, you still want to pick what works best on you. Your skin tone, hair color, and personality all need to be considered to find your ideal rouge.

If you want to play with a wider range of reds but aren’t sure where to start, think about your lips. Okay, that sounds pretty random, but hear me out. Most of us have a favorite go-to red lip color, right? Well, whatever looks good on your face will look great on your body!

If you’re fair, you tend to go with blue based lip colors, so with a dress you’d want to do the same. Medium or olive skinned gals look great with a more orangey-red and that’s true for your lip pencil and your pencil skirt. Darker skinned ladies can really wear any shade, though tones with a more maroon base will often look great and look a lot brighter than when the pale ladies are rocking the same look.

Of course, these tips are just a guideline, if you’re pale and want to wear a flame colored jumpsuit, go for it! But if you think red always looks bad on you, it just means you’re picking the wrong shade and these little rules can help you find your knockout crimson piece.

Styling Red Right

So, you’ve got your new red outfits and you’re ready to hit the town! But, wait? What goes with red?

That sounds like a silly question, but red can be really hard to style. In small doses, like a scarf or hat, it can go with almost anything, kind of like a neutral. But when you’re wearing an all red dress, even the neutral shoes you were thinking of can feel a little off. Going to your guy for advice about shoe and accessory matching will always end in disaster, so that’s why I’m here to help.

Black high heel

For shoes, black is best. It always gives you a great contrast, but is simple enough to not take away from the outfit itself. Another option is a deep navy shoe. It complements the red well without looking like you’re some kind of walking American flag.

Stay away from browns, tans, metallics and even nude shoes tend to look wrong with a lot of reds. Though you might think red on red would be fun, it’s so hard to match your dress with the same hue as your shoe. If it’s slightly off, you look weirdly unmatched all night and if it’s matched too close you look like a bridesmaid. But you know, like a really lame bridesmaid. Stick with black, you already have it in your closet and it looks great!

Since red is such a strong color, you can go easy with your jewelry. A plainish necklace and earrings is really all you need. Unless the dress itself has a super simple cut, avoid statement necklaces or overly shiny pieces. When you add a little too much bling, red can go from classy to tacky pretty quickly. Plus, scarlet with a bunch of gold and silver gives off a real Christmas explosion vibe, which isn’t the sexiest. Your dress is doing the work for you, so you hardly need to add a thing.

Makeup and hair? These can vary a lot based on the occasion. If you want to go full glam go with big hair, a cat-eye, and a bold lip. Know that you’ll have a very dramatic look, like full on Marilyn Monroe status if you go that route, but sometimes we all need a little drama in our lives.

If you’d like to go for something subtler, keep the hair soft and long, or up in a simple chignon. Again, the red is already a big statement, so the makeup can be fairly bare. Mascara and touch of shimmer for the eyes with a nude to rose-colored lip give you a fresh, dewy look.

Now opposite to the shoes, you can definitely wear a red lip with a red dress. This is mostly because a red lip can really go with anything, but the lips avoid the matchy matchy problem that you have when you try to do red shoes and accessories. So, don’t ask me why, but if you feel like having statement lips, you don’t need to shy away from your favorite red. You’ll look amazing.

Paint the Town Red

Hopefully, you’re now ready to add a lot of red to your wardrobe. It’s so fun and flattering, there’s no reason to be scared of this bold hue. Don’t let the color feel lonely and unloved in your closet, put your rouge on and get it, girl! Whatever your mood and no matter the occasion, there’s a way to wear red to make you look hot and stay the cool girl that you are.

Scarlett Olivia