Created By: Willbyr on May 14, 2013 Last Edited By: Willbyr on March 17, 2015
Nuked

Accessorizing For Love

Wearing specific clothes or accessories to advertise romantic/sexual interest

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Trope
In many cultures, people who are romantically and/or sexually available advertise this through the wearing of specific items of clothing or accessories. This extends both to what is worn and how it's worn, as an item can take on different meanings depending on either or both of those circumstances. It can even extend to indicating a person's preferences of gender and/or sexual practices.

This does not apply to skimpy clothing in general, or for items of clothing that are designed to accentuate physical features such as a corset. The item(s) must also be worn on the body, either as clothes or an accessory.

Compare Ready for Lovemaking and Diamonds in the Buff. Contrast Wedding Ring Defense.


Examples

Literature
  • In Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Cmdr. Decker tries to get through to the Ilia probe by putting a headband on her that he'd given to the real Ilia when they were in a relationship. The novelization reveals that wearing this headband is a sign of being in a relationship akin to betrothal, a significant cue for the hypersexual Deltan race. Decker just thought it would look nice on her.
  • In the Vorkosigan Saga, Betans wear earrings that mark their sexual preferences and availability.
  • In Esther Friesner's The Sword of Mary (part of the Becca of Wiserways series), Becca is tricked into wearing a paper flower that indicates she's a lesbian, potentially getting her in trouble with the law. Different flower colors indicate different interests at an underground bar.

Live-Action TV
  • Toyed with in the short-lived TV series Good Sports, when former jock Bobby Tannen tries wearing a single earring for the daily broadcast. His co-host, Gayle Roberts, cattily quips, "Ever thought of wearing that in the straight ear?" This gives Bobby pause for thought.

Video Games
  • In The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, wearing an Amulet of Mara, the goddess of marriage and romantic love, signifies that you're looking for a spouse.

Web Comics
  • In El Goonish Shive, early on, Justin wore an earring in an attempt to advertise he was gay to attract gay men. He stopped wearing it after a while but wore it again to gain the attention of one guy whom he's sure is gay.

Web Original
  • In Tales of MU, "middling"note  elven females wear a veil over the lower half of their face to indicate that boys are off-limits. They can also gift this veil (as well as other things, such as underwear) to someone to indicate their interest in them, which is how Grace and Nicki's relationship begins.

Real Life
  • It's generally believed that if a Hawaiian girl wears a flower behind her right ear, it means she's single; behind the left means she's taken.
  • In the mid- to late 2000s, a fad among schoolgirls was wearing colored gel bracelets. This led to a scare about the possibility that the bracelets were a code to what they'd be willing to do with guys, which was debunked by Snopes.
  • The traditional Irish Claddagh Ring can be worn 4 ways to indicate "single", "in a relationship", "engaged" or "married".
  • In Victorian England, green ties were worn as code to indicate homosexuality.
  • The "hanky code" from the 1970s gay leather bar scene was an intricate code of colored bandannas worn in the back pocket. The color/pattern and which side it was worn on would indicate specific fetish and dominant/submissive preferences.
  • Engagement and wedding rings are a two-layered inversion. When worn, they're a sign that someone is not available. However, for someone who is no longer engaged/married for whatever reason and isn't wearing their ring(s), the rubbed-smooth skin on their ring finger is a sign that they're available again.
  • Inverted by Bewitched actress Elizabeth Montgomery, who wore a heart-shaped locket (both in Real Life, and on-screen as Samantha) as a symbol of her marriage with her third husband, William Asher. After they divorced, she no longer wore the locket.
  • The apron that goes with the Bavarian dirndl-dress. The side on which the ribbon is located indicates whether a woman is single or married, or a widow. Most commonly seen on the Oktoberfest nowadays.
  • The typical hats of some regions of the Black Forest: Black means married, red means unmarried. At the time when the custom originated, unmarried women would have been looking for a husband by default.
  • Inverted with all kinds of headcoverings for women. Nuns originally wore a veil to signal that they were symbolically married to Christ, thus not looking for a spouse. Jane Austen allegedly took to wearing a bonnet, the mark of a married woman, once she decided to remain a spinster.


Community Feedback Replies: 53
  • May 15, 2013
    Arivne
    Example deleted.
  • May 15, 2013
    Willbyr
    I'm not completely averse to including that, but I'd like to limit this to things that are actually worn on the body.
  • May 15, 2013
    StarSword
    Video Games:
    • In The Elder Scrolls V Skyrim wearing an Amulet of Mara, the goddess of marriage and romantic love, signifies that you're looking for a spouse.
  • May 17, 2013
    Willbyr
    Added, thanks!
  • June 2, 2013
    Willbyr
    Bump; anyone else?
  • June 2, 2013
    MorganWick
  • June 3, 2013
    Willbyr
    ^ Added, thanks.
  • June 3, 2013
    Duncan
    • The traditional Irish Claddagh Ring can be worn 4 ways to indicate "single", "in a relationship", "engaged" or "married".
    • In Victorian England, green ties were worn as code to indicate homosexuality.
    • The "hanky code" from the 1970s gay leather bar scene was an intricate code of colored bandannas worn in the back pocket. The color/pattern and which side it was worn on would indicate specific fetish and dominant/submissive preferences. [1]
  • June 3, 2013
    Willbyr
    Added, thanks.
  • June 3, 2013
    Duncan
    • in Esther Friesner's The Sword of Mary (part of the Becca of Wiserways series), Becca is tricked into wearing a paper flower that indicates she's a lesbian, potentially getting her in trouble with the law. Different flower colors indicate different interests at an underground bar.
  • June 3, 2013
    Willbyr
    Added, thanks.
  • August 31, 2013
    Willbyr
    Anything else, or is it ready to launch?
  • August 31, 2013
    randomsurfer
    re Star Trek TMP: Does that only happen in The Book Of The Film? If not it should be listed under film, not Literature.

    In an episode of Star Trek The Next Generation Picard takes a vacation on a Pleasure Planet. Riker asks him to buy a certain statue for him while he's there. Picard does so, only to discover that it's a fertility symbol and his having it around means he wants to have casual sex.
  • August 31, 2013
    Willbyr
    It's in both; here's a shot from that scene. The headband's deeper meaning is only elaborated in the novel, though.

    As to the TNG example, this trope is specifically about things that are worn on the body; that example was suggested earlier.
  • August 31, 2013
    jastay3
    What about wedding and engagement rings? We mentioned the Claddagh rings but what about ordinary rings?
  • August 31, 2013
    Willbyr
    That would be an inversion, as they mean that you're not available. That's an interesting point, though...I'll work it in.
  • January 7, 2014
    Willbyr
    One last bump for examples/comments/whatever.
  • January 10, 2014
    ShanghaiSlave
    hmm, Dressing To Impress? Dress To Impress? accessorizing is kinda narrow.

    ... ...

    misread the description.

    Mating Status Code?
  • January 10, 2014
    Alvin
    I think would Malvolio wearing yellow garters in an odd way because (he thinks) his lady employer wants him to in Twelfth Night would qualify.
  • January 21, 2014
    Willbyr
    ^ Can you elaborate on that?
  • January 21, 2014
    Madrugada
    Interesting possibility, but not really quite what the trope is, I think. Malvolio is an older man, the steward of the estate, and quite a dour, humorless stick-in-the-mud. He's also got a huge crush on his lady, Olivia (who is single). A couple of the other characters convince him, via a faked letter from Olivia, that she is madly in love with him, but wishes that he would, among other things, wear yellow stockings and cross-garters. (In reality, she abhors the color yellow in anything, and detests the fashion of cross-garters.) He starts wearing yellow stockings and cross-garters and Hilarity Ensues, of course.

    I don't know that it's an example here because "yellow stockings and cross-garters" aren't a generally accepted signal that one is available. He merely thinks that they will please that particular woman.
  • January 21, 2014
    Alvin
    ^ Okay, I misunderstood.
  • January 21, 2014
    Alvin
    But now I think I've heard in Real Life, people sometimes claim if a man wears one earring, he has to be careful which ear it goes in, or he might be Mistaken For Gay if he's not.
  • January 21, 2014
    Willbyr
    ^ That's been around for ages...I've heard so many permutations on it that I doubt it has any real meaning anymore.
  • January 21, 2014
    justanotherrandomlurker
    I tagged Better Name, because I kind of think it does.

    There's a fine line between love and lust... so fine, in fact, that it becomes almost blurred... and the direction this YKTTW seems to be taking, I think Accessorizing for Lust is a little more accurate, based on the laconic and description.
  • February 27, 2014
    Willbyr
    Acccessorizing For Romance could work...lust is a bit limiting.
  • February 27, 2014
    SeptimusHeap
    Responding to a request for comment: I think the trope concept is sound as it is with romance. I don't like the "Accessorizing For X" names though - they sound more like clothing you need to wear during a relationship rather than to indicate you are ready for one. I would also wait for a few more examples before hatting this - 5 crosswickable examples is not much.

  • July 15, 2014
    rexpensive
    Is there already a trope for when a couple characters who have not seen each other agree to meet up and one or both of them is supposed to wear some specific thing so they can recognize each other? Because if that exists than it is related I think.
  • July 15, 2014
    oneuglybunny
    Live Action TV
    • Toyed with in the short-lived TV series Good Sports, when former jock Bobby Tannen tries wearing a single earring for the daily broadcast. His co-host, Gayle Roberts, cattily quips, "Ever thought of wearing that in the straight ear?" This gives Bobby pause for thought.
  • July 15, 2014
    Willbyr
    ^^ I don't think we have that...I posted it in Lost And Found to see if we do.
  • July 17, 2014
    Willbyr
    ^^ That's more suited to Mistaken For Gay than this, I think...but I can see how it would apply here, so I'll go ahead and add it in. Thanks!
  • Real Life
    • When Elizabeth Montgomery was married to her third husband, William Asher, she wore a heart-shaped locket around her neck (both in Real Life, and on-screen as Samantha on Bewitched) as a symbol of their marriage; however, when their marriage eventually came to an end, Elizabeth no longer wore the locket.
  • July 18, 2014
    Willbyr
    ^ Added, with a bit of a tweak to the writeup. Thanks!
  • August 11, 2014
    Willbyr
    Another bump to hopefully draw in some more examples...I'm surprised that this is pulling in more real life examples than fictional.
  • March 2, 2015
    sigh824
    How about Peacocking?
  • March 2, 2015
    DAN004
    Explain how this isn't Diamonds In The Buff plz?
  • March 2, 2015
    MorningStar1337
    ^ I;m gonna assume it is the opposite. This trope requires that the person is not naked while Diamonds In The Buff requires that the person be naked save for an accessory
  • March 3, 2015
    Willbyr
    Bingo. This trope is simply about someone using something they wear as an unspoken sign of availability for a relationship...although in thinking about it, the defintion probably needs to be expanded to cover things that show you're already in a relationship since a few of the examples go that route.
  • March 3, 2015
    DAN004
    ^ Which means the wedding ring example is not inverted?
  • March 5, 2015
    Gowan
    Another real life example would be the apron that goes with the Bavarian dirndl-dress. The side on which the ribbon is located indicates whether a woman is single or married, or a widow. Most commonly seen on the Oktoberfest nowadays.

    • The typical hats of some regions of the Black Forest: Black means married, red means unmarried. At the time when the custom originated, unmarried women would have been looking for a husband by default.

    • Inverted with all kinds of headcovering for women. Nuns originally wore a veil to signal that they were symbolically married to Christ, thus not looking for a spouse. Jane Austen allegedly took to wearing a bonnet, the mark of a married woman, once she decided to remain a spinster.
  • March 5, 2015
    NemuruMaeNi
    "Accessorizing for Love" made me think more of "lucky/combat/victory underwear", the ones that girls in some cheesy anime wear for when they expect a night of relationship consummation. "Ready for Pickup" Attire was piecework idea of a name that suits examples here. And it also made me think of taxi. How in some places they have distinct lightning patterns or signals for when they're free to be called upon.
  • March 5, 2015
    sigh824
    "about someone using something they wear as an unspoken sign of availability for a relationship"

    So, Peacocking...
  • March 5, 2015
    Gowan
    Isn't peackocking just dressing in a way to attract women? That doesn't have to mean "available for a relationship", and is highly subjective. A men could wear nice clothes because he likes them, and accidentally attract women. Which would not be the same as described above.
  • March 5, 2015
    sigh824
    Despite it being that way for actual peacocks, I don't think many people would assume it to only be a male to female affair. But I kinda did think that advertising that you were ready for a relationship IS the same thing as attempting to attract mates? Is it not?
  • March 5, 2015
    DAN004
  • March 12, 2015
    Willbyr
    ^ That's included. I've also added the new Real Life examples.

    Peacocking isn't a valid trope, but could be noted in the description as a male-specific exaggeration of this idea. The trope concept doesn't have to be fancy or flashy; a lot of the examples are fairly simple and straightforward but their meaning is clear to those familiar with the imagery.
  • March 12, 2015
    DragonQuestZ
    I would prefer a title that makes it clear it's about formal relationship and mating dress codes. As it is, it seems like any time a character wears some keepsake from a loved one.
  • March 13, 2015
    partner555
    In El Goonish Shive, early on, Justin wore an earring in an attempt to advertise he was gay to attract gay men. He stopped wearing it after a while but wore it again to gain the attention of one guy whom he's sure is gay.
  • March 17, 2015
    Willbyr
    ^ That's added, thanks! (And thanks to everyone that's submitted examples and discussion in between, too.)

    ^^ I'm open to suggestions.
  • March 17, 2015
    DragonQuestZ
  • March 17, 2015
    Willbyr
    No, that's taking it too far...Relationship Status Accessory might be a better name.
  • March 17, 2015
    DragonQuestZ
    ^ Some of these examples are trying to attract people, not just say you're in a relationship.

    EDIT: Then again, the latter wouldn't be a mating ritual. You already have one... I guess.
  • March 17, 2015
    DAN004
    Now, is this about mating ritual or relationship status?
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=4z48uf9cr96o4l794uk99smp