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Lady in Red
I Dream Of Red!

"Red. Red. RED. RED, Charlie boy. Red is the color of sex! Burgundy is the color of hot water bottles! Red is the color of sex and fear and danger and signs that say, "Do. Not. Enter."
Lola, Kinky Boots

If a woman is sexy enough, there's a good chance that she will wear a slinky red dress at at least one point in time. If she's really, REALLY sexy, and especially if she's The Vamp or a Femme Fatale, it may become her default outfit. This trope deals with the latter.

Characteristics of the dress will include:
  • It is a shade of red, but usually scarlet or in that range. Some variation in color is possible, but a lady in crimson is a borderline Lady In Red. Pink doesn't count, as that's about feminine characters instead of seductive ones.
  • It is very... flattering, or at least just flattering enough. Particularly if the character has been presented previously in such a way that her physical attributes have not been as much in evidence.
  • It is either strapless, sleeveless, backless or all three, which isn't a problem, given the type of figure most of these women have.
  • If it is long rather than short, and it usually is, expect a side-slit to allow her to show off her legs.

Most of this has to do with the slinkiness of the dress itself. However, red is also the color most commonly associated with sex and passion, so it echoes this woman's sexuality all that more, although she does not have to be an actual scarlet woman. In short, the person wearing the red dress is automatically THREE TIMES SEXIER than a person wearing a less flamboyant color. Bonus points if her hair matches with the dress.

The Glamorous Wartime Singer is often a Lady In Red, as is The Chanteuse.

According to Chinese mythology, a woman who dies in a red dress, or commits suicide in one, is able to come back to haunt those who wronged her. Which leads to a multitude of ladies in red dresses in Hong Kong horror movies. Additionally, in Bollywood and throughout Southeast Asia, red is more associated with marriage and love instead of raunchy sex. Thus, the symbolism of a woman in a red Sari is very different than the Western interpretation.

Sometimes, the dress will be a Happy Holidays Dress or Sexy Santa Dress.

Unlike Woman in White, this trope is grown women only; for little girls, see Little Dead Riding Hood and compare Princesses Prefer Pink.

In terms of concept and symbolism, this trope is the polar opposite of the Woman in Black. A Lady in Red is sexy, period. She might be morally ambiguous but she mostly displays a form of sexual availability, a signal that she's ready to fulfill a guy's sexual desires. The Woman in Black may be sexy and enticing but, in sharp contrast to her crimson counterpart, she is also openly menacing and sexually unavailable, especially if her outfit covers her whole body. In any case, the Woman in Black clearly conveys that approaching her is not a good idea, whereas the Lady in Red means to arouse lust.

Compare The Little Black Dress, Pink Means Feminine.

Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 

    Board games 
  • Miss Scarlet from the Clue board game has a red dress. In the movie, Miss Scarlet wears a form-fitting blue dress.

    Comicbooks 
  • Wildguard has the enigmatic Woman in Red who stalks Red Rover.
  • P'Gell, in The Spirit. Often, but not always, seen in a slinky red dress. (Starting with her first appearance.)
  • The babe from "The Babe Wore Red", a story in Sin City.
  • Kate Kane, aka Batwoman, in her first appearance in the DCU series 52. She "has the kind of beauty that leaves you breathless," and she wears the hell out of that dress.
  • The Scarlet Witch, although typically dressed in red, has only appeared in this kind of red dress in the Ultiverse and the X-Men Noir mini.
  • The titular Woman in Red, a character who debuted in 1940, called by some the first female superhero.
  • In Invincible Iron Man's "Stark Resilient" storyline, Tony Stark hosts a party where he arrives in a red suit...and Pepper Potts, Justine Hammer, and Sasha Hammer all arrive in red dresses.
  • The covers for Millie the Model often have her wearing a red dress.
  • Smurfette wore a red dress in The Smurfs comic book story "The Great Smurfette", though it was more the feminine version of Papa Smurf's outfit, and it was mostly to show that she was in charge of the Smurf Village.

    Films — Animated 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Matrix: "Were you listening to me, Neo? Or were you looking at the woman in the red dress?"
  • The Woman In Red: The woman from the title.
  • Femme Fatale Violet from Bound spends a good chunk of the film in a sexy red dress.
  • Inverted in Requiem for a Dream, in which an elderly woman destroys herself trying to fit into her old red dress.
  • In the film adaptation of the Stephen King short story Umney's Last Case, the wife of the author who created the 1930's Private Eye protagonist dresses up in a slinky red dress in order to seduce him, acting like The Vamp character from one of her husband's books.
  • The Devil (Liz Hurley) in Bedazzled (2000) starts off in a red dress.
  • In The Sixth Sense, the mother of the dead child at the funeral/wake is wearing a red dress. She ends up being exposed as the killer. This might just be a more generic instance of Colour-Coded for Your Convenience since, in the commentary, M.N.S. states that the color red was used throughout the movie to indicate any times the ghosts were "influencing" the real world as any scene that had ghosts involved had some red. However, it's considered rude and insulting to wear bright colours to funerals, which makes her choice of outfit even more horrifying.
  • Ginger from Swordfish was in a red dress when she made her intro.
  • Shoshana in the end of Inglourious Basterds is a heroic red lady. She wore gorgeous tight long dress for a fancy première, introducing a Nazi film.
  • Satine from Moulin Rouge!.
  • In Caliente built a Busby Berkeley Number around the song "The Lady In Red". This song is perhaps more famous as a Standard Snippet in Carl Stalling's cartoon music.
  • Cristabella of Devil's Advocate: Her red dress is her work attire at the firm. In the climactic scene, however, she goes from a slinky dark purple dress to full nudity.
  • The Thin Blue Line references the famous woman in red who shot notorious gangster John Dillinger. The movie then goes on to note that the woman was actually wearing orange at the time, it just seemed red because of the lighting. This ties into the theme of inaccurate memory.
  • In Gone with the Wind, Scarlett shows up at Ashley's birthday, amid rumors of them having been caught in an embrace, in a red dress, which her husband Rhett has demanded that she wear. "I want you to look your part tonight."
  • Early in The Mask, Tina shows up at the bank wearing a clingy red dress, distracting Stanley while innocently inquiring about opening an account and surreptitiously casing the joint.
  • Swing Kids: After being called a "priss" and presumed to be uptight for the earlier part of the movie, Evey shows up at a swing party in a bright red dress. The look on Peter's face when he sees her is priceless.
  • Frantic. Emmanuelle Seigner changes from her black leather look to a tight red dress when they go to an expensive nightclub; it's probably not a coincidence she dances uncomfortably close to Harrison Ford in this scene.
  • One of Padme Amidala's dresses seen in The Phantom Menace that is most used to show her outside the movie is a magnificent crimson dress, a color which is a traditional symbol of royal authority, as a 14 year old queen isn't trying to be sexy.
  • In Deep Rising, this is Trillian's outfit for the first half of the film.
  • In Captain America: The First Avenger, Peggy Carter (Steve Rogers' ally and love interest) wears a rather impressive red dress in one scene.
  • Valerie from Red Riding Hood because she's...well, Teenaged Red Riding Hood.
  • In Jezebel, Julie Marsden played by Bette Davis scandalizes polite society when she shows up to her débutante ball wearing a red dress instead of virginal white.
  • The City of Lost Children
    • The woman in the bar who tries and comically fails to seduce One wear a red dress. At the time, he is devastated over the death of Miette.
    • Miette is the film's real Lady in Red. Even though she's 12 years old and One acts like her big, dumb, insanely strong brother.
  • Lady Jaye and Jinx from G.I. Joe: Retaliation.
  • Crocodile Dundee: At one party in the first movie, Sue Charleton, a sexy Intrepid Reporter and Hot Scoop, wears a red dress.
  • The Empress wears either red or black for most of Legend Of The Black Scorpion. Scenes emphasizing her sexual dominance over the Emperor show her in, or surrounded by, red fabric.
  • Mary at her and Tim's wedding in About Time.

    Literature 
  • In Robin McKinley's Sunshine, the vampires who kidnapped Sunshine dressed her in a red gown before staking her out before another prisoner vampire.
  • In Declarations of War by Len Deighton, a woman traveling with the protagonist has two dresses, black and red. She declines to wear the red one in a small Latin American town, as it is pointed out that only one type of woman wears red in those types of towns.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire, Melisandre of Asshai always appears in a red dress or robes that mark her as a priestess of R'hllor. She's a particularly interesting example, as she first appears to be very morally ambiguous, but later proves to be ''ruthlessly'' determined to fight off the Others, who very possibly trying to end humanity. Her itinerary includes introducing a fanatical new religion to the Seven Kingdoms, seducing Stannis after he declared himself king, being fond of making sacrifices of the unfaithful, and proving to be something of a slight temptress to the men around her, not always deliberately.
    • Thoros of Myr, a follower of the same god, wears much the same thing - except that, by the time of his most recent appearance, his robes have become very faded.
  • The Whore of Babylon or "Babylon the Great Harlot" in the Revelation of John is described as a woman wearing scarlet.
  • X-Wing Series: Ysanne Isard wears a red version of the white Grand Admiral uniform. She's not a sexualized villain. See it here.
  • In A Prayer for Owen Meany, the narrator's mother only dresses in black and white, except for a single red dress she wears to special, mysterious occasions.
  • In Lord of Light, Kali wears a blood-red sari.
  • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: When Rita Skeeter writes stories about Hermione's "taste for famous wizards", Ron comments that the articles make Hermione out to be a "scarlet woman". When Hermione laughs at his word usage, Ron admits that's what his mom calls them.
  • The Queen of the Elves takes this form in Lords and Ladies.
  • In Death: a number of female characters put on red outfits in the series. Eve put on a red outfit to seduce Roarke in Witness In Death and Magdalana wore a red dress early on in Innocence In Death.
  • White as Snow: At the height of her beauty, power, and sexuality, Arpazia is seen wearing a particular red gown.
  • Imabelle, the Femme Fatale in A Rage in Harlem, wears red throughout the story.
  • Hadith Sarim, the first time Rayojini meets her in Burying the Shadow. Incidentally, Rayo is also wearing red at the time, but this mostly serves to highlight the differences between them as sexually experienced woman and virginal girl.
  • Phèdre at the Midwinter Masque in Kushiel's Chosen, which she plays up by wearing a gown that exposes her entire back, letting all the peerage of Terre d'Ange know that she is returning to Naamah's Service.
  • Delia of Eldorne in Song of the Lioness is wearing a green dress, but it's a deliberate contrast to all the pale colors the other women wear, low-cut, and draws a great deal of attention to her and her sexual allure. Basically, a Tortallan edition of TV Tropes would call this trope Lady in Green.
  • Rose Cross in the League Of Magi stories wears exclusively red and is even known as the "Red Lady."

    Live-Action TV 
  • Zoey in Zoey 101.
  • iCarly: Miss Ackerman. Carly calls her hot, Freddie goes "Woah" 5 times (and this is the Season 1 Freddie who hasn't really hit puberty yet).
  • Cassiopeia from the original Battlestar Galactica wore a red dress when she was first introduced in the pilot, and has only worn it on occassion since.
  • Number Six from the reimagined Battlestar Galactica. It's her default outfit. Tight, revealing, sexy. She's a Cylon and seduces Baltar.
  • Doctor Who:
  • Jilly Kitsinger from Torchwood: Miracle Day, playing the temptress role for a convicted paedophile and murderer, no less.
  • The Nanny: The opening theme lampshades that Fran is Lady in Red: "She's the lady in red while everybody else is wearing tan". In the pilot episode, she comes down the stairs to a party wearing a red dress while the piano player sings "The Lady in Red".
  • In the first episode of Ashes to Ashes, Alex Drake arrives in 1981 in a short red dress. She later comments that she wants to get out of the dress before Chris de Burgh writes a song about her.
  • Sarah on Chuck sometimes wears these kind of red dresses, during the extremely high number of missions calling for formal wear.
  • In The Golden Girls, Blanche's wedding gown was a dress like.
  • Robin Hood
    • Isabella often wore red dresses.
    • In the series 2 episode "The Booby and the Beast", Marian wears a red dress to attract Count Friedrich at the insistence of the Sheriff.
  • The X-Files. Agent Scully wears a red cocktail dress in "Triangle", where she's an OSS spy in 1939. It's notable that this is the first time Mulder kisses Scully, and quite passionately too, though she still gives him a Megaton Punch in response.
  • The Mentalist, "Russet Potatoes" features a woman in a red dress.
  • Law & Order: SVU: Alex Cabot is only seen in a smart suit. Until she goes on a date with Trevor Langan for which she wears the epitome of this trope, an awesome red dress. The whole scene was a complete Mind Screw with all the conflicting UST.
  • Degrassi:
    • To show exactly how all grown up Liberty was by Senior Year, she wore a very nice red dress to prom.
    • Fiona appears in a red cocktail dress at various points in season 10.
    • Holly J wear a red cocktail dress many times.
  • In an episode of The West Wing, Donna is wearing a little red dress at the office because she's about to leave for a date. Josh, suffering one of his failure-to-appreciate-Donna attacks, needs her to work late and is insensitive to the point of cruelty about it (saying the date isn't going anywhere anyway because she's a Horrible Judge of Character with no self-esteem). At the end of the episode, he tells her she looked good in the dress and should keep it instead of returning it after wearing it once, like she planned.
  • Glee: This is what the local Ms. Fanservice Santana picks for her prom dress. Kurt even lampshades it, saying it even goes wonderfully with her personality.
  • Daphne wears a stunning red dress in the classic Frasier episode "Moon Dance", where she and Niles dance a passionate tango and come within a hair's breadth of a Love Confession, after their UST gets ramped up higher than it had ever been before.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • In "Restless", Xander dreams about Joyce in a red nightie inviting him into her bed.
    • In "Amends", Willow wears a tight red dress to show Oz she's Ready for Lovemaking. In the same episode, the First is trying to incite Angel into having sex with Buffy so he'll lose his soul; when Angel runs into Buffy in her bedroom wearing a blood-red dress that exposes her neck, he has to jump out the window to stop himself from jumping on her then and there.
    • Glory in season 5 is shown in red dresses.
  • Once Upon a Time: The main protagonist Emma is first seen in a red evening dress and after that, she is rarely shown without her signature red jacket.
  • In C-drama The Holy Pearl, Mo Yin wears red throughout her Establishing Character Moment (sentencing the main character to death), marking her as a more sensual and passionate character than her Woman in White sister.
  • 666 Park Avenue: Olivia buys Jane a very expensive red dress as a welcome present (and an incitement).
  • Scandal: First Lady Mellie Grant.
  • The OBB of Asia's Next Top Model's first season featured the girls (sans The Host who's wearing The Little Black Dress) in elegant red dresses. Their pictorial in episode 8 also required them to wear heavy red dresses.
  • Once Guinevere became Queen in Merlin, she often wore an elaborate velvet red dress.
  • Firefly: Inara Serra is a classy companion, which is something between a therapist, geisha and courtesan. Captain Mal Reynolds would describe her profession as whoring. She wore such a dress at the beginning of "Shindig". They are bright red and have two parts, conveniently showing Inara's midriff. The skirt part is very long and rather slinky and tight.
  • Murdoch Mysteries: In "Twentieth Century Murdoch" note , Detective Murdoch's on-again-off-again Love Interest Dr. Julia Ogden wears an off-the-shoulder red dress to the New Year's ball in 1899. They look very modern and sexy, especially compared to other ladies' outfits.
  • Red Dwarf:
    • In season 7, Kochanski's default outfit is a tight red shiny uniform which screams "sexy lady". In one episode, Lister gives Kochanski a beautiful red sparkly dress as a present, but she wears it only in Kryten's Imagine Spot.
    • Princess Bonjella, rescued by Ace Rimmer from Space Nazis in "Stoke Me a Clipper", wears a long tight red dress. There'll be time for explanations later. And hopefully, some sex...
  • Glamorous Wartime Singer Greta Müller from Unsere Mütter, unsere Väter.
  • In a decidedly non-sexy example, Louise Iver from Whitechapel is a little old lady who wears varying shades of red (sometimes pink or peach) in order to delineate her as a Devil in Plain Sight.
  • Lady Persie from the Upstairs Downstairs revival; she's a selfish and petulant but alluring young aristocrat...and a Fascist and Nazi sympathizer...who likes flowing red gowns.

    Music 
  • The Police: ''Roxxxxxannnnnneeeee! You don't have to wear that dress tonight!
  • Chris de Burgh has a song called "The Lady in Red".
  • There is a gem of a song from Allie Wrubel: "The Lady in Red, the fellas are crazy for the Lady in Red..."
  • Morrighan the Temptress from Lord of the Dance.
  • Gord Bamford's "Blame It On The Red Dress".
  • The Grateful Dead mention one in the song "Casey Jones".
    "Trouble ahead, a lady in red!/Take my advice, you'd be better off dead..."
  • "Fancy"'s dancing dress has red velvet trim.
  • The Beatles' song "Yes It Is" is about a man pleading with his lover not to wear red, because it would bring up painful memories of a lost love for him.
  • "Red Dress" by Lovehatehero.
  • A few of Lana Del Rey's songs:
    • "Summertime Sadness"
    • "Off to the Races"
    • "Carmen"

    Myth and Legend 
  • Mazu, the Chinese goddess of the sea, is represented as a woman clad in red robes.
  • Kuchisake-Onna, a vain, murderous, and (mostly) extremely attractive youkai, has gone in recent years from a red kimono to a slinky red dress, with a surgical mask to hide her mouth. In some modern retellings, she even drives a red sports car.

    Play-By-Post Games 

    Poetry 
  • In Edward Arlington Robinson's "Llewellyn and the Tree", the titular character escaped from a miserable marriage and excessive timidity by running off with a "scarlet" woman, who is described in terms of the roses, coral, and the rouge she wears. Since her effect on Llewellyn was positive, the connotations of red shift from the sin that neighbors impute to her to life and vibrancy instead.

    Tabletop Games 

    Theatre 

    Video Games 

    Webcomics 

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 

    Real Life 
  • According to legend, John Dillinger was betrayed to the FBI by a woman in red. In actuality, she (Anna Sage, a Romanian immigrant who was trying to get a visa by handing over Dillinger) was wearing orange, which she did to signal the FBI she was with Dillinger, but the light made it look red.
  • The late, great baseball personality Buck O'Neill had a stated fondness for women in red dresses; he once told his biographer, "Son, in this life, you never walk by a red dress." At his funeral, all the women wore red.
  • Red is the traditional color of wedding dresses in China and India.
  • Elena Udrea, Romanian MP and Minister of Tourism. She wears rather flashy red outfits sometimes, including at the second inauguration of President Traian Basescu, although the yellow light made it appear orange on TV. And she doesn't shun pink, either.
  • Scarlet red in Kimonese stands for sexuality and vigour of youth, being a suitable background colour for a young girl's furisode or the wedding costume's overcoat uchikake, as well as accessories — however, red underkimono has been downright scandalous for many a decade, and the only people who get away with wearing such are geisha and such.
  • Wearing red dresses in funerals is the ultimate insult to the deceased and means the lady in red is happy the deceased has died. It is akin to saying out loud "good riddance, schmuck!". Referenced in the movie Moonstruck where Cher's character threatens to wear such a dress to Johnny's (the man who jilted her) funeral once he dies.
  • According to Gypsy culture, women are actually not allowed to wear red in public, since Gypsies find the color red unlucky.

Graceful Ladies Like PurpleCharacteristic Clothing ColorsLittle Black Dress
High Pressure EmotionPaint the Index RedLava is Boiling Kool-Aid
Happy Holidays DressDresses, Gowns and SkirtsLady Legionnaire Wear
Honey TrapMysterious WomanLady of Adventure
Informed AttractivenessAttraction TropesLike Goes With Like
Labcoat of Science and MedicineCostume TropesLady Legionnaire Wear
Kimono FanserviceFanservice CostumesLady Legionnaire Wear
Woman in BlackColour-Coded for Your ConvenienceLaw of Chromatic Superiority
Kudzu PlotImageSource/PhotographyLEGO Genetics
LadyellaAlways FemaleLady-In-Waiting
Kicking Ass in All Her FineryClothing Reflects PersonalityMeganekko

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