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

Lady in Red is something of a old fashion trope, where The Vamp or the Femme Fatale was designated by having her wear bright red formal wear. The Lady in Red wasn't necessarily a slut, but she was strongly sexual, and often had a strong personality. In more prudish times the Lady in Red was considered almost dangerous. Red clothing is also associated with prostitutes, chorus girls and other dancers, and other women attempting to be sexy.

This trope is about the character type, not the dress itself. A character wearing a red outfit does not always make her a Lady In Red.

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

Please note, that 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. These ladies are not necessarily a Lady In Red. Additionally, in Bollywood and throughout Southeast Asia, red is more associated with marriage and love instead of sex. Thus, a woman in a red sari is almost never a Lady In Red

Examples:

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    Anime & Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • Kate Kane, aka Batwoman, in her first appearance in the DCU series 52. She's described as having "the kind of beauty that leaves you breathless," while wearing a brilliantly-red dress

    Films — Animated 
  • Subverted, then the subversion is lampshaded by Jessica Rabbit from Who Framed Roger Rabbit. She's gorgeous and wears a very revealing long slinky shiny dress, showing some legs and lots of cleavage, but:
    Jessica: I'm not bad, I'm just drawn that way.
  • Esmeralda wore red poledancing outfit in the "Topsy Turvy" number in The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Ironically, in real life, red is considered bad luck for Gypsies, and Judge Frollo was watching her dance in public... Bad luck indeed.
  • In The Swan Princess, the imposter Odette's dress was slinky red and black, as opposed to Odette's usual virginal white.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Violet from Bound is a Femme Fatale who spends a good chunk of the film in a 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 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, when rumors abound that Scarlett and Ashley have been caught in an illicit embrace (Scarlett is married to Rhett at the time), Rhett demands that she wear a red dress to Ashley's Birthday party.
    Rhett: "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.
  • In Captain America: The First Avenger, Peggy Carter (Steve Rogers' ally and love interest) wears a rather impressive red dress in one scene, which particularly stands out in a pub full of drab-uniformed soldiers, all of whom fall silent when she enters.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Ghost Ship: Francesca, the ship's former singer, was dressed like this. She reappears on the ship as a vamp-like ghost, and is later revealed to have participated in the original massacre, tempting one of the crewmen to kill the other conspirators for her.
  • Deep Rising: This is Trillian's outfit for the first half of the movie, as she was a thief and conman on the cruise liner who used it to distract the captain so she could steal his keycard as part of her scheme.
  • In Casino Royale (2006), Vesper Lynd is wearing this in her final scenes. Aside from the fact that her duplicity has just been discovered, the color helps Bond spot her as he searches for her in the crowd—note that absolutely no one else in that scene is clad in red. This was deliberately done by the filmmakers to make her stand out.
  • West Side Story: Maria wears a red dress in the film's final scenes. Very symbolic as she's recently lost her virginity and regarding all the blood that's been shed up to this point.
  • A different take in The Girl (1987), where the Fille Fatale wraps herself in a red towel when seducing Franco Nero's character (having already stripped off her blue dress).
  • Fatal Instinct: Lola Cain, the Femme Fatale, appears in a red dress when she seduces Ned Ravine.

    Literature 
  • 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.
  • The Whore of Babylon or "Babylon the Great Harlot" in the Revelation of John is described as a woman wearing scarlet.
  • 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 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.
  • Dora Wilk, a pseudo-succubus, puts a red dress on for a vampire party. Fittinly, she has red hair as well.
  • 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; that is, going back to being a High-Class Call Girl

    Live-Action TV 
  • Number Six from the reimagined Battlestar Galactica. It's her default outfit. Tight, revealing, sexy. She's a Cylon and seduces Baltar.
  • 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 Golden Girls, Blanche's wedding gown was red. Considering Blanche, it suited—she admits that even she would not have been able to keep a straight face had she worn a white dress.
  • Robin Hood: 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.
  • Glee: This is what the local Ms. Fanservice Santana picks for her prom dress. Kurt even lampshades it, saying it 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 "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.
    • In "Surprise", Drusilla wears red in contrast to the virginal Buffy, Drusilla having already been 'corrupted' by Angel, like Buffy soon will be. In conjunction with her dark hair Red and Black, Keep Back also applies, given Drusilla's role as the killer of Kendra, and the wanton who turns Spike and Angelus against each other.
    • In "Wild At Heart" sultry nightclub singer Veruca makes love to the microphone while wearing a red blouse and red lipstick, all the while locking eyes with Oz. Willow is not happy; quite rightly as it turns out, as Oz cheats with Veruca later in the episode.
    • Glory, the Big Bad of Season 5, as befits her personality. She vamps everyone she talks to and is quite The Fashionista.
  • 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.
  • 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". It is bright red and in two pieces, conveniently showing Inara's midriff. The skirt part is very long and rather slinky and tight.
  • Red Dwarf:
    • Kochanski is Dave Lister's Love Interest and, most would agree, out of his league. 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 where he imagined Lister and Kochanski as a couple who sent him away.
    • 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...

    Music 
  • There is a gem of a song from Allie Wrubel: "The Lady in Red, the fellas are crazy for the Lady in Red..."
  • 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..."
  • 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.
  • Chris Deburgh's "Lady In Red"
    I never seen so many men ask you if you wanted to dance
    Looking for a little romance
    Given half the chance\\

    Myth and Legend 
  • Kuchisake-Onna, a vain, murderous, and (mostly) extremely attractive youkai, has gone 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.

    Pinball 
  • In Cactus Canyon, Rosie the saloon bargirl is wearing a low-cut red dress.
  • Trixie, the mafia Moll in Capcom's unreleased Kingpin, wears a sexy red dress that emphasizes her cleavage and legs.

    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.

    Theatre 

    Video Games 

    Webcomics 

    Western Animation 
  • Betty Boop used to wear a black dress because she was around before the invention of colour, then she switched to a skimpy red dress.

    Real Life 
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Anna Sage became known as the Lady in Red for helping the FBI bring down John Dillinger.