That flashy Fendi bag you see a woman carrying on a date might be more than just an expensive accessory.
According to a new study out of the University of Minnesota, that designer bag may actually be a way to keep men from cheating.
Researchers conducted a series of five experiments with 649 women of varied ages and relationship statuses and concluded that women use luxury products to signal to other women that they are in a committed relationship with their husbands or boyfriends.
"It might seem irrational that each year Americans spend over $250 billion on women's luxury products with an average woman acquiring three new handbags a year, but conspicuous consumption is actually smart for women who want to protect their relationship," said Vladas Griskevicius, one of study's authors. "When a woman is flaunting designer products, it says to other women 'back off my man.'"
Griskevicius and co-researcher Yajin Wang found that it did not matter whether the woman bought the expensive accessory for herself or received it from her significant other -- the luxury products still had the same effect.
"We found that a woman who is wearing luxury items and designer brands is perceived to have a more devoted partner and as a result other women are less likely to flirt with him," Wang said. "Regardless of who actually purchased the items, other women inferred that the man had something to do with it and is thus more devoted to her."
"The feeling that a relationship is being threatened by another woman automatically triggers women to want to flash Gucci, Chanel, and Fendi to other women," Wang said. "A designer handbag or a pair of expensive shoes seems to work like a shield, where wielding a Fendi handbag successfully fends off romantic rivals."
The study also revealed that women are more likely to desire expensive products and spend up to 32 percent more on them when they feel that their romantic relationship is in jeopardy.
This isn't the first study to look at the connection between material goods and infidelity. In June 2013, a survey by dating site Ashley Madison discovered that cheating wives' favorite shopping destination is Banana Republic. And a similar study carried out by Illicit Encounters, a UK based infidelity dating site, found that adulterers prefer to drive Audis.
Click through the slideshow below to see cheating wives' favorite stores, according to AshleyMadison.com.