We are always taught not to judge a book by it's cover and therefore, neither should we judge a person by their appearance. However, when Curley's wife first appears halfway through chapter two, both the reader and George see her as a flirtatious "tart" and being the only woman, she can use her power of beauty - and she knows it!
John Steinbeck always introduces the characters with their description first, whether it be Lennie and his '`wide sloping shoulders" or Curley with his "head of tightly curled hair" and this helps the reader to imagine the characters. Curley's wife's description is very detailed down to her "little rolled clusters" of hair and this makes it easy to judge her character; a pretty, dolled-up woman with an annoying "nasal" whiny voice who will always get her own way. Perhaps that was what Steinbeck intended, not only to have the other men take interest in her, but also the audience.
At first, the audience just gets her description and although at that point they haven't gotten onto the details of her character I definitely had a feeling of distaste for her. Her almost perfect appearance has flaws and although they are minor, stick out like a sore thumb. Her hair is perfectly rolled in clusters, but they look "like sausages." She wears a face full of make-up and red mules with little bouquets, but she only wears a cotton house dress. If these details had not been there, she would have definitely seemed like a perfectly spotless woman but their presence gives some uncertainty.
Yet there is also something about her perfect features that seem wrong. Why does she have a face full of make-up if she only wears a cotton house dress and why does her hair look like sausages? Perhaps this is where the reader realises they have just read her appearance like a cover which hides her true self. She is unable to make her curls perfect and the make-up covers her facial expressions.
George, being fairly smart knows from the Swamper that she uses her beauty to "poison" the other guys. After all, she has given both Slim and Carlson "the eye" which shows she has been getting around a lot whilst "lookin' for Curley." Curley's wife clearly knows what she's doing and the repetition of red on her appearance gives a killer aura about her. Her appearance is not the only way she draws attention, but her physical movements like when she "twitched her body" points all eyes on her, so it's hard not to "blame a person for lookin'."
Therefore, her appearance and her attitude are not necessarily real. As she is the only woman, she must somehow stand up for herself and the only way in which she could do this is by controlling them through a sexual, flirtatious manner, despite the fact she had only just become married two weeks beforehand. Although, Curley seems to have control over her as she was suddenly apprehensive when she is told he is back at the house and she is not known as a name apart from being the possession of Curley.
Although now women still take the name of their husband, they are not controlled as much. They don't need to cover themselves in an invisible shield (unless they are really that desperate) and they are free to leave their own house. So changes towards women over the many decades have taken place to make them more equal to men.