The “Girlfriend Effect” Is TikTok’s Latest Fashion Secret

Retail therapy is the new couples therapy.

Elite Daily; Stocksy

When content creators Michelle, 25, and Andy, 28, first started dating, Andy’s date night attire consisted of basketball shorts and a T-shirt, while Michelle would spend hours choosing the right outfit, taking an everything shower (IYKYK), and doing her hair and makeup just right. “As our relationship progressed, I got into a habit of helping Andy pick out clothes I thought he’d look great in,” Michelle tells Elite Daily. She’d also send him outfit inspiration videos and curated Pinterest boards to help expand his sartorial palate.

Over the span of their seven-year relationship, Andy’s closet transformed from a rotation of worn-out graphic tees, school uniform-esque khaki shorts, and unflattering colors, to a capsule wardrobe of timeless button-downs, tailored trousers, and shades that compliment his skin tone.

Michelle knew he was making changes little by little, but it wasn’t until one day while scrolling on TikTok that she noticed how drastically his style had shifted. “I came across the ‘girlfriend effect’ trend, which basically shows how much your partner has physically changed from prior to the relationship versus years later,” she says. “It immediately made me realize how differently Andy presents himself now.”

For the last three years, on the couple’s joint account, @Andy.And.Michelle, they’ve frequently taken part in TikTok dating trends (who remembers the pheromone perfume experiment?) and shared them with their 7 million followers. So, it comes as no surprise that in September, when Michelle posted a “girlfriend effect” video — a comparison between photos of Andy from seven years ago and more recent ones — it immediately went viral. Michelle’s TikTok gained over 10 million views from viewers who were shocked at the intensity of Andy’s glow-up. One said, “He looks so good I’m convinced this is not the same man.”

The #girlfriendeffect now has over 149 million views, and couples like Michelle and Andy are showing how much their partners have impacted their lives — from new and improved haircuts to upgraded hygiene (for example, opting out of their three-in-one shampoo, conditioner, and body wash). While it might seem like a surface-level trend all about physical appearances, for these TikTok creators, it’s actually strengthened their romantic relationships as well as their self-love and self-confidence.

The Glow-Up Goes Beyond A Cute New Wardrobe

The girlfriend effect first became popular at the end of August, when actor Gabe Escobar (@gabesco) shared a series of photos in chronological order that recounted how his style, hair, and overall demeanor had changed since he made things official with his girlfriend. Thousands of people flooded the 21-year-old’s comment section, realizing they too had taken part in the girlfriend effect. One commenter said, “Omg my girlfriend did this to me and I’ve literally never looked better,” while another posted, “The girlfriend effect I had on my ex should be studied.”

While some people are shocked at the impact their partners have, for married couple Sushmitha, 27, and Dr. Tushar, 28, the choice to upgrade was deliberate. “My partner would often see me putting a lot of effort into how I styled myself, and he inquired why,” Sushmitha, who’s a legal auditor, tells Elite Daily. “I explained what fashion and style meant to me, and he had never understood that those factors could be so closely related to how the world perceives you.”

Before Sushmitha’s influence, a large portion of Tushar’s confidence came from external validation. “I held standards for myself to go to the gym and hold a strict diet, but that was genuinely not enough for me mentally,” the physician, who specializes in longevity medicine, tells Elite Daily. But when he began experimenting with fashion, he was able to release his worry about how people perceived him and focus more on making himself feel good. “The knowledge of how to dress my frame in a way that feels like ‘me’ has allowed me to feel so confident in my skin,” he says. “I’m so grateful I learned this skill from my wife.”

If you take a look at Sushmitha’s video, you’ll see that in Tushar’s “before” photos, he looked stiff and uncomfortable in clothes that clearly didn’t fit his figure, but also didn’t align with current trends (see: the bowtie and suspenders combo). His “after” pics, however, are a completely different story. Thanks to Sushmitha, he ditched the suspenders and vibrant button-downs for monochromatic neutral numbers and plenty of versatile blazers — not to mention a new polished haircut and beard trim.

This Transformation Can Strengthen Your Relationship

After seeing the rise of trendy aesthetics like quiet luxury and coastal grandmother, Alexia, 23, a lab assistant, and Exe, 21, who works in education, started to influence each other’s styles at the same time. As Alexia began to swap Exe’s go-to pieces — his distressed denim jacket and particularly holey jeans — for versatile knits and a variety of different-colored pants from smaller brands, this process evolved into a meaningful experience for them as a couple. “Alexia helped me find the best version of myself fashion-wise, but also in other aspects of life — she taught me how to maintain a peaceful mindset and communicate openly (which comes in handy while shopping),” Exe tells Elite Daily.

Their TikTok video, which now has almost 16 million views, showed that with just a few simple sartorial swaps, Exe’s self-confidence exploded. He stood up straighter, his OOTD poses were more natural and authentic, and he even started to match his girlfriend’s stylish selections in couple pics. “The girlfriend effect captured us essentially growing up together and learning what we needed from each other,” he says. “We became strong individually so we could be stronger as a couple.”

Similarly to Exe, Andy also believes the girlfriend effect transformed his entire outlook — he even says it was the best thing to happen in his life, other than being with Michelle, obviously. “Michelle pushed me to explore different looks and helped me gain confidence in not just how I look on the outside, but how I felt on the inside as well,” Andy says. “She really showed me and taught me how to love myself, which in turn, helped me love her the way she deserves, too.”