"Did not the Abbe F-M say: 'Lost is that man who sees a beautiful woman descending a noble staircase', and were not both these ingredients here, and ready to her hand? What else but a staircase could so perfectly set off the jewel she had made of Elfine?"A character who has been presented to the audience as not particularly attractive cleans up, puts on nice clothes (or fancy clothes) and is suddenly stunningly attractive. If it's a female, she may originally be dowdy, unfashionable, a Tomboy or Wrench Wench, or simply not particularly attentive to her appearance. If it's a male character, he may be slovenly or sloppy. Either gender may be impoverished and therefore shabby in their normal appearance. For non-native English speakers (or anyone who's confused), the trope name refers to the subject cleaning herself nicely — all prettied up for admiration. Every adaptation of "Cinderella" ever has this moment as the abused scullery maid arrives at the ball with her Fairy Godmother powered ballgown. Possibly the Trope Maker. Wrench Wenches are likely to have at least one scene like this. Tomboys and The Lad-ette also often have a moment like this — often tagged with a "Hey, I guess you really are a girl." This happens to the Undercover Model for work-related reasons. Sister Trope to Beautiful All Along, Princess for a Day, Hollywood Homely and Bathe Her and Bring Her to Me. Occasionally involves a Pimped-Out Dress, but regular clothing will do. May be part of a Rags to Royalty situation. Sometimes overlaps with She Is All Grown Up. Contrast Unkempt Beauty, where she doesn't need to be cleaned up to look nice. Be aware of the Unnecessary Makeover where this trope doesn't work.
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Anime & Manga
- Daimakaicho Hagall from Ah! My Goddess. When she first meets Hild, she's dressed in rags and looks like she's destitute. Hild takes her as her apprentice, gaining a tremendous boost in beauty and status.
- Akane-iro ni Somaru Saka uses this. All of the girls dress up and appear, getting a vague response from the main character. Then his sister shows up (late to the entrance) and he's dumbfounded. She's squicked by this, and he's berated by his fiancée (part of the first group).
- Deunan of Appleseed stunned everyone when she turned up for Hitomi's birthday party in a stylish dress, specially designed by Muiccia Prada
- It was even lampshaded by one of the people present. Not surprising, considering the vast difference from Deunan's usual tomboy-ish looks.
- Kakeru from Area no Kishi notices this when he reunites with childhood friend Seven. She appears far more feminine than he remembered from their days in elementary school.
- Nadja Applefield from Ashita no Nadja embodies the trope whether dolled up via Leonardo and Thierry or wearing her Gorgeous Period Dress inherited from her Missing Mom. When said gown is destroyed by Rosemary, with help of Grandma Anna Nadja sews the intact top part into a new dress.
- Liechtenstein, Ukraine and Hungary from Axis Powers Hetalia. The first looks very cute in a blue ballgown, the second is quite a babe in her national dress, and Finland got a picture of the third wearing a very elegant Pimped-Out Dress during the Hetalia Bloodbath 2010.
- In Berserk, Casca, who usually goes around in men's clothing, short hair and non-Stripperiffic armour, is seen for the first time in a very nice, feminine dress upon Griffith's brief triumph after defeating Midland's king's rivals. Guts' priceless blank stare upon seeing her dressed this way is one of the series' very rare Crowning Moments Of Funny.
- City Hunter: Kaori has sometimes put on a long wig and fooled her partner Ryo Saeba. In episode 137, an old friend of her buys Kaori fashionable clothes, and, with her wig, starts successfully dating Ryo at night. "Cinderella" was even the French title.
- Subverted in Code Geass, where Nina Einstein is all dressed up in the pre-wedding celebration but is still much more confident at work as a scientist, which is demonstrated by comparison to matter. However, played straight with Milly Ashford on the same occasion and Cecile Croomy earlier. Absolute Cleavage indeed.
- Faye from Cowboy Bebop is not a slouch in the looks department to start with, being Miss Fanservice for the show. But when circumstances in "Ballad Of Fallen Angels" call for her to drop her usual trashy outfit and do up not only her hair but also makeup and wardrobe to pass for a high-class opera patron, the effect on her is impressive. Too bad the Big Bad was waiting for her with a bunch of goons anyway.
- Miranda Lotto in D.Gray-Man. It was a shock for most readers when they saw her for the first time. Only for Miranda to become like this after she gained her Innocence and self-confidence for the first time in her life.
- Daily Lives of High School Boys have Nago—not that she had done that, but a convex mirror shows that she will look quite cute if she loses some weight.
- In Demashita! Powerpuff Girls Z, Kaoru/Buttercup gets her hair done and is dressed up nicely in the episode where she gets a crush on a guy with big muscles. She looks so different that the Professor and his son Ken didn't even recognize her. Momoko/Blossom and Miyako/Bubbles even managed to up it to eleven when they taught Kaoru manners.
- Used in a somewhat weird way in the seventh Detective Conan movie. When Kazuha and Heiji were little, they visited Kazuha's family in Kyoto. Little Heiji ran off to a temple, and while waiting for him little Kazuha was dolled up in a kimono and got her hair done by her relatives. Little Heiji then saw her playing under the Cherry Blossoms, but didn't recognize her... and "that girl from Kyoto" remained in his memory as "his First Love". Since the movie had a subplot in which Heiji was searching for the anonymous girl he once liked, it means Kazuha was jealous of... her dolled up little girl self. And Heiji didn't find out until the end of the movie, when he heard Kazuha sing a song that the "girl from Kyoto" was singing when he saw her.
- Louise in The Familiar of Zero. Saito always thinks Louise is cute (physically, anyway), but her attitude is less tsun-tsun and more dere-dere at parties.
- Kaname of Full Metal Panic! does this to Sōsuke while posing as an older, married, and sexually frustrated woman. It works amazingly. She also pulls it with a kimono, shocking everyone.
- Cagalli had this trope deliberately invoked on her in the Gundam SEED first season. Twice. She wasn't really amused in any occasion.
- Gundam 00:
- Louise Halevy puts on a nice pink kimono while visiting Japan. In the second season, she makes a really beautiful Elegant Gothic Lolita during a ball.
- Tieria Erde not only dresses up really nicely for the same second season party, but mixes this with Wholesome Crossdresser.
- Setsuna also cleaned up nicely in that same ball. Seeing him in a black suit was a very, very nice surprise.
- Happens during a Fancy Dinner scene in GUN×SWORD, with Wendy borrowing a fancy dress, taking her hair out of pigtails, and using makeup. Her dinner companion doesn't even recognize her at first. In context, his surprise may have a lot to do with the fact that she looks older—like a young woman rather than a child—than she does in her usual clothing.
- Not that Chizuru in Hakuouki wasn't already cute, even when disguised as a boy, but her dolled up as a meiko◊ in the OVA caused several of the captains, including Saitou and Hijikata, to stop and stare.
- Kurumi in Haou Airen fits very well in a Qipao and in a bridal gown.
- During the Greece Arc of Hayate the Combat Butler, Hayate winds up trying to pay back Hinagiku to show his appreciation for all her help. To do so he takes her out to a very fancy restaurant and tries very hard to put aside his troubling plot-related thoughts to ensure that she has a wonderful evening. He needn't have bothered as Hinagiku showed up a moment later wearing an elegant dress and looking literally stunning. As in Hayate's thoughts just stopped and he wound up staring at her for a few minutes until she brought him back to reality.
- In HeartCatch Pretty Cure! episode 23, everyone's got their eyes on Itsuki after she first transforms into Cure Sunshine and later, when she first debuts in female clothing during the fashion club's trip in episode 25.
- Isao from Inside Mari is a scraggly looking hikkikomori with Messy Hair and a permastubble. When he decided to get a part-time job he cut his hair and shaved his beard. It ended up making him look considerably younger.
- In Kamisama Kiss Tomoe has this reaction to Nanami after she gets some fashion help from Himemiko.
- Kimi ni Todoke: normally Sawako's look wavers between scary or rather plain (except when she smiles from the heart). After a surprise makeover and a butterfly hairclip from Yano and Chizu, though, she broke the pretty barrier.
- No one recognizes her, but Sanae Dekomori in Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions actually turns out to be pretty good-looking when she has her hair down and acts like a normal person.
- Asuna in Mahou Sensei Negima!, once she lets her hair down and stops being overly violent for a bit.
- New Game!:
- In Chapter 23, Kou is forced to wear dressier clothes and do her hair for an interview. Aoba and Rin remark that she looks really cute that way.
- In the fourth volume Yun reveals she was pretty dorky when she was in school, complete with Opaque Nerd Glasses. The present-day version of her is quite a cutie in Elegant Gothic Lolita fashion (and no glasses).
- Koala in One Piece was found by Fisher Tiger's crew, starting out like this◊, understandable since she was previously a slave. After spending some time with them, she looked like this◊. Hatchan even lampshaded how she has changed.
- Ouran High School Host Club's Haruhi cleans up nicely in the first chapter/episode going from frumpy and disheveled to a Bifauxnen. She's also dolled up during the Christmas ball to help get two fiancés back together, complete with a wig, dress, and makeup. She complains about it and states that her face feels heavy with all the makeup, and that it's hard to walk in the heels the boys gave her.
- In another male example, Brief from Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt cleans up very nicely after he pulls up his hair. Despite the angels hating on him at first and didn't mind him dying from the villains, when he changes into his Bishōnen form he ends up having sex with Panty.
- Misty has done this from time to time. The infamous example of her wearing a kimono at the Summer Festival and actually rendering Ash speechless comes to mind. She also looked particularly stunning in some later episodes as a Lovely Assistant and as a mermaid.
- Also, in one episode, Ash and Company met a girl who dresses and acts tough. At the end of the episode, when she invoked the trope, Brock reacted the way he usually does around beautiful girls, which prompted her into resuming her boyishness.
- Subverted in Private Prince, where female lead Miyako looks extremely good but is terribly uncomfortable and trips over her high heels and long dress... in front of Will, the lead male.
- Madoka, of Puella Magi Madoka Magica, is considered to be fairly plain (by the show's standard, anyway). Upon her Abstract Apotheosis, she looks properly majestic (though the hair and wings certainly help).
- Ranma ½:
- Akane gets Ranma but good twice, at the start and conclusion of the final story arc, when he sees her in a wedding kimono (first instance) and then in a Western-style wedding dress. Of course, she dresses up in fancy dresses whenever she can and usually does look pretty good, it's just that those two are the most prominent.
- Also Ukyō in the Episode "Ukyō's Skirt, The Great Girly-Girl Gambit". Ukyō looks so stunning in a Fūrinkan girl's uniform that Kunō promptly decides to start courting her as well as Akane and "the pigtailed girl". Even Ranma only recognizes her because she's still carrying her giant spatula. Unfortunately for her, while all of the other guys at school wanted to date her, Ranma still didn't seem to get that what she wanted was to try and give their relationship a boost. Between that, and the fact it ended up in a contest where Ranma got beaten up by all of the other guys, she stopped wearing it out of remorse. She does occasionally dress up in more feminine garb, though the series has something of a Limited Wardrobe for her. She only wears the girl's uniform one other time, in her final appearance, and lampshades it in the original Japanese.
- A male example occurs with Ranma, in a brief storyline in which Kodachi brings him as her date, to be compared to her rival's date. When said rival sees Ranma for the first time, he'd just been run over by a herd of cows and hardly looked his best. When he shows up at the actual date, cleaned up and looking awesome in a suit, the rival actually is impressed.
Akane: I'll show her! When you dress Ranma up, he can be plenty cool!
- In the same arc, Akane becomes very offended when the rival insults Ranma. So, she helps make him look handsome for the date and mentally lampshades this trope while doing it.
- In Record of Lodoss War Deedlit, wearing an extravagant white gown, walks down the stairs with Parn, who is having a LOT of trouble looking her in the eye. Subverted slightly as he spends most of the ball ignoring her advances and swooning over a famous hero.
Deedlit: Ah, this dress is so tight! Seriously, I don't know how you court ladies can wear these things ever day...
- And Deedlit herself is so uncomfortable with the Pimped-Out Dress that she whines quite a bit at first, too.
- Oscar in Rose of Versailles. She dressed like a man every day of her life, except one, at a ball, where she decided to go as a woman, in order to impress Fersen. It will work in a kind of way, but before it worked even more on her manservant and future lover André. The idea of Oscar in dress made him furious in manga, burst into laughter in anime... but in both, he stopped and looked amazed when Oscar showed up at the top of stairs in her white odalisque dress. And so were the guests at the ball later.
- In the first chapter of Rurouni Kenshin, Kenshin remarked how different Kaoru looked in her formal, feminine kimono compared to when they first met and she was wearing her scruffy dojo uniform.
- At the end of the anime-only Shimabara arc, the tomboyish Misao puts on a cute and frilly dress and uses a Parasol of Prettiness. Sanosuke doesn't recognize her.
- Pai in the first chapter of 3×3 Eyes.
- Played straight in the Sekainohate De Aimashou chapter "Prom Boy" except the "girl" in question is actually a reluctant involuntary Gender Bender.
- Played for Laughs in episode 85 of Shugo Chara! Doki. The Guardians go to a fashion event, so the girls wake up early to pick stylish outfits for the occasion. However, Nagihiko shows up a little late, and once he arrives, the others are in shock when they see him in clothes that manage to be even more stylish than the girls'◊, complete with Bishie Sparkle. His justification makes the scene even funnier.
Nagihiko: I couldn't decide what to wear, so I ended up running behind.Amu: And it looks like we have a winner...
- Even Amy Rose has done this on Sonic X, complete with the reaction from Sonic himself.
- Inverted in Sore ga Seiyuu!. When Yui Horie first shows up in Episode 5, she looks like she just got out of bed. The dissonance between that look and how she looks in public appearances is enough for Ichigo to have to call her Hoi Yurie just to process it.
- When Maka of Soul Eater shows up in Soul's soul, wearing heels and a black ballgown. he's rather shocked. Also in chapter 111 during the battle.
- Steins;Gate - The Sagacious Wisdom of Cognitive Computing #3 reveals that Okabe is capable of turning Kurisu into a red-faced, panting wreck of hormones with the right clothes.
- In Urusei Yatsura: Ryūnosuke, who is easily the most manly character in the show, has an episode dedicated to her struggle to become feminine. She really only wished to wear a sailor suit, but ends up wearing Audrey Hepburn's iconic Ascot dress from My Fair Lady. Before◊ and After◊.
- Victorian Romance Emma: Emma is convinced to attend a ball, and is shown to clean up nicely when she wears a ball gown and no glasses in comparison with her usual maid outfit and glasses.
- Hitomi in Vision of Escaflowne. When she borrows one of Millerna's Pimped Out Dresses, Van can't help but spend the entirety of the dinner conversation just gawking dumbly at her (or Dope Slapping Merle for getting in the way of his gawking dumbly at her).
- Continually subverted in The Wallflower — whenever the guys trick/force Sunako-chan into some proper clothes, Kyohei knows she's still the same person, and is (frustratingly) not quite cognisant of any attraction to her no matter how good she looks.
- Masane from Witchblade looks rather good when she gets dolled up for a party. Unfortunately, her personality and manners are exactly the same.
- In Yotsuba&!, even rival Man Child Jumbo is impressed with Miura's traditional dress and performance at the autumn matsuri.
- Anna from Yu-Gi-Oh! ZEXAL has come close to yandere status in her relations with Yuma, and a rare female case of Schoolyard Bully All Grown Up. Her tomboyish nature is even more evident in the original Japanese, where she uses "ore" (俺) when referring to herself (this is a pronoun that is predominantly used by males and very seldom used by females). Except at her mentor's wedding, that is. The flashback shows her in a nice white dress, and she pulls off the look quite well.
- Downplayed in Yuri!!! on Ice with Yuri Katsuki. While he's far from unattractive, there's a huge contrast with how he looks when he's wearing his glasses and his bangs are down with when the glasses are off and his hair is combed back.
- Used in Rapunzel's Revenge, by Shannon and Dean Hale, illustrated by Nathan Hale (no relation). It's a graphic novel that sets the fairy tale "Rapunzel" in the American Southwest and turns the title character into a hair-lassoing cowgirl.
- Yoko Tsuno isn't afraid to dress up in a kimono once when she's invited to have dinner in a German castle, much to the surprise of everyone who sees her ("A kimono! In my castle! This is definitely something to celebrate for!", says their host). She also dolls up when she and her partners spent the night in a Scottish castle, and later spends a whole chase scene in a dress.
- In the furry comic Ebin and May, Prince Ebin insists on having his girlfriend, May the servant girl, join him for a royal function. Lord Valkyn is against this since he thinks the humble rabbit doe would feel terribly out of place, but Ebin insists she'll do fine. Valkyn is instantly convinced when May joins them all properly made up and wonderfully dressed to look like something like the most idealized fairy tale princess while Ebin smugly enjoys his point being proven.
- Strangers in Paradise's Katchoo says this to Detective Walsh (and he to her) when he goes undercover to help her bust Darcy. The normally tomboyish and disheveled Katchoo is wearing a fancy evening dress and makeup.
- Inverted in the early Post-Crisis Wonder Woman, Myndi Mayer, publicist extraordinaire, first appears in a sleazy dress and jewelry when she comes to Julia Kapatelis' residence to talk turkey with the new superhero. After being told to take a hike by the Greek professor as a cheap opportunist, Mayer doesn't give up and asks for a meeting in her office. Princess Diana and Ms. Kapatelis decide to come to stop her harassment, and are stunned to see the publicist in plain casual clothes and pants with far more subtle makeup and thus looking cute as a button.
- Erstwhile demonstrates this trope while telling All-Fur, when the princess changes from her scruffy appearance to nice clothing for the ball. See it here.
- Hawkman is very much capable of this on the rare occasion he is out of costume.
- Loki's God of Stories incarnation was described in-universe as scruffy, this doesn't mean they can't rock the fashionable business woman or Sharp Dressed Man look when they need to, like when they're trying to run for president.
- On Luan Toni has long had a reputation of being tough (pretty much a prerequisite for a firefighter) but for her wedding, however...
- A central part of the "Persecuted Heroine" fairy tale type. This falls into two types:
- "Cinderella", where the heroine is oppressed at home (usually by her Wicked Stepmother, sometimes by her sisters) and given magical aid to go to some event (a ball, church, etc.). Others of this type include "The Hearth Cat", "The Maiden and The Fish", "The Sharp Grey Sheep", and "The Wonderful Birch".
- "Catskin", where the heroine must flee her home (usually because of her father) and take a job as a servant. She has brought along her dresses, or a magical way to get them, and can put them on for the ball or other event. Others of this type include "Katie Woodencloak", Joseph Jacobs's "Rashin-Coatie", "The Bear", The Brothers Grimm's "All-Kinds-Of-Fur", "The King Who Wished Marry To His Daughter", and "Cap o' Rushes".
- Joseph Jacobs's "Tattercoats" also is a variant of the Persecuted Heroine, but unusually enough, the prince falls in love with her when she's wearing her tatters; she is cleaned up only at the end to convince his father and the court that she is suitable to marry her guy.
- In another version of the tale, the prince agrees to marry her while she's in tatters but is confused as to why she goes around riding a goat and dressed in rags, while carrying a wooden spoon and with her face always dirty. With each question he has about her appearance (her mount, her clothing, her face, and her spoon), she replies that she only keeps those things because she wants to, and shows him that she is able to turn them into more beautiful things (a white horse, a gorgeous dress, a clean face, and a wand) should she desire. The prince gradually catches on and at the end, he doesn't even ask about the spoon, already knowing why she carries it.
- In "The True Sweetheart", the heroine dresses up for the ball in order to win back the prince, who had been enchanted into forgetting her.
- Also used in the Japanese tale "Hanako's big hat". The heroine is a Fallen Princess who hides her Memento MacGuffin (a small chest with a scroll that proves her heritage) under a huge straw hat, which she wears 24/7 and refuses to take off in public. She is taken in as a maid by a high-class samurai clan, and when the eldest son falls for her, she has to clean up nicely to be accepted by her beau's family and prove who she truly is.
- In a Gender Flipped variant, in "Bearskin", when the hero, appalling shaggy, filthy and ragged, but rich, rescues a man from financial distress, the man promises that he may marry one of his daughters. Only the youngest is willing. However, his appearance stemmed from a Deal with the Devil, and that being over, He Cleans Up Nicely and formally arrives at their house as a wooer — or, in some variants, at his own wedding. Somewhat subverted, in that while the older sisters are impressed, the youngest, being the sort who would marry a hideous man to redeem her father's promise, ignores him until he proves that handsome as he is, he is still the same man whom she promised to marry.
- Implied but not fully stated in All This Sh*t is Twice as Weird. Mahanon is extremely amused to watch his co-Inquisitor Victoria being fitted for a dress while also discussing tactics for an upcoming invasion. He makes no observations about her cleaning up nicely, but he does notice that her love interest - with whom she's discussing the invasion - is quite distracted.
- The Child of Love: In chapter 5 Asuka wears a kimono to go to the Obon festival. Shinji notices several times that she seems real cute in that dress.
- In Children of Time, Sherlock Holmes stares speechlessly at Beth Lestrade (whom he's only ever seen in modern or street boy clothing) when she shows up in a dress. Cue further awe at two more elegant dresses later on...
- Gender-flipped in Cinderjuice, although some potent magic is involved. Of course, it is a Cinderella spoof.
- A Crown of Stars: Female and male example. Hikari usually wears plain, ordinary clothes and her hair is braided in Girlish Pigtails; her boyfriend Touji also dresses very plainly. In chapter 40 both dress for a party and Toji looks good, whereas Hikari looks stunning.
The Eva Pilots’ former classmates joined the group. Asuka blinked in surprise. Suzuhara was wearing a dark green Imperial Army cadet’s uniform just like Shinji, but had just a single row of three ribbons on his. ‘A Purple Heart, 2015 Angel War Campaign ribbon, and the Eva Pilot’s Badge. Well, I guess he gets all three from his one technical mission,’ Asuka noted. But it was her friend Hikari who was the stunner. Her habitual pig-tails and student uniform look was gone, replaced with an elegant black cheongsam with a dragon coiled around her body picked out in silver embroidery, and her hair was now styled into a slightly longer than shoulder length cut with a fringe above her eyes, set off by thin lighter brown highlights throughout. “Wow, Hikari. You look good. And Suzuhara almost looks like a civilized person worthy of hanging out with you, instead of an overgrown monkey in a track suit.”
- Doing It Right This Time:
- The trio of time-travellers found Hikari right when she was about to go out with Touji. She had got ready to their date, and the kids were shocked at how pretty she looked.
It took Shinji a moment to realise who he was looking at. She was wearing her hair loose in ringlets instead of her usual pigtails, along with artfully applied makeup that made her look a few years older. It was also the first time he'd seen Hikari out of her school uniform, and the rather adventurously-cut sundress and court heels were not the kind of thing he'd imagined the famously strait-laced Class Representative wearing at weekends.
- And shortly later Rei got a makeover. The results were stunning:
Asuka couldn't quite hold back a gasp. The dress was a deep blue that set off Rei's eyes and complexion wonderfully, and while it was technically quite modest -it only showed about as much actual skin as her school uniform- it followed and flattered the curves of her body almost as closely as a swimsuit. A pair of strappy sandals with four-inch heels completed the ensemble, doing wonderful things to the shape of her calves and...
- The trio of time-travellers found Hikari right when she was about to go out with Touji. She had got ready to their date, and the kids were shocked at how pretty she looked.
- Evangelion 303: Rei is considered plainly cute. Then she starts experimenting and she seems stunning.
- HERZ: Asuka looks downright striking in her wedding gown:
Asuka, despite the eyepatch and arm harness, looked stunning in form-fitting beaded bodice with a chain belt across her waist.
- Played straight in the Groj Band fanfic Cinderella Rock Girl, a Cinderella-esque parody. Laney fills in the role of the titular character, so Trina, acting as the Fairy Godmother, turns a white bedsheet into a beautiful diamond gown, completing the outfit with diamond eyeshadow, a white hair bow, and glass slippers. Nonetheless, she looks absolutely stunning. One person's fanart takes the described beauty Up to Eleven.
- Once More with Feeling: In episode 15 Asuka, Rei and Hikari got ready to attend she school dance. When they arrived at the place the dance was held, everyone -including their dates- stared at them open-mouthed. Hikari especially drew many stares of people could not believe how beautiful the usually plain-looking class representative looked.
- Jackie Jakobs in Origins, a Mass Effect/Star Wars/Borderlands/Halo Massive Multiplayer Crossover, provides an In-Universe example of this trope. She was pulled off the streets by Mad Moxxi, earning room and board by slinging drinks in one of Moxxi's many bars. Naturally, this required cleaning Jackie up from her previous appearance.
- Rip Van Winkle in Zero's Bullet is often described as plain if not outright mannish. Then she's forced to wear a dress while her suit is being repaired and Guiche falls head over heels for her, describing Rip as "the most beautiful woman he's ever seen". This stays in effect later as her suit becomes too damaged to salvage and Louise buys her some more flattering clothing (though Rip draws the line at dresses).
Film — Animation
- The beginning of the song "Beauty and the Beast" in Disney's Beauty and the Beast. In a variation, both Belle and Beast are cleaning up nicely. Belle's part in it is downplayed (since we've seen her in fancy gowns before) and the focus is on the Beast cleaning up for her.
- Aladdin has never been bad looking but looks especially dashing in his formal "Prince Ali" attire. The trope here is invoked for audience reaction - as he's pretending to be someone else and Jasmine doesn't recognise him.
- Tarzan plays this as a Tear Jerker when he appears dressed in his father's suit - because it means he now looks like a human gentleman instead of the boy raised by apes (and is, therefore, ready to leave his home in the jungle).
- The beginning of the ballet scene in Anastasia (ends in the "what are you staring at?" vein). She gets a smaller moment like this earlier (with the same guy) when she has a new dress bought for her as they get onto the boat. Previously she'd only been seen in her grubby peasant clothes.
- Tanya Mousekewitz gets this kind of effect in An American Tail: Fievel Goes West after a makeover from Miss Kitty. Even the cats in the saloon take notice.
- A variation in Tangled: Rapunzel's clothing doesn't change, but when Flynn gets four little girls to fix up her hair so it doesn't drag on the ground while they're touring the kingdom, Rapunzel ends up looking even cuter than before. Flynn's face when he sees the final result has the name of this trope written all over it.
- Over the Hedge has a little makeover for Stella who, with a haircut and comb run through her fur, looks really pretty. For a skunk.
- Mulan shows up for preparation to meet the Matchmaker all messy from her fast ride in. The washerwoman even says "we are going to turn this sow's ear into a silk purse", and Mulan indeed looks very nice when dolled up. It's played with in the fact that Mulan is somewhat uncomfortable with dressing up like a bride. She gets a downplayed moment later when she and her friends disguise themselves as concubines to sneak into the palace - as she puts on a beautiful blue dress. It's notably the first time any of the men - including Shang - have seen her in women's clothes.
- In Looney Tunes: Back in Action, Bugs presses a button in Damian Drake's car that dresses him and Kate in formal; attire. "Eh, you clean up nice, kid."
- Wreck-It Ralph has Vanellope Von Schweetz transformed into a princess after crossing the finish line, looking quite adorable. Subverted as she prefers her regular clothes (no slouch in the cute department there, either).
Ralph: So...this is what you were all along. A princess.Vanellope: Aw, come on, Ralph. What are you talkin' about? This isn't me...(glitches out of the princess get-up into her regular clothes) This is me!
- Tiana in The Princess and the Frog. In a variation, it's her friend Charlotte who expresses this. It also happens near the beginning of the movie. Tiana had previously only worn her work clothes. It also leads to her being mistaken for a real princess by the titular frog.
- Pocahontas didn't get one in her first movie but got two scenes in the sequel. The first was Played for Laughs as she walked into John Rolfe's room asking "how do I look?" — not realising she's only wearing undergarments. The second time is a straighter example as she descends the staircase in a ballgown.
- Elsa in Frozen. In her case, it's her sister Anna who expresses this when she sees Elsa in her Snow Queen outfit for the first time. Not that Queen Elsa was bad-looking, just repressed.
Anna: Whoa, Elsa, you look... different. It's a good different!
- Near the end of Quest for Camelot when Kayley steps into the room in her white dress. Her love interest is blind, however, so we don't get a reaction shot out of him.
Film — Live Action
- The non-canonical The Dukes of Hazzard: The Beginning, where Daisy is a mousy, nerdy, timid little girl … until the day she puts on a pair of tight cutoff jeans, wearing a shirt tied to show her midriff and lets her hair down –- and there you have a stunningly, ravishing, eye-candy hot-hot-hottie!
- In the 2008 Japanese film Ichi, hapless samurai Toma meets the title character — a blind swordswoman — when she is in a goze's customary rags. When she's called to play for the local yakuza boss to celebrate Toma's hiring as a bodyguard, though, he is visibly stunned by how she looks in a kimono.
- In Enchanted, the example is recursive. Giselle shows up at the ball (with Edward in tow) in this fashion. Funnily enough, the ball is an "old fashioned fancy dress" kind, involving clothing of the sort Giselle's been wearing for the whole movie — except now she shows up in a fairly simple modern-day dress. Robert still gets distracted away from his date Nancy, who is also dressed up fancily. The reason for Giselle's very striking effect is that she suddenly looks like a grown woman instead of a little girl playing dress-up with the Disney Princess dresses she'd worn until then.
- Used retroactively in the book and The Film of the Book Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. In the book, Harry wonders who that pretty girl in a blue dress on Victor Krum's arm is, and nearly falls over when he realizes it's Hermione; Ron has an even worse reaction. Used straight, however, in the movie (because nobody in the audience could ever fail to recognize Emma Watson). According to the extras in the DVD release, that was one of the hardest scenes for Daniel Radcliffe and Rupert Grint to get right, because although Ron and Harry had never seen Hermione all dolled up before, they had seen Emma done up to the nines on many occasions.
- In Titanic (1997) Rose DeWitt Bukater descends the grand staircase of the RMS Titanic, drawing the obligatory wide-eyed expression from Jack Dawson. However, most of their fellow passengers' comments are focused on the fact it's Jack who cleans up nicely. Molly even says "You shine up like a new penny!" Not to mention that Rose was wearing a rather pretty dress to dinner the night before. Seeing her dressed up would be a frequent event.
- The title character from Carrie. In the 70s film it's alluded to early on when Miss Collins suggests things she could do to her appearance for the prom. In the 2002 TV movie one of the girls immediately compliments Carrie on her ass.
- Batman Returns has Selina Kyle's transformation from mousy secretary into Catwoman. She then also looks very attractive when dressed up in civilian evening dress as well.
- My Fair Lady has this moment for Eliza just before the ball, when she comes downstairs from her room and Higgins sees her in her gown for the first time.
- The entire point of the movie Miss Congeniality. The scene where Gracie originally walks out of the hangar in a tight short knit dress with her hair up and makeup on, has all of her fellow FBI agents standing there with their jaws dropping. Then she stumbles on her heels and falls on her face immediately afterwards.
- Eric: (after Gracie trips) Oh yeah. That's her.
- Patrick and Kat have this effect on each other in 10 Things I Hate About You.
- In an inversion of the trope, Australia has the male lead follow the trope nearly to the letter at a charity ball.
- The Mummy (1999):
- Gender-inverted after Rick O'Connell is rescued from the gallows. His shiny reappearance is nicely timed to Evelyn's rant about what a filthy, rude, complete scoundrel he is.
- Evie herself gets a moment like this; before they go on their expedition we are used to seeing her in dowdy and plain librarian's clothes, but after they escape from the ship Evie appears wearing an Bedouin-inspired black dress and veil. Which certainly made Rick's eyes widen.
- In the pee-wee football themed movie Little Giants, Becky "Icebox" O'Shea (a girl who plays halfback) falls in love with the team's quarterback and decides to go be a cheerleader instead, cleaning up nicely in the process. Of course, since the quarterback liked the girl who played halfback as opposed to a cheerleader, she un-cleans and wins the big game instead.
- Happens in Bend It Like Beckham, when the girls are in Germany and Jessminder has nothing to wear for the party.
- Steven Spielberg's Always. Holly Hunter's character is a pilot and dispatcher who always dresses in dirty overalls. Her boyfriend Richard Dreyfuss buys her a white dress for her birthday. She puts it on and all the other male pilots are stunned and they quickly wash their hands and line up to take turns to dance with her to "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes".
- In Watchmen, Laurie Jupiter walks down the stairs to the Owl Cave in her Silk Spectre outfit, in slow motion with music and Nite Owl open-mouthed.
- It happens to Cathy in Vacation from Marriage. She's played by Deborah Kerr, no less, so her transformation isn't so shocking.
- Male example in the first George of the Jungle movie;
Narrator: Later, in the Men's Department, after discovering his long lost brothers, the jungle king was pleased to find he looked pretty good in Armani.
George: Pretty darn good!
- Parodied in Not Another Teen Movie. Jenny goes downstairs in her new dress and without glasses, with her family and Jake just unable to believe their eyes, then suddenly a tread breaks and she falls to the bottom of the stairs.
- Downplayed in The Princess Diaries, despite it being the Trope Image. Mia gets two moments where she has to put on a fancy gown. The first has her descending the staircase - but the focus is more on her behaviour than her looks. The second is where she arrives late to the grand ball all wet from the rain outside. After she's made her speech, she changes into her Pimped-Out Dress. The sequel plays it for laughs when Lily has to dress up for Mia's wedding.
Lil: "I'm a girl who likes black and I'm wearing pink!"
- Jennifer Love Hewitt's character in Trojan War.
- Dragonslayer: After Valerian is revealed as a female to the hero Galen, she appears at a social event in feminine garb, causing jaws to impact the floor, including Galen's.
- Averted with Mui in Shaolin Soccer, she starts off as rather plain with acne and when she tries to doll herself up she looks even worse. She's at her most attractive when she shaves her head to pass herself off as a boy, and it's her martial arts/goalie skills that ultimately win over the male lead.
- Played straight in My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Toula starts off frumpy, and then later on she ditches the glasses in favor of contacts, and starts wearing makeup, proving she was Beautiful All Along.
- Jane's reaction to a fully restored Thor in Thor. Please note that she was already attracted to him before, when he was just an exceptionally well-built guy.
Jane : (grinning) This is how you normally look?Thor: More or less.Jane: It's a good look.
- Played subtly near the end of The Journey of Natty Gann, when Natty and Harry reach Seattle after days of hopping trains and hiking cross-country and Natty gets the chance to actually wash her face and comb her hair. Harry is visibly startled the first time he gets a good look at her after she's cleaned up.
- Played with in Some Kind of Wonderful. Tomboy Watts has spent the entire movie dressed in raggedy old hand-me-down men's clothes. In the last act, when she agrees to chauffeur her best friend (and crush) Keith and his crush, Amanda, around on their date, she decides to get dressed up. The effect is striking, and she's much more attractive—but she's wearing, not a dress, but a male chauffeur's uniform. Keith doesn't seem to mind.
- In the James Bond film Licence to Kill, CIA agent Pam Bouvier is insulted by the idea that she should play Bond's secretary, but when she shows up at the Bank in the dress she bought with the money Bond gave her, he's so stunned by how beautiful she looks that he does a Double Take.
- Casino Royale (2006) does this with Vesper. She was previously only dressed in business suits but has to wear an evening gown for the poker game. One that James personally selected. She gets a Hello, Nurse! reaction from the rest of the players but gets this from James, having entered from the wrong door deliberately to mess with him.
Methis: I don't think I need to tell you how beautiful you look. Half the men at that table are still staring at you"
- Iron Man: Pepper Potts starts off the film wearing drab business suits with her hair pulled back. But for the Stark charity gala halfway through the film, she styles her hair and wears a sexy backless dress, stunning her playboy employer, who finally starts looking at her as a romantic interest rather than just his long-suffering secretary.
- Laney Boggs from the teen movie She's All That. In this case it happens just before she's about to go to a party - overlapping with Beautiful All Along. When she goes to the prom later in the movie, it doesn't happen a second time (though she does still look nice).
- A variation where it happens in Snow White: A Tale of Terror near the start of the film. Our first image of the older Lilli is her in a nightgown, so she arrives at the ball wearing her mother's dress to the surprise of many guests.
- In Calamity Jane, the title character is constantly wearing unfeminine apparel and even gets mistaken for a man once or twice due to her clothing choices. It makes the moment later on when she attends a ball and takes off her big, thick coat, revealing a dress and lovely figure, a shock to everyone present. And when Bill - her date - sees her with her coat off, he thinks she's someone else before it mentally clicks in two seconds later and he turns around, stunned and mouth agape. The rest of the men at the ball are pleasantly surprised along with him.
Calamity: How come all these galoots wanna dance with me? At that shindig down at Hogan's stable, none of them came around.
Bill: I didn't know.
Calamity: Spent most of the night chattin' with the mules.
Bill: Well, it's what I've been a tellin' ya all this time... You look better in a dress.
- Early on in the film, Bill accurately predicted that she'd fulfill this trope if she ever took the time to dress up.
Bill: Hey, Calam, do me a favor!
Bill: When you get to Chicage, notice the women, how they act and what they wear. Get yourself some female clothes and fixins'. You know, dresses, ribbons, perfume, things like that.
Calamity: Look, if you don't like the way I smell-
Bill: Oh, it ain't nothin' personal... Only if you ever crawled out of that deer hide and dolled up a bit, I got a hunch you'd be a passable pretty gal.
Calamity: ...Well. You can save your hunches for females that get their pictures took in long underwear. I ain't one of them!
Bill: (laughs loudly)
- Early on in the film, Bill accurately predicted that she'd fulfill this trope if she ever took the time to dress up.
- The Professional. 12-year old Mathilda usually dresses in Bare Your Midriff outfits, but she changes into a beautiful pink dress after Leon rescues her from the middle of DEA Headquarters. Then she starts talking about the importance of losing your virginity with someone you love, giving Leon a serious Oh, Crap! moment.
- A gender-inverted example in Underworld (1927), where Rolls Royce, once he combs his hair, shaves, and puts on a nice suit, is barely even recognizable as the hobo from before.
- Sabrina develops a more sophisticated fashion sense and self-confident persona after spending a few years in Paris, consequently becoming part of a Sibling Triangle with the sons of her father's boss.
- Jonas and Kelly in Squatters are dirty and bedraggled at the beginning of the movie, as they're homeless. After they bathe and dress up, they look pretty sharp.
- In A Girl Named Sooner, the unschooled little mountain child who grew up in a dirty shack is made pretty with the application of one bath and a new dress.
- Always: Dorinda Durston is shown on a fire aviation airstrip, surrounded by pilots, and mechanics and sooty firemen. For her birthday, her boyfriend gets her some "girl clothes", an off-the-shoulder form-fitting white dress, that has the entire house lining up to dance with her.
- Harry Potter
- There's the Yule Ball example under Film, above. Hermione gets a much straighter example in the seventh book. Ron's jaw drops and he says "wow" when he sees her dressed up in a lilac dress for Bill's wedding. Hermione then jokes that his crabby Aunt Muriel said she had "bad posture and skinny ankles".
- Madam Maxime is also described in very flattering terms when it comes to her choice of dress at the Yule Ball.
- Gaia Moore in one of the Fearless books, although Gaia does not recognize this about herself.
- Male example with Harry Dresden in The Dresden Files: Death Masks. Harry seems to enjoy the effect he has in his tuxedo when he goes to an art sales event with Susan to investigate Johnnie Marcone.
- In Changes it's Murphy who cleans up nicely. Although it's a cute pants outfit rather than a serious dress, and Harry never gets to see it because the book ends with him getting shot dead before Murph can show.
- Subverted in Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon; the modern-day female lead specifically doesn't undergo a dramatic Hollywoodesque transformation. She's as awkward in a formal dress as a tomboyish salvage diver might be expected to be, despite being quite attractive. This just serves to illustrate why he's attracted to her, though, so there's something of a similar effect.
- Kit has a scene like this in the book Cue for Treason by Geoffrey Tease.
- Another male example, courtesy of Louisa May Alcott. In Rose in Bloom, Rose Campbell must go to a social event and is told one of her seven cousins will go with her. She sees the guy waiting downstairs very elegantly dressed and thinks it's Charlie... but when he turns to stare at her, she's shocked when she realizes it's local bookworm Mackenzie aka Mac, the less fashion-versed of the guys, who wears clothes borrowed from his much more fashion-oriented younger brother Steve aka The Dandy. In fact, poor Mac is so "lost" at what to do that Rose has to help him fix his cape.
- Lessa in Dragonflight, who begins the book as a filth-encrusted drudge, gets this after a vigorous bath and acquires something of a bathing fetish thereafter. This trope is actually quoted by F'lar.
- Though she doesn't actually do so, Herrena the Henna-Haired Harridan, in The Color Of Magic, is implied to be the sort who would clean up well. Unlike most women depicted on fantasy cover art, though, she is described as wearing sensible mail and no leather (except the boots. However, the boots are not black leather).
- Redwall did this in Mariel of Redwall. Dandin is described as being surprised that the previously scruffy Mariel (then the amnesiac Storm Gullwhacker), after having been forced to take a bath and get a new green dress, could actually be pretty.
- Atlas Shrugged: Dagny Taggart, several times.
- Hero Series: Lee Mallorough, at least once in every book.
- In the Belgariad and its sequels, it's revealed that the regal, strikingly beautiful Polgara spent her life up to age sixteen being a filthy wreck with tangled hair, peeling skin (she doesn't tan well) and scabby knees. When her twin sister was getting married, Polgara decided to clean herself up and discovered that she was quite a looker once she'd had a bath and combed her hair straight. After the wedding Polgara went back to live with her father, Belgarath, and he complained that after being aggressively indifferent to her appearance, she went off the the other end of the scale, bathing every day, and brushed her hair to the point that on a cold day she'd build up a sizeable static charge, which would go off when she touched anything even remotely metallic.
- Occurs in an Anita Blake novel to what is described as Linda Hamilton from Terminator 2 on steroids in order to distract a group of men. Anita points out that said character has the most Common Superpower so all said character has to do is do up her hair.
- In the X-Wing Series, one of Corran Horn's friends tells another of his friends, and his love interest, about what he did one year at the Annual [CorSec] Awards Ball to make his date's night special. One part of this was ordering a new formal dress uniform, and it turned out that he cleaned up nicely.
- Gender-flipped and inverted in Chessmen of Mars, one of the John Carter of Mars books. Gahan, the Jed (Prince) of Gathol, first shows up to court Tara in a gloriously bejeweled outfit worthy of his wealth and status. She is unimpressed. When next they meet, he is in the garb of an ordinary warrior. She doesn't recognize him and falls head over heels.
- Inverted in Rats, Bats and Vats; the hero, Chip, has no interest in the heroine Virginia... until she gets nice and dirty.
- The Princess Bride, where it's played straight and then again not quite so straight. Buttercup starts out as incredibly pretty anyway but moves up to Number One in the "Most Beautiful in the World" Chart when she decides to clean herself up, "unearth the territory behind her ears," and comb her hair. She does it all for Westley, though, so it's also The Power of Love.
- Dairine in Wizards at War goes from jeans and a t-shirt to a gown and tiara using magic, also doubles as an involuntary flashing moment.
- Aragorn from The Lord of the Rings. When Frodo and company first encounter him in Bree, he is described as a gaunt-looking man, due to the long and hard years he has endured as a hunter and warrior in the wilds of Middle-Earth. When they reach Rivendell, he is noted to look much more noble and regal after cleaning himself up and wearing finer clothing. There are many points in the story (especially after receiving his family regalia in Lothlórien) where he is described as suddenly seeming taller and fairer and more obviously the heir of Númenórean royalty in the eyes of his companions.
- This occurs with Aragorn earlier in his life as well, as described in the appendices: when he enters Lothlórien for the first time, Galadriel dresses him up in rich, princely clothing like an Elven-lord, so that he might catch Arwen's eye.
- Inverted after the siege of Isengard. Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli are reunited with Merry and Pippin and can finally relax after weeks of chase and battle. They all sit down around a fire and Aragorn takes out a pipe for a relaxing smoke. To the surprise of the hobbits, he's no longer a lordly captain of war, but "merely" the man with whom they have travelled many miles to and from Rivendell. "Look! Strider the Ranger is back!"
- Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Huckleberry Finn, despite the widow's noble efforts, does not clean up nicely. In his own words: 'The widder's good to me, and friendly; but I can't stand them ways. She makes me get up just at the same time every morning; she makes me wash, they comb me all to thunder; she won't let me sleep in the woodshed; I got to wear them blamed clothes that just smothers me, Tom; they don't seem to any air git through 'em, somehow; and they're so rotten nice that I can't set down, nor lay down, nor roll around anywher's.'
- Alanna in Song of the Lioness gets tired of constantly looking male during her Sweet Polly Oliver routine. She gets Mistress Cooper's help in fitting a gown and "disguising" herself as a pretty noblewoman using a black wig. The first time she wore a dress, with George's mother helping her, both Jonathan and George walked in on them and both were promptly stunned by the pretty girl before them.
- In Bound by Donna Jo Napoli, a Chinese Cinderella story, main character Xing Xing spends most of the story as a lowly servant. It wasn't until she properly bathed, combed her tangled hair and dressed in her mother's old clothes that she becomes the beautiful and unrecognizable "Cinderella".
- In The Hunger Games, a not so small part of the preparation for the Hunger Games is all about cleaning up nicely. It appears to be more important than actually training combat skills. And while it can be assumed that the children from the first districts didn't need much "cleaning up" to be done, the people assigned to take care of Katniss nearly fainted when they saw her with her unplucked eyebrows, hairy legs, etc. Like Harry Potter above, this was lost in the film, given that "Katnip" was clearly quite attractive even before the Games.
- In L. M. Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables, Anne is introduced as wearing plain, unflattering outfits, having ungracefully long legs, and having orangish-red hair which most people in the book find unappealing. After Anne grows up and is given prettier outfits to wear, there are several points where her friends and various people in the town comment on how attractive she is. In particular, when Anne is giving a monologue for an event, it's mentioned that Gilbert Blythe is admiring how nice she looks in the white dress she's wearing.
- Happens to both Bertie and Peaseblossom in Eyes Like Stars.
- Echo Mockery in Ready, Okay! before her date with Fringie. Even her little sister and twin brother think she's incredibly hot, and Echo's date remarks that he's pleasantly surprised; he had no idea what she'd look like when she wasn't wearing a baggy sweatshirt.
- Beautifully subverted in A Storm of Swords: When Gendry sees Tomboy Princess Arya in a dress for the first time, he laughs so hard that wine comes out of his nose. (He does admit that she looks nice later, though.)
- Same with Brienne. She looks like a man in men's clothes. In women's clothes, she still looks like a man — she just looks like a man in a dress. Not helped by the fact that it's very hard to find a dress that fits her. And even when they do find a dress that fits and is flattering in cut and colour, Brienne is still not better-looking than plain.
- In The Rivers of Zadaa, the sixth book of D. J. MacHale's Pendragon series, Bobby is rendered drooling and speechless at the sight of Loor in a red dress, the first time she's not wearing her fur-and-leather warrior garb.
- In Gene Stratton-Porter's Freckles, Freckles does not recognize the bird woman at a party, because she has dressed for the occasion.
The curtains parted and a woman came toward them. Her silks and laces trailed across the polished floors. The lights gleamed on her neck and arms, and flashed from rare jewels. She was smiling brightly; and until she spoke, Freckles had not realized fully that it was his loved Bird Woman.
Noticing his bewilderment, she cried: "Why, Freckles! Don't you know me in my war clothes?"
- In The Fangs Of Kaath, Sandhri manages to finagle herself into the palace to find her love, Prince Raschid, and finds herself washed up and beset by tailors who manage to create a dress that best flatters her underweight figure. When Sandhri sees herself in the mirror, she is stunned and delighted to see herself transformed into the stuff of Arabian Nights sexual fantasies.
- In Devon Monk's Magic In the Shadows, Allie is struck by how Zayvion looks when he arrives for their date, and says, "Don't you clean up nice."
- Gender flipped in A Brother's Price, where Jerin was never ugly, but his Eldest sister is stunned to see him in his specially tailored court clothes.
Eldest: I don't know if I should let you out of the room dressed like that.
Jerin: I look silly.
Eldest: You look sensual, beautiful, and erotic. We'll be beating women off of you.
- Subverted horrifically in Rebecca, wherein the protagonist dreams of this exact scene happening at the costume ball; she even orders a Pimped-Out Dress with fitting wig, has her servant check if all the guests have arrived and has the band play a sting so she can have her big Crowning Momentof Awesome. This plan fails, of course, when it turns out her husband's former wife wore this exact costume the year before; that husband then yells at her to get changed and our heroine's perfect moment is ruined.
- Inverted in the Conan the Barbarian story The People of the Black Circle. Conan kidnaps the queen of Vendhya so that he can ransom her for the lives of his men. During their escape he convinces her to change into the clothes of a common woman so that she won't stand out. After she ditches her royal robes for peasant clothing, Conan remarks with approval how much more attractive she is without her fancy garments.
Conan: In those smoky, mystic robes you were aloof and cold and far off as a star! Now you are a woman of warm flesh and blood! You went behind that rock as the Devi of Vendhya; you come out as a hill-girl—though a thousand times more beautiful than any wench of the Zhaibar! You were a goddess—now you are real!
- In Julie Kagawa's The Iron Daughter, both Puck and Ash clean up nicely for the Winter Formal — Ash more so.
- Simona Ahrnstedt has done this with all her female protagonists so far. All three of them! They're usually considered plain-looking, but once they put on a fancy dress, they will of course look really good.
- Elizabeth Gaskell's Wives and Daughters has a very straightforward example in Roger and Molly. She is only a very dear friend to him, until he spies her in new clothes and done-up hair during a house party at a grand estate. The TV adaptation even throws in the Grand Staircase Entrance bit for good measure.
- Averted by Cinder in the first book of the Lunar Chronicles. She dons her stepsister's beautiful old gown to attend the ball but due to rain and her car crashing, she ends up completely soaked and oil-stained when she arrived. Not that she cares because the main reason she was going to the ball was to warn Prince Kai about Queen Levana's plan.
- At the end of the first book of The Grimnoir Chronicles, Francis is rendered speechless by Faye showing up for their date in a fancy dress and makeup. She lampshades it:
"Yeah. I do clean up pretty good, huh?"
- A subversion in both the book and film versions of To Kill a Mockingbird. When Mayella arrives at the trial, her poverty does not allow her to dress up nicely, but it's clear she's taken care to wash and groom herself the best she can. This is in contrast to her father, who looks like someone took a scrub brush to him. In the film version, she wears a shabby dress and bow in her hair, and the effect is quite sad. During an interview on the DVD extras, the actress states that wardrobe wanted her wear high heels. She said she would, if she could wear socks. When wardrobe told her no one wears socks with high heels, she told them "They do where I come from."
- Justified in Mistborn: The Original Trilogy with Vin, who spent the first sixteen years of her life living with thieving gangs and deliberately trying not to look attractive, for obvious reasons. Then she gets rescued by the heroes and gets dresses and a beauty treatment to allow her to infiltrate the nobility. She's quite a beauty in her noble guise.
- In Angelfall, to disguise herself as Raffe's consort to get into the aerie, Penryn dons a little red dress, strappy shoes, and makeup. Raffe is stunned for a moment when he first sees her like this.
- Journey to Chaos: When Tiza bothers to look after her appearance, she makes a pretty girl. The first instance was in A Mage's Power where she had to wear special clothes for a formal duel and the second was when she found a dress in Dengel's Cehian Lair. Nolien would remark on her beauty on these occasions but knows she doesn't appreciate such compliments.
- Happens in both directions in Heart of Steel when Alistair finally has a chance to treat Julia to dinner like he promised. His reaction to her all dressed up and styled to perfection (as opposed to haggard, disheveled, and unhappy) is a comical Jaw Drop, while she thinks he looks very dapper in his pseudo-Victorian tux rather than the lab coats that he'd been exclusively wearing up to this point.
Live Action TV
- Game of Thrones:
- Talisa Maegyr is shown to clean up nicely, without all the blood and gore that is.
- While the gaudy pink gown doesn't suit Brienne well, she still looks somewhat pretty in it, which is more than we can say for her book counterpart. In the novels, the pink dress makes Brienne seem more unattractive. Suffice it to say the leather tunic and blue riding skirt she wears during her time in King's Landing suit her far better.
- Ace Lightning: Jessica Fisgus, during the dance at the end of the first season.
- Angel: The titular character scores tickets for the opera. Everyone cleans up well, but Fred and Gunn, both of whom are probably the least upscale fashionable, seem to attract the most attention — especially from each other.
- Are You Afraid of the Dark?:
- In the episode, "The Tale of the Closet Keepers", the resident tomboy, Kiki gets one of these. When she is revealed to the Midnight society by Betty Ann, she even gets a whistle from Gary and Tucker incredulously says, "I don't believe it! You look like... Like a girl!"
- Happened again in "The Tale of the Mystical Mirror" which featured a girl starting work in a beauty shop. After a bit of primping by the owner, the girl walks out in a stylish black dress with full hair and make-up to the glee of her two co-workers. She's back to her normal clothes when she finishes work however.
- Arrow: The first few times Felicity removes her glasses and lets her hair down, it's presented this way Especially the first time when she goes from office work clothes with a ponytail to an evening dress with curls, and her crime-fighting partners Oliver and Diggle take a good few seconds to recognise her. Not that she wasn't attractive before, so "cleaning up" becomes a common occurrence from the second season onwards.
- Babylon 5:
- Delenn is always lovely, as per her Lady of War status, but her usual clothing is Minbari and, while quite beautiful, isn't all that revealing. So when Delenn has dinner with John Sheridan and puts on a human-style black evening gown, Sheridan is lost for words.
- She does it again two seasons later in "Atonement." This time the gown is even more revealing, and Sheridan — who is deeply and openly in love with her by that point — has an even more pronounced reaction.
- Battlestar Galactica (2003): The sight of Starbuck in a long slinky blue dress instead of her usual military-issue tanks or flight suit renders Apollo quite literally speechless. Lampshaded by a previous exchange between them where he teases her about her (lack of) hygiene, and she tells him she cleans up nicely sometimes. Though it should be noted, Starbuck is an Unkempt Beauty anyway, and Apollo was attracted to her long before the clean-up.
- The Big Bang Theory: Male example: Sheldon is known for his collection of Superhero shirts and when he has to be formal wears awful, multicolored suits. When Penny forces him to get a better a suit he looks absolutely stunning, earning a Jaw Drop from Penny and whistles from the audience.
- And Played for Laughs because he refused to buy the suit because he thinks Penny made him try it on as a joke so he'd look like a clown. The full shopping trip is a Crowning Moment of Funny as Sheldon tries on progressively worse suits.
- A more straight example: Amy typically wears rather dowdy clothing with a long skirt and shapeless sweaters (along with Mayim Bialik's self-described "ethnic" looks), but in part due to Penny's influence she sometimes manages to dress up for special occasions and catch others off-guard with how well she turns out. Fans also noticed how attractive she became in the Nurse Chapel costume while "Playing Doctor" with Sheldon Star Trek-style. She also wasn't bad looking as Snow White either when the girls hit Disneyland.
- The Biggest Loser: Most of the contestants for NBC's show are quite good looking once they achieve a healthy weight.
- Bones: Happens (sort of) when the title character descends the stairs in an awful bridesmaid's dress. Her main love interest says she looks "nice", until Cam helps her fix the dress to be prettier. He then tells her that she looks "gorgeous" to which she simply complains "I thought you said I looked nice before!" Then in the Halloween-themed episode "The Mummy In The Maze", Booth has a similar reaction to seeing Bones in a Wonder Woman costume.
- Black Books: In one episode Bernard enters the room wearing a pure white suit, looking incredibly dashing. He then furiously begins to yell at Manny, revealing that this is the real colour of his normal black suit, which Manny's mother had the nerve to wash!
- Boy Meets World: Played With in one episode. Topanga suddenly becomes self-conscious about her looks, and decides to get a makeover. However, Cory and Shawn recognize that she was already beautiful before getting "cleaned up" and now with the makeover she will be "mega-beautiful", and sure enough she stuns them when she walks out of the beauty parlor. At the end of the episode she decides not to keep up the new appearance because it's not who she is.
- The Brady Bunch: One episode had this as a plot point for Jan, the middle sister. She's wondering why boys — and one boy in particular — don't show any interest in her, so she has one of her brothers ask the particular boy what he thinks of her. He casually answers, "She's a good guy." Jan gets the picture, dolls herself up, and ends the episode with a Grand Staircase Entrance before the boy in her girly clothes.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
- Subverted, when Buffy dresses in a beautiful period gown for Halloween in an attempt to impress Angel, it turns her into a dithering, helpless creature (because everyone's being possessed by their costumes). He later says that he was never interested in Proper Lady types when he was human, because they seemed superficial.
- In the same episode, Buffy attempts to get Willow to do the whole "coming down the staircase" thing to impress Xander, albeit dressed as a hot goth rather than a fairytale princess. However, Willow backs out and chooses a traditional Bedsheet Ghost costume. At the end of the episode when Willow finally works up the courage to wear the outfit, the dressed-up look has the desired knock-out effect - not on Xander, but on imminent love interest, Oz who spots her from his truck (in fact Oz catching sight of Willow in unusual outfits and being intrigued by her is something of a running joke in the run-up to their actual meeting)
- Played straight with Willow and Xander in the Homecoming episode. Later spoofed in a callback to that same scene when Xander is about to get married, Willow in her bridesmaid's dress looks at him in his tuxedo and comments "Good thing I realized I was gay, otherwise, you, me, formal wear... bad combination."
- Subverted again in "Inca Mummy Girl" in which the gang are having a world cultures themed costume party and Willow turns up wearing an Eskimo costume and Xander of course only has eyes for the Monster of the Week Ampata dressed to the nines. Willow remarks that maybe she should have worn something sexy instead but Oz is playing on stage and this following exchange happens:
Oz: Hey, that girl. Who is she?
Devon: (talking about Ampata) She's an exchange student. I think she's from South America.
Oz: No, not her. The Eskimo.
- Giles is clearly impressed when Faith shows off her look for going undercover at a formal party, a Pimped-Out Dress with Absolute Cleavage.
- Fair Cop Kate Beckett is told this explicitly using the trope name on at least two occasions: the high society fundraiser in "Home Is Where The Heart Stops" where she and Castle go undercover and the book launch of Heat Wave in "When The Bough Breaks". They're not wrong, either. The first time is a 'nervous and shy' example because she's wearing an amazingly expensive and beautiful dress that Castle has bought for her; the second time, everyone assumes she's a character actor hired to play 'Nikki', the character based on her.
- Also, in "A Death in the Family", Alexis in her prom dress combines this with a She Is All Grown Up moment for her father.
- Cheers: Frasier starts salivating with desire when Lilith, who normally sports a criminally tight bun, lets her hair down.
- Dårfinkar & dönickar: Simone, having been masquerading as a boy at her new school, turns up to class in a dress and lipstick. Subverted in that Isak, her crush, decides he likes her back after finding out she's a girl, but before he's ever seen her in girls' clothes.
- Dark Angel: Word for word. While there's the obligatory slow-mo pan up Max's dress, she's the one who says "You clean up nice" to Logan and he just says "So do you."
- Degrassi: Given the age most characters are introduced at, and how long they remain in the series, most will have this moment if they aren't introduced as stylish (which is most of the cast). Usually it goes hand in hand with She's All Grown Up, male and female. Both of the Van Zandt siblings pulled this, just compare Liberty and Danny's intro looks to their last appearances, and Clare got this as a plotline.
- Doctor Who:
- Played straight in "The Romans" - Ian changes into Roman clothing and a slightly drunk Barbara says he looks 'splendid', even helping him style his hair correctly to fit the costume. It goes to his head a bit and he gets quite into pretending to be a Roman.
- In "The Macra Terror", the usually very scruffy Second Doctor is put in a futuristic beauty-therapy machine that styles his hair into a neat parted style, pampers his skin and cleans and presses his clothes so that he looks immaculate. Polly is bowled over and calls him "gorgeous", but he expresses some reservations about the new look ("who wants to see their own face in their shoes?") and immediately dives into a 'rough and tumble machine' to put himself back to normal again, to Polly's extreme disappointment.
- Inverted in "The Deadly Assassin", where when the Fourth Doctor is forced to don the elegant academic robes used by his native culture as formal dress and looks an absolute disaster, with his underwear showing and his frizzy hair poking out from under the lopsided headdress. But when the Time Lords put him in prison clothes - a crumpled poet shirt, red corduroy trousers and scratched-up knee-high boots - he looks about as dashing and romantic as he ever gets to. And even gets a bit where he gets wet.
- Played straight in "The Talons of Weng-Chiang", when Leela gives away her clothes and is given a dress by Jago to replace it - and when the Doctor sees her in it, he's actually left speechless in mid-word. Then he suggestively offers to buy her an orange.
- Subverted in "Enlightenment". Tegan changes into Gorgeous Period Dress to the amazement of everyone. Except the 5th Doctor, who doesn't seem to notice. Much to Tegan's annoyance.
- Played straight in "The Unquiet Dead". Rose is ordered to change from her 21st century clothes into something a bit more appropriate for the Victorian period. The Doctor is impressed.
- Martha compliments the Tenth Doctor a lot when he puts on a tuxedo in "The Lazarus Experiment", and they both compare his look to James Bond. Not that the fangirls mind his usual natty pinstripe-suit-and-canvas-sneakers get up either.
- In "The Unicorn and the Wasp", Donna puts on a flapper dress for a party with Agatha Christie, and the Doctor is impressed.
- Subverted in "Robot of Sherwood" where Clara puts on a stunning red velvet dress, commenting that it might be a bit much. Her last Doctor would have been speechless, but her current Doctor couldn't care less.
- Firefly, Kaylee, the ship's mechanic. In episode "Shindig", some high class women at the party snark at Kaylee for wearing a store-bought dress, but she is happily vindicated when one male partygoer comes to her defense (and later the men are delighted to discover how tech-savvy she is). It is also inverted many times with Kaylee, with Simon saying that she dirties up nicely. He says she's especially cute when she's covered with engine grease or fuel.
- Friends: When Rachel (who is very beautiful all the time) heads out for her first night out with the girls since having her baby Emma, she is even more careful about her appearance. As Ross puts it: "You clean up good!" "You clean up good" is how the trope is usually phrased in Westerns.
- Frontier Circus: In "Stopover in Paradise", Ben romances a tomboyish ranch owner. She eventually decides to start wearing feminine clothing, evoking this trope (although she does a Femininity Failure when it comes to walking in high heels).
- Glee: Plays this straight with Quinn and Finn in the episode "Prom Queen", and Quinn does look amazing, though it's hardly a revelation since Quinn is generally said by many/most to be the prettiest girl in school.
- Good Luck Charlie: Tomboy Jo, in "Duncan vs. Duncan", turns up on the doorstep in a dress for the cotillion, prompting a jaw drop and "wow" from Gabe.
- H2O: Just Add Water: In one episode Zane buys tomboy Rikki a dress for her to wear at a dinner party at his house. Emma is at the dinner and her jaw drops when she sees Rikki walking down the stairs in the dress with her hair down. She's seen wearing dresses more frequently afterwards.
- Hana Yori Dango: In this live-action drama, Tsukushi originally comes to Shizuka's party, she's the only one not in a stylish dress. After getting pushed into a swimming pool, Shizuka dolls her up with much make-up, hair pampering and a beautiful dress. Needless to say, she finally gets everyone's attention.
- Hannah Montana: Inverted in the episode, "You Are So Sue-able To Me". When Lilly's crush Matt asks her to the school dance, Miley convinces Lilly to get a Girliness Upgrade to impress him. When she later shows up at school with her new look, she has quite a few guys drooling over her, but then she gets stood up by Matt. It turns out he preferred her tomboy look.
- Haven: Audrey Parker is so inept at picking out pretty clothes she has to have elderly bachelor brothers do it for her but she wears them so, so well.
- Healer: Ahjumma usually loafs around her computer lair around in pajama pants and unkempt hair. When she dresses up to go out in public, however...
- Hotel Hell: Karan of the Town's Inn, after receiving a makeover, looks decades younger. Not only that, but she also becomes much more confident and assertive.
- How Do I Look?: This is the entire premise of this show. Take a woman whose friends don't like her fashion sense, buy her a new wardrobe, change her hair and makeup, and show her new look to a crowd of her friends and family as She Cleans Up Nicely. Often, the show gives a useful gift to the woman (besides the clothes, hair and makeup) such as paying 1/2 the past-due mortgage debt so a woman and her kids can stay in their house.
- iCarly: The focus of the episode "iMake Sam Girlier", both played straight and subverted. Sam is feeling down about her tomboy/ladette image and decides to get a Girliness Upgrade to impress a boy she likes named Pete. She looks quite good in her more feminine outfit, prompting an audience reaction, and even though Pete is quite smitten with her new look, he reveals that he actually liked her tough girl image better. However, there have been other times in the series, before and after this episode, that Sam has put a dress on, and she looks quite good in them.
- John Adams: Abigail Adams spends most of the first few episodes in rather plain dresses. When she does the makeup hair and nice dress thing at Versailles, her husband is lost for words. Truth in Television, adorably enough! When Gilbert Stuart mentioned that he "wished to God he could have painted Mrs. Adams when she was young; she would have made a perfect Venus," Mr. Adams expressed emphatic agreement.
- Lost Girl: Kenzie in one episode when she pretends to be Hale's date for a Fae gathering.
- The L Word: Subverted early on in Season 3, when Shane (usually found in casual and/or traditionally masculine outfits) is given a dress to wear by her then-girlfriend's relatives.She looks absolutely ridiculous◊.
- The Magnificent Seven: Recurring character and tomboy Casey Wells is persuaded to put on a dress and fix her hair in order to impress JD. It works... for all of ten seconds, at which point she steps on her hem, tears her skirt off, and is left standing in her bloomers.
- M*A*S*H: Subverted to the point of parody in the episode "Stars & Stripes". Margaret likes Sgt. (busted to Pvt.) Scully, whose attitude toward women is shall we say less than enlightened. To prove to him she's a woman along with being a Major and a Head Nurse, she gets all dolled up in an outlandish pink prom gown with Stepford pearls, high heels and lipstick. He appreciates it so much he flops down on her bed and asks her to (literally) cook him an omelet.
- Princess Elena, once the Sidhe is removed from her body.
- Gwen, any time she gets dressed up during the first four seasons. Special mention goes to "Queen of Hearts" where Merlin is momentarily stunned into silence when he goes to pick her up for her date with Arthur. The fandom had a reaction like this too when the first on set photos of Queen Guinevere appeared online before Season 5.
- The Mentalist:
- While Van Pelt already looks pretty sharp in her work attire, when she really dresses up to pretend to be co-worker Rigsby's girlfriend for a sting, she drives the poor man to distraction.
- And Lisbon, who is often overshadowed by Van Pelt, has one of these moments at a society fundraiser that she's been ordered to go to because the CBI is broke. Jane, UST-ee/unrequited love/co-worker seems not to notice, but then he is Patrick Jane, and probably thought he could screw with her in some way by not mentioning it. Made better by the fact that when she gets called away to a crime scene, she just sticks her regular leather jacket over the top and looks eccentric and beautiful.
- Some fans have drawn a connection between this and his Bunny-Ears Lawyer stunt of the week — an unexpected Undercover as Lovers, which leaves poor Lisbon stunned and furious. She goes with furious.
- In My Mad Fat Diary, Rae is this for Archie’s date in 'Touched', after Chloe and Izzy's makeover for her.
- Her appearance at her mum's reception in 'It’s a Wonderful Rae:Part 2'.
- The Nanny:
- Happens with Fran at one point though the shock may have been due to her dress being quite garish as well as sexy. Many episodes got use out of Chateau Sheffield's sweeping staircase.
- It happens for the first time in the pilot episode, with Fran coming down the staircase in a bright red, sparkly floor-length number with a slit up the side to mid-thigh.
Miss Babcock: What's that?
Mr. Sheffield: That's the nanny.
- Maggie gets a moment in the same scene, with her father going slack-jawed and commenting on how much she looks like her mother.
- Happens with Brighton's nerdy classmate Brooke, who Brighton (initially) didn't want to go to a dance with in "The Playwright".
Fran: -to Brighton- You see? You did a good thing and God smiled on you.
- NCIS: Just get a load of Abby's Marilyn Monroe get up for a Halloween event. For starters.
- New Girl: This is Schmidt and Coach's reaction when they see Jess in the Little Black Dress her friend Cece helps her pick out... a reaction which is killed soon after, when Jess breaks into a celebratory dance.
- Pee-Wee's Playhouse: Reba the Mail Lady is rarely seen out of her postal uniform. There have been at least two exceptions, however. First, she dresses up nicely in "Party" (Pee-wee lampshades that he has hardly ever seen her out of uniform). But that's nothing compared to the second time she dressed up: in "Rebarella", in preparation for her date with Derek, Miss Yvonne gives her a beauty makeover so that she a lot more like Yvonne herself! When Pee-wee first sees Reba's new look, he is appropriately agape with amazement.
- Robin Hood: In the BBC's show, tomboy Djaq glams up in order to infiltrate Nottingham castle. The scene features both the possible outcomes mentioned in the trope description: Will is reduced to a staring, stuttering mess and receives a somewhat sharp Moment Killer response, while Allan manages to be a little more smooth, pays her a compliment and gets the gratified smirk.
- The Sarah Jane Adventures: This Doctor Who spinoff gives one of these to Luke Smith, who is rather stunned to notice that Rani does clean up nicely. Actually, he has one right after the other - first for his mum Sarah Jane, and then for Rani. (This version, obviously, is purely platonic on both counts.)
- Sherlock: Molly Hooper puts on a gorgeous dress for the Christmas party in "A Scandal in Belgravia". John is visibly impressed, and Lestrade's jaw hits the floor.
- Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's The Lost World: Veronica wears a dress a few times. Everyone is in awe when she does.
- Season 1, Tempest, Chloe dressing up to go to the Spring Formal with Clark.
- Season 4, Spirit, a possessed Lois descends the stairs at the Kent Farm in one of the most hideous dresses ever seen — Clark catches sight of her and gulps. There was also perhaps a better example from season eight's Bride, where Lois comes down the same staircase in her formal wear as maid of honour at Chloe's wedding; Clark comes to meet her at the bottom in his formal wear and they both seem silently impressed.
- Spaced: Parodied mercilessly in the finale. Daisy tries to make this an Invoked Trope (including a memorable sequence where she extends a lipstick accompanied by the Star Wars lightsaber sound effect) and at first appears it's working, but then it turns out that the men were actually ooh-ing and aah-ing over a spectacular flaming birthday cake behind her.
- Stargate SG-1:
- In a way, they got to this by the 3rd episode by forcing Carter into a Mongol concubine dress. No staircase, but she starts the scene with her back to the camera; after the dramatic turnaround, her teammates have few words to say.
- Vala Mal Doran also does one of these in "Bounty". Of course, the only person who pays any attention to her is Cam's friend Darell.
- Star Trek: Voyager: The first two episodes of the fourth season ("Scorpion, Part II" and "The Gift") presented us with the gradual transformation of the character Seven Of Nine, from a zombie-like Borg drone to the show's ultimate Ms. Fanservice.
- The Suite Life of Zack and Cody: Zack is persuaded to take tomboy Max out on a date. She appears at the restaurant in a nice dress with her hair done up and Zack's jaw drops.
- While the brothers Winchester are hardly chopped liver even at their slobbiest, in the episode "Red Sky at Morning" the costume designers very wisely put Dean in a tux and had him swagger down a staircase to the sounds of Bond music. A more surefire recipe for swoon-age I cannot conceive.
- And then they go dropping Dean into the 1940s for an episode, with him being specifically dragged into a suitmaker because his usual jeans, flannel shirt, and jacket combo won't work in that time. Dean would look good in a paper bag, but when he steps out in a perfectly fitted suit and fedora, it's even better than the tux.
- Also done with Castiel after returning from purgatory and shaving. Dean even shifts awkwardly in his seat at the sight.
- Taxi: Inverted Trope: Elaine asks Jim to go to a fancy party with her (out of concern for his feelings and with major reservations). He shows up at her door groomed and shaved, in a neato tux. Elaine gasps "You're gorgeous!" He replies in his quavering burnout voice "Yeah, I never get tired of hearing that."
- The Twilight Zone: At the end of the episode "Two", the male soldier puts on an old and damaged suit... not that impressive. The female soldier puts on a white dress and puts her hair in a ponytail. He falls in love.
- Ugly Betty: Mark's boyfriend Cliff has one of these at Bradford and Wilhemina's wedding, causing Amanda to quip "Who knew there were hardwood floors under that shag rug?"
- One of the few things the otherwise disappointing That '80s Show managed to do well by making Chyler Leigh nearly unrecognizable in goth makeup as June Tuesday so that on the one occasion where she wasn't done up that way her natural beauty actually showed up very well.
- The West Wing: Leo says this to Congressman Matt Santos...no, it's not Ho Yay, it's just meant to be taken literally.
- Wings: In one early episode, Helen decides to wear a sexy dress to a cello audition. When she doesn't get the job, she isn't sure whether it was because her cello playing wasn't good enough, or she wasn't sexy in the dress. She shows Joe what she looks like in the dress, and after noting his reaction, she promptly hurries off to practice her cello some more.
- In the episode "Karl's Wedding" of Workaholics, Adam is accosted by a homeless woman named Rachel trying to steal his beer. The two have a screaming match that quickly turns into a strange meet cute, and Adam takes her to the wedding, dressed up and actually looking fairly attractive-despite still having an overall druggy look and demeanor. The fact that Rachel was played by Katee Sackhoff helped.
- WORKING!!: Parodied. Chris is one of many applicants for a newly opened position under the male chauvinist boss at the office. Chris prays on the boss's good-old-boy tendencies and general machismo to land the job. The show's main character (along with the audience) soon discovers that Chris is really a woman in disguise: Christine. When Christine outs herself, in the sauna, accompanied by all the company's execs, she returns to the office looking quite sexy in a skirt-suit. Cue one of the male characters saying "That's Chris?! He sure cleans up nice!"
- Yo soy Betty, la fea:
- This is one of the premises of this Colombian telenovela. Although she doesn't get "princess pretty" at the end, her appearance definitely improves during the series.
- This happens in the many spinoffs too (such as Ugly Betty).
- Young Riders: Louise "Lou" Macloud has to keep her gender a secret from most folks but on one occasion she gets a chance to dress like a girl and wow her teammates.
- Wizards of Waverly Place: Meet Harper Finkle, a girl who makes her own outfits out of various objects. Fast forward to an episode parodying Cinderella in which she plays the titular character. Like in the original story, her oddball outfit is transformed into a beautiful purple gown. Even the Studio Audience is pleased with the results.
- In The Mighty Boosh, Howard has a subtle moment of this in the series three episode The Chokes. Normally he wears ugly, unfashionable and clashing clothes in various shades of brown, but after finding confidence as an actor thanks to a Training Montage, he walks into the Nabootique with his hair neatly combed while wearing flattering black clothing and a dapper hat. His bisexual best friend Vince, who is hinted to be in love with him, doesn't say anything, but the way he looks him up and down from head to toe with a mixture of surprise and lust on his face certainly implies he was thinking this trope.
- Iron Fist (2017): In the fourth episode, Danny Rand finally gets some good clothing of his own, and is dressed in a suit and tie for the press conference announcing his return to the public. Joy Meachum can't help but comment:
Joy Meachum: You clean up pretty good.Ward Meachum: ...The tie might be a touch effeminate.
- Daredevil: When Frank Castle takes the stand at his trial, he's been fitted out in a suit. Foggy can't help but comment, "He looks better than I ever have and he's not wearing a tie."
- Katy Perry in her "Last Friday Night" video.
- Taylor Swift in "You Belong with Me", too.
- A male example occurs in Adam Ant's video for "Prince Charming".
- Kesha: No glitter? No prob.
- Craig Morgan, in his 2005 No. 1 country hit "That's What I Love About Sunday" — a song reflecting on a young man's childhood, when Sundays were revered as a day of worship and rest — the first words are trope-fitting: Raymond, an auto mechanic at a garage in his hometown, is usually seen hard at work, automotive oil and grease on his hands, and although not slovenly or sloppy by any means, "he's usually up to his chest" implies that he works hard, has many customers and is always seen in this state; yet, on Sunday, Raymond is cleaned up and is seen in church, wearing a suit and tie in reverence to God.
- Usually at the Hall Of Fame ceremony, most wrestlers will be dressed up in formal wear which is a startling change for some when we're used to seeing them in ring gear.
- Anyone remember Molly Holly? The Hollywood Homely self-righteous prude who as a heel was always promoted as unattractive? Well this◊ is her at the 2009 Hall of Fame.
- WWE "Divas" such as Beth Phoenix, Tamina Snuka, and Natalya are of noticeably different body shapes than the rest of the roster and so are not really pushed forward as the "sexy" divas. However, when they do clean up, the result is jaw dropping. Tamina especially considering what wonders straightened hair and figure flattering clothes can do:
- While it's safe to assume longest time wrestling fans who saw Wrestlicious recognized Maria Toro as Mercedes Martinez, there were a few whose heads it completely went over and most were surprised at how well she pulled off the bullfighter look.
- This probably wasn't intentional but ODB sure looked pretty at her TNA wedding.
- Pathfinder iconic example: This◊ is Seelah as she usually appears. And this◊ is Seelah in something quite different.
- REIGN suggests this as a possible justification for buying the Beauty advantage during the course of play - basically, that the character was never truly unattractive, but hadn't put any effort into maintaining their appearance and making it work. But once they do...
- Subverted in, of all things, the musical Wicked where Elphaba appears at the top of the stairs at a party and everyone turns to stare, before bursting out into raucous laughter at the hideous hat she's been tricked into wearing.
- Sarah at the ball in Tanz der Vampire.
- At the climax of the ballet Rodeo, the dancing grinds to a halt and Aaron Copland's hoedown music loses pitch like a record winding down as the tomboy reappears in a nice dress.
- In Legally Blonde The Musical, this doesn't happen at a party, but in fact in a courthouse; Elle gives Emmett a makeover during "Take It Like a Man" so that he'll have this effect on his boss before the big murder trial, after said boss refers to him as "Tattered Corduroy." (Both Elle and Emmett have very Jaw Drop reactions to seeing his transformation - as does an entire department store staff who all call him hot.)
- Played completely straight in Calamity Jane, with all attendants being shocked at seeing Jane in a dress.
- A Very Potter Musical has the song ''Granger Danger'', which consists of Ron and Draco singing about how beautiful Hermione is now that looking good has become important to her:
Strange how a dress,
Can take a mess,
And make her nothing less than...
Beautiful to me....
- A variant is done in Les Misérables. While Marius is bowled over by Cosette's beauty, he doesn't know how she used to look when she was a starved, abused child (the last time we see her in the musical). It is Eponine, raised throughout her childhood with Cosette, who gapes in amazement.
- Marie from Perfect Pie, who goes from a smelly, scrawny girl to a beautiful young lady after Patsy helps her dress up for the prom. The stage directions even say We can see the beautiful woman she will become.
- Final Fantasy:
- Faris from Final Fantasy V appears in a dress either once or twice in the entirety.
- Battle-hardened former soldier Celes Chere from Final Fantasy VI reluctantly dresses as opera singer Maria for plot furthering purposes, causing Locke to blush red and ask "have you always been this pretty?"
- Gau from VI provides a rare male example, when he's given a makeover courtesy of the rest of the party. He ends up coming out looking like someone straight out of the Opera House (where the above example takes place, mind), and a Cloud Cuckoolander stops being crazy enough to compliment his appearance (literally the only time in the game the man manages to say something that isn't completely insane). This was roughly the plan, since said nutjob happens to be Gau's father, who went crazy after his wife died giving birth to Gau.
- Inverted in Final Fantasy VIII as when we first see Rinoa she is all dolled up in her white dress at the party. Squall does take a fancy to her but they don't hit it off until she's wearing her normal clothes. This Machinima adaptation plays it straight with all the girls getting dressed up for the Garden Festival.
- Said by the stage master to Lightning in Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII practically verbatim when she appears in the Pimped-Out Dress she has to wear to proceed Yusnaan's story at that point. And Lightning was already freaking hot to begin with.
- Subverted in Fire Emblem: The Blazing Blade where Lyn tells Eliwood in their B support that she's very uncomfortable whenever she tries to clean up nicely in the Caelin court. Understandable, since Lyn has been raised in the plains of Sacae and only arrived in Caelin during the last year.
- Midna uses this at the end of The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess on the Heroic Mime, much to the amusement of the player. "Am I so beautiful, that you have no words left?" We have been asking that ourselves for ages, dear princess. For ages.
- In Luminous Arc 2, this happens to either Althea or Fatima, depending on who Roland was paired up with, with the dresses designed by Kaph and ends the scene with a special anime scene.
- Rasche actually says this word-to-word to Karen at the ending, though we never actually get to see her in the dress.
- Mass Effect:
- Mass Effect 2 does this with Commander Shepard during Kasumi's DLC quest, particularly if female: she gets a Little Black Dress and heels, the only even remotely feminine attire female Shepard ever wears. However, Kasumi is the only person to comment on it, and that's just because she's the one who picked it out.
- After Kasumi's loyalty mission, it's possible to select the dress as the outfit Shepherd wears on the Normandy. No one comments on it.
- It's also something of a subversion: although the dress itself is quite feminine and appealing, her walk and run animations are the same as when she's wearing the in-universe equivalent of fatigues and combat boots, causing a fair bit of visual dissonance and ruining the effect somewhat. A Watsonian would say she's not used to moving elegantly in a dress and heels. A Doylist would say that EA wouldn't spare the budget for Bioware to create new animations for one short scene in an optional piece of DLC.
- In the Citadel DLC of Mass Effect 3 when required to attend another event a new dress is introduced and if Commander Shepard's love interest is on the squad he/she will comment on it.
- Ashley Williams' return in Mass Effect 3 came with a very stunning makeover. Of course, she was already attractive to begin with, but in the third game, many people were pleased.
- Mass Effect 2 does this with Commander Shepard during Kasumi's DLC quest, particularly if female: she gets a Little Black Dress and heels, the only even remotely feminine attire female Shepard ever wears. However, Kasumi is the only person to comment on it, and that's just because she's the one who picked it out.
- Kumatora from MOTHER 3 had to dress up as a beautiful waitress at one point, and while we don't directly see Lucas's reaction to it (due to his Heroic Mime status), we do see Kumatora having to remind Lucas three times to "not change his expression".
- Naoto Shirogane from Persona 4, if you get the version of her Christmas Eve event where she decides to wear her school's female uniform.
- Reivier masquerading as Duke Heath in Quintessence: The Blighted Venom had his jaw drop when Lunair enters the room in her wedding gown.
- There's an ongoing line of texture hacks for Super Smash Bros.. Brawl at Stack Smash based on this concept. So far, Yoshi, Pikachu, and even Wario had this done to them.
- In Tales of Symphonia, depending on who the character chooses, someone will have this effect on Lloyd during a subquest. Sheena's is notably the most like this trope, though.
- This also applies to Lloyd himself in a formal outfit. Sheena tells him he's handsome during the above sidequest, and Lloyd gets embarrassed.
- Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2: In the cinematic sequence after an Allied victory, agent Tanya is seen in a fancy dress (as opposed to the combat fatigues she wears in various cutscenes). Somewhat subverted in the "Yuri's Revenge" add-on, where Lieutenant Eva is the one invited to the fancy party, and Tanya wants to borrow Einstein's time machine to "fix things up".
- Undyne in Undertale is a humanoid fish monster with one eye and sharp yellow teeth. She is a powerful warrior who wears intimidating full plate armor, and when off duty, wears a simple black tank top and jeans and keeps her hair in a ponytail. When she goes on a date to meet her crush, Alphys, she changes to a stylish leather jacket, sweater, and lets her hair down, making her look significantly more attractive.
- Many premade sims from The Sims 3 start out in rather unflattering clothes and hairstyles, and are considered fugly and dorky-looking, but actually are just in need of a makeover. Susan and Boyd Wainwright are one of the biggest examples of this.
- a2 ~a due~: Sona, after she smooths down her hair and changes into a nice, professional outfit for a concert. The orchestra is shocked. Of course, her usual look involves piercings and a mohawk, combined with a tough-as-nails attitude, so people are understandably a little startled.
Sona: If anyone says anything about my appearance, I'm throwing them offstage during the concert.
- As for Hao himself, the strict conductor with feelings for Sona, he tells her that she's always beautiful after she nervously mentions to him that it feels weird to her too. Not before dropping all his sheet music in surprise, though.
- The scene in the Hidden Elf Village in RPG World is like this. Cherry all dressed up gives the Hero pause. The others think he is awed by her, but he's just impressed by the higher polygon count her character model now has.
- Subverted in Cwen's Quest when the main character and resident "Action Girl" Cwen attempts to dress up to make her sister jealous only to look sublimely average. (The "Fancy Hat" didn't help any either.)
- Deliberately played by Agatha in a non-canon Girl Genius short story; they didn't have stairs in the right location so she brought her own.
- Helen complains that she has been cheated out of this effect in this Narbonic strip.
- Hi-Ho Casino part 2 in Zap! has a moment like this when Reona first appears in her evening gown.
- Jean Poule in The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob! gets a moment like this when they attend Voluptua's royal ball.
- Policeguy in Girly, as lampshaded by Mystery Girl. So does she- she's his date, Officer Hipbone. Even the readers were shocked!
- One girl comments that Eiji Hayashihara has cleaned up well between school years in this Red String strip; even though all he seems to have done is lose the ponytail.
- In Rhapsodies, Kate, who usually favors thrift store and army surplus clothes, prefers that nobody finds this out.
- "Max Overacts" has the "you scrub up nice" phrasing in this comic.
- Skin Horse's Marcy was the physical embodiment of dowdy — until she (briefly) started dating Tip. Once that happened she took a sudden turn for the attractive, and has kept up this look even after they broke up.
- Strays: Meela has to be cleaned up for the party -- even though she's going as a servant.
- In No Rest for the Wicked, inverted. November met Princess Colette at a ball, but Colette doesn't recognize her in her travel-stained clothing.
- In Tales of the Questor, Kestral is a cute enough Wrench Wench in her usual work gear, but she wants to dress up for a night out, she's a knockout, complete with floating Lux sparkles.
- One plot arc of Deer Me has Rasha and Velvet attempt to make Viana attractive by their standards, which involves removing her mask, putting her in more feminine clothing, and giving her an overall new look. She definitely becomes more attractive to Thomas, with whom she shares Unresolved Sexual Tension, but returns to her old look. Viana later confides to Woola that she doesn't like the idea of Thomas finding her appealing just when she dolls up.
- Bittersweet Candy Bowl has this happen with both Tess and Daisy in the same arc, though Daisy is a more pronounced example as boys - who ordinarily ignore her - start making eyes at her. Unfortunately, the boy she actually dressed up for doesn't care.
- Marigold of Questionable Content openly denounces the prevalence of this trope in the media. But when she's prompted to attend a party, she washes up and wears something that actually fits... and even though her acne's still there, she's the talk of the other guests all night long (albeit for reasons lower than the acne).
- Ménage à 3:
Gary: Jung! Z-Z-Zii's a GIRL!!!
- The trope appears in a very variant form when Gary finally notices that the ladette Zii is attractively feminine when she's walking around in a cosplay outfit (based on one of his favorite characters) that's essentially a fur-trimmed bikini.
- Returning the compliment, it's later explicitly invoked by Zii here, when Gary puts a suit and tie on. However, it seems almost odd for Zii to mention the fact at that point, given that she and several other characters have been acknowledging that Gary isn't bad-looking almost since the comic began.
- Angel Moxie: Tristan, to everyone's surprise.
- When The Nostalgia Critic showed up in the Chick's review of The Worst Witch in an all white suit (instead of his usual rumpled one), Nella and Elisa giggled and fangirled over him, much to the Chick's irritation.
- In Teen Girl Squad, it turns out The Ugly One isn't so ugly after all at her "sweet someteen" party in Issue 10... so much so, Strong Bad prevents the "Arrow'd Guy" from, err, Arrowing her, and proceeds to make out with the piece of loose-leaf she's drawn on. "Whoa! Did I draw that new hotness?"
- In Barbie: Life in the Dreamhouse, Midge develops a crush on Ryan, but he doesn't return it due to her Deliberately Monochrome appearance, 1960s-style fashion sense, and fondness of dead slang. After Barbie and her sisters give Midge a modern-day makeover, Ryan decides to ask Midge out after all. Then he cancels the date after learning that Midge hasn't abandoned her retro hobbies.
- A rare male example in If the Emperor Had a Text-to-Speech Device - upon getting out of his armour, Kitten turns out to be one attractive piece of a Super Soldier like his "brothers" are.
- The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius: When Jimmy shows up in a tux for Jet Fusion's wedding to Beautiful Gorgeous in "My Big Fat Spy Wedding", Cindy is, to put it simply, stunned by his beauty.
Cindy: So Neutron's the best man? Yeah, more like the best NERD! I bet he'll look like a—(She looks over and gasps. Jimmy shows up outside the church in a tux. Cue fade to pink background, heart-eyes from her, and hair patting to himself) ...HUNKMUFFIN.
- Haley from American Dad! has been shown to be pretty attractive when she wears a more flattering outfit and hairstyle.
- As Told by Ginger:
- One episode has Ginger being forced to impersonate Courtney Grippling and so gets a makeover. When she walks into the kitchen with her hair done like Courtney and wearing stylish clothes, her mother says "wow, look at you". Although it's presented as a negative thing since Ginger starts acting more like Courtney and forgetting who she is.
- An episode with a High-School Dance averted this for most of the girls, though Macie did make Dodie and Chett's mouths widen when she showed up in her dress.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender did it in the episode "City of Walls and Secrets", with both Katara and Toph all dolled up and Aang stunned into blushing silence and a stumbling compliment before they had even left for the party.
- A more subtle example would be Zuko at the start of season three. After spending the first season being kinda ugly and the second being dirty and scruffy, the viewers finally got to see him all dressed up and prince-like.◊
- In the Betty Boop cartoon, "Sally Swing", Betty transforms a rather plain looking cleaning woman into the stunning Sally Swing.
- Ben 10: Alien Force: A both-genders instance happened for Gwen and Kevin at the end of one episode.
- Zig-Zagged in Clone High when first Abe, then Toots, then finally Cleo give Joan a makeover. The former two have horrible taste (Abe makes her over as a sexy nurse with a cyborg eye cribbed from a Fangoria cover) and are blind respectively, and make her look terrible. Cleo, who has excellent fashion sense, nevertheless makes her over to look like a cheap hooker, but Abe reacts as though she looked elegant and refined. Kennedy claims to like her better in her usual tomboy / Perky Goth attire, but he may have been lying to get in her pants. In the same episode, JFK makes over Gandhi in his own preppy style, which is a hit with the ladies in-universe, although to the audience he is better-looking later on in a white tux with white sneakers, although in that getup he strikes out.
- Danny Phantom: Tucker gets to experience the tongue-tied moment rather than Danny when Sam dolls up for a party.
- Daria invokes this trope in order to convince Quinn to stop posing as an intellectual.
- Family Guy: The episode "Don't Make Me Over" had Meg Griffin get a makeover that made her look pretty. She reverted to her normal self because it was too much work.
- In Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends, Frankie was never lacking in the looks department, but when she dresses up for a date in "Frankie My Dear," Mac and Bloo begin fighting for her affection.
- Generator Rex Doc Holiday dons a lovely white dress for one episode. Rex himself also looks suave in one of Six's suits and his hair combed back.
- Grojband: When Laney participates in a beauty pageant, Kin and Kon work on her dress, hair, and makeup. She ends up looking absolutely beautiful in a black and green dress and her hair is done in two side buns. The usually Oblivious to Love Corey looks love-struck when he sees her looking like a real girl for once.
"I gotta admit. You make a cute girl...Bro!"
- Hey Arnold!: This trope is parodied in the episode Helga's Makeover, in which the normally tomboyish Helga subjects herself to a girly makeover using tips from a teen magazine in order to join an all-girls' slumber party. The result falls straight into the Uncanny Valley, especially because, as she herself points out, they're only nine years old. Also, in Arnold's Valentine, she tries to disguise herself as a French girl, which ends with her sporting a literal poodle hairdo that looks as ridiculous as it sounds. Ironically, when her hair gets messed up, she actually does end up looking quite pretty, and there are other instances, such as Helga's Boyfriend, in which she can pull off genuinely good looks.
- Jimmy Two-Shoes: An episode had Jimmy attending one of Lucius' formal events, on edge that he's going to find out about how he ruined things for him earlier. He states it's all he can think about...until he sees Heloise dressed up.
- KaBlam!: June, the tomboyish female host is usually shown to be very beautiful in a dress, aside from her usual t-shirt, shorts, and hoodie.
- It's actually stated in an episode that she'll only wear one if she's made to, otherwise, she dislikes wearing them. (Was her little act in "Won't Stick to Most Dental Work" plainly fanservice?)
- Kim Possible did this one, on two separate occasions, on the stairs at her house. There's no grand staircases in High School gymnasiums, so one would think that the real-life temptation to attempt this trope for a prom date is very hard to fight for a teenage girl.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: The episode "Simple Ways" confirms that Applejack, the resident farmer/cowgirl, can make herself quite stunning when she wants.
- There's also Rainbow Dash whenever she dresses up for big occasions, most notable include the Grand Galloping Gala and Shining Armor and Princess Cadence's wedding. Fancy Pants has commented on Ponyville being "charmingly rustic" which means he's well aware of how country folk like Applejack and Rainbow Dash can look gorgeous. Cadence herself looks pretty beat up and defeated when we first meet the real her but by the end, looks fabulous in her wedding gown.
- Candace in Phineas and Ferb. Several episodes, such as "Gaming the System," show that she is very lovely with a different outfit and hairstyle.
- In The Powerpuff Girls episode "Octi Gone", the girls all wear party dress versions of the normal clothes. Bubbles and Buttercup are even decked out in hair bows. Of course, Buttercup is the one to complain:
Professor Utonium: I sure do love parties, don’t you, girls?
Buttercup: No! Cuz I have to wear this stupid girly party dress and I look like a dork!
- The Simpsons has Lisa, in ''Lisa the Beauty Queen'' convinced that she's ugly. In an attempt to rectify this, Homer enters her in a beauty pageant. Lisa competes, and wins second place. Bart more or less tells her in this episode that she is quite pretty.
- The Spectacular Spider-Man: Gwen Stacy when shows up to her Valentine's date with Harry sans glasses and wearing a dress.
- Spongebob Squarepants makes himself over to be "long, tan and handsome"note to chaperone Mr. Krabs' daughter Pearl to her prom, by way of a wig and stilts. Mr. Krabs even comments "Well he cleans up nicely" when he sees the new look.
- Star vs. the Forces of Evil:
- While Star is typically cute, her getting gussied up for a fancy ball In "Blood Moon Ball" is the first time her friend Marco compliments her looks. Star's demon ex-boyfriend Tom nails the trope's name upon seeing her later in the same episode.
- In "Bon Bon the Birthday Clown", Jackie and Star are left speechless when they see Marco dressed up for a high school dance. This is also when Star's subconscious crush on Marco starts becoming conscious.
- Also in "Bon Bon the Birthday Clown", Jackie, Marco's date. While she is usually a tomboyish skater girl, in her dress she (in Star's words) "look[s] like the ocean!"
- This happens to the main trio when they prepare to go to their high school's prom in Sym-Bionic Titan. Not as much as Ilana, who usually is dressed very nicely, but Lance's hair is groomed and Octus (while trying on outfits) is able to alter his appearance to look like he's in shape.
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Occurs to April in the first cartoon, after Irma insists she dress up for a royal ball at an embassy. All four turtles go gaga over her new look and despite the fact that she's never been a slouch in the looks department, and the fact that they're...well, turtles.
- Teen Titans: Robin experiences this with Starfire in when she unexpectedly shows up at the party all dolled up so she can "investigate Kitten (the episode's antagonist) thoroughly". Whatever that means.
- In the same episode, Robin himself looks quite nice in that tux.
- There's another instance for Starfire, in the episode "Go!". Throughout the entire episode, Starfire has been wearing her prison garb and either screaming at everyone or being suspicious of them (since she just escaped being sold into slavery, that's understandable). At the end, when the enemy has been driven away, Starfire shows up wearing the outfit she spends most of the series wearing, smiling and looking happy and relaxed for the first time. Everyone is amazed.
- Played with in episode 4 of Wakfu. When Evangelyne lets down her hair and puts on a princess gown, she thinks she must look ridiculous, but her friends are impressed. There are a few problems with this, though: they are supposed to disguise as "ugly" princesses, and Eva's cuteness makes her suspicious. Also, she can barely walks in high heels and falls several times, making the stairs part of the trope quite perilous. As for the Love Interest, Sadlygrove, he sure finds her good-looking... although he doesn't even recognize her.
- Done in an episode of The Weekenders where Lor develops a crush on a boy and starts acting more girly to impress him including wearing dresses and makeup and even Tino is shocked at how good she looks.
- Katherine Middleton, or at least the press like to push this trope as part of her and Prince William's courtship. Apparently, Wills first took a romantic interest in flatmate Kate when he saw her modelling a sheer, revealing dress at a charity fashion show.
- A male version is with Keanu Reeves who went to a foreign premiere of John Wick with a disheveled look at the airport, but quickly cleaned up and changed into a Sharp Dressed Man in just a few hours.
- Possibly an example of real life Non-Indicative Difficulty, where taking time to spruce oneself up for a special occasion where formal dress is expected - a wedding, a party, a photo shoot - is, in fact, easier, especially for more socially awkward people, than simply being 'smart casual' every time you go outside.