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She Cleans Up Nicely

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This is the same person, only better looking. "Shut up" indeed!

"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 they're female, she may originally be dowdy, unfashionable, a Tomboy or Wrench Wench, or simply not particularly attentive to her appearance. If they're a male character, he may be slovenly or sloppy. Either gender may be impoverished and therefore shabby in their normal appearance. Since attractiveness is strongly tied to heteronormativity in most societies, this trope can also be used to play around with gender and sexuality. For example, a Butch Lesbian might dress up as a Girly Girl and (much to everyone's surprise) turn out to be gorgeous, or a wimpy Camp Gay guy could turn into a beauty when he crossdresses.

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.

(The trope overlaps with Beautiful All Along if it requires a permanent change in her attitude, but is more distinct if it only needs clothes, grooming and opportunity. A common sign of this trope being separate is if she (or he) goes back to the old look and the Love Interest doesn't mind at all.)

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 Chic and Awe or 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. See Tarnishing Their Own Beauty for the deliberate inversion.

Examples with pages:

Other examples:

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  • This early-1980s Coca-Cola commercial (focusing on a group of high-school classmates preparing for their Senior Prom; including a Tomboy named Bobbie. Cut to the end; and let's just say the boys are shocked to see Bobbie.
  • The "Wedding Dress" ad from Navy Federal Credit Union's "Join the Family" uses a similar approach in which a female sailor discusses not being detected at the risk of endangering her mission. Gilligan Cut to same sailor admiring herself after choosing her wedding dress.

    Comic Books 
  • 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.
  • Wonder Woman:
    • 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.
    • Wonder Girl Cassie Sandsmark's best friend George is not an unattractive teen usually, but she usually goes out of her way to appear androgynous and wears unflattering baggy clothing and her hair in a loose flat top which means, with the addition of her nickname, she often comes across as a boy. On the occasions she decides to cosplay she chooses much more feminine outfits, does her hair different and wears makeup which makes her appear much more stereotypically attractive.
  • 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.
  • Scooby-Doo: Daphne has always been a rather radiant redhead. In "The Gorgeous Ghost" (Gold Key #25, June 1974), she is entered into a beauty pageant held by a society of magicians. With Velma as her surrogate stage mom in prepping her, Daphne knocks it out of the park.
  • In Goddess Creation System Xiaxi is considered ugly at the start, though most readers think she was still pretty cute. However, because she needs to be beautiful or die, she begins working out, using cosmetics to improve her skin and such and becomes ridiculously gorgeous.
  • Big Ethel's makeover in Archie Comics changed the character's look near-completely, from her appearance (the better-treated hair and less pronounced buck teeth being the most striking changes) to her wardrobe, which became more fashionable.
  • Black Canary: In JLA: Year One, this is presented as how Dinah used to maintain a Secret Identity; "Black Canary" was seen as something of a superhero sex symbol by the general public because of the blonde hair, fishnets, and leather leotard, but "Dinah Lance" had short black hair and dressed in a more homely and tomboyish fashion. Dinah laments being dateless because she's straight-up invisible to guys who are openly lusting after Black Canary from seeing her on the news. Eventually she realises that "Black Canary" is who she really is inside, and she should embrace it, casting her later abandoning of her secret identity as something of a coming of age sort of thing.
  • In Sasmira, Bertille's default outfit is a plain T-shirt and jeans, and her looks are considerably improved when she dresses up, though it comes off pretty quickly following the sex scene.

    Comic Strips 

    Fairy Tales 
  • 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".
    • "Donkeyskin", 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 "Catskin", "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.
  • Franz Xaver von Schönwerth's "The Enchanted Quill": The cook is mocked by all her co-workers until her rags are replaced with beautiful garments. Then people starts taking notice of her beautiful face and slim figure and she gains several unwanted suitors.

    Films — 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).
  • In The Incredibles, Violet was initially an Emo Teen that hid behind her long, black hair and wore dark clothing. After her Character Development, she holds her hair back with a hairband and wears much brighter clothing, resulting in her looking much more attractive than before, enough so that her crush Tony notices. The sequel's improved animation quality further helps with this, giving her longer hair, a more attractive face and slightly wider hips.
  • Even The Little Mermaid (1989) has a moment like this, when she enters Prince Eric's dining room in a beautiful pink gown. He'd previously only seen her wearing a torn sail, mistaking her for the mute victim of a shipwreck, and has a Stunned Silence reaction to the transformation created by a hot bath and a new dress. His elderly manservant Grimsby is able to articulate it better.
    Grimsby: Oh, Eric. Isn't she a vision?
  • The beginning of the ballet scene in Anastasia (which 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 he 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.
  • Mavka: The Forest Song: Mavka, the soul of the forest, is beautiful to begin with, although when disguising as a human she looks about as fashionable as a scarecrow. Later at the festival when she dons a vyshyvanka (Ukrainian embroidered shirt) and a red skirt with her hair styled in a braid, she becomes the loveliest girl in the village.
  • 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 is 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 previously, 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.
  • In Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Peter B. Parker is introduced to the viewer as overweight and battered, emotionally numb after a draining divorce from Mary-Jane and looking incredibly out of shape. His appearance slowly improves over the film. His last appearance, in a mid-credits sequence, he has cleaned up nicely and put on a suit, looking to rekindle his relationship with M.J. Though we don't see much of her reaction, she appears to appreciate the effort.

  • 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 (and is a male example): 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.

    Music Videos 

    Mythology & Religion 
  • The Achilleid alludes to this trope when it compares Deidamia's beauty to what Athena's beauty could be. That is, if Athena got rid of the war-helmet, gorgon-shield, and ferocious gaze that strikes terror into the hearts of men.

    Pro Wrestling 
  • 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.
  • Chris Benoit’s wife, Nancy, during her time in WCW in 1990-1991, played Robin Green, a nerdy, bookish and plain Jane fan of Rick Steiner, coming to all his matches (always wearing pigtails, thick glasses, polo shirts and jeans) and declaring her devotion and love toward him. Eventually as part of the angle, Rick requited Robin’s crush and agreed to go on a date with her. On date night, he got a stunningly attractive Woman a (very) low-cut dress, her hair down, earrings, mascara ... the works. Unfortunately for Rick, their date was Doom-ed from the start ... as in, a vicious attack by the men Robin was working with, Butch Reed and Ron Simmons, and Robin’s “crush” was a sham to get Doom a shot at the WCW Tag Team Champions ... coincidentally held by Rick and Scott Steiner.
  • 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.

    Tabletop Game 
  • 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...

  • Played completely straight in Calamity Jane, with all attendants being shocked at seeing Jane in a dress.
  • Cinderella (Lloyd Webber): Unlike in most versions, Cinderella isn't considered beautiful by the characters at the beginning, since she doesn't fit in with their primped, flawless beauty standards. Instead, the Fairy Godmother gives her an extreme makeover, at the end of which she sees herself as "ravishing". Sebastian does not recognize her at the ball.
  • In Heathers, Veronica's classmates react this way to her after the Heathers give her a makeover.
  • 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.)
  • 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.
  • The Mrs. Hawking play series: In part VI: Fallen Women, Mary when she comes out in her wedding dress in the final scene.
  • 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.
  • In Pygmalion and its subsequent musical adaptation My Fair Lady, Cockney flower girl Eliza Doolittle undergoes such a transformation, along with famously learning to "talk more genteel".
  • 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.
  • Sarah at the ball in Tanz Der Vampire.
  • 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....
  • 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.

    Visual Novels 
  • 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.
  • In celebration for the 10th anniversary of the series, a picture of all the Danganronpa characters was released showing them all in prom outfits, with all of them looking utterly stunning.
  • In Kindred Spirits on the Roof, while Tsukuyo Sonou, a teacher at a school, is usually well-dressed in a blouse and a skirt, she wears a suit to the opening and closing ceremonies, and wears a kimono and hakama to graduation. Kiri Tsurugimine, who has a crush on Tsukuyo, naturally loves seeing her dressed up.

    Web Animation 
  • Teen Girl Squad: In issue 10, The Ugly One gets a makeover for her "sweet someteen" party, trading in her usual frumpy glasses, clothes, and hairstyle for much more stylish ones, and even Strong Bad is impressed by the transformation ("Whoa! Did I draw that new hotness?"). So much so, he prevents the "Arrow'd Guy" from, err, Arrowing her, and proceeds to make out with the piece of loose-leaf she's drawn on.
  • 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.

    Web Novel 
  • Can You Spare a Quarter?: Graham remarks on the change in Jamie's appearance from a dirty street kid to a gorgeous lad after the boy has showered and changed into better clothes.

    Web Videos 
  • 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.
  • This trope was parodied in a TikTok video. A mom comes home from a trip to Wal-Mart wearing house clothes, a hair bonnet, and a cheap purse, saying they didn't have what she needed. Her son asks what she's going to do now and she says she has to get dressed so she can go to Target. Cut to her coming out of her bedroom in a fashionable outfit with styled hair and a designer handbag.

    Real Life 
  • Catherine Middleton, or at least the press liked 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, and remarked to a friend that "Kate's hot." Marriage and three children later, she's still captivating the world in a manner reminiscent of her late mother-in-law, Diana; we're just used to it now.
  • A male version is 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.
  • Susan Boyle easily is this. When we first were introduced to her, she was awkward, fairly goofy, and had an unkempt, plain appearance. Fast forward a decade after her launch into legendary status as an amazing singer, and she's gained confidence and now looks radiant.
  • The Blobfish has a reputation as one of the most ugliest animals on the planet, but the blob-like visage is actually a result of decompression from being taken out of the deep sea. Down in its habitat, however, it looks a lot more like a regular fish.
  • Another rare animal example: for unknown reasons, spotted hyenas are capable of growing a longer fur coat for winter when in zoos, despite cold weather being very unlikely in their native range. The extra fluff does help make them look less ugly.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): He Cleans Up Nicely, Cleans Up Nicely


Stranger Things (2016)

In order to sneak Eleven into school, the boys have to provide her with her very first makeover. And everyone -- especially Mike -- is impressed with the results.

How well does it match the trope?

4.58 (12 votes)

Example of:

Main / SheCleansUpNicely

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