How Do Fashion Aesthetics Impact Dating App Success? A TikToker Investigates

Photo Illustration by Aly LimGetty | cobalt bonetta Creatikon Studio AlexKalina Mensent Photography D-Keine showcake kickersPhoto Illustration by Aly LimGetty | cobalt bonetta Creatikon Studio AlexKalina Mensent Photography D-Keine showcake kickers

Society is facing aesthetics fatigue. Cottagecore, normcore, soft girl, mob wife: dozens of hyper-specific style presentations constantly flitter around social media, and though there are acknowledgments that it’s all gotten a little out of hand — that these niche aesthetics have killed personal style — a new one inevitably pops up that grips the culture. But what’s the interplay between these aesthetics and success on dating apps? One content creator is finding out.

Sri, a 22-year-old content creator who posts as @simplyysri on TikTok, gave her Hinge profile a coquettecore makeover at the beginning of the year. The aesthetic is marked by bows, lace, and other girlish flourishes, so Sri wore a big white bow in one of her new profile photos and, in a prompt answer, wrote about wanting to tie a man up in ribbons. Then, she waited.

The response was instant and overwhelming. Single men were interested as hell. “This is a very experimental thing, so much data,” Sri tells PS. She later documented the experiment in a TikTok that’s received nearly six million views.

Sri has a way of weighing the silliness of her experiment with the seriousness. When talking about the origin of her idea, for example, she’ll say, “I love dressing up. Who doesn’t love dressing up?” But then she talks about really wanting to know what signals certain aesthetics are sending: “How does it impact the way that we date, and how does it impact the way that people think of these aesthetics?”

Like many others in their 20s, Sri has a personal history with dating apps, which she began using right after high school and throughout college. “It was my main way of dating,” she says. “Did I meet some guys? Yeah, for sure. And were they not horrible experiences? OK, yeah, sure, totally.” Sri doesn’t really use the apps in earnest anymore — only for content.

“I hope the takeaway from these videos is not, ‘I need to go be a mob wife, coquette b*tch right now.'”

Sri’s experiment is still in the early stages: after her coquettecore video in early January, she gave her dating app profile a mob wife makeover later that month. That one was met with a different response. (More on that below.) Though she plans on continuing the series, Sri doesn’t want her 1.3 million followers to get the wrong idea: “I hope the takeaway from these videos is not, ‘I need to go be a mob wife, coquette b*tch right now. That is just what I need to do.’ This is purely an experiment.” Sri adds, “By no means do we have to change our aesthetics. Wear what makes you confident, and who gives a f*ck how well that does on dating apps?”

PS: How did you get the idea for this experiment?
Sri: I’ve always loved dating apps. Not in the sense that I’ve loved dating on them — I think many people can attest to how much of a hard experience it can be and some of the more not-so-pleasant experiences that they’ve encountered — but I’ve always enjoyed using dating apps in my videos.

There’s so many aesthetics that we see on social media, right? Every day, are we just switching ourselves to this curated personality? I thought it was so interesting that maybe I could portray myself in a certain aesthetic and embody something completely different from me on a regular day-to-day basis, and see how that would act on a dating app. How would it be portrayed for other people — in my case, men?

With the first one that I did, the coquette girl era, so many men were really in love with this sort of character. It was like, oh my god, people do take into consideration these aesthetics when they’re forming an opinion on someone.

PS: Let’s dive into the response you got to the coquettecore experiment.
Sri: The male population loved it. They ate that one up, and I will admit that my captions, or my prompts, were more on the flirtatious or sexual side. I did get feedback from my audience like, hey, let’s try to find a middle ground.

For that one specifically, I think it was at least 60 or 70 people who matched with me within a matter of three to four hours. The girls definitely had their opinion as to why it was so popular.

PS: Why do you think it was such a hit?
Sri: I think some men today — or maybe most men today — really have come to think that a hyper-feminine version of a girl is the most ideal one. I would say it even kind of taps into some aspects of femininity that we don’t necessarily see in older women. I was playing into the bows and the frills — just super, super girly.

If we compare it to the next video that I did, the mob wife aesthetic, it’s pretty much the opposite: with coquettecore, you’re going with something more soft, girly, and for lack of a better term, more docile. And then with mob wife, the title is literally “mob wife”: she will cut your gonads off. She is fierce. She doesn’t need you — she maybe wants you, but she certainly doesn’t need you.

PS: And so what are some of the responses the mob wife profile received?
Sri: Even in terms of quantifiable metrics, the number of matches in the same few hours was drastically lower. I would say it was half, or less than half. There weren’t as many people who were interested.

In the prompts, I tried to embody a mob wife, saying things along the lines of, “I’m looking for my Tony Soprano,” or “buy me a fur coat.” And it just didn’t hit as many men. We didn’t get many comments in general, but I remember someone saying, “Fur coat? Not on the first date, but maybe the third.” Another one was a fan of the series. He was like, “Please put me in your video.” We can’t call that proper data.

PS: How do these aesthetics compare to your usual style and presentation?
Sri: My usual day-to-day aesthetic, if anyone saw me, they’d be like, is this grandmacore? “I am struggling to get out of bed” core is probably it. The way that I presented myself, when I was on dating apps, is just normal, whatever was trending in 2020 and 2021 when I was using dating apps really heavily. Jeans and a crop top, that was usually my aesthetic. I’m not a very fashionable individual.

PS: Was there anything you learned in the experiment that you would adopt going forward?
Sri: When I was playing mob wife and I was trying to get in the mindset of a woman who really doesn’t give a sh*t about what other people think and is really doing this to feel her utmost powerful self, that was really empowering because I didn’t care to be likable or agreeable.

My coquettecore prompts were meant to engage men or do something that I knew men would like. Mob wife was not like that. My mindset was: who am I? What do I want? I want someone who treats me like a queen, and if you can’t give me that, that’s fine. Thank you, next.

PS: Did you feel guilty at all for duping these men a little bit?
Sri: Do I feel bad that I’m presenting this profile that a guy might see and be like, oh my god, that’s my dream girl? Yeah. But then I’m also concerned for their wellbeing because if you see someone and immediately think that’s your dream person, that’s probably not the healthiest mindset. You probably shouldn’t be doing that with anyone.

I didn’t honestly feel too horrible because with any of the dating videos that I do in general, I’m very mindful to not incorporate any photos of the other person. I make an effort to really protect the privacy of the people behind the comments that I’m using in my videos.

I also made an effort to not entertain conversations with the men, because at that point, you think you’re talking to a legitimate person with this legitimate aesthetic, right? And that’s not the case. So I made an effort to not have lengthy conversations with these men to make sure that they’re not thinking they’re getting involved with someone who clearly does not exist.

PS: Have you thought about what would happen if you were interested in someone who responded while the experiment is taking place?
Sri: If the line between work and play got very blurry, I would make an effort to be pretty honest pretty quickly. I am a proponent of honesty when it comes to legitimate relationships. Would I pursue it? Yes, I would try to, but in a way that is ethical and honest and making sure the other person knows that, hey, I might have some mob-wife tendencies, like my anger gets super hot, but I don’t wear fur coats every day.

PS: What was the response to the experiment from your followers?
Sri: It was amazing. This is not something I anticipated at all. People in the comments were hypothesizing why men would fall for coquettecore. It was amazing to see the camaraderie that was happening in the comments, and the amount of people who were just brainstorming and using their beautiful analytical brains to decide why things are happening the way they are happening.

People really want to see, how is it that we are being perceived by the opposite sex when it comes to these aesthetics that are hitting our For You Pages and our Instagrams every day about how to dress and what’s the next hottest thing? How is it actually being taken in by another group of people?

PS: What aesthetics are next in the experiment?
Sri: Goth is definitely up there because I personally have never been super goth. I think I wanted to dye my hair purple in middle school and my mom almost killed me. So, to be able to do that now in my 20s with maybe a wig or fake hair extensions would be super cathartic for me, as well as for my audience.

Adam Sandler is also very intriguing because I literally dress like him every day, and I hope it’s not super unappealing to people. Also possibly tradwife, and I think the reason why is because of Nara Smith. That girl — honestly, very peaceful videos. I watch that and I’m like, I would love to make Oreos from scratch but I’m currently rotting in bed.

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Kelsey Garcia is the associate content director of POPSUGAR Balance, where she oversees lifestyle coverage, from dating to parenting and financial wellness. Kelsey is passionate about travel, skin-care trends, and changes in the social media landscape. Before joining the POPSUGAR team more than eight years ago as an editorial assistant, she interned at Elle and Harper’s Bazaar, among other publications.

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