The Sofia Richie Effect Is Real

It’s Sofia Richie’s wealthy young wife era, and some women are, apparently, living vicariously through her. 

Before this month, the 24-year old was primarily known for her associations to other people, mainly her famous dad, Lionel Richie and older sister, Nicole. That is, until she launched her TikTok account the same weekend as her star-studded wedding in the south of France to British music executive Elliot Grainge.

Since then, her profile has exploded. All anyone can talk about on the platform is Richie: her makeup, her dew drop veil, her Scarlett Johansson-esque voice, the exact set of blue Eberjey pajamas she wore in one of her “get ready with me” videos, that clip of her rocking out, barefoot, to Good Charlotte (her brother-in-law’s band) performing live at her wedding reception. 

“In all of the fame of my life, she was so famous that day,” Lionel Richie, Sofia’s singer-songwriter father, told E! News a couple days after the celebration. “It was her day. It was her life.”

The wedding, held at the exclusive Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc, was a reintroduction to Richie on the precipice of It-girl-hood. Three years out from her highly scrutinized relationship with Scott Disick and two years into her friends-to-lovers relationship with Grainge, Richie reemerged markedly changed. She’s clearly more influential and in love than ever; a picture of feminine poise and sophistication. Finally, she’s the main character instead of a Kardashian-adjacent supporting cast member. 

Gone are the ripped black jeans, corsets, and towering heels. Now, uptown girl and “old money aesthetic” staples—ballet flats, tweed suits, floor-grazing dresses with high necklines, matching sets, Hamptons-core linen—have taken their place. Her best accessory, though, may be Grainge, the rich, bespectacled British son of an even richer businessman: Universal Music Group CEO Lucian Grainge.

“My new mindset is, What would Sofia Richie do?” mused @graceklifestyle in a TikTok. “If it’s not giving vintage Chanel, then I don’t want to wear it. I’m here for the neutral ’fits with a pop of colour. The undone curls and the sleek buns. The old-money and clean-girl vibes. My goal is for everyone to see me as a stylish, well-educated, and fashionable girlie.”

What seemed like an overnight transformation into a style icon was in fact a “slow progression,” Richie’s stylist, Liat Baruch, tells Glamour. About two years ago, Richie tapped Baruch—her older sister Nicole’s friend of 20 years—to develop a “more timeless” and “elevated way of dressing.” Together, they’ve built a core wardrobe around “what we think will last, and what we think is not going to be gross in five years when we look back, or even two years, or even one year,” the stylist says. 

Baruch considers Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy to be her personal style icon, a qualification that makes her well-suited to Richie’s newfound fashion perspective. Shortly after that collaboration started, Baruch began working with Grainge too. “He knows what he likes, he knows what looks good on him, and he’s a very classic guy,” she says.

Her partnership with Richie is more exploratory. “Style is not just how you dress, at all—it’s not,” Baruch says. “Actually, that’s a small part of it.” Instead, she and Richie pull key references from their personal lives. 

“We're always looking at how girls in Europe are dressed,” she continues. “For example, one of my best friends is Vanessa Traina. She’s a big muse for us both. And so stuff like that, more personal, people that we know and that we admire, that have style in all of their aspects, not just the way they dress. It’s the way they present themselves, with the art in their house, where they’re eating, where they’re traveling.”

It’s an approach that is clearly working for Richie, regardless of what she decides to do or not do with the momentum. Coming of age at the height of girl-boss culture has conditioned millennial women to expect a brand launch at every turn, but some have suggested it would be an even bigger slay for Richie to simply be rich and happily married. 

This yearning to escape the power paradigm is the glue that holds TikTok’s “tradwife” and “soft girl” subcultures together—online aesthetics that celebrate essentially being a doting wife or partner. And in the age of burnout, some women no longer find it aspirational to work. Economic instability makes the fantasy of marrying well all the more potent.

“A rich man is all I need,” one TikToker wrote over a Sofia-Elliot fan edit. “Never settle ladies,” another noted. “Don’t let your boyfriend stop you from finding your husband.”

“How to snag a rich man” is a curiously popular genre of content on TikTok. The duo behind The VIP List, for instance, routinely go viral for recommending bars and restaurants where trust fund babies and finance bros are easiest to find. And it didn’t take long for creators like Niké Ojekunle of Specs and Blazers to draw a connection between Richie’s style pivot and her ascent in wealth and status—a phenomenon some have dubbed the Sofia Richie theory or the Sofia Richie effect.

“I will always say, conservative dressing—not showing skin—is the fastest way to pull a wealthy man,” Ojekunle said in a TikTok analyzing Richie’s style evolution, only half-apologizing for the sexist-sounding advice. 

“We saw millennials working really hard,” cultural commentator Nia Phillip tells Glamour. “Lots of really negative things happened with women CEOs during that era. So a lot of Gen Z or even younger women and some millennials, their response to that has been ‘soft life, stay at home girlfriend, men should take care of us.’ It’s been this counter to the girl-boss era, and I think Sofia represents that in a way. And she’s used as, sort of like, How do you attract a rich man to take care of you so you don’t have to be a girl boss?”

It’s a sentiment Dr. Annie Kelly repeatedly encounters in her research of the tradwife movement and the mainstreaming of it across the internet over the last five years. Her working theory is that it stems from a “frustration with the optimistic feminist rhetoric that is often given to young girls in order to pressure them or inspire them to succeed.

“This kind of ‘you can do anything’ rhetoric is entirely well-intentioned, I think,” Dr. Kelly says. “But often it comes up against the reality of being a young person in a workplace. The workplace, largely, will not have much attachment to you or your interests and can often be increasingly a bad deal in terms of how long you have to stay to further your career and the kind of benefits you can expect to get. So I think there is a bit of a backlash happening there."

In a perfectly logical and progressive world, that backlash might inspire a renewed push for reform. But that’s not always how people respond when faced with real political problems. 

“A lot of the time, it can turn into ‘Feminism lied to me,’” Dr. Kelly concludes. “I wouldn’t say it’s a dominant kind of response in young women, but it certainly seems to be there. And I think that’s what this tradwife subculture is often exploiting.”

But the Sofia Richie fantasy isn’t really about men or elegantly modest fashion. It’s the fairy tale of bringing meaningful change to fruition in your life. It’s the irresistible notion that we can exercise some kind of control over our destiny with small, symbolic shifts in the way we present ourselves to the world. It’s the movie makeover montage that goes a little deeper, arming the hero or heroine for the next chapter of their story. It’s the feminine urge to reinvent yourself, and the gift of getting to do it as many times as you want. 

Hanna Lustig is a staff writer at Glamour.

Originally Appeared on Glamour