Game, set, match: How Zendaya is changing the rules of red carpets

4 Mins read

Let’s be honest: we can always count on the queen of method dressing to serve some flawless film-inspired looks.

Quiet, please. The world press tour for director Luca Guadagnino’s new film, Challengers, is underway – and one thing seems to be attracting more attention than anything else: Zendaya’s outfits.

Not because she is always stunning or simply because she is the star of the moment, but because her outfit had everything to do with the narrative of the upcoming film.

At the London premiere, Thom Browne’s custom white maxi dress featured a halter neckline and a pleated skirt with a deep thigh-high slit. But what stole the show were the sequins embroidered in the shape of little tennis rackets all over it.

“I’ve got my Tashi braid going,” she said at the occasion, in yet another reference to her character. It was a long braid, finished with a large white bow, inspired by the classic hairstyle of former tennis player Anna Kournikova.

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In Challengers, Zendaya is Tashi Duncan, a former prodigy tennis player and now a coach on a mission to redeem her husband’s losing streak. However, her brilliant strategy takes a turn when her husband (Mike Faist) must face her ex-boyfriend (Josh O’Connor) on the courts.

After her impeccable looks at the press tours for Spider-Man (2021) and Dune: Part Two (2024), it is clear that the queen of method dressing wasn’t going to let us down this time. She’s everything people talk about.

When a celebrity appears on a red carpet, their fashion choices always help to sell the film in one way or another – and method dressing is revolutionising this. Because of it, what had lost its appeal is now being talked about again.

You might ask: what is method dressing? It is a technique that extends the fantastical elements of fiction outside of it. It is when the clothes, accessories or hairstyles recall or make direct references to the character or the story as a whole.

These outfits make people even more interested in the story of the film, because they don’t end in themselves. People want to know what’s in that look that refers to the story. There is a continuity in what’s actually being publicised there. Zendaya has been acing this game.

Another outfit that caused quite a stir during the Challengers press tour was the black and white ball gown designed by Carolina Herrera. Sitting on a sofa flaunting the beautiful dress and beaded braids, the actress enlisted the help of her stylist (for 13 years) Law Roach to recreate the famous portrait of tennis legends Venus and Serena Williams, photographed by Annie Leibovitz in 1998.

White was a constant for her over the past few weeks. The colour is mandatory in the tennis players’ uniforms, but its innocence also seems to contrast with the highly sensual nature of the film.

In Rome, Zendaya wore a customised Loewe dress, the result of her partnership with creative director Jonathan Anderson. Drawing on the brand’s surrealism, the shiny mini dress resembled a player’s uniform and the shoes had tennis balls as heels.

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For her outfit at the Australia press conference, she made the trainer aesthetic even more chic. In yet another all-white look, a tank top and high-waisted shorts, with points of glitter and transparencies giving the sporty outfit a special touch.

To attend a Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters match with her cast mates, Zendaya mastered the quiet-luxury aesthetic with a Brunello Cucinelli combo of a knit top and a long-tailored skirt.

Another colour that featured in many of her outfits was green – which goes without saying, doesn’t it?

There was the pantsuit from Louis Vuitton’s spring 1999 collection for the Paris photo call; the vintage mini dress from Marc Jacob’s spring 2013 collection for the Paris press conference; the Celia Kritharioti’s customised bright green dress, in which the halter neckline was accompanied by a tennis ball; and, of course, the glittery gown from Loewe, featuring a tennis player shadow preparing to serve for the Australian premiere.

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She is not the only one to do this, though. Other actors have taken up method dressing lately. Every look worn by Margot Robbie on the world press tour for Barbie was a recreation of outfits from classic editions of the doll, for example.

Rachel Zegler for The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes, Halle Bailey for The Little Mermaid, Zoë Kravitz for The Batman and Timothée Chalamet for Wonka premieres are not left out of this list.

But there is something special about Zendaya because you can see her own personal influences in every look. Her stylist, Law Roach, has been working with her for years, since the beginning of her career. He knows very well how to enhance her while respecting her choices.

Nobody does method dressing like her.

Challengers hits cinemas on 26 April.

Featured image courtesy of MGM Studios.

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