Lately I’ve been thinking about Blake Lively’s press tour for 2018’s A Simple Favor. Lively plays Emily, a mysterious, suit-wearing glamazon who befriends an eager mommy blogger (Anna Kendrick), then disappears without a trace. Lively promoted her character off-screen by wearing a bunch of suits around New York, from the trendy (a wide-legged neon green number), to the confounding (a blue velvet set with a mauve velvet blazer in high summer), to the Gatsby-approved (three pieces of white pinstripe). These indelible looks convinced me to watch the film (an unsung cult classic).
Five years later, Halle Bailey is now following Lively’s lead. The 23-year-old star is currently promoting The Little Mermaid, with a wardrobe of iridescent, aquatic gowns: a Miss Sohee gown with a shell-like bodice and a beaded headpiece reminiscent of what a synchronized swimmer might wear for the London premiere; a pale blue gown with a netted skirt for a fan event; a cascading opera coat with layers of tulle resembling seafoam for this year’s Met Gala.
My colleague André Wheeler called this “method dressing,” a chance to extend a project’s cinematic universe onto the red carpet before the movie even premieres. Many celebs have made sartorial nods to their roles: Zendaya wore multiple cobwebs while promoting Spider-Man: No Way Home in 2021, Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling leaned into the ever-present Barbie-mania at Comic-Con in pink ensembles that borrowed heavily from the dolls. Anya Taylor-Joy traded her Old Hollywood gowns for a hot pink moto set at the premiere of The Super Mario Bros. Movie earlier this year, even throwing a playful punch towards the cameras on the red carpet. Jenna Ortega has also parlayed her role as Wednesday Addams into an aesthetic sensibility so inextricably linked to the moody character she plays that it’s difficult to tell where Wednesday ends and Ortega begins.
One particularly whimsical, vintage application of method dressing was when Geena Davis wore a dress with baseball stitching at the sides to the premiere of A League of Their Own in 1992. It doesn’t even have to be so literal; Michelle Yeoh’s avant-garde attire she wore while promoting Everything Everywhere All at Once, as well as Tessa Thompson’s everything-is-not-what-it-appears wardrobe for Westworld, come to mind as examples of merely gesturing towards a show or film’s themes.
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