Zendaya's Cinderella Met Gala Look: An Iconic Fashion Moment, Explained

The annual gala of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York city, or the Met Gala as it is colloquially known, has produced some of the most interesting fashion looks over the years. Following a theme tied to the ongoing exhibition at the museum, the Met Gala presents a unique opportunity for attendees to dress up and go all out by exploring different aspects of their personalities. Hence, apart from the aesthetics of the clothes and accessories on display, it is the creative and intellectual effort involved in producing them that makes each outfit worn to the Met Gala truly interesting.

Every year, those interested in fashion eagerly await this event, and over the years, some stunning Met Gala looks have been served up. Of course, all of them can't be winners, but some stay in our memory for years afterward. Case in point — Zendaya's iconic Cinderella Met Gala look in 2019, which in its beautiful theatricality, was the most apt tribute to that year's theme, Camp: Notes on Fashion.

The Cinderella gown of every girl's dreams

Envisioned by Zendaya's stylist Law Roach, who has always advocated against trend-driven culture, this look was brought to life by designer Tommy Hilfiger in association with a team of eight people that had earlier worked on the iconic Hussein Chalayan robot dress in 2007, which was a nod to tech-infused futurism. As a literal interpretation of the Cinderella Disney princess vibe, Zendaya's dress had to be almost exactly like the one from the famous 1950 Disney movie of the same name, complete with voluminous skirt and fitted corset, complemented by puff sleeves.

As beautiful as the gown was in and of itself, it was made truly special by the addition of technology. On the red carpet, Roach — performing the role of Zendaya's "Fairy Godbrother" — waved a smoking wand around her. With a quick "bibbidy-bobbedy-boo," her gown lit up to reflect a magical blue, of the exact tone from the one seen in the animated film. This spellbinding effect was achieved with luminescent electrical work that included five battery packs to produce half a kilowatt of energy, 40 meters worth of LED lights, and 20 carbon fiber rods. It took nearly three months to complete.

As stated in Dezeen, Hilfiger described the dress as "an animatronic crystal-grey silk evening gown constructed to enable both visual and physical transformations of the silhouette from understated to dramatic."

The devil is in the details

Zendaya's Cinderella gown was indeed the focal point of this unmatched red carpet look, but one cannot deny the importance of the accessories in helping to recreate the complete fairytale.

The dress was perfectly complemented by a pair of see-through pumps with a glass heel, to mimic Cinderella's glass slippers. Keeping the fantasy alive, Zendaya even left one of them at the Met Gala stairs for Prince Charming to come find her. There may have been no liveried pumpkin coach to bring the maiden to the ball, but the actor's tiny, embellished Judith Lieber stagecoach clutch did an admirable job of filling in. Cinderella's signature black glittering choker was also in place.

Zendaya's hair and makeup, two other essential items when it comes to recreating costumes, were also on point. Hairstylist Ursula Stephen, who has been doing Zendaya's hair for a long time, made her blond and created the perfect French twist updo. Makeup artist Sheika Daley was responsible for the star's ethereal glow, including her striking pale blue eyeshadow, from the Lancôme Color Design 5 Pan Eyeshadow Palette in shade 400 Teal Fury. Roach explained while in conversation with Vogue, "It has to be literal enough so that people get it. When you see Cinderella, you know right away it's her; the baby blue dress and the hair and the French twist it all works together."

What Zendaya's Cinderella look stood for

There is no denying that many young children dream of being a Disney princess. At this point in time, actor Zendaya – who started her career on Disney – was on the brink of moving on to grander things, and in the process, changing her persona forever. This red carpet appearance came just before the launch of the TV show "Euphoria," which has since become a fan favorite for its dark storyline and memorable makeup looks, such as this cool lash hack achieved by gluing rhinestones to falsies.

As such, this move was meant to mirror Zendaya's career trajectory. Roach told Vogue about her role in Euphoria: "[It's] the total opposite of every character I think she's ever played and a huge stretch from 'K.C. Undercover.' It's almost like this is the last hoorah and the last time people will identify her as a Disney princess — which isn't a bad thing." Zendaya echoed him in her Instagram caption when she wrote, "Thank you to my Fairy Godbrutha for a fairytale ending to my Disney days."

Roach's vision and Zendaya's confidence literally lit up the stage. Later, Roach joked to Vogue, "Next year we're going to have to [either] chill out or come down from a helicopter like Diana Ross at the Superbowl. When this goes off like it's supposed to what else can you do!"

How the look lived up to the Camp: Notes on Fashion theme

With a theme as abstract as "Camp," celebrities had their work cut out for them at the 2019 Met Gala. Based on American writer and critic Susan Sontag's famed essay titled "Notes on 'Camp'" published in Partisan Review in 1964, the theme sought to encapsulate Sontag's words, as shared in Time: "Its love of the unnatural: of artifice and exaggeration ... 'It's too much,' 'It's fantastic,' 'It's not to be believed,' are standard phrases of Camp enthusiasm."

The major elements of the "Camp" aesthetic as described by Sontag (per Dezeen) are "irony, humor, parody, pastiche, artifice, theatricality, and exaggeration." And this was why it appealed to the team at the Met in the context of fashion. As Met director Max Hollein told Dezeen, "Camp's disruptive nature and subversion of modern aesthetic values has often been trivialized, but this exhibition will reveal its profound influence on both high art and popular culture ... the show will embody the ironic sensibilities of this audacious style, challenge conventional understandings of beauty and taste, and establish the critical role this important genre has played in the history of art and fashion."

In light of this, Zendaya's Cinderella moment, which was theatrical and fantastical while also being covetable and cute, aced the theme and has gone down in history as one of the most iconic Met Gala looks of all time.