Can Zendaya Ever Top Her Mugler Moment?

Sometimes a fashion moment—on the red carpet or otherwise—is so smashingly spectacular it can soon fade into a feeling of despair. How can it ever be topped? Will we ever see something quite so grand again? That was the case with Zendaya’s recent appearance at the London premiere of Dune: Part 2. After years of creating red carpet magic alongside image architect Law Roach, she reached a new apex by walking out in a robotic suit from Thierry Mugler’s 1995 couture collection. The outfit left fashion fanatics stunned and wondering how the actress has even managed to source it (despite being an iconic part of Mugler’s oeuvre, the piece never had a major off-the-runway celebrity moment—not even Lady Gaga had pulled it for a music video). The look even impressed those who have no interest at all in fashion history.

The moment not only made Instagram feeds and front pages around the world, but it also felt like Zendaya definitively won a sort of informal red carpet contest. In recent years, fashionable Hollywood starlets have proved both their own fashion bonafides and the power of their stardom by pulling landmark archival dresses. Zendaya has always been the head of that leaderboard, but the Mugler robosuit felt like she had crossed the finish line, ending the competition forever. Never mind wondering “how can anyone ever top it?”—can Zendaya outshine herself?

Then again—as the furor around Kim Kardashian wearing a historic gown once donned by Marilyn Monroe proved at the 2022 Met Gala—sometimes dipping into the archive can backfire. Some dresses are seen as too sacred to wear again. Wearing, say, one of Princess Diana’s iconic dresses might feel in poor taste. Just because you can pull something doesn’t mean you should.

Still, we can’t help but wonder what, if anything, could top that Mugler magic. Here, a few half-ideas if Z and Law need any help.

The Paint Dress From Alexander McQueen’s No. 13 Collection

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Taste in fashion varies, yet almost everyone agrees that the finale of Alexander McQueen’s spring/summer 1999 collection is a top ten moment in runway history. Model Shalom Harlow strutted onto the stage in a simple white muslin dress and then twirled about as she was spray-painted by two robotic arms taken from an automobile assembly line. The original dress is still preserved—but wouldn’t it be more dramatic if Zendaya wore, say, a reproduction and recreated the full moment on a red carpet? Only, however, if Law Roach can source the two original robot arms.

Björk’s Swan Dress

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Let’s say Zendaya is cast in the lead role of some movie studio’s CGI Mother Goose nursery rhymes cinematic universe (not unimaginable). What else would you expect her to wear but Björk’s famous Marjan Pejoski-designed swan dress from the 2001 Oscars? Pair it with cuter shoes, and she’d pull it off.

The Coat and Dress That Started the Karl Lagerfeld vs. Yves Saint Laurent Rivalry

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Long before they became household names, a young Karl Lagerfeld and an even younger Yves Saint Laurent each won a category in the prestigious 1954 International Wool Secretariat design competition (Yves for dresses, Karl for coats). The pair was friendly at first, but over time their rivalry would define designer fashion for decades. We’re not entirely sure either garment still exists, but we are sure it would be something of a miracle to wear them together on the red carpet. (The woman in the photo who won the suiting category did not go on to have major success, but to complete the storyline we’d suggest Zendaya wear her winner to the after party).

A Look From John Galliano’s 1984 Central Saint Martins Graduate Collection

The girls love to wear either vintage Galliano or designs repurposed from Galliano’s archive (take a look at Miley Cyrus’s recent Grammys dress), but has anyone ever taken it back all the way to the beginning? Galliano’s French Revolution-inspired graduate collecting from 1984, titled Les Incroyables, was an instant sensation that put Galliano on the map. Because it was actually sold in stores, items from the collection are still out there waiting for Law Roach’s office to find them.

Kim Kardashian’s 2013 Met Gala Dress by Givenchy

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Kim Kardashian attended her very first Met Gala in 2013 when she was pregnant with her very first child, North West, and the instant online reaction to her gloved Givenchy gown was so negative that the reality star admitted she cried the entire way home. Yet, in hindsight, it’s not quite that bad. Defiantly ugly florals and built-in gloves are not uncommon on today’s runways. Should Zendaya ever find herself in need of an archive maternity look to rock on the red carpet, why not this one?

The Vivienne Westwood Shoes That Tripped Up Naomi Campbell

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Naomi Campbell is to stomping the runway as Shakespeare is to sonnets: the best. Yet, even the best get tripped up from time to time. The sky-high platforms at a 1993 Vivienne Westwood show proved too much for Naomi, and the super famously took a tumble. She said she laughed it off the next day, and Westwood herself loved it. Who else could pay tribute to that moment but Zendaya?

Sasha Velour’s Rose Petal Gown

Red carpet moments like Zendaya in that Mugler suit can cross over from mere fashion to performance art. It’s almost drag in a way (and Mugler himself loved a good drag queen). Why not cement that blurring of the lines by pulling one of the outfits from perhaps the most famous televised drag performance in recent memory?

Rick Owens’s Spring 2016 Collection

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Inspired by a stunt the club kid and artist Leigh Bowery used to perform on stage, Rick Owens sent models harnessed onto other models down the runway for spring 2016. Zendaya and Dune costar Timothée Chalamet wore matching looks today during a promotion appearance in South Korea. There’s only one way they can top that when Dune: Part 3 rolls around. Zendaya must simply wear Timothée Chalamet on the red carpet.

Julia Roberts’s 2001 Oscar Gown

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Zendaya may be the reigning champ of the archive pull, but Julia Roberts originated wearing vintage as a power move. Surely turning down umpteen offers from designers who wanted to dress her in a custom gown, Roberts instead wore a 1992 Valentino dress to collect her Best Actress Oscar for Erin Brockovich. Soon, many fellow A-listers followed suit by dipping into the past. It would be something of a meta slay for Zendaya to wear the gown next.

Jennifer Lopez’s 2000 Grammys Dress

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Just kidding. Just kidding! With all due respect, we think we’ve actually gotten enough red carpet mileage out of that particular dress.

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