Zendaya Flexed Her Fashion Power Wearing Two Looks on the Met Gala Red Carpet

With several gowns reportedly being considered until almost the last moment, Zendaya’s choice for the 2024 Met Gala ultimately was a custom haute couture look from Maison Margiela Artisanal by John Galliano as well as a surprise archival look — also by Galliano.

In the hours before the Challengers star and Met Gala co-chair arrived on the steps of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, the rumor mill had kicked into high gear about who she might be wearing. Multiple gowns were mentioned as contenders, a sign of the power Zendaya wields in the fashion industry.

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But her first choice indeed reflected the blend of 19th century romance and modernity that Galliano creates like perhaps no other designer, with elements that subtly evoke the gala’s theme of “The Garden of Time.” The emerald green and electric blue gown is a custom design made of organza and sage-hued lamé crafted of a corset of duchess satin, with hand-painted metallic details, a drape and bow layered from aluminum and iridescent organza, and finished with a hand-embroidered corsage.

The look is accessorized with a hat created by legendary milliner Stephen Jones for Maison Margiela, consisting of a hand-painted veil and embellished with stockings, while Zendaya’s custom Tabi pumps are by Christian Louboutin for Maison Margiela. See all the looks from the 2024 Met Gala red carpet here.

Zendaya in Maison Margiela Artisanal by John Galliano at the 2024 Met Gala.

Later in the evening, Zendaya made a surprise second appearance on the carpet in exactly one of those other dresses that had been talked about as a contender for the Met Gala.

That follow-up look is from John Galliano’s first haute-couture collection for Givenchy in January 1996 and was purchased from Lily et Cie, the famed Beverly Hills boutique that’s beloved among style aficionados as a resource for museum-quality vintage fashion.

Lily et Cie’s founder Rita Watnick tells THR that Zendaya’s star stylist Law Roach arrived at her store in March, just ahead of the Academy Awards.

Zendaya - Met Gala 2024
Zendaya attends The 2024 Met Gala Celebrating “Sleeping Beauties: Reawakening Fashion” at The Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 6, 2024, in New York City.

“I thought he was seeking another option [for Zendaya] for the Oscars, and when he left he didn’t say a word about what he was thinking,” remembers Watnick, who has curated every piece found within Lily et Cie since she opened its doors in 1979. “But we had a wonderful time and shared a terrific conversation about art and other stories. And then he sent me the most beautiful floral arrangement that almost filled an entire window; it was such a gesture of kindness and friendship, and I was really touched.”

Three weeks before May 6’s Met Gala, Roach touched base with Watnick again, asking if he could bring his superstar client with him to try on a dress he had looked at during his first visit. “Zendaya tried on the one dress, and only that dress,” Watnick says. “She put it on, and it was clear she felt really good in it, and she also liked the way it walked.”

Like so many gowns at Lily et Cie, the gown’s history and provenance are highly special: the silk Galliano gown has been largely unseen since it premiered on that 1996 runway. “It’s the only one in the world, it’s in virtually perfect condition, made by John Galliano and worn on the runway by Veronica Webb, and only worn after by Nadja Auermann in an editorial after that,” Watnick explains. “It speaks to everything that’s important to us when we buy pieces.”

The gown was Look No. 8 in Galliano’s debut for the house founded by Hubert de Givenchy, and at the time, its overt nod to 19th-century romance caused some raised eyebrows among those devoted to the label’s modernity. In short, it was about as far as one could get from a dress Audrey Hepburn might wear — and that may have been precisely the point, as Galliano sought to put his own stamp on the house.

Zendaya and Roach ultimately departed Lily et Cie without a final decision, but a week later, the dress was purchased for the Challengers star. That latter fact is another important detail: not lent, not gifted, but purchased. “We’ve never lent a dress, we’ve never rented a dress — the museum doesn’t lend dresses, and neither do we, also because we are not an LVMH or a Kering,” says Watnick, name-checking the world’s two largest fashion conglomerates.

Zendaya - Law Roach - Met Gala 2024
Zendaya and Law Roach attend The 2024 Met Gala Celebrating “Sleeping Beauties: Reawakening Fashion” at The Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 06, 2024, in New York City.

Zendaya also wore a hat with the second gown, this time a vintage Alexander McQueen design accented with roses, while she wore Bulgari jewels with both dresses.

Ultimately, Watnick believes Zendaya’s second Met Gala dress has found its perfect new custodians. “I really do love the theme,” she says of the Met Museum Costume Institute’s show Sleeping Beauties: Reawakening Fashion and curator Andrew Bolton’s desire to showcase some of the museum’s most delicate archived pieces, never before seen in a Costume Institute exhibition. “Museums have so much that we never see, and although they’re preserving them, to put them on display is so rare. So the opportunity is wonderful.”

This year’s Met Gala dress code, “The Garden of Time,” takes its cue from the 1962 short story of the same name by J.G. Ballard, which dovetails nicely with the exhibition, Sleeping Beauties: Reawakening Fashion, which opens to the public Friday, May 10. The Andrew Bolton-curated show spotlights fragile pieces from the institute’s archives, all viewed through a lens of nature. The exhibit’s coffee table book will be released June 18. Read more of The Hollywood Reporter’s Met Gala coverage here.

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