Zendaya’s status as a fashion icon is undeniable. The 25-year-old Emmy-winning actress has always dared to experiment with her red carpet looks, and she has consistently nailed it — no matter what. From her Met Ball reiteration of Cinderella to her many pop culture-inspired outfits during the Spider-Man: No Way Home press tour, Zendaya has taken the fashion world by storm, and she’s not going to stop anytime soon.

Zendaya is the youngest person to be honored with the Council of Fashion Designers of America’s Fashion Icon award and has struck every note on the fashion spectrum. Elaborate, sci-fi-inspired gowns? Check. A wet-look dress that will forever be imprinted in our memory? Check. Wearing a high fashion breastplate without letting it wear you? Also, check.

But what I am most excited to talk about are Zendaya’s many looks during this year’s Spider-Man press tour. From interviews to red carpet premieres, the actress who plays Peter Parker’s lady love MJ in the franchise wore outfits inspired by iconic Spidey villains, depicting the epic intersection of pop culture and fashion. Here’s a look at three of my favorites:

1. The Doctor Octopus-inspired gown at The Ballon d’Or Ceremony

Zendaya pays homage to Doc Oak by wearing a black dress featuring a metal spine
[Image description: Zendaya pays homage to Doc Oak by wearing a black dress featuring a metal spine while attending the Ballon d’Or Ceremony in Paris, France] via Roberto Cavalli
On November 29, Zendaya attended the Ballon d’Or Ceremony (a prestigious annual football award) in Paris, France, along with her Spider-Man co-star and partner Tom Holland. All eyes were on the actress as she looked stunning in an incredible open-back black gown from fashion designer Roberto Cavalli’s autumn 2000 collection. When you see it from the front, it seems like a typical, sleek skin-tight dress, but its pièce de résistance is detected when Zendaya turns around.

The ensemble was “re-edited” by the label’s creative director, Fausto Puglisi, to feature a metal spine that runs along the back of her dress. The golden spine detail has earned comparisons to the iconic Spider-Man villain Doctor Octopus and his mechanical arm appendages, which the character Otto Octavius designed to assist him during his experiments. The skeletal gold piece is linked by micro chains and is designed to resemble the vertebrae. Zendaya worked with her longtime stylist, the legendary Law Roach, to pull off the look. The actress confirmed her dress borrowed inspiration from the fan-favorite fictional supervillain when she took to Instagram, noting that she loved a good reference.

2. Zendaya’s take on Green Goblin 

Zendaya wears a green and purple suit from Maison Valentino
[Image description: Zendaya wears a green and purple suit from Maison Valentino at the Graham Norton Show.] via Twitter
Zendaya appeared on The Graham Norton Show (a British comedy chat show), where she sported a vibrant green-and-purple suit from the Italian luxury fashion house, Valentino. Styled by Law Roach once again, the actress opted for the outfit, which is part of the brand’s creative director Pierpaolo Piccioli’s Valentino Rendez Vous collection. The look appears to pay homage to the Spider-Man villain Green Goblin (Norman Osborn), whose supervillain suit in the Marvel comic books embraced the same colors. Green Goblin’s suit in Sam Raimi’s original Spider-Man trilogy did not feature hues of purple, but Zendaya is adorning the color combination for fans! Is this the beginning of Zendaya’s supervillain era? I sure hope so! The actress is infamous for rocking some of the most fashionable suits we’ve ever seen, and this one is another of them. 

3. Zendaya’s Spider-Web Earrings and Double-Breasted Blazer

Actress Zendaya wears spider-web earrings at a photo call for her movie Spider-Man: No Way Home
[Image description: Actress Zendaya wears spider-web earrings at a photo call for her movie Spider-Man: No Way Home] via Twitter
For the Spider-Man photocall in London, Zendaya made spiderwebs look chic. The actress wore Alexander McQueen’s Spring/ Summer 2022 collection from head-to-toe, sporting a double-breasted blazer embroidered with crystals and thigh-high black stockings, which were similarly dazzled. The gray wool brazer was teeming with glittering crystal raindrops across the shoulders, and Zendaya accessorized the sparkly look with arachnid-themed earrings from Jacob & Co. The earrings formed a spider web design and dangled from a crystal spider attached to the earlobe. Zendaya ditched the franchise’s villains for her outfit this time, but I’m sure Peter Parker would appreciate her tribute.

4. Zendaya’s Spiderweb Dress and Matching Mask

Zendaya in a nude dress from Valentino featuring spiderweb detailing.
[Image description: Zendaya in a nude dress from Valentino featuring spiderweb detailing at the Spider-Man: No Way Home Premiere.] via Valentino
Zendaya evidently saved her most extravagant look for the end — the Spider-Man: No Way Home movie premiere in Los Angeles. The actress wore a custom Valentino nude black dress featuring a plunging neckline and beautiful, spiderweb detailing all over. She wore black Louboutin pointy-toe pumps, and for accessories, her stylist chose Bulgari diamond drop earrings for Zendaya. Just when I thought she couldn’t possibly look any more beautiful, Zendaya put on a black, feathered lace mask to complete her look.

Over the years, Zendaya has transformed into a fashion icon and she’s a cultural phenomenon for a reason. Zendaya has consistently used her celebrity status to discuss race and social justice thoughtfully. Despite what others may say about her, she owns her power and takes control of her narrative. Zendaya is an exciting celebrity to watch because she is more than just an actor and a fashion icon — she is ambitious and wants to be a storyteller who spotlights unrepresented women.

I do not doubt that she will be successful in doing so, because at 25-years-old, despite her many achievements, Zendaya is just getting started. 

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  • Fatemeh Mirjalili is an entertainment writer based in Mumbai, India. Her work has appeared in publications such as TheThings, Film Companion and Times Knowledge among others. She loves writing about pop culture, watching Disney musicals and re-reading Pride & Prejudice for what may seem like the millionth time.

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