Joining the ranks of Beyoncé, Lady Gaga and Jennifer Lopez, who have all received the honor in recent years, the 25-year-old “Euphoria” star has come a long way since her “Shake It Up” days. From a saccharine teenage wardrobe to a boundary-pushing trove of designer gowns, she transformed herself into one of Hollywood’s most stylish women.
Shaking it up
Zendaya wearing a denim jacket and dress to a 2010 screening of “Tinker Bell and the Great Fairy Rescue.” Credit: Valerie Macon/Getty Images
As she moved into her teenage years, she took steps towards becoming the fashion-forward woman she is today. Sleek blazers and on-trend luxury items, like Valentino’s rockstud shoes, appeared in her wardrobe. Her outfits also took on more of an edge as she matured, with statement bucket heels and a preference for darker color palettes. However, she still had time for the occasional tulle princess dress — albeit one paired with a leather biker vest and hot pink heels.
As a teen, Zendaya’s wardrobe began taking on more of an edge — like incorporating a biker vest into this outfit for a 2012 charity event. Credit: Allen Berezovsky/WireImage/Getty Images
“She was a Disney girl, and not a lot of Disney girls were respected,” he is quoted as saying. “Nobody wanted to dress the Disney girl, so I came up with this plan of attack for her.”
“I would only put her in clothes that other people had worn because I knew at that time, (magazine features on) people who had worn all the weekly styles were really popular,” he added, a gamble which “worked out” as she received increased media attention and designers began taking notice.
At the 2017 Met Gala, Zendaya made a statement in a Dolce & Gabbana parrot-print ballgown. Credit: Charles Sykes/Invision/AP
The actor scored her first invitation to fashion’s biggest and most exclusive night, the Met Gala, in 2015 — her first of many. She began experimenting with grander, artistic pieces, such as her Fausto Puglisi Met Gala gown, and sleeker form-fitting outfits.
While her aesthetic once fell firmly into the girl-next-door camp, she started bringing elements of streetwear into her wardrobe. She also began paying stylish tributes to Black icons of the past, including Diana Ross and Aaliyah — something she continues to this day — and mastering the art of viral fashion moments.
Zendaya often channels the spirit of her movies through her outfits — as seen with the Moschino butterfly dress she wore to a 2017 premiere of “The Greatest Showman.” Credit: Don Arnold/WireImage/Getty Images
One of the earliest social media successes came at the 2017 Met Gala, where she stepped out in a voluminous parrot-print Dolce & Gabbana dress. As she trailed up the stairs of the Metropolitan Museum’s Costume Institute, the grandiose ballgown landed her on “best dressed” lists and signaled a major shift in her style.
Other statement-making hits that year included a flamboyant Moschino butterfly gown that perfectly captured the spirit of “The Greatest Showman” at one of the movie’s screenings, and the red and black sequined dress she wore to the premiere of “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” a reference to the superhero’s iconic costume.
At the 2021 “Dune” premiere in Paris, Zendaya wore a midriff-baring Alaïa outfit. Credit: Kristy Sparow/Getty Images
It was around this time that Zendaya began wearing more couture, working with lesser-known designers and turning to sculptural pieces, such as the chocolate bell-shaped August Getty dress she wore to the 2018 MTV Movie & TV Awards and the horse-silhouette cut out Vivetta gown she sported at the 2017 Fashion Awards. And despite transforming into Cinderella in a light-up Tommy Hilfiger gown for the 2019 Met Gala (accompanied by Roach dressed, appropriately, as her fairy godmother) it was clear her Disney days were behind her.
Law Roach revealed on Instagram he and Zendaya had been inspired by supervillain Poison Ivy for Zendaya’s 2019 Emmys appearance, with the star wearing a green Ralph & Russo gown and dyeing her dark locks red. Credit: Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images
As the pandemic brought red carpet events to a halt, Zendaya still found ways to impress, donning a custom Giorgio Armani dress to accept an Emmy over Zoom and landing a high-profile gig as a Bulgari brand ambassador. She also continued breaking new ground over the course of her highly anticipated “Dune” press tour. Kicking off the circuit in style with an on-trend wet-look gown by Balmain at the Venice Film Festival, she later channeled the sci-fi-meets-fantasy spirit of the movie at its London premiere, where she wore a futuristic gold breastplate by Loewe and a sculptural Rick Owens gown.
Scroll through the gallery above to see Zendaya’s evolving fashion through the years.