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Method dressing brings fun, creativity back to movie marketing

Unlike typical movie marketing strategies like billboards, trailers, social media campaigns and film festivals, method dressing is an innovative way to market a film through its actors' red carpet wardrobe. This tactic immerses the audience in the cinematic universe, sparking conversation about the movie and its premiere.

Method dressing, also known as character dressing, incorporates elements of the film's characters, setting and themes in clothing to promote an upcoming movie. 

Zendaya has been known for themed looks on the red carpet, most notably for the "Spider-Man" premieres, "Dune: Part Two" and her upcoming film, "Challengers."

At the "Spider-Man: No Way Home" premiere in December 2021, the actress wore a custom Valentino nude gown with a deep v-neck adorned with web motifs. For the "Dune: Part Two" press tour this February, Zendaya stole the show once again, playing into the sci-fi theme of the film. She wore an archival Mugler look for the London premiere that featured a robot suit with clear glass cutouts. 

There are countless examples of this method present at movie premieres. For the release of "The Little Mermaid" (2023), Halle Bailey wore a custom Valdrin Sahiti dress that modeled the film's themes. Her pearlescent and iridescent gown was reminiscent of the ocean. It also included shell-shaped cups, a subtle nod to Ariel's purple seashell top from the animated movie.

Jenna Ortega also participated in method dressing during press events for "Wednesday." As the show's lead, Wednesday Addams, Ortega dressed in black gothic pieces for several weeks. At the premiere, Ortega donned a gothic black lace Versace dress, dark eye makeup and a black veil. Ortega also attended other high-profile events in a similar style, like the 29th Screen Actors Guild Awards.

At the 2023 Met Gala, themed “Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty,” Ortega wore Thom Browne, featuring a black corset top and a large, eccentric ruffled skirt, topped with a cropped tweed black jacket, combining classic Lagerfeld design aspects with Browne’s approach. By incorporating Chanel classics like tweed, pearls, gold chains and ribbon into her look, Ortega followed the event's theme while using the red carpet to bring attention to her show.

Similarly, Zoë Kravitz channeled her inner Cat Woman at the 2022 "Batman" premiere. She wore a black strapless Oscar De La Renta gown with cat cutouts on the bodice and subtle cat-eye makeup.

More recently at the 2024 Oscars, Ariana Grande and Cynthia Erivo engaged in subtle method dressing in preparation for their upcoming "Wicked" movie, which is set for release this November. Grande wore a bubblegum-pink gown reminiscent of Glinda, while Erivo wore a Louis Vuitton forest green leather dress for Elphaba. Grande has also kept her hair blond after filming wrapped to sport Glinda's "good witch" look. 

Perhaps the most popular example of this marketing tactic was the 2023 "Barbie" tour. Styled by Andrew Mukamal, Margot Robbie donned custom "Barbie" looks including bright pink gowns and exact replicas of archival "Barbie" looks from the doll's fashionable history. 

In Sydney, Robbie wore a black and white striped mini dress by Hervé Léger, a reference to the swimsuit worn by the first ever Barbie doll from 1959. At the film's premiere in London, Robbie wore an elegant light pink Vivienne Westwood gown with a white fur shawl and pearls, an homage to the Enchanted Evening Barbie. 

Robbie continued this tradition at each stop along the press tour, consistently paying tribute to a different classic Barbie. Robbie's outfits were recently published as a coffee table book called "Barbie: The World Tour" as a collection of all of the famous "Barbie" outfits come to life.

Additional examples of method dressing include Angelina Jolie and Elle Fanning at the premiere of "Maleficent: Mistress of Evil” and Hunter Schafer and Rachel Zegler at the world premieres of "The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes.”

Method dressing is an effective marketing tactic on the red carpet because it allows fans to interact with the movie and its cast through fashion. These fun, themed outfits generate buzz around the movie and its release, and this creative publicity sets a movie apart from its competitors by producing unique looks that provide a glance into the movie's world before it even hits the screen. 

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