Why Lily James Has Been Dressing Like a Disney Princess on the Red Carpet

As her stylist Rebecca Corbin-Murray says, "When else are you going to get to wear a glass slipper like that?"
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Chantal Fernandez
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As her stylist Rebecca Corbin-Murray says, "When else are you going to get to wear a glass slipper like that?"
Lily James in Elie Saab and Christian Louboutin at the L.A. premiere of 'Cinderella.' Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Lily James in Elie Saab and Christian Louboutin at the L.A. premiere of 'Cinderella.' Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images

It's no secret we've been loving every red carpet look from Lily James's "Cinderella" press tour, and not only the majorly swoon-worthy princess gown moments from the film's global premieres. She's managed to make more complicated Mary Katrantzou shifts and minimal Dior dresses feel just as regal.

The British actress's stylist Rebecca Corbin-Murray explained that she initially considered taking the actress in a less referential direction for the tour and that Disney gave her no specific direction. "Lily is a tomboy in the way that she dresses normally, and she wasn't fully into princess-ing it up as much as we have," said Corbin-Murray. "We saw after everyone's reaction from the first dress in Berlin (see below) that people wanted to see Cinderella, so we decided to do a switcheroo with the dresses and really went for that enchanted princess theme." She and James considered the tour an extension of the film's fantasy. "Though it still has to register as her, it's playing a role at the same time," said Corbin-Murray. "She really got into playing the Cinderella of the red carpet."

Lily James wearing custom Dior at the Berlin premiere of 'Cinderella.' Photo: Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

Lily James wearing custom Dior at the Berlin premiere of 'Cinderella.' Photo: Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

Corbin-Murray wanted to choose a relatively simple gown for the first premiere because the heels were so elaborate. The Jimmy Choo shoes were designed for Disney's line of modern glass slippers, commissioned to promote the film. The line will be sold at Saks Fifth Avenue in the U.S., and includes pairs designed by Paul Andrew, Charlotte Olympia, Stuart Weitzman and more. "At first we were like, 'Is this too much, is it too cheesy?'" said Corbin-Murray. "But she really loved wearing the shoes, and the designers really went to town on them. When else are you going to wear a glass slipper like that in your life, really?"

Though the custom blush pink Dior dress was plenty glamorous, Corbin-Murray and James fully embraced the Cinderella theme for the film's Los Angeles premiere, to which the actress wore an ornate blue-grey Elie Saab gown. "It is a very Oscars, Golden Globes sort of gown, but she definitely pulled it off," said Corbin-Murray. "Everyone just went nuts at Elie Saab and it's such a beautiful dress." She wore it with Christian Louboutin pumps and a Charlotte Olympia clutch with a clock face on it. The only thing missing was a pumpkin chariot. 

The gown called to mind another Elie Saab design, worn by Elle Fanning to the L.A. premiere of last year's Disney princess movie, "Maleficent." That look was an even more direct reference to the actress's role in cut and color. Angelina Jolie also took inspiration from that film, wearing a black Versace gown made of rubberized silk to the same event.  

Corbin-Murray and James may have precedent for wholeheartedly embracing a film's theme, but they also made a point to incorporate riskier designs outside of the premiere red carpets. "There's so many children at the premieres as well, so we tried to keep it Disney-esque for them, but then intersperse with cooler, more directional dresses." For photocalls in Mexico and Berlin, James wore Mary Katrantzou (see one below), and in Milan, she wore Erdem. "These dresses are so contemporary and the shapes are really young, but if you look closer, they still have that enchanted feel to them," Corbin-Murray said.

Lily James in Mary Katrantzou at a photocall in Berlin. Photo: Andreas Rentz/Getty Images

Lily James in Mary Katrantzou at a photocall in Berlin. Photo: Andreas Rentz/Getty Images

With the exception of the Elie Saab gown, James has been cultivating her modern princess aesthetic primarily in dresses by Dior (she's worn the brand at least four times on her tour). "They have been so helpful and supportive of Lily since the very beginning," said Corbin-Murray. "The silhouettes Raf Simons does, he captures everything which is elegant but modern and the dresses he makes set the right tone for the looks we were going for." The spring 2015 skirt and top James wore to unveil the Cinderella window installation at Saks Fifth Avenue (see below) also served as a response to allegations that James's waist had been digitally altered in the film. "That outfit kind of summed it up for me," said Corbin-Murray. "It showed that it wasn’t photoshopped."

James was particularly excited about a very paired down white Dior dress she wore in Toronto (see below). "With something that simple, we could afford to go with a little more fun accessory like the Olympia Le-Tan bag." said Corbin-Murray.

There are two appearances left on the worldwide Cinderella tour — one in London this week, and one in Japan in April. Corbin-Murray promises that London's look will be a special highlight, not only because it's her and James's hometown, but also because the actress will be wearing a designer she hasn't worn already. All Corbin-Murray will reveal is that it's a custom dress from a Paris-based brand and the style will be more modern. 

"She's embraced the situation she is in and, I mean, how many actresses get to play such an iconic role?" said Corbin-Murray, remembering James's initial reluctance to go full princess on the red carpet. "But by the end of it, she couldn't get enough of the outfits and kept saying, 'Maybe I could change again?'" 

Here's hoping for a "Cinderella" sequel, if only to see more of James on the red carpet.