Who doesn’t love a little Disney magic? The studio that brought the world classic cartoons like The Lion King and The Little Mermaid continues to update its library through live-action remakes. Last night in Hollywood, the world got a preview of its latest, an action-packed retelling of Mulan directed by Whale Rider scribe, Niki Caro. The world premiere served as a coming-out party for the film’s star, Liu Yifei, who shined bright in a look from Elie Saab’s fall/winter 19 couture collection. Already a significant celebrity in Asia, the Chinese-American actress and singer beat out thousands for the lead role, and in Saab’s voluminous “phoenix dress,” it’s easy to understand why. The gown with its miles of gold brocade, built-in corset, and impressive beadwork was a magical creation, one that required charisma. A less confident wearer would be overshadowed by the expansive train and embroidered mythological creatures, but Yifei pulled it off beautifully.
Disney’s leading ladies often draw inspiration from its onscreen traditions; when Lily James debuted Cinderella in 2015, she too went for a Saab-designed couture piece in ice blue to mirror the wardrobe of her famous character. Likewise, Elle Fanning spent much of her Maleficent promo in frothy Rodarte looks of which Sleeping Beauty would approve. Even, Aladdin’s Naomi Scott, a fan of daring labels like Richard Quinn and JW Anderson, went full princess in bubblegum pink Brandon Maxwell at the film’s premiere last year. Yifei and stylist, Samantha McMillan, were also influenced by fairy tales, but the phoenix motif added a thoughtful nod to Chinese culture. A symbol of grace and harmony, it has been featured in artwork since the neolithic period and remains popular.
Even without the symbolism, Yifei’s gown packs a visual punch. Heavy on the sequins, sparkle, and Saab’s signature beading, it made for a dazzling entrance and a fashion moment worthy of a Disney princess.