TV & Movies

Challengers Is A Fashion Movie

Jonathan Anderson came to win.

No one would describe Challengers as a fashion movie. A tennis movie, a throuple movie, a Zendaya movie, yes — but not a fashion movie. And, yet, thanks to costume designer Jonathan Anderson, it is — more so even than some of the most iconic fashion films.

Though most of the costuming in Challengers would best be described as “nondescript rich person,” Anderson was still able to tell an engrossing tale through his styling choices. The sartorial story is so well-conceived, in fact, you can almost predict the next move Tashi (Zendaya) will make through her outfit alone.

Indicators could be something as subtle as the color of her blouse or as overt as Patrick (Josh O’Connor) showing up in her “I TOLD YA” T-shirt the morning after an extramarital tryst.

Courtesy of Challengers

Tashi starts the film bright-eyed and bushy tailed, as tennis’s new rising star — her promising career and future ahead of her. This optimism is represented through vibrant outfit choices, like a fuchsia Juicy Couture tracksuit, her royal blue party dress, or a pair of brightly-colored underwear. It’s the wardrobe of a girl thriving.

Courtesy of Challengers

But in adulthood, things change. In contrast to the jewel tones of her youth, Tashi’s wardrobe is made almost exclusively of subdued neutral shades. Present-day scenes find her in sleek professional staples reflective of her high-powered career status — at least when she’s playing the dutiful wife and coach. When she’s with her ex-boyfriend (and sometimes-lover), however, her wardrobe makes a clear shift toward the sultry.

In her scenes with Patrick, Tashi’s aesthetic is that of subtle seduction. She gravitates more toward dark colors, like forest green, deep navy, and black, and even wears a negligee for one of their encounters. She’s often noticeably braless during their interactions, a styling choice that effectively underscores the sexual tension between them.

Courtesy of Challengers

Though her bra stays on around her husband (make of that what you will), Tashi applied the same dressing ethos on their first date, years earlier. In flashbacks, she reunites with Art (Mike Faist) in a black leather jacket, skinny jeans, and matching wedges, hinting that an intimate scene is forthcoming.

Even the tiniest details — like her accessories, for example — communicate deeper meaning. Throughout the movie, she wears several combinations of dainty gold necklaces, starting off with a traditional crucifix. But after meeting her “little white boys,” she adds a new pendant to the mix: a pair of intertwined circles, one plated in gold and the other encrusted with diamonds.

Courtesy of Challengers

The combination seems representative of their chaotic love triangle: the two men, similar but very different, and Tashi, the holy presence they both worship. At one point, Art even confirms this theory. When he asks for Tashi’s absolution from quitting tennis, she quips: “What am I, Jesus?” Naturally, he says yes.

Courtesy of Challengers

Even with costume closets packed with the industry’s top designers, some of the most famous "fashion" movies don't have any sartorial depth beyond "this is a cute outfit." So it’s kind of incredible that so much could be said through sports uniforms and workwear — both of which are devoid of personality by design.

Through something as simple as a cashmere sweater, a pristine set of tennis whites, or an expensive leather bag (Loewe, of course), Anderson is able to convey deeper meaning. To the average moviegoer, the clothes were just clothes — but to the acute eye, this was a story told through style.