Let’s get this out of the way first: Charlize Theron is an intimidating woman. Her résumé alone is daunting: She earned her first and only Oscar playing the serial killer Aileen Wuornos in Monster. Over the last two decades, she has cultivated a reputation as an action star, earning parts in The Italian Job, Hancock, and the most recent Fast and Furious film in addition to starring in Aeon Flux, Mad Max: Fury Road, and, most recently, Atomic Blonde.
She famously performs her own stunts, and she has the cracked teeth and spinal fusion to show for it. With this year’s short-lived Netflix series Girlboss, she also ventured into developing projects; she pitched the show and served as executive producer, and though it was critically panned and eventually cancelled, one can’t help but admire the boldness with which she presented the show: “One person said to us, ‘There are too many girls in this,’” Theron told E! Online earlier this year. “I was like, ‘And your problem is?’”
She also spent the past four years developing Atomic Blonde, the stylish new Cold War-set action thriller in which she currently stars alongside James McAvoy and which has joined films like Wonder Woman as something of an antidote to the man-fronted action movies that typically dominate summer blockbuster season.
“It shows that girls can take ownership in this space a little more,” she told Variety at Monday night’s Los Angeles premiere. She wore a black leather Christian Dior bralette under a sheer chiffon top with a plunging neckline, paired with a suede-fringed skirt and black ankle boots, her makeup neutral and her hair in a side-parted updo. The look was the binary match for one she had selected earlier in the film’s promotional tour—a white Dior bralette and miniskirt Theron wore to the Berlin premiere of Atomic Blonde.
Theron, at an Amazonian 5’10” and with a flawless alabaster complexion, is the ideal candidate for a beauty contract—and, indeed, she’s been contracted to Dior since 2004, currently acting as the face of its J’Adore fragrance. But the couple of Dior looks she wore to these Atomic Blonde premieres are part of an ensemble cast that also includes Isabel Marant, Givenchy, and Saint Laurent.
Theron’s Atomic Blonde wardrobe, rather than being unified by any specific label, is instead united in its predilection for short skirts and the juxtaposition of elements like long sleeves and plunging necklines, Pierrot-inspired button-downs and motorcycle skirts. (Sure, she’s bound to wear a few Dior looks out of professional obligation, but they’re part of the rotation—and Maria Grazia Chiuri’s new feminist direction for the brand makes a fitting match with Theron’s own professional philosophy.)
Like the actress's artistic choices, Theron's latest looks are bold and daunting. At the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year, she opted for a similar roster of designers—Dior, Saint Laurent—but leaned into old Hollywood glamour, just as the festival demands. (When she premiered Mad Max: Fury Road at the festival in 2015, she did it wearing a striking canary-yellow Dior dress that has earned a spot on many a best-of-Cannes roundup.)
For Atomic Blonde, by contrast, she's been foregoing the classic leading-lady wardrobe in favor of something more in keeping with the glossy-grunge aesthetic of her new film—and her new role as the female answer to John Wick, and perhaps a front contender to play the next James Bond. In addition to the Dior looks, unforgiving ensembles anchored by bra tops that Theron totally owns on the red carpet, there was a tiered red Givenchy minidress with a daring v-neck; a white leather miniskirt by Isabel Marant paired with a blue-and-white pinstriped button-down; and a Saint Laurent shirtdress with thigh-high leather boots, perhaps Theron’s most Lorraine Broughton-esque look. (Her Atomic Blonde character has just as bold a wardrobe, and just as much a penchant for heeled boots.)
Theron’s latest looks are a counterpoint to the wardrobes of actresses like Natalie Portman. A fellow Dior ambassador and Oscar winner who has recently gone behind the camera to bring her own projects to the screen, Portman tends to dress conservatively—perhaps as an effort to be taken more seriously, for actresses who demonstrate a keen interest in fashion have often historically been dismissed in male-dominated Hollywood.
But Theron doesn’t shy away from using a bold look to further her message. In interviews, she’s blunt and direct. She swears, prolifically. As evidenced in her remarks about making Girlboss, she’s an actress and executive who commands—and demands—attention. And that’s exactly what her new wardrobe accomplishes. She stands out from the rest of the cast and crew on the red carpet; she’s simultaneously dressed up and dressed down, making co-star Sofia Boutella look practically demure in sequined Chanel.
The message is clear: Don’t mess with Charlize Theron.
Chris Hemsworth thinks Charlize Theron should be the next James Bond: