Princess Diana almost never wore the dress now considered the progenitor of “revenge dressing”. Made for her by the Greek designer Christina Stambolian, it had been sitting in her wardrobe for three years, with Diana worrying that it was too daring.
Her decision to wear it to the Serpentine Gallery’s summer party, in June 1994, had been a last-minute one. She had reportedly been due to wear something by Valentino, but changed her mind: it was the night that a controversial television programme aired, detailing Prince Charles’s adulterous relationship with Camilla Parker-Bowles, now the Duchess of Cornwall. “She wanted to look a million dollars,” said her former stylist and the late Vogue editor, Anna Harvey, “and she did”.
The decision ensured Diana was front-page news. “The Thrilla He Left To Woo Camilla,” raved The Sun, above a photograph of Diana striding from her car wearing the figure-hugging style, a choker of pearls at her neck, her hair immaculate, her smile wide. The moment has now become “a mood”, as the internet would call it.
The “revenge dress” is due to feature in the fifth series of The Crown, worn by Elizabeth Debicki, who is taking over from Emma Corrin to play Diana in the next season. The actor was snapped recreating one of Diana’s most famous moments, emerging from her chauffeur-driven car wearing a black off-the-shoulder dress and strands of pearls with a central sapphire gem round her neck.
Here, a round-up of the best revenge dressing moments through the years.
Bella Hadid, 2017
Forget the theme (“Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between” – admittedly not the easiest). For Bella Hadid, the Met Gala 2017 was an opportunity to show off her exceptionally toned body in front of her ex-boyfriend The Weeknd, who was in attendance with his new girlfriend Selena Gomez, thanks to a lace beaded body stocking.
Katie Holmes, 2019
Fresh from a break-up with long-term beau Jamie Foxx, it didn’t take long for Katie Holmes to reinvent herself as a cashmere bra influencer courtesy of a barley-coloured Khaite bra and cardigan set.
Jennifer Aniston, 2005
Attending the premiere of the film Derailed, in New York, Aniston looked quite the opposite, in a figure-hugging, beaded Chanel dress that showed she would not be embroiled in gossip about the break-down of her marriage to Brad Pitt.
Jennifer Lopez, 2004
Having broken off her engagement to Ben Affleck, Jennifer Lopez hit the Golden Globes red carpet in Grecian-style Michael Kors, looking the very definition of “glowing”.
Princess Diana, 1994
As her former husband Prince Charles admitted to adultery in a documentary aired on national television, Diana stepped out at the Serpentine in a Christina Stambolian off-the-shoulder dress, ensuring the glamour quotient was at a maximum.
Elizabeth Hurley, 2000
Elizabeth Hurley went all-out for an anniversary party for Valentino Garavani. The plunging neckline and sultry silhouette of her oyster-hued gown drew a clear line under her relationship with Hugh Grant, with whom she had recently split in the wake of a cheating scandal.
Ariana Grande, 2018
Having broken off her engagement to Pete Davidson after a rollercoaster romance, Ariana Grande not only released a Burn Book of a hit single, “Thank U, Next”, but looked radiant in the process.
Irina Shayk, 2019
Who better to turn to than Donatella Versace for a revenge look that truly sizzles? Irina Shayk headed to Milan following a break-up with the father of her child, Bradley Cooper, walking the Versace catwalk in a chainmail mini dress, then trotting all over town in a safety-pinned mini skirt.
Kristen Stewart, 2013