In 1994, Princess Diana donned a plunging black off-the-shoulder gown that had lived in her closet for three years yet remained unworn until the June evening when she was set to attend a fundraising gala for Vanity Fair at the Serpentine Gallery. It was a last-minute switch, according to her stylist Anna Harvey, as the Princess had previously planned on wearing a Valentino dress until the look was prematurely leaked to the press. Diana chose this specific evening, the night that her former husband Prince Charles publicly admitted on television that he had cheated on Diana, to reach for the Christina Stambolian dress. Instead of shying away from the cameras that would’ve undoubtedly been trained on her that evening with or without the Christina Stambolian gown, Diana consciously chose to wear a dress that had previously felt far too daring and walk in with her head held high. Thus, the birth of the revenge dress.
The premise of the revenge outfit is that the person looks so fantastically good that whoever wronged them feels a regret or shame that is revenge enough in itself. In the small and unlikely chance that you don’t immediately think of the former Princess of Wales when you hear the term “revenge dress,” perhaps what comes to mind is Bella Hadid at the 2017 Met Gala wearing, well, a revenge body stocking.
The sheer black jumpsuit-style garment was figure-hugging right with a scoop back, an off-the-shoulder neckline, and skin-tight pant legs that traveled down to cover her black stiletto heels. Hadid was notably looking for a shockingly sexy look in the wake of her breakup with The Weeknd who was in attendance at the Met Gala with then-girlfriend Selena Gomez. The outfit, though not particularly on-theme for a “Rei Kawakubo/Comme Des Garçons: Art of the In-Between” gala, was Hadid’s way of non-verbally communicating a state of mental and physical well-being post-split. In short, the goal was to display exactly what The Weeknd was missing while taking the higher road.
Perhaps you don’t think of a specific outfit when you hear the phrase “revenge look.” Perhaps your mind focuses not on the clothes, but on the body that wears the revenge outfit. Maybe you watched Khloe Kardashian’s E! Network show that premiered in 2017 where contestants get fitness, beauty, and fashion makeovers thanks to a whole slew of stylists, trainers, and Hollywood-approved technicians. But whether you prefer a revenge ‘fit or a revenge makeover, the storyline tends to remain the same — breakup, glow up, revenge.
So what’s the formula for a revenge outfit?
Rolls of black silk + royal jewels + a wild sense of calm and rising above, à la Princess Diana? Gold shimmer + a healthy tan + a glow of internal satisfaction despite just having separated from Brad Pitt, à la Jennifer Aniston wearing Chanel in 2005? Cutouts + a mini skirt held together by a single safety pin, as demonstrated by Irina Shayk post-Brad Pitt? Does the outfit have to be well-fitted and slightly scandalous, or is it just meant to draw attention to your outfit and away from the situation that just happened?
Katie Holmes’ take on a revenge look is less formal and more cozy, and yet equally if not more sexy than a glittering gown. In 2019, the actress donned a Khaite cashmere cardigan and bralette set styled by Julia Von Boehm and images of her hailing a taxi on Sixth Ave went viral. The knit set sold out, and to this day Katie Holmes remains an NYC street style icon to watch. Her “bradigan” remained the focus, rather than her split from Jamie Foxx after six years of dating. Those who swoon over her sprezzatura may not remember the breakup, but we’re sure that Jamie Foxx hasn’t forgotten that particular outfit.
But the idea of a revenge look isn’t just about post-breakup revenge or a former lover. To those who declare that revenge dressing is surface-level or perhaps even immature for its supposed focus on superficiality, let us redirect you to the well-timed return of the high heel. Dubbed the “revenge shoe,” the stiletto and the pointed toe are on the rise again as a way to take back the months of pajama pants, to make up for the days of slippers and house shoes. The nostalgia trend has swept Gen Z, decking themselves out with pony bead jewelry and baby tees only months after a pandemic stole precious months of their adolescent lives. Even the idea of revenge traveling, or the hard-earned huge uptick in travel as restrictions lift, is floating around in the public vernacular.
Revenge doesn’t have to be a rage-filled tirade reclamation — it’s about reclaiming and courage. And it’s okay to be sharp, happy, confident, angry, or aloof in the way that you dress because there’s a beauty to the storytelling of it, after all. How will you be revenge-dressing this summer?
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createdAt:Mon, 21 Jun 2021 16:32:27 +0000
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