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A Brief History of the Revenge Dress

Instyle Logo By Jennifer Ferrise of Instyle | Slide 1 of 18: Princess Diana arriving at the Serpentine Gallery, London, in a gown by Christina Stambolian, June 1994.

A Brief History of the Revenge Dress

Breakups are never easy. But once you’ve gotten past the pints of mint chocolate chip and the wallowing to Whitney Houston’s Spotify channel, something magical happens. You turn a corner. And finally, you're ready to get back out there and show the world that you’ve moved way past what’s-his-name.

That’s where the revenge dress comes in. Unlike a new haircut (too permanent) or a new yoga bod (too strenuous), a revenge dress gives you a new lease on your social life in minutes. It’s a fresh start in fashion form. And believe it or not, the term actually has pretty aristocratic origins.

In November of 1994, Princess Diana was in the middle of a publicity storm following her separation from Prince Charles. Instead of going into hiding (which let’s face it, would’ve been much easier), the royal made headlines for an entirely different reason—her dress. On the very night that Charles admitted to his infidelity in a now-infamous interview, Diana stepped out in a chic black curve-hugging, off-the-shoulder dress (above) by Greek designer Christina Stambolian to attend a party at the Serpentine Gallery in London. And so, the revenge dress was born.

Of course, Diana was already known as a royal trendsetter. But before that night, her look was demure, sophisticated, and regal, rather than sexy. That dress was the ultimate fashion power play. And now, more than 20 years later, women everywhere are still channeling their inner Lady Di with their own head-turning breakovers. From Reese Witherspoon’s sunny yellow Nina Ricci mini, post-Ryan Phillippe split, to Bella Hadid’s Alexander Wang cat suit at this year's Met Gala (eat your heart out, The Weeknd), we’re taking a look back at the best revenge dresses of all-time.

© (Photo by Jayne Fincher/Getty Images)

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