Why Princess Diana’s revenge dress remains so iconic - and the story behind it

Elizabeth Debicki pictured in famous gown on set of The Crown

Saman Javed,Olivia Petter
Monday 08 November 2021 16:58
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As filming of the fifth season of Netflix’s The Crown gets underway, actor Elizabeth Debicki has recreated one of Princess Diana’s most iconic moments in the public eye.

Over the weekend, Debicki made headlines after photographs on set showed her wearing the infamous black “revenge dress” Diana wore to the Serpentine Gallery’s summer party in London in 1994.

The off-the-shoulder chiffon dress was created by by Greek designer Christina Stambolian.

It featured a plunging, sweetheart neckline and a flowing black trail. She accessorised with silk Manolo Blahnik high heels, sheer black tights, and a statement choker necklace.

The ensemble was later dubbed the “revenge dress” because Diana wore it on the same evening that Prince Charles publicly confessed to his affair with Camilla Parker-Bowles in the documentary, Charles: The Private Man, The Public Role.

Diana had originally planned to wear a new designer dress to the event, but changed her mind when the brand released a statement announcing it would be dressing her.

Instead, she opted for the Christina Stambolian dress, which she’d owned since 1991 after buying it on a shopping trip with her brother.

Stambolian has previously said that Diana had wanted to wear the dress for a while but had deemed it too risqué.

“[The princess] chose not to play the scene like Odette, innocent in white,” she said. “She was clearly angry. She played it like Odile, in black. She wore bright red nail enamel, which we had never seen her do before. She was saying, ‘Let’s be wicked tonight!’”

Late Vogue editor Anna Harvey, who worked as Diana’s stylist for many years, told the publication: “She wanted to look a million dollars – and she did.”

According to Tina Brown, Diana had initially turned down the invitation to the party that night,

“She had declined the invitation until two days before the event until news of the adultery quote began to leak in promotions for the broadcast,” Brown wrote in The Diana Chronicles.

“That’s when one of the gala’s organisers, an old family friend of Diana’s, got a surprise phone call: ‘She said she wanted to come after all. I said, ‘What are you up to?’ And she said, ‘You’ll see’.”

The following day, Diana’s fashion choice dominated the front pages, usurping coverage of her estranged husband’s documentary and plunging her back into the spotlight.

For Diana, that dress carried a huge symbolic purpose, one that still resonates today.

“She simply wanted to look great and had this incredible body to show off in a great dress, that was it,” Mary Greenwell, Diana’s friend and make-up artist, told The Telegraph.

Much is made of Diana’s revenge look in popular culture and particularly on social media.

The Instagram account @ladydirevengelooks was set up in 2018 by fashion writer Eloise Morgan after she went through a breakup of her own.

Today, the account boasts more than 118,000 followers and is dedicated to documenting all of Diana’s post-revenge looks.

The fifth season of The Crown will continue to follow the relationship and subsequent divorce of Prince Charles and Diana and is set for release in November 2022.

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