How Princess Diana's Revenge Dress Became One Of The Most Iconic Looks In Fashion History

Since the dawn of time, relationship breakups have inspired iconic fashion moments. There's nothing like a red carpet or photo-op to have our favorite, newly single A-listers dressing for revenge. The relationship may have been left behind, but a well-timed and well-constructed outfit can ensure that the wearers get the last laugh. 

They say revenge is a dish best served cold, but revenge is best worn royal. With a perpetual spotlight on their clothing choices (and an endless shopping budget), the royal family can make quite a statement through their everyday style. No one has perfected the revenge outfit, though, quite like the late Princess Diana. 

Before she was rocking the iconic bike shorts and crew neck combo, the royal was usually seen dressed (conservatively) to the nines. That's why, when she stepped out in a stunning black gown to attend a dinner at the Serpentine Gallery in June of 1994, she made headlines. While there have been many "revenge dresses" since then, none have screamed "good for her" as loudly as Christina Stambolian's little black dress — which is still iconic nearly 30 years later.

Diana made a sharp departure from protocol

Part of what made Princess Diana's look so iconic was its sharp departure from the typical outfits worn by royals. The crown's guide to clothing is largely based on speculation and the patterns seen in former 'fits, but a few things have been consistently clear. Members of the royal family were to stick to conservative cuts, have skirts and dresses fall below the knee, and save their black outfits for funerals, per South China Morning Post.   

The gown wasn't the first time that Diana departed from tradition, but it may have been the first time that she broke all of these fashion rules in one go. The look was so emblematic of Diana's time in the spotlight that it even made it into "The Crown" — Netflix's historical drama about the family. 

The little black dress was certainly a step outside of typical royal garb, but it wasn't the cut of the neckline or the unusual color that made this piece so memorable. While the look is undeniably timeless, this moment in fashion history was all about timing.

The look coincided with an infamous royal moment

Although Princess Diana and then-Prince Charles would not formally divorce until 1996, the pair separated in 1992, per In the years following the split (but before the formal filing of paperwork), speculation abounded about what caused the fairytale pairing to drift apart. On June 29, 1994, an interview would air that featured Prince Charles inadvertently providing fans with a big clue ... on the very same day that Diana stepped out in her iconic dress. 

Speculation had long swirled inside and outside the castle about the prince's close friendship with Camilla Parker Bowles and his loyalty to his marriage. In an interview with Jonathan Dimbleby, which has since been posted to YouTube by @reelsarency, Charles seemed to finally confess to infidelity. Dimbleby inquired as to whether Charles had been "faithful and honorable" to Diana. Although the prince initially said he had, "absolutely," he later added that things changed when the marriage "became irretrievably broken down." In perhaps the most vague but telling quote of all time, Charles admitted, "It is a deeply regrettable thing to happen, but it does happen, and unfortunately, in this case, it has happened." 

Was the dress a coincidence or calculated?

There is some debate as to whether or not Princess Diana's choice to wear the infamous gown was truly calculated. According to People, the decision to don the black dress was somewhat last minute. The princess had initially planned on a Valentino gown but, after the press got word of her plans, she switched to the Stambolian number that had hung, unworn, in her closet for years. Costume designer for the broadway musical "Diana" William Ivey Long told the outlet, "She decided that she was going to fight back, and she decided that she would choose a dress that she had previously rejected as being a little too much." 

In a 2013 documentary (via CNN), Diana's former stylist Anna Harvey dished that the princess "wanted to look like a million dollars. And she did." Others have gone on to note the color black's significance and association with mourning in the royal family. "It's representing a death of a marriage ... and then the rebirth of this independent woman," associate costume designer for "The Crown" Sidonie Roberts told Town and Country

Regardless of your stance on the dress's meaning, history went on to prove that Diana certainly wasn't above throwing a little shade at the philandering royal. In her own infamous interview with Martin Bashir, quoted by Esquire, the princess famously noted, "There were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded." 

How to emulate the iconic black dress

Due to its prominent place in fashion history, you may have seen photos of Princess Diana's revenge dress without even realizing its significance. Once you've seen it, though, you're sure to remember the iconic look. The Christina Stambolian design, described by CNN, featured a low-cut, sweetheart neckline and an asymmetrical, fitted skirt. Although Diana paired the outfit with the crown's signature pantyhose, the lowest point of the dress still rested notably above the knee. 

Even though the dress's notoriety persists to this day, the look became iconic almost immediately, not relying on hindsight to earn its significance. Following Diana's death in 1997, The New Yorker profiled seven "relics" from the Diana era, including the revenge dress as number four.

To recreate this famous look, opt for a tight-fitting and strapless LBD that's cut above the knee. Pairing it with pantyhose would be the ultimate nod to Princess Diana, but you could also go bare-legged to make the ensemble more modern. Add a choker and you'll have your own revenge moment to make your ex eat their heart out!