The story behind Princess Diana's revenge dress

It's still as chic as ever.

Princess Diana Revenge dress
(Image credit: Anwar Hussein)

Over 25 years on, the revenge dress remains one of Princess Diana's most iconic styles of all time. Everyone has seen the pictures of the late Princess Diana stepping out of her car in that off-the-shoulder dress, but do you know the actual story behind it? 

Given season 5 of The Crown is set to debut on Netflix imminently, there is a renewed interest in the story behind this memorable look, so allow us to take you for a walk down sartorial memory lane. 

The date was 20th November 1994, and Diana, Princess of Wales, was attending the Vanity Fair party at the Serpentine Gallery in London.

It was a particularly significant date because it was the same very evening that King Charles made his notorious adultery admission in a tell-all television interview.

Public opinion of him was rather low, with most siding with "the people's Princess" in the separation. The interview was meant to paint King Charles in a more sympathetic light, however, things backfired a little when the interviewer asked him if he had been faithful.

The King replied, "Yes. Until it became irretrievably broken down, us both having tried," a less than subtle confession to his adultery with Camilla, which was rumoured to have gone on for years.

So that same evening, while many were glued to their television screens, Princess Diana stepped out in the mother of all dresses.

Princess Diana revenge dress

(Image credit: Getty)

The black cocktail dress was actually commissioned from Christina Stambolian three years prior, but the Princess thought it too daring at the time. And it's true that it wasn't your typical royal dress, as it showed off cleavage, shoulders and *shock horror* legs as well.

In fact, Diana had apparently planned to wear a different dress altogether to the event. According to The Telegraph, she had prepped a Valentino number, but details were leaked to the press so she changed her mind.

It's hard to know whether the Princess knew the effect the dress would have, but her former stylist Anna Harvey did say she wanted to "look like a million dollars."

That she did, with the dress making triumphant headlines the next day, thus earning the "Princess Diana revenge dress" title.

But whilst this is undoubtedly one of her most famous dresses, you could argue her whole wardrobe post-divorce was a revenge wardrobe.

Gone were the stuffy gowns and demure dresses. Since she didn't have to follow a strict dress code anymore, Diana came into her own, embracing the shorter hems and sleek tailoring that defined the 90s. She particularly loved Valentino dresses, like this white one she wore to attend a charity gala in Italy.

Still elegant, but more mature in her sartorial choices, as you can see from these looks.

Want to recreate Princess Diana's iconic look? Over the years, many brands have reimagined the classic silhouette within their own collections. Keep scrolling to shop some examples below. 

Shop similar styles to Princess Diana's revenge dress: 

Penny Goldstone

Penny Goldstone is the Digital Fashion Editor at Marie Claire, covering everything from catwalk trends to royal fashion and the latest high street and Instagram must-haves.

Penny grew up in France and studied languages and law at the Sorbonne Nouvelle University in Paris before moving to the UK for her MA in multimedia journalism at Bournemouth University. She moved to the UK permanently and has never looked back (though she does go back regularly to stock up on cheese and wine).

Although she's always loved fashion - she used to create scrapbooks of her favourite trends and looks, including Sienna Miller and Kate Moss' boho phase - her first job was at, sourcing the best deals for everything from restaurants to designer sales.

However she quit after two years to follow her true passion, fashion journalism, and after many years of internships and freelance stints at magazines including Red, Cosmopolitan, Stylist and Good Housekeeping, landed her dream job as the Digital Fashion Editor at Marie Claire UK.

Her favourite part of the job is discovering new brands and meeting designers, and travelling the world to attend events and fashion shows. Seeing her first Chanel runway IRL at Paris Fashion Week was a true pinch-me moment.