Decades before Taylor Swift sang, “Lately she’s been dressing for revenge,” Princess Diana coined the phrase “revenge dress” in 1994 with one show-stopping look. The memorable look is being recreated on season 5 of “The Crown“, and has already been featured in the show’s trailer. But how did the iconic fashion moment come to pass in real life?
The late Princess of Wales was 33 at the time and publicly separated from her husband, Prince Charles. The couple had separated in 1992, but it was two years later when the next in line to the British throne gave an ITN interview with Jonathan Dimbleby in which he confessed to not being faithful to her during their marriage.
Dimbleby asked if Charles tried to be faithful to Diana when they wed and he replied, “Yes, absolutely,” following that response up with, “until it became irretrievably broken down.”
The moment marked the first time any royal had confessed to infidelity, and put his then-lover Camilla Parker-Bowles into the spotlight.
The day his explosive interview was broadcast to viewers across the country, Diana stepped out for a gala at the Serpentine Gallery in London, donning one of her most memorable looks to date.
The off-the-shoulder Christina Stambolian black mini-dress with a sweetheart neckline, showed off the royal’s stunning legs and hourglass figure, and was instantly dubbed the “revenge dress.”
Fans of “The Crown” have already seen actress Elizabeth Debicki, who took over for Emma Corrin in the role of Diana, donning the Netflix show’s version of the iconic look in the season 5 trailer.
Royal expert Katie Nicholl previously told ET that the revenge dress look was “one of the most striking moments” from the trailer.
Calling the revenge dress “one of the most famous and iconic dresses that [Diana] ever wore,” Nicholl noted that Diana had the look “commissioned specifically by the designer” and “had been saving” it for the right moment to “bring it out and to show Charles exactly what he was missing.”
“Diana was a fabulous style icon. She loved fashion. She often wore very daring dresses with high hemlines, quite exposing dresses, but this dress was on another level,” Nicholl shared. “It became hugely famous. It was known as the revenge dress and it really had a huge impact. I mean, if a dress could pack a punch, this dress could do just that.”
In fact, according to designer Stambolian, Diana wasn’t even supposed to wear the dress that evening. She had intended to wear a Valentino creation. But when the fashion label prematurely released an unauthorized press statement about the dress “much to Diana’s displeasure,” Stambolian notes, “Princess Diana immediately changed her mind and decided to wear one of her most important dresses.”
Royals were never encouraged to wear black as it was considered “funearal,” so Diana’s decision to wear this particular dress at this particular moment was poignant.
“That becomes quite symbolic for the moment where she chooses to wear it. It’s kind of representing the death of a marriage, the move away from the palace, and then the rebirth of this kind of independent woman,” Sidonie Roberts, “The Crown’”s Associate Costume Designer and Head Buyer, recently shared of the look, calling it “the ultimate little black dress.”
As for actress Debicki, she recently told British Vogue, “When people in my life found out that I was going to play this part, this was the dress that everyone texted me about. And that’s when I started to realize how symbolic this dress is to people.”
“The Crown” season 5 premieres on Nov. 9 on Netflix.
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