A Visual History Of The Iconic Revenge Dress

May 1st, 2023 at 10:33am

Whether it be a breakup or a media scandal, these female powerhouses know their worth and aren’t afraid to show it! For decades, we’ve seen women burst out of the ashes of patriarchy into stunning phoenixes of the world. Some cut their hair, some buy a new purse or some killer heels! But nothing, and I mean nothing, compares to a woman scorned entering a room full of people with the dress. By the dress, I mean the revenge dress.

It all started back in 1994 when Diana, Princess of Wales hailed all in the most daring dress ever worn by a member of the British Royal Family, breaking every royal protocol she once lived by. Paparazzi went haywire, their cameras couldn’t snap fast enough as she exited her car in an off-the-shoulder gown, complete with a deep neckline and minimal slit up the leg. That same night, her soon-to-be ex-husband then Charles, Prince of Wales would publicly admit to his long-standing infidelity in a documentary, calling their marriage “irrevocably broken down.” 

Below, revisit some of history’s most iconic revenge dresses worn by women.

1. Diana, Princess of Wales

British royal Diana, Princess of Wales (1961-1997) wearing a black Christina Stambolian dress, attends a Vanity Fair party at the Serpentine Gallery in London, England, 20th November 1994. (Photo by Princess Diana Archive/Getty Images)

The people’s princess bared all in an all-black silk gown designed by Christina Stambolian. She stunned photographers and fellow partygoers as she entered a dinner hosted at the Serpentine Gallery in Kensington Garden Just three years later, in support of cancer and HIV/AIDS-related charities, Diana put the dress and many others up for auction. The revenge dress sold for a hefty $65,000.

2. Bella Hadid

NEW YORK, NY – MAY 01: Bella Hadid attends the “Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garcons: Art Of The In-Between” Costume Institute Gala at Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 1, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images for People.com)

There’s nothing more stunning than a woman rocking a skin-tight catsuit at the same event her ex-boyfriend is also invited to with a new girl on his arm. Well, that’s precisely what happened at the 2017 Met Gala. After splitting from Canadian singer The Weeknd, Bella Hadid appeared in a glittering one-piece by Alexander Wang, sizzling in all its backless lace glory. Speaking on her sexy, feline vibe, Hadid talked to Vogue about her look that night, ” I love a sexy look, so I knew Alex was going to do that for me.” It was purrrrr-fect!

3. Taylor Swift

NASHVILLE, TN – NOVEMBER 02: Taylor Swift speaks onstage at the 50th annual CMA Awards at the Bridgestone Arena on November 2, 2016 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Gustavo Caballero/Getty Images)

After breaking up with Tom Hiddleston and Calvin Harris the same year, Taylor Swift needed to return with a vengeance. Before the music, we know she’s a showstopper in every gown. In 2016, she wore a sheer dress by MacDonald, complete with appliques and a high slit up the leg. At the time, this was considered her sexiest look. She certainly dressed to impress!

4. Mariah Carey

1997 New York. Mariah Carey attending the 1997 MTV Video Awards at the Radio City Music Hall in NYC.

After divorcing from Music Executive, Tommy Mottola, Mariah Carey stepped out in a slinky two-piece with her signature bouncy blonde hair. Due to her ex-husband’s controlling nature, Carey felt that she couldn’t even make her own clothing choices. In her 2000 memoir, Carey mentions how things changed after Mottola signed her in 1990, “From the moment Tommy signed me, he tried to wash the urban, out of me.” After their divorce was finalized in 1998, Carey took back total control, charting high on billboards and emancipating herself into a real woman who knows what she wants!

5. Zoë Kravitz

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – SEPTEMBER 13: Zoë Kravitz attends The 2021 Met Gala Celebrating In America: A Lexicon Of Fashion at Metropolitan Museum of Art on September 13, 2021 in New York City. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for The Met Museum/Vogue )

Sheer has been a staple for revenge dresses and Zoë Kravitz chose the right look for the 2021 Met Gala. After filing for divorce in the winter of 2020, Kravitz stepped out for Hollywood’s biggest fashion soiree in a stunning mesh/metal number and matching thong by Saint Laurant that left nothing to the imagination. After receiving some harsh backlash on social media for showing her bejeweled backside, Kravitz clapped back at a critic saying, “Being uncomfortable with the human body is colonization/brainwashing. It’s just a body. We all got ’em.” Well said, Zoë! Well said, indeed!

6. Gwen Stefani

LOS ANGELES, CA – NOVEMBER 22: Recording artist Gwen Stefani attends the 2015 American Music Awards at Microsoft Theater on November 22, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images)

The Hollaback singer arrived at the 2015 American Music Awards in a sheer tulle dream by Kuwaiti Couturier Yousef Al-Jasmi. It was just three months prior that she filed for divorce from then-husband Gavin Rossdale, singer and guitarist of Bush. That same night, Stefani performed to adoring fans and supporters including her new beau at the time Blake Shelton, who proudly cheered her on via Twitter, writing that her performance “was the best of the show!”

7. Ariana Madix

Nicole Weingart/Bravo

After her ex’s alleged infidelity with a fellow co-star on Bravo’s hit show Vanderpump Rules, Ariana Madix was wrapped in a daring jacket and skirt by Mônot for the 10th season reunion special. When host Andy Cohen alluded to her ensemble for the reunion, she responded with “I think his eyes are gonna bleed, ” in reference to her ex-partner of 9 years, Tom Sandoval. Ariana certainly took her revenge to the next level!

Feature image: Photos by Princess Diana Archive/Getty Images, Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for The Met Museum/Vogue, Mike Coppola/Getty Images for People.com


  • Hadiyah Muhammad

    Hi! My name is Hadiyah and I am a journalism major at Temple University! I love writing about everything: fashion, culture, beauty, etc. Though writing is my first love; pasta and Drake come in a close second 🙂 xoxo