The Most Satisfying Revenge Dresses
When Gloria Gaynor intoned I Will Survive, she certainly knew the power of the revenge dress. Ah, that feel-like-a-million-bucks outfit deserves a hallowed space in your wardrobe, for it carries the potential to help you reinvent yourself, regain your power, and look your most fabulous self (fake it till you make it, they say). Quite naturally, the ‘revenge dress’, as it came to be known in 1994, has been flaunted by some of the most glamorous women in the world…
But what goes into the making of this special outfit? It has been described as “the act of reclaiming the narrative” and “deployed for the purpose of expressing rage, froideur, or an insouciant dose of ‘look what you’re missing'” by Bethan Holt in The Daily Telegraph. But for all intents and purposes, the look begins with digging into those inner reserves to step out in public, once again, and dress up like there’s no tomorrow. Some of the most recognisable characteristics of the ‘revenge dress’ include the celebration of the body through a fit that flaunts the silhouette such as those worn by Kim Kardashian after her split from artist Ye, plunging necklines à la Jennifer Lopez and Elizabeth Hurley, and deep backs such as supermodel Bella Hadid in 2017, among others.
But along with its innate ability to command attention in any gathering, and even send out a strong signal of being back in the dating game, the revenge dress has the power to transform how the wearer feels within…it’s often a style that is outside of one’s comfort zone, and with its all-eyes-on-me qualities, this outfit can even boost how attractive a person feels. After a painful break-up, the “I’ll-show-you” dress, as it has been termed, can help a person revive their inner fire to take on the world… For an idea of just what all the revenge dress comprises, here is a run-up of some of the most famous revenge dresses worn by some of the most stylish women in showbiz.
THE COURTROOM-TO-COCKTAILS OUTFIT
Much before anyone else began the trend, it was actor Marilyn Monroe who made divorce dressing a real head-turner. At the divorce hearing from baseball player Joe DiMaggio in 1954, Marilyn showed up like she was stepping out for a cocktail—a blouse with a stylish neck, a string of pearls around her neck, gloves, a hat, and pumps. Of course this created a stir…wasn’t she meant to be washed out? But of course not, my dear.
THE ALL-EYES-ON-ME JUMPSUIT
What do you do when you know you’ll bump into your ex at the same party? Supermodel Bella Hadid decided to throw caution to the wind in a chainmail jumpsuit by Alexander Wang at the 2017 MET Gala, where her ex ‘The Weeknd’ was attending the show with artist Selena Gomez. She certainly stole the show, that was her intention all along, but along with it, she proved that she’d be leaving no crumbs.
THE “I’LL SHOW YOU” DRESS
One of Princess Diana’s most iconic looks is this off-shoulder, black dress that she wore on the night of 29 June 1994, after her ex-husband, then-Prince Charles made a television appearance admitting to his affair with Camilla Parker Bowles [now Queen Consort]. While Diana had originally planned on wearing a dress by Valentino to the event, she chose this design by Christina Stambolian that she had owned for three years…a dress she had never wore earlier because she was afraid it would be “too daring”. Ever since, this iconic ensemble has been christened as the “Revenge Dress”, the “I’ll Show You Dress”, and even the “F*ck-You Dress”. Guts and glory.
THE FIGURE FLAUNTING STYLE
Even before the divorce was settled between reality star and entrepreneur Kim Kardashian and rapper Ye [Kanye West] in November 2022, Kim brought out the drama with her blonde hair in glamorous ‘dos and hourglass outfits in metallic tones, deep necks, and ample cut-outs. Kim’s bold choices confirmed that confidence is key to pulling off these looks.
THE PLUNGING NECKLINE
Jennifer Lopez has certainly shared a rollercoaster of a ride with now-husband Ben Affleck, with break-ups and make-ups (twin flames, anyone?). After calling off their first engagement in 2004, J.Lo stepped out in a look-at-me Michael Kors orange-hued gown, with a plunging neckline, to the Golden Globes. Heads certainly turned. J.Lo and Ben two rekindled their love nearly two decades later, and the two got married in July 2022.
THE DOUBLE-TAKE ENSEMBLE
It’s the middle of 1997, and the glamorous artist Mariah Carey has just split from her former-husband music executive Tommy Mottola. What does she do? Mariah decides to reinvent herself, both with her personal style and her music. At the MTV Music Awards that year, she stepped out in a black bandeau top with a floor-length dress featuring slits on both sides. With her hair done in a bombshell blow-dry, this look was a departure from her sweet-girl style. And from here on, Mariah’s career sky-rocketed as well.
THE PEEK-A-BOO DRESS
The revenge dress isn’t always about showing an ex lover how far you have come. In Taylor Swift’s case, the artist showed up at the 2022 MTV Music Awards, exactly 13 years after artist Ye [Kanye West] interrupted her receiving the Best Female Video award in 2009. The artist echoed the silver hue of the original gown she wore, but this time around, Taylor made sure she looked nothing less than a work of art in her Oscar de la Renta outfit, as she received the Best Longform Video award for her track All Too Well.
THE I’M-THE-PARTY DRESS
A few months after ending her 13-year-long relationship with actor Hugh Grant, Elizabeth Hurley decided to flaunt her enviable body in daring gowns and plunging necklines. This silver number, with ample cut-outs, drove home the point that Elizabeth was single and ready to mingle.
THE BARELY-THERE DRESS
Following an 11-year-long relationship, artist Shakira and Spanish football player Gerard Piqué decided to part ways in 2022 (the jam jar doesn’t lie). Later, Shakira went on to star in the Burberry 2022 festive campaign in a nude-toned, diaphanous dress with glasswork and jewellery to match. It’s the sophistication with which she pulled this off that makes it all the more interesting.
All images: Courtesy Instagram