7 heartbroken stars who stepped out in ‘revenge dresses’, just like Diana

Nov 13, 2021
Diana reacted to Charles' affair bombshell by stepping out in a slinky little black number, dubbed the 'Revenge Dress'. Source: Getty Source: Getty

When Princess Diana stepped out from her chauffeur-driven car, outside London’s Serpentine Gallery in June 1994, wearing THAT clinging black dress, she was determined to look every bit as priceless as the dazzling diamond choker encircling her swan-like neck.

That same night, her husband, the Prince of Wales, had sensationally admitted in a televised documentary that he had engaged in an affair with his former girlfriend Camilla Parker Bowles, now his wife, the Duchess of Cornwall, while married to Diana.

The royal couple had been separated for two years by then. But Diana’s showstopping Christina Stambolian dress, with its slinky off-the-shoulder neckline and daring asymmetrical above-the-knee hemline, put into words everything that the People’s Princess couldn’t say:

“I’m breaking free from all the rules and restrictions of the Royal Family,” that incredible frock said. “Breaking free of tradition and rules. And cheating husbands and stuffy dress codes.”

Princess Diana in black revenge dress in 1994
It’s a knockout. Diana wows the world as Charles spills the beans on his affair with Camilla. Source: Getty

It was a luminous new Diana. One that apparently didn’t need Prince Charles or the Royal Family and was embracing head-on her newfound independence at the age of 32.

Many women faced with such a public humiliation would have been tempted to hole up and hide away until the storm passed. But staying out of the limelight was never Diana’s style. Instead, she held her head high, put on her foxiest heels and her sassiest smile, and showed cheating Charles exactly what he was missing. Which was what made the extraordinary moment so powerful.

Not even Diana though could have guessed that her jaw-dropping dress would coin a whole new fashion category: the Revenge Dress. Or that 27 years later, the unforgettable moment would be gloriously recreated in one of the world’s most-watched television series, The Crown.

As stunning images emerge this week of Aussie actress Elizabeth Debicki resurrecting Diana’s infamous Little Black “Revenge” Dress in the forthcoming season of the Netflix hit, we round up some of the most spectacular “look what you’re missing” moments that the late princess inspired in other famous women facing down heartbreak:

Nicole Kidman

Nicole Kidman in black strapless dress at premiere of The Others
Nicole Kidman waves goodbye to Tom Cruise and flat shoes. Source: Getty

With the ink barely dry on her very public split from Hollywood star Tom Cruise (it was the night before their divorce was officially finalised), Aussie actress Nicole Kidman made a stunning entrance at the premiere of her film, The Others, in 2001, in this gorgeous black bustier dress. The sophisticated gown fitted her statuesque frame like a second skin and perfectly accentuated her alabaster complexion. Fashion observers also gleefully noted how the Aussie star took to wearing high heels instead of her customary flats straight after the divorce. Kidman even told late night legend David Letterman: “Well, I can wear heels now” – a clear dig at her ex-husband’s diminutive leading man stature (Cruise is 1.7m tall).

 

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Jennifer Aniston

jennifer aniston in beaded chanel dress 2005
Jennifer Aniston shows Brad what he’s missing in a sparkly Chanel showstopper. Source: Getty

What’s a girl to do when her heartthrob movie star husband trades her in for one of the most celebrated beauties on earth? In one of her first public outings since Jennifer Anniston messily divorced Brad Pitt – after he had left her for his Mr. & Mrs. Smith co-star Angelina Jolie – the much-loved Friends’ star allowed this stunning beaded Chanel dress to do all the talking for her in October 2005.  Catch you later, Brad!

Mariah Carey

 

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Glamour-loving songbird Mariah Carey is not one to do things by halves. Except when it comes to getting red carpet revenge, as this picture clearly shows! When Carey wanted to signal to the world that she’d finally broken free of her controlling husband, Sony Music executive Tommy Mottola, she also ditched her more wholesome family-friendly image and turned the volume right up to 11. This iconic black skirt and skimpy crop-top combination that Carey wore to the 1997 MTV awards was a very daring look for her at the time. That saucy thigh-high split? Her way of saying, “I’ll take it from here, Tommy!”

Reece Witherspoon

Reece Witherspoon at the Golden Globes in 2007
Reese Witherspoon is a ray of sunshine in this strapless sheath after her golden marriage ends in heartbreak. Source: Getty

Even golden girl Reese Witherspoon is not immune from heartbreak and humiliation when it comes to love.  Her “picture perfect” marriage to fellow actor Ryan Phillippe hit the dust in late 2006, amid rumours her husband had cheated on her with Aussie actress Abbie Cornish. After lying low for months, the Big Little Lies star rose from the ashes in January 2007 to strut her stuff on the Golden Globes red carpet in this bedazzling marigold-coloured strapless number by designer Nina Ricci. The killer dress was dubbed the “Ryan who?” by one leading fashion magazine. Witherspoon also wowed the crowds with a new sleek hair style and glossy fringe to complete her head turning transformation.

The Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton

Kate Middleton going out on the town in short dress
Don’t you forget about me. Kate dresses to impress during her brief breakup from Prince William. Source: Getty

Hard to recall it now when we’re so accustomed to the constant shows of love and affection between William and Kate, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. But the young royal lovebirds actually split up for 3 months in March 2007, after they’d been dating for four years, since meeting as students at a Scottish university. During the break-up, Kate was frequently spotted painting the town red on clubby nights out in London with her fun-loving sister Pippa. The sisters even went for spray tans and blow-dries together to ensure they looked their most devastating best for the inevitable cameras (Marcia Wood, author of Kate: A Biography, reveals). A normally conservative dresser, clever Kate made sure that Prince Willian wouldn’t forget her by maxing out on flirty mini-dresses like this one, to prove that she wasn’t moping around at home. Happily, the popular pair went on to reconcile and marry four years later in April 2011, and this year celebrated their 10th wedding anniversary with a series of gorgeous and intimate portraits.

Cassandra Thorburn

 

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When your household name TV husband – and father of your three beautiful children – leaves you after 21 years of marriage and fronts up shortly afterwards with a considerably younger and blonder shoe designer, the whole country witnesses your pain. But the 50-year-old journalist rallied back in glorious style. Not only did Thorburn get to flaunt her trim, taut and terrific dance-honed figure in a volley of spectacularly flattering frocks for Dancing With the Stars, she also got to pour salt in the wound about her very easy on the eye dance partner (at a time when Karl was stacking on the kilos and dealing with plummeting ratings).

Jennifer Garner

Jennifer Garner at Oscars 2016
Jennifer Garner channels both Diana and Scarlet O’Hara at her first Oscars without Ben Affleck. Source: Getty

Actress Jennifer Garner has earned a faithful following over the years with her fresh-faced beauty and on-screen likeability. More often than not, the grounded mother of three was pictured out and about in simple floral dresses and neutral-coloured slacks. But for her first Oscars ceremony since her painful split from husband of ten years, Ben Affleck, in February 2016, the Yes Day star benched those girl next door vibes in favour of a sweeping high-impact black gown with a dramatic backless style, worthy of Scarlett O’Hara. The vampy gamble paid off with Garner being crowned one of the best-dressed of the night. Garner met Affleck, who she described as the “love of her life”, in 2000, when the pair co-starred in the romantic drama Pearl Harbor.

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