"She wanted to look a million dollars." The story behind Princess Diana's revenge dress.

On June 29, 1994, Princess Diana attended Vanity Fair’s annual fundraising event, wearing what would become one of her most famous dresses: the revenge dress.

27 years later, the iconic moment was recreated on season five of The Crown. 

Let’s take a look back at the story behind the fashion statement, and how the people’s princess broke free from the rules and restrictions that bound the British royal family. 

Watch: Prince Harry on Princess Diana and Meghan Markle. Post continues below.

Video via BBC News.

Princess Diana's revenge dress.

Diana’s black, skin-tight, off-the-shoulder custom-made gown was a design by Greek designer Christina Stambolian, and it certainly made a statement in 1994.

Not only for the time, but considering Princess Diana’s relationship with the royal family, it was a major step away from tradition. 

And ever since those images of Princess Diana in the black frock were captured, it has been known as her 'revenge dress’.

"It was the first time people had been introduced to the new Diana, the one who didn’t need the royal family, especially Prince Charles. In that minidress, she oozed confidence, an air of happiness and independence," fashion journalist Alex Longmore told The Huffington Post.


Image: Getty.

It has since been reported that Princess Diana’s revenge dress moment almost didn’t happen.

She was originally supposed to wear a Valentino dress, but changed her mind at the last minute when the fashion house prematurely released an unauthorised statement announcing the details of the dress to the press.

So in lieu, she sifted through her wardrobe and made a last-minute switch to the black dress by Christina Stambolian. According to the designer of the frock, Princess Diana had bought the gown three years earlier during a shopping trip with her brother. 


Kerry Taylor, whose company later auctioned off some of Diana’s most recognisable dresses, explained why the dress became such a symbol.

"We called that the revenge dress. Diana had a public engagement and while some would have been like, 'I can’t face it this evening,' Diana went out in that dress looking drop dead gorgeous. She made a big statement right there," Taylor told Marie Claire.

Image: Getty.


The story behind the fashion statement.

On the same night that Princess Diana wore the black frock, Prince Charles publicly admitted that he had an affair with his former girlfriend, Camilla Parker Bowles, during his marriage to Diana. 

"On a human level for Diana, you can only imagine how upsetting that [interview] would have been. Effectively, Charles has aired some serious dirty laundry," PEOPLE Senior Editor Michelle Tauber shared in PEOPLE’s 2020 documentary miniseries Diana Diaries.

Though Charles and Diana had formally separated almost two years before the Vanity Affair event, the pair were still undergoing lengthy divorce proceedings, which weren't finalised until 1996. 

Image: Getty.


Charles' admittance of the affair aired within an ITV production named Charles: The Private Man, the Public Role.

It was an over two-hour television documentary on Prince Charles, reportedly filmed in a bid to win him over with the public. But it was a bit of a missed opportunity once Charles revealed on prime-time TV that he had in fact been unfaithful to Princess Diana. 

"Did you try to be faithful and honourable to your wife when you took on the vow of marriage?" the journalist asked. 

"Yes, absolutely," Charles responded.

"And you were?" the journalist pressed. 

"Yes," Charles answered. "Until it became irretrievably broken down, us both having tried."

Now it wasn’t exactly a black and white answer from Prince Charles, but it was most definitely an admission from the public’s perspective. 

Image: Getty.


Why Princess Diana’s fashion moment was considered so scandalous.

"Some may have decided this was altogether too much and tried to avoid the cameras, stay out of the limelight: just let the storm pass," said Tauber in Diana Diaries. "That is not what Diana chose to do that night."

Anna Harvey, Diana's former stylist, said the dress cost £900 and was decidedly un-royal. 

It featured an off-the-shoulder neckline, an asymmetrical above-the-knee hemline, and a sheer scarf flowing from the waist: so not exactly the demure royal look the public was used to seeing. 

"She wanted to look a million dollars," Anna Harvey said. "And she did."

But not only did Princess Diana look great: she showed the world that things were going to be on her terms now, a woman in charge of her own image. 

The Crown’s recreation of the revenge dress.

Princess Diana's revenge dress was recreated in season five of The Crown.


Australian actress Elizabeth Debicki, who plays Diana in seasons five and six, looked like the spitting image of the late princess, when she stepped out wearing a near-identical dress on the show - so much so, that she received an Emmy nomination for her portrayal.

With part one of season six of The Crown having just been released on Netflix, the late royal's name has once again started trending, especially because the latest instalment covers her untimely death. 

While there are no revenge dresses in this season, it does dive deep into Diana's relationship with Egyptian film producer Dodi Al-Fayed and shows just how badly the press hounded her during her final moments. 

Debicki spoke about the role to Gotham Magazine about the challenge of trying to emulate the icon that is Princess Diana.

"I’m coming to understand more intimately how she existed and still exists very profoundly in collective consciousness," she said. 

"I think it’s amazing that from age seven, I would remember somebody who had no actual impact on my life as a child in Australia: and yet I was very aware of her presence in the world. She represented something extremely human and extremely symbolic."

Part two of the hit show is set to drop on December 14 on the streaming service and will focus on the events that followed after Diana's death. 

Feature Image: Getty/Netflix.

Love all-things beauty? Take this short survey now to go in the running to win a $50 gift voucher!