Fashion can shape and alter lives. Not only does what we wear keep us decent and protected, but it also tells those who see us who we are or who we aspire to be, writes British art and design historian Frances Corner on Google Arts & Culture. Do you know what else fashion does? It can help us give the middle finger to those who hurt us –- like our exes — with proper decorum. Far-fetched as it sounds, fashion can actually be weaponized to go from being a victim to a victor and even the score. The ultimate goal of revenge fashion is to dazzle in articles of clothing that ooze so much brash sexiness and glorious gratification that it causes those who dumped you to do a double take and envy your shine.
It’s hard to tell how many broken hearts out there are yearning for a chance to get revenge, but one thing we know for sure is that the phenomenon of “revenge shopping” is still in vogue. For instance, searches for “revenge dress outfits” on TikTok have grown to over 191.8 million views at the time of writing. So, if you have just gone through a nasty split, stop dissing your former flame on social media and stash away the gooey comfort foods and playbooks for overcoming a breakup. When the wound is still raw, take on revenge dressing as an alternative therapy for heartbreak. Here’s why revenge fashion is a tried-and-true way of turning your pain into punch.
When it comes to defining revenge fashion, nobody could have put it in words better than Rihanna. “Every time a man cheats on you or treats you badly, you need a revenge dress,” the singer tells Vogue. And nobody could have made a reference to this definition better than the OG of revenge dressing herself – Princess Diana. In June 1994, Lady Di broke the royal protocol at a Serpentine Gallery party by wearing an off-the-shoulder black dress designed by Christina Stambolian, flaunting her gorgeous collarbones and toned legs. This LBD — too daring by the royal family standards –- immediately made headlines.
“We call it the “revenge dress” [because] she wore it the same evening Prince Charles confessed to his adultery with Camilla,” said fashion auctioneer Kerry Taylor. Under normal circumstances, a husband’s televised tell-all interview about his hanky-panky would draw all the attention to himself while the betrayed wife sobs in her bedroom. But that wasn’t what happened with Lady Di. Instead of hiding, she showed up in a smashing LBD. Her windswept fluffy pixie added a sweet touch to the look. Her eyes glitter with pride –- not unshed tears. And her disarming smile made more rounds in front-page headlines than her husband’s hazy expression when he told the world he didn’t love her. Altogether, her revenge statement overshadowed his gut-wrenching confession. That’s exactly what revenge fashion is about: using fashion to make a message out of a romantic mess.
In a nutshell, revenge fashion represents a person’s will to move through a dark past toward a brighter future that they deserve. YouTube creator Gunnar Deatherage tells Refinery29, “Instead of saying that I was going through a breakup, why not put a fun twist to it?” In this spirit, pick out a sick burn outfit that helps you wipe the smirk off your ex’s face. Basically, the four main components of fashion design include silhouette, line, color, and texture, per BrainKart. On that note, a revenge dress typically has these attributes: a form-fitting silhouette, a straight or diagonal line with bold cuts, a visually provocative color, and lightweight fabrics that feel soft to the touch.
Body-hugging LBDs with minimal straps or an open back, for example, make excellent additions to your revenge wardrobe. For instance, you can opt for an off-the-shoulder midi dress — like Lady Di — for a feminine look, or don a leather dress with a plunging neckline if you want to give off a sultry power-woman vibe. Meanwhile, a black slip dress is a good fit for all occasions: formal, casual, and everything in between. Always pair your dress with high heels to elongate your figure, and style it with a necklace to jazz up your look. A red dress is also a great choice for a femme fatale outfit. Not only can red naturally monopolize people’s attention, but it’s also considered a symbol of seduction and confidence.