Why Princess Diana's 'Revenge Dress' remains so iconic today

  • Princess Diana’s iconic ‘Revenge Dress’ has become one of the most famous outfits in the nearly 30 years since she wore it

  • The form-fitting black cocktail dress will appear in the new season of the Netflix hit series The Crown

  • The latest season, starring Elizabeth Debicki as Princess Diana, will detail the lives of the Royal Family throughout the ‘90s

  • Read on to find out everything you need to know about Princess Diana’s so-called ‘Revenge Dress’ and how it came to be such a ‘moment’ in fashion history

Elizabeth Dibicki (R) plays Princess Diana (L) in season 5 of The Crown. (Shutterstock/Netflix)
Elizabeth Dibicki (R) plays Princess Diana (L) in season 5 of The Crown. (Shutterstock/Netflix)

The highly anticipated fifth season of Netflix's hit series, The Crown, will air on 9 November, and is set to be the most tumultuous yet. Season five follows the difficult few years through the mid to late-Nineties where misfortune seemed to follow the Royal Family wherever they went. But there’s one moment in particular that fans have been dying to see: the return of Princess Diana’s 'Revenge Dress'.

The latest series begins in 1992, detailing the year’s seemingly never ending string of scandals and tragedies — including the marriages of three out of four of her children ending, a fire at Windsor Castle, and the release of Andrew Morton’s tell-all book Diana: Her True Story — that formed what the Queen called her “Annus Horribilis”.

The tumultuous few years throughout the mid to late-Nineties that seemed to follow the Royal Family wherever they went, including the death of Princess Diana in a car accident in 1997, was dominated by the animosity in Charles and Diana’s relationship, which obsessed both the media and the world.

Read more: When and why did Charles and Diana divorce?

Princess Diana wearing the Revenge Dress at the Serpentine in 1994
Princess Diana's 'Revenge Dress' was on the front covers of newspapers the world over on the morning after she wore it. (Shutterstock)

The couple officially separated in 1992, but divorced five years later, and the breakdown of their relationship was played out in the world’s press.

In June 1994, Britain's media began to hint that King Charles had accidentally revealed he had been unfaithful to Princess Diana during an ITN interview with journalist Jonathan Dimbleby

Read more: 'The Crown' season 5: Who's who from The Queen to Princess Diana in cast shake-up

When asked if he had remained “faithful and honourable” to his wife, the then Prince of Wales initially replied “yes absolutely,” before admitting that was “until it became irretrievably broken down, us both having tried.”

The same day the explosive interview aired to 13 million viewers across the country, Diana arrived at a gala at London's Serpentine Gallery in a dress so iconic that it has since simply been known as the 'Revenge Dress'.

Princess Diana wearing the Revenge Dress at the Serpentine in 1994
The pearl choker that Princess Diana wore with the 'Revenge Dress' was originally a sapphire brooch, given to Diana by the Queen Mother on her wedding day. (Getty Images)

Designed by Christina Stambolian, the cocktail dress – with its off-the-shoulder, sweetheart neckline and figure-hugging skirt – was unlike anything Diana, or any other royal, had ever worn in public before.

“Diana wanted to look a million dollars,” the princess' former stylist Anna Harvey told the Channel 4 documentary Princess Diana's Dresses: The Auction in 2013. “And she did.”

Read more: Princess Diana 'knew the power of her clothes' says designer behind the royal's 'retirement' suit

According to journalist and writer Tina Brown, Diana had initially turned down the invitation to the gala, until two days before the event when “news of the adultery quote began to leak in promotions for the broadcast.”

Princess Diana wearing the Revenge Dress at the Serpentine in 1994
Princess Diana originally bought the 'Revenge Dress' in 1991, but deemed it too risqué to wear. (Getty Images)

“That’s when one of the gala’s organisers, an old family friend of Diana’s, got a surprise phone call,” Brown wrote in The Diana Chronicles. She said she wanted to go after all. “What are you up to?” asked her friend. “You’ll see,” replied Diana.

The dress’ designer Stambolian previously said that Diana had wanted to wear the dress – which she’d owned since 1991 after buying it on a shopping trip with her brother – but she had deemed it too risqué.

Read more: Princess Diana’s style is a key part of her legacy, even after 25 years

“[The princess] chose not to play the scene like Odette, innocent in white,” she said, referring to the characters in Swan Lake. “She was clearly angry. She played it like Odile, in black. She wore bright red nail enamel, which we had never seen her do before. She was saying, ‘Let’s be wicked tonight!’”

Princess Diana wearing the Revenge Dress at the Serpentine in 1994
Princess Diana styled the 'Revenge Dress' with red nail varnish and her pearl and sapphire necklace. (Getty Images/Shutterstock)

And, sure enough, the royal-obsessed news cycle worked in Diana’s favour. Images of her getting out of her car and walking to the event in the incendiary form-fitting black dress covered the front pages of British newspapers the following day, not Charles and his interview.

“Revenge is chic,” wrote the Sun. “Di last night showed Charles what he's missing.”

Read more: 'The Crown' first-look photos: Elizabeth Debicki image of Diana in iconic backless dress

Nearly 30 years later, the dress — and the empowering moment it signifies — is set to sit centre stage once again as Elizabeth Debicki wears a replica of the 'Revenge Dress' as the evening is covered in The Crown Season 5.

Princess Diana wearing the Revenge Dress
Princess Diana's Christina Stambolian dress, which became forever known as the 'Revenge Dress'. (Getty Images)

Debicki – who takes the mantle of Diana from Emma Corrin in season four – credited the “very significant and quite powerful” outfit with helping her to understand the late princess’ character.

“It provoked something in me as an actor, I can't really explain it,” Debicki told Entertainment Weekly. “It's pretty incredible that a dress would represent a moment in history, or that this human's life would represent so much and become so iconic. So that was a big day on set for me!”

Read more: Elizabeth Debicki's off-screen style hits as she plays Princess Diana in 'The Crown'

“It fascinated me how entranced people were with that dress,” she added. “When it became known that I had the part, I received these text messages saying congratulations, [but] there was also a huge amount of text messages about the Revenge Dress. ‘Do you get to wear the Revenge Dress?’ ‘Oh my God, you get to wear the Revenge Dress!’”

The iconic dress remained in Diana’s collection until she sold it at a media auction to raise money for cancer and AIDS-related charities in July 1997 for £39,098, just one month before her untimely passing.

The fifth season of Netflix's hit series, The Crown, airs on 9 November .