All interviews and photos by Chris Bethell

People Show Us Their 'Revenge Dress' Looks

In the spirit of Princess Diana, we photographed some outfits that made people's exes feel really, really bad about ever taking them for granted.

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Nov 7 2017, 3:14pm

All interviews and photos by Chris Bethell

In 1994, Princess Diana's fairytale life was about to fall apart. Prince Charles had just publicly admitted to cheating on her in a car-crash TV interview, and the royal marriage was heading for the rocks.

What did the Princess of Wales do? She didn't retreat to Kensington Palace and curse Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles from the safety of her couch. On the same evening the now-notorious ITV documentary aired, Diana stepped out for a party at the Serpentine art gallery in a pearl choker and a tight, off-the-shoulder black dress by Greek designer Christina Stambolian. People literally applauded when she got out of her car.

The tabloid press called it her "revenge dress," and thus named a new category of dressing into existence. What do you wear when you know all eyes will be on you, and you're at a social function where you might run into your ex? Pick up your revenge dress. (Posting your outfit on Instagram, usually accompanied by an oh-so-casual caption like "thinking deep thoughts" or "waiting for the weekend like," will also suffice.)

Revenge dresses can take many shapes and forms. They don't even necessarily have to involve a dress at all. A revenge dress only has one prerequisite: It has to make you feel like a million bucks. In the spirit of Princess Diana, we asked a few people to show us their take on the revenge dress.

Alice Rizzo: "You could come up with much crazier ideas for a revenge dress—this is more subtle." All interviews and photos by Chris Bethell

Alice Rizzo, 26

Can you talk me through the story behind this look?
Well, before I got with my ex I wouldn't wear skirts; I wore a bit of makeup but not much. I wanted to show that you can be sexy, even in a suit.

What was the inspiration for the outfit?
I did ask one of my friends for inspiration, but she had some crazy stories so I decided maybe I shouldn't listen to her. I just wanted to wear something that feels more like me, y'know? You could come up with much crazier ideas for a revenge dress—this is more subtle.

Read more: Inside the Home of the World's Most Obsessive Princess Diana Memorabilia Collector

What kind of clothes did you wear before you got with your ex?
It was linked to the fact that I grew up hanging out with boys—I would wear sneakers, pants, shirts, and I didn't have a handbag. I'd wear a rucksack, always comfortable clothes for moving around in. My boyfriend had some ideas about how he wanted his girlfriend to look like.

Has your ex seen you in this outfit?
Well that's the thing, he hasn't. I'm hoping he'll see this and be like "oh, actually…" We stayed friends afterwards but we've just drifted. It wasn't the reason we broke up but it was quite strong for him. So I'm sure that when he sees the picture he'll be like okay, maybe I got it wrong. Hopefully.

What makes this the perfect revenge dress look?
It's a look that I'm comfortable in and still very feminine. It's a return to being myself. His input of not being womanly enough pushed me into thinking how I could blend it while staying true to myself. I think that's pure revenge.

Scott Hadley: "It's glittery and garish and disgusting and it's great fun."

Scott Hadley, 29

What's the story behind this revenge dress?
Well, I was very sad and very mopey for a while after my breakup. On my first full day having fun I went out for lunch with one friend, then met up with another friend, and we were just sort of wandering. Walking my cute little dog around Regents Park, we then decided to go and have a look in Camden. I was browsing vintage shops and saw a pair of glittery gold trousers. I thought, Oh my god, those are amazing. My friend was appalled; they said, "Don't buy those, they're disgusting." But the shop assistant saw how excited I was and informed me they also had a jacket that goes with it. I freaked out, I was very excited. So I went and tried them on—when I came out of the changing room my dog just started howling at me. Even he was disgusted.

My ex was very tasteful and very conscious of fashion. It was not appropriate for me to wear things like that before—outlandish and brash and crass and low quality. Horrible nylon that doesn't breathe. It's glittery and garish and disgusting and it's great fun.

What was the inspiration for the look?
Glitter, glitter, glitter! I love to shine, I love to sparkle. A few years ago I went through a phase of rubbing glitter into my scalp. I first shaved my head three years ago and the first summer I did it I had glitter in my head all the time. It looked like a disco ball; I just left glitter behind everywhere I went. I left the glitter behind though when—and I'm going to be frank here—when it started to collect below my foreskin. Whenever I would shower or use the toilet it would just fall down. It really started to worry me that I was going to cut myself up.

Has your ex seen you in this?
No, not as far as I'm aware.

What makes this the perfect revenge dress?
It guarantees that one is being looked at and not ignored. You don't have to feel rejected when everyone in the room is staring at you.

What do you think would happen if your ex did see you in this outfit?
I think she would be disgusted. Disgusted but unsurprised.

Otamere Guobadia: "I like to think that I get dressed entirely for me because it puts me in the right headspace."

Otamere Guobadia, 23

What were the circumstances that led to you putting together this revenge dress outfit?
I don't know. I feel like I use style and fashion as a conduit to make me feel better and I think I went into my overdraft to buy this dress—and it's quite a cheap dress, so you can tell how poor I am. I wanted to feel nice, I wanted to feel good. I was scrolling through and saw this dress, I thought it looked quite nice so I bought it. It made me feel better and I wore it, it's fucking great.

What were the inspirations for the outfit?
I love mesh as a texture. It has quite a poofy skirt and I feel quite like Sarah Jessica Parker in the episode of Sex and the City where she wears a tutu. That's the comparison I've had the most. I really like the way dresses highlight how traditionally masculine my body looks sometimes. I really like the juxtaposition. I wear berets because they're quite militant and I put on the eyeshadow because I think it looks really pretty. I like the mixture of all the traditionally masculine elements with the dress and the eyeshadow and the beret.

Has your ex seen you in this outfit?
I mean, yes and no. I won't elaborate on why, but also I have a philosophy around getting dressed for boys. After the last few years of my life, I don't believe I should ever get dressed for someone else because I feel every time that I have it has ended in disaster. So I like to think that I get dressed entirely for me because it puts me in the right headspace.

What makes this the ultimate revenge dress?
Because I think it's like 90s television witch meets Black Panther Party member.

Alex Joint: "He saw the photos online and messaged me 20 minutes later."

Alex Joint, 26

What was the relationship situation that led to you putting this outfit together?
I think I was actually going on a night out and I was meeting up with the person I'm now seeing. I decided to put a picture of it all over Instagram and Facebook because I knew I looked awesome.

Did you put this outfit together yourself?
Yep, just by myself. I bought the dress originally for a holiday outfit and ended up not going on the holiday. But I loved the dress and it looks fucking awesome. It's very different to anything else that I've got, I've got more black dresses but most are your Wednesday Addams-type ones.

Has your ex seen you in this look?
He saw the photos online and messaged me 20 minutes later. He said "well, you look nice" and
I was like, "I know." I just laughed to myself.

So what makes this the perfect revenge dress?
Because it's just like "fuck youuuuu." Just because it's awesome and it's more effort than I have made in a long time. I know I look good in it, so that's why it's awesome.

Ruth Faj: "When I do my make up and the whole shebang, I feel ten out of ten."

Ruth Faj, 27

What's the story behind this revenge dress?
This is just the dress that I think I look the best in—the most flattering on my body type. I feel like when I wear it I get the most attention so I think that's why it's my revenge dress.

What was the inspiration for the outfit and did you put this together yourself?
I bought it at Topshop on Oxford Street; I was going to a party that night and I was in a rush to get something. I tried it on and I just felt amazing in it. I feel like when you wear something you feel amazing in, you reflect that when you're out. So that positive energy draws attention to you.

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Has your ex seen you in this outfit?
No, not this one. Hopefully his jaw would drop to the floor and he'd feel sick if he saw me in this, though. Hopefully he'd think he fucked up. That's the reaction you want when you see your ex.

What makes this the perfect revenge dress?
It highlights my good parts—my legs and some boob. That's why it's the best revenge dress for me. It makes me feel pretty. When I do my make up and the whole shebang, I feel ten out of ten.

Sian Hughes: "It worked—I won him back."

Sian Hughes, 26

What made you put together this revenge dress?
Basically, my boyfriend had just moved away to London. A couple of months after that, we split up. I didn't really want us to split up but he'd already promised to come and see a play I was putting on so I knew I would see him again then. Also, when we split up I booked a load of holidays, one of which [was] to Dublin on St Patrick's Day so that's the reason that my revenge dress is green. I basically went mad and bought loads of green clothes. So yeah, I knew I was going to see him on this night and I basically looked like this to try and win him back. The plan was that if he didn't fall back into my arms by the time I went to Dublin then I was just going to get over him. That didn't have to happen, though, as two weeks after I wore this outfit we were back together.

What was the inspiration behind the look?
St Patrick's Day was the reason the dress is green. I'd never before worn a dress like this—which I call a goth/hippy dress. It's a style of dress I'd seen on other people and always admired. I didn't think I could wear it though with my personality and didn't think it'd fit with my other stuff. I kinda just went for it though with this dress. Before we had broken up, we had been together since I was a teenager and found that you always dress for other people—boyfriends, family, friends, etc. But when we broke up I decided I was going to dress for myself, and to inspire confidence in myself that would allow me to win him back.

What was his reaction when he saw you?
After the play, me and my uni friends planned to go for dinner. My ex at the time decided to invite himself as well as my cousin and some of her friends. We couldn't get a table because there was now eight of us and I was really pissed off with him about it. Me and my ex went off on a little walk on our own around the shopping centre we were in and I tried to kiss him. He didn't kiss me back—in fact he was pretty unimpressed by the attempted kiss (not the dress).

What makes this the perfect revenge dress?
Because it worked—I won him back.

Harry Rose: " I'm not tied down, I'm like a free bird."

Harry Rose, 27

What led to you putting together this revenge dress?
It's something that was very colourful and different for me. Something my ex wasn't keen on me wearing. He didn't like that type of fashion. I feel free and carefree in it, it's kind of like a revolution in your own mindset. It's positive and upbeat—I had these clothes before we broke up but I never wore them. Since we've broken up though, every weekend I'm wearing the same stuff. I'd say that they're more descriptive of me now; I'm not tied down, I'm like a free bird. I can do what I want. I was just wearing plain and normal colours [before] but now I can be the complete polar opposite.

Did you pull this outfit together yourself?
Yup, I put it altogether myself. It's inspired by listening to 80s music like Tears For Fears and bands like that. A lot of music comes into the way I dress.

Were you dressing colorfully before you were with your ex?
No, I wasn't. My wardrobe is a lot more colourful now. I'm not sure why this has come out now. I guess I just got out of the relationship and thought, Fuck it, I can do what I want.

Has your ex seen you in this?
No. But I don't think he'd be fussed. I don't think it would make too much of an impact to be honest. I think he'd just be like, "Eurgh, okay." It means more to me to be honest. It's about making myself happy and making me the person I want to be.

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What makes this the perfect revenge dress?
Because it's bright and fun and not too serious. It's upbeat and it's not like I'm wearing a tuxedo or something. It's quite approachable. It's more me.