This outfit was, surprisingly, not her first choice. She wore this only after her original outfit for the night was leaked to the press.
Editor's note: This article was originally published on June 30, 2021. It has since been updated.
Always known for her iconic fashion sense, Princess Diana made a bold fashion choice on June 29, 1994, that not only changed the trajectory of her relationship with Prince Charles but also set a trend in a way. Princess Diana knew that King Charles had a soft corner for another woman when she found a bracelet in his room a brief period after they were engaged to be married. In fact, King Charles wept before the night of their wedding because he was torn between Diana and Camilla Parker Bowles and felt like he was being pressurized into getting married, per PEOPLE. Finally, on July 29, 1981, King Charles and Diana wed at St. Paul's Cathedral.
Five years after the wedding, in 1986, King Charles reportedly resumed his affair with Camilla. Though Diana also went on to have extramarital affairs, she was keen on winning her husband back and even confronted Camilla during a house party in 1989. "I obviously am in the way and it must be hell for both of you but I do know what is going on. Don't treat me like an idiot."
Unfortunately, the Princess of Wales, couldn't save her marriage and the two decided to split in December 1992. On June 29, 1994, two years after they separated, King Charles admitted to cheating on Diana on national tv, but allegedly only after his marriage "became irretrievably broken down. It is a deeply regrettable thing to happen, but it does happen, and unfortunately, in this case, it has happened," Charles said, in the ITV documentary.
The same day that Charles admitted to his infidelity, Diana arrived at the Serpentine Gallery in London for a gala, wearing a fitted black off-the-shoulder dress with an asymmetrical hemline and chiffon train that moved according to the wind. Soon, people started referring to the iconic outfit as the "revenge dress."
"On a human level for Diana, you can only imagine how upsetting that would have been, not only to hear that but to know that now the world has heard it. Effectively, Charles has aired some serious dirty laundry," explained Senior Editor Michelle Tauber, according to PEOPLE. "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. That is not what Diana chose to do that night."
Being a member of the British Royal Family does mean that they have to abide by a set of rules, and not wearing clothes that reveal too much is on top of the list. But Diana's decision to wear the outfit seemed like she wanted to show Charles what he would be missing out on. "Of course, Diana knew that all eyes were going to be on her," PEOPLE Senior Style Editor Brittany Talarico explained. "She didn't have to say anything with words. It was a fashion response — that dress became her clear message to Charles and the world."
"She decided that she was going to fight back, and she decided that she would choose a dress that she had previously rejected as being a little too much. And she would put that on and go out on the town," said William Ivey Long, costume designer for the Broadway musical Diana. But, what most people don't know is that the iconic "revenge dress" was not her first choice of outfit.
Diana's initial plan was to wear a Valentino dress to the event, but when the ensemble was leaked to the press, she made a last-minute switch, and that's when she chose to wear the famous black number by designer Christina Stambolian that had been in her closet for three years. Another three years after that, Diana auctioned her iconic dress with a few more of her clothes from her collection. It sold for $65,000, with the money benefitting cancer and AIDS-related charities.
Cover Image Source: Getty Images | (L)Photo by Hulton Archive (R) Photo by Clive Brunskill / Staff