The late Princess Diana was the ultimate royal fashion icon. Whether she was greeting dignitaries, carrying out charity work or meeting her A-list friends, she always had a standout dress to suit any occasion.
And one of the most memorable dresses from her extensive collection is the form-fitting black silk number that the Princess wore to the Serpentine Gallery’s summer party, hosted by Vanity Fair in June 1994.
The striking LBD was a departure from Diana’s usually demure style, and when Greek fashion designer Christina Stambolian unveiled it to her prior to the event, she was said to be concerned that it was “too daring”.
But the evening of the party was no ordinary night, and Diana’s decision to wear the dress would go down in royal history as more than a snapshot of royal style.
Stambolian revealed that the dress had actually been designed for Diana three years prior to its first outing, but the Princess had been too nervous to wear it up until this date.
According to reports in The Telegraph, she had been originally planning to wear a design by Valentino, but had been deterred when the fashion house had confirmed this via a press release ahead of the event. Her former stylist Anna Harvey revealed that the Princess wanted to “look a million dollars” and Diana decided that the one-of-a-kind Stambolian gown was a dress that would make a big impression.
But as Diana made her way to the party in her off shoulder gown paired with a striking monochrome choker and elegant pearl earrings, she was acutely aware that there would be much more than just her outfit choice under the media spotlight.
The party at The Serpentine occurred on the same night that a controversial TV documentary had aired. In the tell-all ITV documentary, Prince Charles revealed that he tried to be “faithful and honourable” when marrying the then Lady Diana Spencer in July 1981. But when interviewer Jonathan Dimbleby asked if he had been, Prince Charles gave the following response: “Yes,” before adding: “Until it became irretrievably broken down, us both having tried.”
The comment was taken as an admission of Prince Charles’s infidelity with Camilla Parker Bowles. And ever since that day, the striking gown Diana wore to the Serpentine has been dubbed as ‘The Revenge Dress’.
Auction house boss Kerry Taylor – whose company auctioned off 10 of the most recognisable Diana dresses in 2013 – explains why:
‘We called that “The Revenge Dress”. She wore that the same evening Prince Charles confessed to his adultery with Camilla. Diana had a public engagement at the Serpentine gallery 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.’
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For us, Diana’s statement dress is the ultimate example of power dressing.