The saying goes “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned”, but have you ever seen the wardrobe of a woman that’s been done wrong?
‘Revenge looks’ have become a pop culture moment unto themselves, from the then Princess Of Wales’ much-referenced revenge look in the 90s all the way through to the modern-day revenge makeup looks circling on Tiktok, all feeding off the narrative that the best revenge in any circumstance is to have a revenge ‘glow up’ in your wardrobe and overall look.
While you might not agree with that statement, revenge dressing continues to be referenced time and time again, and it’s sometimes comforting to know that your favourite celebrity also goes on a slightly chaotic spending spree to debut a whole new look after a recent breakup. Celebs – they’re just like us.
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The revenge look might have been first hooked onto the post-romance narrative, but its place in day-to-day life reaches beyond just heartbreak. Whether you’re facing a run-in with an old enemy at a birthday brunch or attending a school reunion with people you’re less than pleased to see, the revenge look is the ultimate sartorial power move.
Depending on your situation, revenge dressing can take many forms. From a killer suit to a timeless dress, showing up looking polished works to give you the ultimate boost of confidence inside, while the outside tells a story of someone who’s completely put together and couldn’t give a damn (and it’s okay even if you do, they’ll be too distracted by your outfit to notice).
In celebration and reverence of the timeless art of revenge dressing, I’ve rounded up the best revenge looks that popular culture has gifted us, from movies to celebrity paparazzi shots, and the pieces you can shop to recreate or inspire your own look.
Andrea in The Devil Wears Prada
Being able to quote this film line by line is pretty much a right of passage if you work in fashion, and this scene is absolutely one of the top three in the whole movie. After being snubbed in her new role, Anne Hathaway’s character reinvents herself in the only way a fashion girl knows how: by employing a wardrobe full of killer looks. If only we all had a friend like Stanley Tucci.
Villanelle in Killing Eve
I was so obsessed with Villanelle’s wardrobe in the first few seasons of Killing Eve that it inspired my final year dissertation at uni (the perks of studying fashion, eh?), and so obviously, one of her looks had to make the cut.
The whole show is basically one long circle of revenge, which makes it even harder to narrow down one favourite look, but I think this outfit, with its high-neck netted black dress (an Alexander McQueen special), is the epitome of her character in this scene: sexy, risqué, and dangerous. Recreate this look with a sheer high-neck lace dress or top and black palazzo trousers for a more tailored option.
Cassie in Promising Young Woman
Sometimes understated is the perfect revenge, embodied perfectly by Cassie in Promising Young Woman, as she stands wielding a crowbar in a fitted grey blazer, white t-shirt, tailored black trousers and black court heels. Simple, classy, and unassuming enough to get away with any revenge plan without anyone suspecting a thing.
At this point, I’m certain Zoe Kravitz could wear a bin bag and look incredible. For her Met Gala appearance, and one of her first public appearances since the finalisation of her divorce, Zoë wore not just a naked dress but the naked dress. There’s nothing else that quite says revenge dressing like a dress that has you literally dripping in crystals.
If you’re not feeling quite as bold as going for the full naked dress, there are plenty of sheer, rhinestone and diamonte mesh options on trend right now that recreate that YSL vibe.
Vivian in Pretty Woman
We’ve all been there: walking into a high-end store and feeling like you’re being looked down at by a snooty assistant. Luckily for us, Julia Robert’s character Vivian in Pretty Woman provided the ultimate revenge dress for such occasions. Her button-front white dress, hat and gloves has become almost as timeless as the tagline that goes with it.
While the gloves might be overkill, a chic white dress and an oversized straw hat is giving big middle finger energy. Ditch the 80s puff sleeves and instead opt for a structural button-up blazer dress for a more modern twist on the look, paired with a classic brown shoulder bag.
Obviously, I couldn’t write this piece without including the revenge dress that started it all: Princess Diana’s off-the-shoulder LBD. Amid the news of her ex-husband’s admitted adultery, the then Princess of Wales stepped out in a head-to-toe black ensemble. A black dress with a Bardot neckline looks incredibly elegant and will work in your wardrobe now and for years to come. The finishing touch? A layered choker of pearls, complete with giant sapphire. Iconic.
Amy Dunne in Gone Girl
In contrast to her explicit and complex plan for revenge, Amy Dunne’s outfit – worn during her epic Gone Girl monologue – is one that takes no time at all to recreate. Grab yourself a grey t-shirt (or borrow your S/Os) and a pair of oversized tortoiseshell sunnies and bam, you’re well on your way to going Gone Girl levels of glacial.
I’m saying it: Katie Holmes doesn’t get enough credit for her styling, so I was so glad when the now-viral cashmere cardigan and bra combo propelled her to her rightful spot as the internet’s fashion darling.
While this loungewear-meets-underwear look spread like wildfire across the internet, and spawned a hundred versions in high street stores the next season, it was also a lesson in comfortable yet unbelievably chic revenge dressing. Yep, the Bradigan was Holmes’ first papped look after news broke of her split from Jamie Foxx, so for all the girlies that are looking for a lowkey post-breakup revenge look, this one’s for you.