The origins of the “revenge dress,” a breakup trend pioneered by Princess Diana

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If you’re chronically online like me, you’re probably well aware of the ongoing hoopla surrounding Joe Jonas and Sophie Turner. But if you’re not, which I applaud you for, let me explain:

Earlier this month, Jonas — who is best known for being part of the band the Jonas Brothers — shocked fans by filing for divorce from Turner, who starred as Sansa Stark in HBO’s “Game of Thrones.” The ex-couple has since remained a trending topic across social media for the messiness of their split. But it wasn’t until a few days later, when Turner made her first public appearance following the announcement, that the internet went completely berserk.

Turner, looking hot and unbothered, wore what many have dubbed her “revenge outfit” — a glittery silver halter-neck top that bared her toned midriff, above loose gray trousers. Turner, clearly enjoying a night out, wasn’t all by herself, of course. Pictured alongside her was Taylor Swift, who (get this!) happens to be an ex of Jonas. Cue the drama!

Once the photos of Turner and Swift went public, fans attempted to decode the deeper meaning behind Turner’s outfit. Was this some kind-of publicity stunt? Was this Turner’s middle finger to Jonas? Or, was Turner just innocently hanging out with a close friend with no other ulterior motives?

Indeed, that’s the power of a “revenge outfit” — an ensemble that holds so much allure, intrigue and mystery.

Revenge dressing following a high-profile split has been a long-standing trend that has been credited to Princess Diana. In June 1994, Diana famously wore a black off-the-shoulder, form-fitting number after separating from the then Prince Charles. Charles had just released his tell-all documentary, which was made in hopes of salvaging his public image following his bombshell separation from Diana in 1991. That plan, however, majorly backfired when Charles confessed to adultery with his now-wife Camilla Parker-Bowles. In the wake of scandal, Diana took the opportunity to break away from royal protocols, strutting out in a revealing outfit that turned heads and fueled controversy.

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As explained by People Editorial Director Michelle Tauber, “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.

“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.”

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Diana’s “revenge dress” quickly became a media spectacle, mainly because it said so much without saying anything. It was Diana’s message to Charles and the world, spoken solely through fashion. She made it quite clear that day that she wasn’t afraid to fight against her ex-husband, who, along with his family, treated Diana had power over her for years. Amid her troubled marriage to Charles, Diana was frequently exploited by tabloids and harassed by paparazzi, who made her life a living hell. It was Diana’s activism and glamour that earned her sympathy from the public. After all, she was known as ” the people’s princess.”

Today, Diana’s “revenge dress” remains an iconic symbol in pop culture history. There’s even a whole Wikipedia page dedicated to the revenge dress, with Diana’s being hailed as the first of its kind. The dress paved the way for other notable revenge dresses in fashion history.

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In addition to Turner’s outfit, there’s Mariah Carey’s skirt and crop-top ensemble, which she wore at the 1997 MTV VMAs following her separation from her controlling ex-husband, Columbia Records-head Tommy Mottola. There’s Bella Hadid’s sheer catsuit, which she wore on the 2017 Met Gala carpet amid a temporary split with her then-boyfriend The Weeknd. There’s Julia Fox’s black cut-out dress, which she wore the day after her breakup with Kanye West during her NYFW runway debut. There’s Jennifer Aniston’s sparkly get-up, which she wore on the 2005 Oscars red carpet after her split with Brad Pitt. And who among the “Vanderpump Rules” crowd could forget Ariana Madix’s barely-there red dress in light of the whole messy Scandoval.